This is our very personal list of criteria for identifying the Ideal Neighbourhood where to look for The Flat.

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1. Transportation: the Kiez should be connected to the ring formed S-Bahn line S4 and have U- and S-bahn station at hand. You should feel comfortable and safe in your whereabouts. To us Berlin seems a pretty safe city, but if you are in for some number-crunching, chose your ideal neighbourhood while having in mind the Police statistics, 2007 and 2008.

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2. Low noise and pollution levels: big Autobahn junctions or 6-lanes streets come in handy… or lie just a little bit too close? Berlin is bike-friendly, but distance matters! How is the metro-bike-foot mix?

3. Green areas: green is beautiful or mineral Paris-style is charming? In Berlin Green is MANDATORY!

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4. Retail. That’s a nasty one. You want to quickly fetch a bottle of milk, croissants or a bar of soap in a 5-minute-walk radius from home. Still visual pollution from overwhelming chains and inevitable social desertification are a risk. So you want to be in an area rich in local shopkeepers, cafes & bakeries, grocers and a good doner kebab outlet. If you also find:

a) a flower shop, a bookshop

b) a couple of cosy restaurants, “die gemütliche Kneipe, die zu guten Gesprächen animiert”

c) a pet food store

d) more than one hairdresser

chances are that you are snooping around in a very lively neighbourhood. If there is also a

e) Fahrrad station (bycicle shop and repair) then…bingo!

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You definitely do not need fast fashion and underwear outlets, american coffee chains selling marketing instead of macchiato, mobile phone pushers or optician supermarkets under your windows!

5. Playgrounds for children are great in Berlin and you will regularly find them like a dotted line around town.

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6. A farmers’ market is a fantastic asset, so look out for those!

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7. Water. Berlin is very green and very…liquid. The city is no longer turning her back to her rivers and canals, which are now mis en valeur. Living near the water is always such a pleasure for the eyes!

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8. A village feeling. Is there something like a “piazza” where at different times of the day people transit for different reasons (market, cafes, university, garden, playground), and that IS NOT A MALL? This sort of piazza generates a feeling of community, security and ultimately, creates the village.

To wrap it up, the Berliner Morgenpost has a very interesting set of interactive maps highlighting the demographic structure of each Kiez, its safety degree as well as its green areas and the presence of rivers and lakes…test your target area here.

If then, the day of Germany-Turkey you spot flags on the balconies in equal proportion, it’s just perfect!

Well, this list came up little by little, en arpentant la ville, however for a scientific approach you can check out the very exhaustive Monocle list here.

Derek Scally from the Irish Times described so well the location issue in Berlin:

“…location is even more crucial here than anywhere else. The city always had an unusual structure as a collection of villages, but wartime destruction and Cold War division has left the geography even more out of whack. It’s still very much a bipolar city with two areas offering the most robust safety net for investors: the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg areas of the former East and the south-western neighbourhoods of the former West”.

PS

December 2009: check out Markus Albers’s blog and the stimulating discussion on creative cities, infrastructure and mobility…


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13 Responses to “The Ideal Neighborhood”


  1. 1 D Jakobsh March 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Hello.

    I’ve been following your blog with fascination, and, am thrilled with the information you’ve been posting. I am in the process of beginning to look for a small flat to purchase in Berlin, from my residence in Canada. I have a fair amount of flexibility in my job and so am hoping to be able to spend a few months at a time in Berlin, and also, to rent out the flat to friends who may be visiting Berlin.

    Have you found that flat prices have gone down with the economic downturn? Is is still a good place/time to purchase? Do you have a real estate agent you could recommend? I have been doing al my searches online.

    I look forward to your response.

  2. 2 stripedcat March 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    ciao DJ!

    thank you for your kind message…

    For your online flat-hunting I suggest you browse regularly the web site
    IMMOBILIENSCOUT24

    You can select your criteria (price, lift, area, year of construction, rented or free, to be refurbished or brand new…), and receive daily updates via email.

    The Expose’ are always very clear, with many photos.

    The Google maps view gives you an idea of the neighbourhood (photo, map and hybrid…fantastic!!) and you can check the orientation of the house vs. the sun.

    You have also price maps with different shades of orange for the different price levels.

    In order to check if in your neighbourhood there are already too many competitors (in case you are thinking of a Bed&Breakfast) look at Mowitania.de

    From what I read in the Berlin press from time to time, apparently you find now cheaper flats (50s) where big investment funds had bought and have to sell due to the crisis, whereas it is more difficult to find quality Altbaus to be refurbished at good prices (I guess the rarity effect…people stick to them!).

    I am seeing a flat of the 50s in Schoeneberg on monday, 39k for 30sqm, perfectly refurbished but without lift (very common feature in Berlin…lifts are rare)…just looking!

    I am happy to provide you with the name of our favourite real estate agent (he speaks only german though) and if you need it, the details of a company doing the refurbishing (polish and really professional). Our architect is italian, on the other hand.
    Shall I send the contacts over to your email address?

    I wish you good luck with the hunt…let’s keep in touch, and if we can help, MeinMann and I are very happy to do so!

