Capital Fun Berlin Charms with Cheap Thrills

Berlin has been hyped as the coolest city on the planet for years. A new ranking agrees.
Sing me the ballad of Berlin, baby.

The German capital came in first in an international survey of tourists who were asked which city in the world offers the most fun.

The ranking was supported by the Berlin start-up GoEuro, which operates a travel search machine, and the travel review website Get Your Guide.

The euphoria for Berlin is fuelled by the city's wide variety of amusement offerings, available nearly around the clock and at highly affordable prices. For example, a beer costs a mere €0.82 (US$1.07) per bottle in Berlin, compared with €2.13 in London. And while bars in London and Paris close at 2 a.m. and two hours later in New York, many stay open all night in the German capital.

The ranking is particularly bitter for London’s boosters, who were convinced the city on the Thames offered the most fun - until the survey was released at the end of last week

Oliver Smith, a reporter with Britain's Daily Telegraph, conceded in his story that Berlin "has snatched the title ‘most fun’ city away from London” but was quick to add the firm sponsoring the survey was also based in Berlin.

GoEuro, with 60 employees from 23 countries, operates a travel search engine, which delivers all possible bus, train or plane connections across Europe to a specific destination. Naren Shaam, who launched the company, developed the concept after planning a European trip and struggling to comb through a plethora of sources to find the best flights or bus or train connections.

But Mr. Smith did acknowledge that the ranking is based on broad survey. A total of 1,800 cities worldwide were assessed according to criteria such as beer prices, types and numbers of bars, cafes and shops, as well as erotic offerings and concerts. More than 2,000 travelers were surveyed and ratings on travel websites were also analyzed.

Berlin and Hamburg were ranked almost equal in the price of beer. The ban on walking through the streets with an open alcohol container hurt New York, although it ranked above Berlin in activities such as visiting museums, concerts and in erotic nightlife.

Tokyo, on the other hand, appears to be terribly boring for fun-lovers. There is apparently little to do in the Japanese capital for tourists, despite the city’s super bar and shopping scene.

Ranking the attractiveness of cities is challenging. Berlin is no exception. Since German reunification, the city has been on a rollercoaster ride, with praise and complaints raining down on the city regularly.

Yet the city still shines in the eyes of many. Berlin was named the “best city in Europe for young people” by the United Nations-related organization Youthful Cities.

The magazine “Investment” praised Berlin as the “most attractive location for investment in Europe.”

A survey among service providers ranked the city as the fifth best worldwide for retailers. The creative and start-up scene is considered world class, and as a convention site the city is ranked as fourth in the world.

Even executives are flocking to the Spree. The real estate agency “Cushman & Wakefield” ranked Berlin at the top of possible future company headquarters.

The city is also Germany’s cinema capital, with more than 100 movie theaters.

International researchers coming to Germany also prefer to come to the German capital, according to the Humboldt Foundation.

But Berlin also has its problems. The city leads Germany nationally in the number of long-term unemployed. It is also considered the world champion in general unfriendliness, is struggling to complete construction of its new airport, and is known for its car thieves and filthy, unsafe parks.

Those flaws don't seem to hurt Berlin's image. Even Mr. Smith from the Daily Telegraph called Berlin  “possibly the coolest places on the planet” after attending the recent 25th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This story first appeared in Der Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: [email protected]