Freelance writer and f0rmer beauty editor Regina Belmonte is head over heels for Berlin, Germany, and we 100% don't blame her. Here, she takes Preview through a virtual tour of this vibrant, pulsing city (and lets us in on some insider secrets)!
How did you end up living in Berlin for a particular period of time?
"I visited for the first time on a tour of Eastern Europe with my family. We were only there for a few days, but I managed to spend one of those nights catching up with a good friend at a really cool bar on Rosenthaler Platz, and she and her boyfriend really sold me on coming back to visit for a longer period of time. I came back the next summer for a 12-day trip and stayed with the same friends before meeting my family in Copenhagen for a trip to Scandinavia. I had other friends there at the time, too, and I really got to experience the city better. I fell in love with it even more, which is why the next summer, I decided to live there for three months and used studying makeup artistry as an excuse. Haha! I did take a month-and-a-half-long course at Makeup Designory Berlin, but I was really just there for me. It changed my life."
What was your first impression on the place?
"It's a vivid, creative, dynamic, and fearless city. It had a measure of darkness and grit to it that I absolutely loved, and it's a true melting pot of cultures and lifestyles."
Your favorite thing about Berlin?
"The music scene. I'm a huge fan of house, techno, and electronic music, and Berlin is the capital of the world for that industry. You could go out at any hour on any night and find a better party there than anywhere else in the world. And people really go out to dance, not to see or be seen, and I loved that about it.
"Actually, my real answer is the authenticity of the place. The true-to-you don't-give-a-damn-ness of it, which applies to everything. Berlin turned me into a minimalist. I barely wear makeup anymore—but when I do, I'm extra, which was also a thing there. No one cared if you were over the top. It was wonderful to walk down the street in residential Mitte on a Sunday morning in black lipstick and bondage-inspired club wear, without anyone batting an eyelash."
What's the vibe of the city?
"Open, unlike anywhere else I've ever been, with a relentless energy."
How are the people like?
"Liberal beyond belief. Tolerant, open, accepting. As human beings, we are never without a small handful of pretensions, but in Berlin, they're kept to the barest minimum because you don't need them there. They allow you to be whatever version of yourself you choose to be."
In your opinion, what's THE best place to eat in the city?
"It's not really a place for foodies. Still, the best meal I had in Berlin was at the restaurant of the Michelberger Hotel on Warschauer Straße, which is the coolest hotel ever. (Say hi to my ex-boyfriend if you go; he works there. Haha!) Definitely grab a doner kebab; those are a Berlin staple, and they're delicious."
Any secret shopping haunts you want to share?
"Berlin's a great city to go thrifting, so look for cool vintage shops and comb through the weekend flea markets."
Favorite purchase from Berlin?
"Believe it or not, my black leather fanny pack. Best clubbing accessory ever!"
What's the street style like in Berlin? How do people dress?
"ALL BLACK EVERYTHING. I don't know if it's because there's so much Brutalist architecture, especially in the east, but young Berliners will dress minimalist; comfortable, with a modern edge. No one ever wears heels (except the drag queens, who are amazing), they barely wear any makeup. I used to wear stilettos every day in Manila, and after Berlin, I can barely force myself into two-inch block heels anymore; I live in my Dr. Martens."
Any tips for people traveling to Berlin?
"Go with an open mind, and go fearlessly. Berlin taught me how to be alone and how to love it. It opens you up to so many more experiences and so many amazing people."
What are the less-popular-yet-just-as-cool sights to see?
"I actually have no idea what the popular sights are! Do the touristy things like Brandenburger Tor if you have to, but you'll inevitably see sights like the East Side Gallery anyway as you go about the city. Visit museums—the Boros Bunker Collection, the Hamburger Banhof. Go to as many cool little hole-in-the-wall bars and cafes as you can. I'm going to keep my favorite one in Kreuzberg to myself (haha), but I liked Mein Haus Am See on Rosenthaler Platz, and An Einem Sonntag im August on Kastanienallee, which were both close to where I stayed there. Spend a sunny afternoon in a park (Tempelhofer Feld is great) reading a book with a beer from the spätkauf (Augustiner is my favorite). Have a drink at Club der Visionaere on the Spree. Go to a club and discover techno; clubs are everywhere! And please, please skip the tourist trap that is Checkpoint Charlie."