No matter where you live, the version of a city seen from a tour bus bears little resemblance to the experience of actually living there. Nowhere is that more true than history-rich Europe.

You might see everything in London (The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, The Globe, and The Sherlock Holmes Museum) without getting a true sense of what it’s like to live there. By the same token, a born Londoner will get coffee at their favorite cart (adjacent to Westminster Abbey) without giving the monument a second glance. A Berlin itinerary that includes the Reichstag building and the Berlin Cathedral but skips the Club Der Visionaere would be a waste of time to any music-loving Berliner.

Since we’re always looking for ways to have our cake and eat it, too, we picked the brains of a few well-informed European locals to bring you the very best hidden gems in some the world’s most fascinating cities. Consider it a local’s guide to off-the-grid musts. (Fair warning: some are naughtier than others.) With this expertly-curated list, you can explore Europe’s best underground offerings and still have time to hit the Eiffel Tower.

Atonal Festival in Berlin, Germany

  Local Guide: Dan
  City: Berlin, Germany
  Hangout: Atonal Festival

This sound and light festival happens once a year. Set in a converted abandoned power plant in central Berlin, the space is entirely cement, with 300-400 foot ceilings, multiple floors, and totally awe-inspiring. As you explore the space, you realize it’s a labyrinth. You’ll find more and more hidden rooms. It’s impossible to explore them all.

Upon arrival at this year’s festival, everyone went to the second floor, where it was pitch black and silent. (Picture that crazy party scene in The Matrix: It’s just like that.) Eventually, a man rose on a podium, raised his hands, and lights shone beneath him. Surrounding him, a choir began to sing.

Later explorations of the space exposed more bars within bars, rooms within rooms turned into art exhibits. At midnight, the place turned into a discotheque. Consider this a much more interesting alternative to the Berghain.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.33.18 PM

  Local Guide: Peter
  City: Berlin, Germany
  Hangout: SpreePark

SpreePark is a true local secret. The story goes that a decade or two ago, the owner got into some trouble and had to close this amusement park. Now, it’s like a cross between Little Shop Of Horrors, The Boxcar Children, and Harry Potter. It’s enclosed by a gate which in-the-know ruffians jump over to sneak around and explore.

The place looks frozen in time — railways, an enormous Ferris wheel, cobweb-covered space cars, a merry-go-round. Circus tents and swamps that once were gorgeous ponds — it's a deserted wonderland.

You'll definitely see rebellious kids walking around, but everyone’s on tiptoe. Guards patrol the area to keep people out, though it’s an open secret that people do. From what I understand, the worst thing that happens is they write down your name and ask you to leave. Hiding in the bushes, sneaking around and exploring, it feels a bit like Mission Impossible. It’s magical, and a must-do for more adventurous visitors.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.34.46 PM

  Local Guide: Jean
  City: Paris, France
  Hangout: Agua

Agua is a multistory dance boat that’s permanently docked on the Seine. The entrance is definitely not asking for attention — you have to go down a winding staircase to get there. But if you like salsa, the dancing is unbelievable, and salsa on the Seine is an attraction in itself. One floor is devoted to salsa, one to Kizomba and Semba. The event happens every Tuesday, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.35.04 PM

  Local Guide: Angelique
  City: Paris, France
  Hangout: Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Montmartre

At the top of Montmartre, this stunning work of architecture is worth a trip on its own merit. But if you put aside the religious and historical significance of the building, the basilica remains a slice of Paris that shouldn’t be passed over. Montmartre is a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement that overlooks the city.

It’s the best place to watch the many fireworks shows that happen throughout the year, in celebration of things like Bastille Day. I suggest grabbing a blanket, getting coffee at the Café de 2 Moulins (Audrey Tatou’s workplace as the titular character in Amélie), and watching the sun set over the city. Fireworks or none, it’s an idyllic, romantic way to spend an evening.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 8.35.48 PM

  Local Guide: Jenny
  City: Gosport, England
  Hangout: Hill Head

There’s not much to do in Gosport, so adventurous types often take the ferry to Portsmouth (only partly because there might be a shop or two there that doesn’t card, but you didn’t hear it from me). Then, you fill a duffle bag with booze, and ferry to Hill Head.