    Have a nice day!
    StripedCat

  3. 3 stripedcat March 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    PS
    on our sister blog BerlinRomExpress, more about Berlin…(link in the blogroll)

  4. 4 Kai June 16, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Hello stripedcat

    For a young family with a 2 year old boy what area in berlin would you recommend?

    Our criterias are:
    – Safe and Family friendly
    – Near International Nursery/Kindergarten (French or English)
    – Convenient to anywhere in town (Near U or S bahn) to go out to restaurant, cafes, bars
    – Near hypermarket or supermarket
    – Good Value for Money for Rent or Purchase (60m2 for 500 euro/month or 80k euro)

    I heard about Charlottenburg, Savigny Platz, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain…
    What do you think? Any comments or suggestions?

    Thanks for your kind help
    Kai

    • 5 stripedcat June 16, 2009 at 9:26 pm

      Hi Kai!

      by looking at the tag cloud you can see we’re strong supporters of West Berlin, especially Schoeneberg 😀

      But we also like a lot Wilmersdorf, Zehlendorf, Steglitz…
      Portions of Wilmersdorf and almost 100% of Schoneberg are also very close to the S-bahn ring.

      We do not know so well Charlottenburg, but our impression is that it is such a big Bezirk that you can find in it excellent Kiez (=village atmosphere) such as the famous Savigny Platz as well as a few no man’s land areas.

      So as with any Bezirk in Berlin, you have to check by yourself and test your guts feeling!

      Prenzl’berg is definitely very famous (Pregnancy Hill) for families, but we like less its hype, that means, prices. Check out the Berlin newspapers…there are pros and cons.

      Check out these posts:
      The haberdashery factor on this blog
      and
      http://berlinromexpress.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/socialize-this/
      on our sister blog BerlinRomExpress for a comprehensive Social Atlas we found on the local german press…

      I hope it helps and bon courage!! Did you see that Berlin was just crowned Number 10 Best City for the quality of living?

      ciaooo and thank you for stopping by at our virtual Flat in Berlin!
      StripedCat and MeinMann

  5. 6 Threetotsinthe west November 24, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hi, what a great collection of information. I am very excited to be moving to Berlin in January with my three daughters. The girls will need an Italian/German bilingual education, I can’t afford private schools and as the job is in Charlottenburg I have narrowed down my choices to Schoeneberg, Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf. Not looking for nightlife or trend, rather for friendly folk, safe neighbourhoods and some open spaces.
    I have heard a little bit about right wing extremism but I guess this is nothing to worry about? My girls are mixed race. If we like it, we might be looking to buy in the next year. I think I missed the boat on the Alt-bau, which is a pity because I love the high ceilings and stuckdecke but can’t spend more than 100k euro

    Anyway, keep blogging, one of the few worth reading

    TTW

    • 7 stripedcat November 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm

      Ciao TTW!
      thanks for posting a comment! Well, in Schoeneberg I know there is L’Angolino (italian/german Kindergarten) but maybe you want to check out IOL in order to have more info on schools.

      Schoeneberg is a nice neighborhood (check out TT for more comments) and plenty of playgrounds and activities for kids.
      Volkspark is fantastic.

      Talking about crime and so on, check out the Sozialatlas (use the search function on the blog), I guess that every Bezirk has a couple of dodgy streets…you need to check out by walking around! Then of course there are easier or more difficult Bezirks!

      Regarding Altbaus, I guess you can find something, less central, but yes, you need to look hard (and it all depends on how much refurbishing you need to do!). In central Berlin the area around Turmstrasse seems easier for cheaper Altbaus but you need to understand the area and get a feeling for it!

      thank you for reading!!

      Cheers!
      StripedCat und MeinMann

  6. 9 june December 15, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Hi there,
    i’ve been reading your blog and it is really great! We (6 month old son and husban) are going to be in Berlin Jan- April and would love to stay in exactly the area you described. But can’t seem to find that area on my own. Where is this magic place?
    Thanks in advance!
    june

  7. 10 stripedcat December 15, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Ciao June,
    thanks a lot for the comment! 😀

    Well, “our” ideal neighborhood is Schoeneberg, in the South-West part of the city…the underground stations are Bayerischer Platz, Nollendorf Platz, Rathaus Schoeneberg, Kleistpark, just to give you a reference point on your Berlin map…check out for U7 (turquoise) and U4 (yellow) metro lines.

    good luck und viel Spass in Schoeneberg!
    Striped

  8. 11 Suzanne Harper November 30, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Just been researching moving to Berlin to start a new life with my 8 year old son, and I have found your blog very useful and informative.

    I have been to Berlin once before and loved the place so much that I always meant to go back, perhaps to live for a while. Someone once told me that it was a foolish idea, as an English speaker and with a child and I never did anything more about it. Now, I am very seriously considering it, as there appears to be very good education available for emigrating English children.

    Please keep the information coming. There are so many more people out there who are listening to you than you realise. :}

    Best Regards,
    Suz
    UK


  1. 1 at last…Monocle talks about Berlin! « BerlinRomExpress Trackback on February 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm
  2. 2 at last…Monocle talks about Berlin! « A flat in Berlin Trackback on February 1, 2009 at 3:53 pm

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