It's not all Grimm, even up north

Guy Dittrich suggests 10 things not to miss while you're there, including those perennial German favourites, BMW and football
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The Independent Travel

1. The beating heart of Berlin

1. The beating heart of Berlin

Berlin is the cosmopolitan face of Germany and Mitte is the neighbourhood that gives it that edgy pace. Part of former East Berlin but geographically in the middle of the city, Mitte is a centre for cultural events, with restaurants, bars and an auditorium for concerts. People hang out there because of the gentrification of the Hackesche Höfe, a series of beautiful old courtyards, and the boutique-lined shopping streets of Neue and Alte Schönhauser Strassen. It's a revival akin to the rebirth of London's Hoxton. Buy wood-soled shoes by Trippen (00 49 30 283 91 337; www.trippen.com) or one-off T-shirts by Hanno at BestShop Berlin (00 49 30 24 63 24 85; www.bestshop-berlin.de). Good gallery spaces include the Galerie Seitz & Partner, Hackesche Höfe, Hof IV, Rosenthaler Strasse, 40-41, (00 49 30 886 790, www,galerie-seitz.de).

2. 'Der Spiegel' as art

Germany's leading weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel, is the subject of an exhibition this summer, "The Art of Der Spiegel", focusing on 50 years of its illustrated covers. Take the cover from 1981, "Revolution in the Soviet Bloc" by Jean Solé, showing Lech Walesa as a Polish weightlifter, hefting a huge, perturbed red bear as the Solidarity movement gained momentum. Or the Rambo caricature of Bush on the August 2002 "Bush's Warriors" cover by Jean-Pierre Kunkel, that caused outrage in the US as the administration prepared for war. "The Art of Der Spiegel" is in Munich from 15 June until 17 July and then Stuttgart from 2 to 20 September. For more information go to www.kunst.spiegel.de.

3. Street life in Kreuzberg

Spindler and Klatt is Berlin's latest deconstructed-style restaurant, bar, lounge, club, following on from last year's Cookies Cream. It's a big warehouse on the Spree river in Kreuzberg. You enter through big industrial gates from the sort of street where even the taxi driver looks a bit concerned about dropping you off. Walk up the red carpet and enter a huge space, draped with gentle, gauzy curtains defining various eating and drinking areas. It's all very Wallpaper* with a mixed cosmopolitan crowd. A varied oriental cuisine is served at chunky refectory tables with benches, surrounded by wide, white lounge beds of a Supper Club style. Don't miss the loos, which are housed in old shipping containers. Kopenickerstrasse 16-19, Kreuzberg, Berlin (00 49 30 695 66 775; www.spindlerklatt.com)

4. Relax with hard Graft

Pioneering the use of "folding" architecture, Q! is the third and most stylish addition to the Loock Hotels group. Opened in March 2004, just off Berlin's Kurfürstendamm, from which it takes its name. (Berliners long ago shortened it to Ku'damm and now it's just Q.) The remarkable "folding" architecture comes courtesy of Graft - the designers

behind Brad Pitt's Californian home. The walls and floors flow seamlessly into one another, based on the principle of why have a corner when a curve will do. Benches "fold" out of the walls; floors "flow" up to create bedsteads that in turn become bath surrounds. The small basement spa has a Sandraum, an indoor beach with underheated sand and sunloungers. Double rooms from €150 (£107) per night. Q! is at Knesebeckstrasse, 67, D-10623 Berlin (00 49 30 81 00 66 0, www.loock-hotels.com).

5. Mundial in Munich

A glowing, otherworldly ovoid, the new Allianz Arena in Munich is taking all the architectural plaudits. The 66,000-seater stadium will host the opening match of next year's football world cup. It has no athletic track, so the pitch is less than six metres from fans in the most steeply raked stands in Europe. The two Munich teams will share the ground as they did at the 1972 Olympic stadium. The new stadium's unique features are the back-lit lozenges, which change colour depending on which team is at home. Stadium tours start at the visitors' centre from Monday 6 June and cost €8 (£5.70) for adults. The stadium is in Frottmaninger, Werner-Heisenberg-Allee 25, to the north of Munich, and can be driven to from junction 72 of the A9 or reached by tube on the U6. Contact Allianz Arena (00 49 89 2005 0, www.allianz-arena.de).

