A quarter of a century after the fall of the wall, Berlin has undergone stellar transformation


Berlin’s remarkable regeneration into one of Europe’s most vibrant cities has placed it on everyone’s radar. Affordable rents, a bustling nightlife, an evolving food scene, and an explosive start-up sector are just some of the city’s defining elements.

There was very little investment in Berlin’s built environment during the 1990s, due to the huge costs of reunification. Instead the city was left with a glut of vacant commercial space as state and municipal bureaucracies rationalised. To add to the woes, up until the mid-2000s, Berlin struggled with its resumed role as Germany’s capital. By 2005, the unemployment rate had reached 19%. However, over the past decade, Berlin has made a complete turnaround. Its economy has evolved to become one of the best performing in the country, underpinned by the boom in tourism and the services sector.

Recent years have seen an explosion in the start-up scene, with over 40,000 companies founded in Berlin each year. Reasonable overheads, low-cost living and incentives offered for start-up businesses, have attracted entrepreneurs and young creatives to the city, leading to the emergence of a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. The cost of living in Berlin is one of the lowest in Germany, with rental costs between 15% to 40% less than in Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. Compared to London, the difference is also significant, with Berlin’s cost of living nearly a third less.

Berlin’s international appeal is evident in its demographic trends. Over 174,000 people moved to the city in 2014, and a notable 55% were young foreigners; a considerable increase over the last ten years. Its open-minded culture and laidback vibe has been a magnet with artists and creatives, who have played a role in the city’s regeneration.

Some districts have been more exposed to regeneration than others over the past decade, with Mitte and Kreuzberg the first to take on the creative mantle, followed more recently by Friedrichshain, a ‘working-class’ distict. However, even Berlin’s coolest districts are not immune with Pankow and Kreuzberg becoming more gentrified. Isolated areas have been revitalised, modern and quirky buildings have been cropping up in the cityscape, while older abandoned factories have been restored and converted into entertainment venues.

A once struggling city is now transformed into a hub of culture, technology and entrepreneurial spirit. 

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