It’s not something that happens every day in a big city like Berlin: Right in the city centre, between East Side Gallery and Warschauer Strasse, an entire new borough is being built. The heart of it: Mercedes Platz, a new entertainment district of North American style, featuring concert halls, multiplex cinemas, bowling alleys, and a shopping mall. Among the mostly leftist locals of surrounding Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, many are not exactly happy with the commercial complex, while investors celebrate it as a future-oriented urban centre. Certainly, the new entertainment district is already a sight to see in – even though construction works around the square won’t be completed before 2022. Here’s all you need to know about Mercedes Platz:
For the big events
Since 2017, high-rise buildings have been popping up around here. But towering over the district ist still giant Mercedes Benz Arena. It was opened ten years ago already (then: “O2 World”), offering place for up to 17,000 visitors. Ice hockey and basketball games take place here as well as big events and shows by world-famous artists – even the finale of an E-Gaming championship was held here, in front of a sell-out crowd.
Next door, little sister Verti Music Hall is a state-of-the-art concert hall with room for up to 4,500 people. For the opening in late 2018, Jack White of the White Stripes performed here. 2019 brings you The Lumineers and Beth Hart, among others.
Food and Entertainment
Who would have thought that bowling would actually be considered cool again – if we ignore a short retro wave following the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece The Big Lebowski. Our grandparents had fun tossing a heavy ball at the pins already, and these days this is still a beloved activity. Newly opened Bowling World on Mercedes Platz is a modern 28 alley complex fit for the world cup, offering an innovative light design. Billiards, darts and flipper can be played here, too. Right next door, UCI Luxe Cinema believes to have found the holy grail of movie theatres: stylish lounges instead of giant halls, reclining seats rather than folding seats covered in popcorn crumbs. In 14 cinemas with a total of 1,700 seats, both blockbusters and arthouse films will be shown, even though the focus will clearly be on mainstream culture. They’ve also announced live screenings of concerts and sports events, too.
Apart from that, the square is lined with numerous restaurants, bistros, and bars. The concept here are middle-class franchise chains: German burger franchise Hans im Glück rather than McDonald’s, hot beverages from Kaffeehaus Einstein, and cocktails at Cancun-inspired Sausalito’s.
Now whether Berlin really needs another shopping mall is anyone’s guess. Fact is, East Side Mall, the capital’s 69th shopping centre, strikes the eye with its colorful illuminated facade. Inside you can find the usual mix of fashion stores, consumer electronics, grocery stores, and furniture shops, plus the customary fast food corner with burgers, fries, and noodle bowls. While none of this is remarkably new, there actually had been a certain lack of such institutions in hipster Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Thus it is no surprise that visitors have already taken to the mall right opposite Warschauer Strasse train station – even though some of the store areas don’t even have a tennant yet.
Is it a match?
So why are locals not happy? Shopping opportunities and nightlife don’t really sound like the end of the world, do they? Well, yes and no. This new “entertainment district” is located right between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, two boroughs famous for grassroots concepts of bottom-up, handmade, organically grown urban culture – the hipsteresque creativity that Berlin likes to deck itself out with. Urban playground RAW Area is right around the corner, neighboring East Side Gallery represents the heritage of street art. This is where underground techno music became a thing, and not long ago, squatting was still a legitimate part of the citysphere. When US investors plant a piece of Las Vegas right into these gentrification-stricken boroughs with close to no participation by locals, many view it as an urban sellout: International clothing stores instead of the iconic Spätis, fast food franchises instead of falafel joints, event halls instead of little clubs. Then again, Berlin has made the transition from an island separated by global interests to a cultural hotspot, and similarly, these boroughs in the east were transformed, too. And it is true, that “clean mainstream culture”, as the new entertainment district offers it, has been somewhat underrepresented before. Now, there’s actually nothing that you can’t find here – and that’s something you can benefit from immensely when visiting Berlin. Especially since Industriepalast Hostel is right next to Mercedes Platz. Have fun exploring!
Picture: © Anschutz Entertainment Group
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.