10 unique Berlin sights and attractions that aren't in any other travel guides
At secretcitytravel, we pride ourselves on unearthing the most unusual sights and experiences a city has to offer. And the following Berlin gems are so little-known that they're not (yet) featured in any standard travel guides - or even the various '100 essential places' type volumes that likewise aim to reveal the best of Berlin's secrets (we've checked).
It won't be long, of course, before they appear elsewhere, so we'd like to stake our claim to sharing them with you first. Enjoy seeking out these unique Berlin attractions.
A housing estate for the SS
These folksy cottages in a stunning woodland setting may seem postcard-perfect, but their origins are far from idyllic.
Constructed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler, the extensive enclave was designed exclusively for SS members and their families.
Street names reflected Nazi ideology, and during the Battle of Berlin, invading Russian soldiers executed many of the estate's inhabitants.
Today, the tranquil settlement of over 600 homes is a protected monument - although perhaps understandably, few references are made to its past.
Quite how this stunning example of exuberant early 20th century architecture remains largely unknown is something of a mystery, particularly given its location just a few minutes' walk from the Jewish Museum, one of Berlin's most visited attractions.
The ornate facade of the former insurance company Victoria Versicherung is already something very special, but the real jewel is the leafy inner courtyard, a tranquil green space surrounded by a medley of buildings in extravagant historicist styles.
It even includes the impressive remains of a beautiful astronomical clock, which - along with the rest of the complex - was once considered a Berlin attraction in its own right.
A(nother) Berlin dancehall
As far as the guidebooks are concerned, Clärchens Ballhaus is the only historic dance hall in town. And while we'll happily admit that it fully deserves the tourist hype, the far less well-known Ballhaus Berlin also retains much of its century-old interior, including a very special, completely unique survivor of the city's fabled pre-war nightlife.
Need a clue? "Table four calling table two...".
Lenin in Kreuzberg
It's not just the Wall that disappeared back in 1989. Reunified east Berlin was rapidly stripped of much of its Soviet paraphernalia, with city officials waving a particularly resolute goodbye to the various effigies of Lenin that once adorned its socialist streets.
One of these statues was saved, however, and stands today exactly where you'd never think to look for it.
Illusions of grandeur
Sure, it's a little off the beaten track, but this painted facade in Marzahn is worth seeing for several reasons. For a start, it's one of the world's largest murals, rich in amazing illusionistic detail. And it's also a particularly impressive folly, the first stage of an abandoned project to transform concrete housing blocks into a faux 'historic' architectural quarter.
Berlin's most photographed secret
Every year, hundreds of tourists take snaps of the brightly painted facade of this former squat in Friedrichshain. Yet it's probably safe to assume that very few realise it also houses one of Berlin's most unconventional attractions - a 'secret' cinema you have to climb through a window to visit.
A country pub in the city
It's an old-fashioned pub surrounded by dozens of well-tended gardens - a 'countryside' idyll in the heart of Berlin.
The clubhouse picturesquely situated in the midst of one of Charlottenburg's largest group of allotments is open to all, but its 'secret' location at the end of a network of winding lanes means that few know it even exists.
If you're looking to temporarily escape the city without ever leaving, this friendly little Wirtshaus is the place to head for a drink or snack in Berlin's most tranquil setting.
Antony Gormley's hidden art
*Update* now featured in slowtravelberlin, along with several other of our favourite Berlin artwork exclusives. Great tips travel fast!
For us, this is one of British sculptor Antony Gormley's most impressive installations: a gravity-defying gathering of his signature metal mannequins overlooking an impressively flooded courtyard.
It's a wonderful work that deserves to be far better known - and yet it's almost completely hidden from view deep within a Government building.
Once upon a time, broken dolls and teddy bears were mended instead of being thrown away.
These days, of course, the art of toy repair is a vanishing craft, but one or two old-timers still continue to care for Berlin's sickly 'Puppen' in workshops every bit as magical (or morbid) as rooms stashed full of miniature body parts can be.
Plunge into a history of the bathroom
Berlin's compact Gallery of Sanitary Archeology (Galerie für sanitäre Archäologie, or let's just call it a 'bathroom museum') is far more fascinating than its title might suggest.
The sheer beauty of many of the objects on display - basins fitted with tiny taps, elaborate brass water heaters or Art Deco suites - is almost enough to make you want to ditch your dull old power-shower, until you realise that even owning a bathroom is a privilege still denied to many.
One of Berlin's most unusual museums, it's the perfect place to soak up some social history along with a profusion of bath-time eye candy.