You have to walk past a couple of police stations to get there, which adds to the manufactured sense of thrill. You know you’ve made it when you reach a rocky outcropping on the far side of some boulders. It overlooks The Isle of Wight, across the Solent, and has a beautiful view of Portsmouth, beyond the bay.

The liquor isn’t a requirement to enjoy the quiet and the view. You might see one or two fellow adventurers, but they’ll be enjoying their own private musings. If you’re visiting England, finding picturesque places to reflect, away from the noise and bustle of the city, is a lovely and necessary respite.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on October 22nd

Published in Europe

Everyone needs to get away, sometimes. Whether it’s from the place you grew up in, or a city with too many stories, or just somewhere you've become too familiar with, the world is full of new exciting places to explore and call home. As a young girl growing up in the rural US state of New Mexico, I never imagined my life would one day take me to the cosmopolitan streets of Europe's fastest growing city, Berlin.

After catching the travel bug during a year exchange to the UK, I put all my efforts into making it back to Europe once I graduated. With a friend already living in this fascinating place, and it being the most reasonably priced city in Europe, I decided to give it a try … and I haven’t looked back since.

This city provides so much incredible history combined with one of the youngest and hippest crowds in the world. It sometimes feels like the only people here are between the ages of 20-38, and are here doing what they love; investing in their own futures and in the city's at the same time. Berlin is now considered the startup capital of Europe, and there are young people flooding in from all over the world, looking to be part of it. I was lucky enough to find a job with a coffee startup, and it's been a great opportunity. Working in Berlin can usually mean you conduct your day-to-day activities in English, sharing thoughts and ideas with Germans, Italians, Spaniards, British, Turkish, Eastern Europeans, and that’s only in a small company.

The last six months have been full of new experiences, people, languages, jobs.... more than I could ever imagine. But enough about me, let me show you just how unique Berlin can be, and the flavors this city offers to those who call it home.


Monday in Berlin.

Many of the startup companies in Berlin have rooftop offices, with amazing views like this one.

The Berlin Skyline. Photo by Heather Berghmans

After work, the favorite hangout spot for many people in the city is the main canal running through the district of Kreuzberg. There's plenty of little stores affectionately called spati's where you can grab a drink and sit by the water.

The canal in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans



There's so much history to find in the once divided city. Just a close train ride from my office at and I can be at the last standing piece of the Berlin Wall. It's something awe-inspiring to really reflect on all the situations and changes the streets of Berlin have witnessed, and how the new atmosphere of the city is influenced by it. This photo shows one of the iconic murals on the remaining section of the Berlin Wall, now called the East Side Gallery.

Faces in the East Side Gallery, Berlin, Germany



The winters are long and cold in Berlin, but they create a sort of mystical atmosphere in the city.

Snowy Eberswalder Str, Berlin, Germany



The Brandenburgertor (or Brandenburg Gate) is the most famous former gate between East and West Berlin, and is one of the main attractions of the city. At all hours of the day and night you can find people from all over the world standing in front of the towering pillars, taking in its granduer.

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany



The Berliner Dom is the most famous cathedral in Berlin. In the evenings you can catch a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic inside under the beautiful dom.

Berlin Dom, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans


 Hackeshermarkt Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans



Once the sun comes out, things get interesting. The carnival celebration happens every year in May, just as the city comes to life for the summer time. The street parades and all-day parties take up an entire district of Berlin, and you can find everyone enjoying the sun and good vibes.

Carnival in Berlin, Germany

Everybody here knows how to have a good time.