6. BMW's car showpiece

Also set to be ready in time for the 2006 World Cup is BMW World, a centre for cultural events that includes restaurants and bars and an auditorium for concerts. Designed by Austrian-based Swiczinsky and Prik of Coop Himmelblau, whose work ranges from museums to opera houses. BMW World's curvaceous glass roof will also cover a vehicle delivery area, a customer support area and a zone for "brand expression". The skeleton of the project is impressive enough, as is the huge street-facing clock which counts the seconds to completion. But will this be anything more than an embellished car showroom? BMW is keeping it all tightly under wraps. For information see www.bmw.com.

7. Architecture with attitude

Architectural forum and publisher AedesBerlin is celebrating its 25th

birthday by showcasing the best young architects. The fortunate few will be asked to exhibit experimental and visionary concepts that integrate architecture into cultural, political and social processes. One former Aedes' exhibitor, Zaha Hadid, went on to become the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 and has become known in the UK for designing stage sets for the Mind Zone in the Millennium Dome. The Mitte gallery, Hackesche Höfe Hof 2, Rosenthaler Strasse 40/41, 10178 Berlin (00 49 30 28 27 01 5, www.aedes-arc.de).

8. Off-beat shopping

For a one-stop shopping alternative to the high street try Berlinomat for the best in independent design. Browse the all-white interior for photo wallpapers from extratapete, a ring from the silver collection by Driegold or one-off streetwear from the house brand, Hotinaf. Berlinomat is at Frankfurter Allee 89. It opens Monday to Friday from 11 am to 8pm and Saturdays 10am to 6pm. Closed Sunday. (00 49 30 420 81 445; www.berlinomat.com).

In Munich, head for Fünf Höfe, a stylish complex of covered courtyards in the heart of the city. The Manufactum showroom is a bit Conranesque, with less furniture, focusing on classic designs from lighting to stationery. It sells great quality interiors and home ware classics with large dollops of nostalgia. Prannerpassage, Kardinal-Faulhaber-Strasse 11. (00 49 892424 3669; www.manufactum.de). Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 8pm, Saturdays from 10am to 7pm, closed on Sundays.

9. Away with the fairies

Do you believe in fairies? If so, hit The Fairy Tale Road as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. A 360-mile route through landscapes dotted with quaint villages and castles, it's an area steeped in fairy legends, in particular those told by the Brothers Grimm, the subjects of a museum in Kassel. This year sees open-air theatre and puppet performances. At the Brüder-Grimm-Märchenfestspiele in Hanau some of the Grimms' tales are performed in front of the Castle Philippsruhe (0049 6181 24670; www.hanau.de). Or choose an outdoor play or concert, from Shakespeare to the Sleepytown Jazz Orchestra, at the castle of Schloss Bevern (00 49 55 31 99 40 10; www.schloss-bevern.de). The marionette shows are mostly of a local nature. Baron von Münchhausen, the character created by Rudolf Eric Raspe "invites" guests to his concert and play in front of Bodenwerder city hall on the first Sunday of every month from May to October. The Münchhausen musicians perform at 2pm and the performance starts at 3pm. For more details go to www.deutschemaerchen.strasse.de

10. Hop on a Zeppelin

Use the money you saved on your €13 Ryanair flight to Friedrichshafen and take to the skies in a Zeppelin. Almost a century on from their heyday, the descendants of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin's airships can often be seen above Munich. Flights are not cheap however; a one-hour trip starts at €335 (£239). The Zeppelins tour the country each year and 2005 sees Mainz and Cologne on the itinerary. For details, contact (00 49 75 41 59 00 499; www.zeppelin flug.de). There is also a Zeppelin museum in town. For more details go to www.zeppelin-museum.de.

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