Carnival, Berlin, Germany



If you enjoy jogging, riding a bike, long boarding, roller skating, or just having a picknick in a wide open space, then Tempelhof is the place to go. This former airport was used by the US Airforce during World War II to provide supplies to the residence of West Berlin, and it has since been turned into a public park. Lay out on the runways, in the grass, or make your way over to the beer garden... there is always something interesting going on in Tempelhof.

Tempelhof airport, Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans

There really is something unique around every cornere here. Things like the horse head in the photo below become the norm after living in Berlin for a few months, and people who have been here for years barely even bat an eye any more. It might even be stranger if Berlin lost its wacky vibes.

A stroll through Berlin. Photo by Heather Berghmans

Almost every weekend you can find a free concert somewhere in the city, ones playing everything from electronic music, to folk, to rock, even some Austrian polka, or open air Salsa and Samba. Below is a photo from the Fete de la Musique, which is a whole weekend of 100's of live, free concerts all over the city.

Free concerts in Mauer Park, Berlin. Photo by Heather Berghmans


There is so much more still to discover and see in this incredibly diverse, spectacular city, and it's only been six months. Every day brings something new. The only way to really get a taste of it is to come explore it for yourself. I highly recommend that you do, and be sure to spend enough time here to really get to know the dark beauty that is Berlin.

Published in Germany




The fashion world is used to the street trend exposure of international cities such as New York, London, and Paris, but one budding hub that seems to often be overlooked is the unique fashion trends of Berlin.

 The streets of Berlin, Germany. By Heather Berghmans

Berlin holds an undeniable fascination, a divided and reunited city heavy with history, brimming with creativity, that accepts all and judges none. In the past few years, this aura has drawn new people from all over, who have moved to the city, and who are developing their own trends locally. While Berlin is one of Europe’s largest cities, it is still a relatively poor city in comparison. This reality allows individuals to still make a name for themselves, while the high street is around the corner.

The trends over the past few years have continuously been going towards the collective past, while at the same time incorporating new touches. The streets of Berlin are this exact definition. In a place where this season the 1970s hipster-casual is the norm and the brightest accents you find are touches of florescent, the more wild a style is, the more the streets accept it.

On Sundays, when the sun is out, you will encounter artists of every medium as you take a short walk to your local park. Once there, flohmarkts (flea markets), alive with art and character, line the sides of the area filled with booths from local designers and artists who enjoy making their names here. You can always find a large selection of Russian inspired gaudy jewelry that may or may not have been made out of recycled metals, yet still looks charming and dainty enough for anyone who strolls past it. If you’re lucky, one of the old boot-ladies will be there to meet your thrift shop-look needs with her leather boots that are most likely from the Soviet Era, yet are still in perfect condition. There’s even a man from Thailand who will weave you an elf-style hat from hand.

The flea market in Mauer Park, Berlin, Germany

And yet Berlin still has more to offer. Streets are lined with glamorous restaurants serving food from every country on the planet, bars and clubs that, despite their sheer number, have completely different personalities, and eclectic art studios and coworking spaces all exist amongst each other. The beautiful creatures inside these places are usually adorned in Berlins welcoming and encapsulating black leather, or knit, or lace, so long as it be dark. High-heels prove difficult on Berlin’s extremely uneven cobblestones, but in the right places, you can still find those brave enough to venture out in them. The clubs here are notorious for their long hours, with some opening on Thursday and not shutting the doors once until Monday morning comes. The scenes this world welcomes and creates is one of individuality in the most hip, yet comfortable, way you will find emerging amongst the global cities.

A club in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans

Some people may find Berlin dark, due to the unfinished or empty buildings looming over the streets, while others find it beautiful. The same can be said about the street fashion. The lack of color in everyday wardrobes can sometimes make those with bright spring jackets stand out especially.

People come to Berlin deliberately, and others find themselves here accidentally. No matter what, all agree that the city is unique and ever changing, mixing fashion with music with art, and in the end, the trends you get are certainly wunderbar.

Mauer Park Berlin, Germany. Photo by Heather Berghmans

Published in Germany

Login to The HoliDaze to submit articles and comments or register your blog.