Best area to stay in Berlin for a 4 - 5 day visit

Looking nice neighbourhood with bars and cafes

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Hi - I'll be visiting Berlin either this weekend or mid next week for 4 or 5 nights. I was wondering what's the best area to stay in...I'd like a nice area with a few bars close by and possibly some cafes/restaurants, maybe check out some bands and meet other travellers. I was in Berlin a few years back but it was January so dark early and freezing. I stayed in Mitte right in the centre close to the tv tower, and I have to say I found it very boring. Everything seemed to shut at 6 and very few bars apart from an Irish one which was pretty dead. I have read about Kreuzberg that it's kind of alternative, so is this a good area?
That sounds like a good idea! When I visit, I find it's best to base fairly firmly in the east (if not Kreuzberg then somewhere roud the Ostbahnhof or wherever) because that sort of drags you across the whole city, so you see a wider range of stuff (base west and it's quite easy not to see much of the east). Personally, I don't think Alexanderplatz goes short or bars etc - I know I can pitchup near midnight and find enough - but I guess it may depend on exactly what you are looking for. I am useless with street names but if you walk south of there (round the church etc), towards and over the river, there's also a ton of places.

A lof the "administrative / bureaucratic hearts" of big cities are not exactly buzzing at the evenings or weekends (if you want to London you'd probably not choose to stay at, say, Bank or Liverpool Street).
Prenzlauer Berg (Helmholtzplatz, Kastanienallee/S-Bahn: Prenzlauer Allee, U-Bahn: Eberswalder Str.), Friedrichshain (Boxhagener Platz/S-Bahn: Ostkreuz, U-Bahn: Frankfurter Tor) and Kreuzberg (Schlesische Str., Oranienstr., Marheinekeplatz/ U-Bahn: Schlesiches Tor/Kottbuser Tor/Mehringdamm) would fit to that description.
In my previous visits here as a tourist I always found that the location of your accommodation is one of the least important things to worry about. The transport system here is so good (even through the night) that you'll never be too far away from a good area with plenty of nightlife.

I'd strongly recommend just finding some nice, cheap accommodation somewhere on/near/inside the Ringbahn and use the money you save to ensure you can have even more of a good time whilst you're here.

Seriously, with the way things are here there really is no reason to pay 20%-50% extra on your hotel bill just so that you can walk out of your door and straight into a bar.
Alex is dead as a dodo unless you want to sit at a sterile, tourist trap of a restaurant/bar practically right under the train tracks.

Kreuzberg is not in the East and is a decent place to stay. Baxpax is a nice hostel right on the U1 and at the base of the legendary Oranienstraße.

I think where you stay can be important as the trains don't run all night on weekends and some places are less well-served by public transit than others.

Friedrichshain somewhere near S-bahnhof Warschauerstraße is a good start, and there are a number of hotels in the Hermannplatz area (Neukölln) which is good because the U8 is a long line with lots of connections and is well-served by nightbuses should you find yourself out later than 12.30 pm on a school night. Beware of F-hain though because there is so much stuff to do there that you might well miss the rest of the city.

Prenzlauer Berg is also good, ditto the warning above and again, make sure you don't respond to an ad that says "Prenzlberg" or "Fhain" without checking it out on a map first because both kiezes are very large and that can mean just about anything, including being in semi neonazi world. U-bahnhof Eberswalderstraße/Senefelderplatz are acceptable places to stay in Prenzlberg.

Anything on the "small ring"--the S-bahn line that bisects the Ringbahn--is also a good choice.
I suggest Mitte. Yes, again. But be sure to stay in a nicer area - Mitte is very heterogenous and can be divided easily in four or five parts - area around Alexanderplatz being one of the most boring (though there are some good bars and clubs about 5 mins walk from there, but they are a bit hidden) Best area is northern Mitte around Torstrasse (around Rosenthaler Platz) and Oranienburger Strasse, so west of Alexanderplatz, nort of the river spree and east of Friedrichstrasse.

Kreuzberg is also nice. but same thing as mitte: very heterogenous. Be sure not to stay in the northern (esp. northwestern) part, it's even more boring than Mitte around the TV Tower. Best are the streets in walking distance of the eastern part of the U1 (Kottbusser Tor to Schlesisches Tor).
Ok thanks for all that, looks like it's Fhain, southern Kreuzberg, and Prenzlauer Berg that are leading the charge. Looking at the map I was staying in the boring part of Mitte the last time but was literally minutes from some good areas....damn! Goes to show what a lack of research can do
Ok I've booked into a place in Prenzlauer Berg on Schwedter Str. off Torstrasse, looks like there's some bars and other stuff around there. Just curious to know what's a "Berlin" bar as I read on here somewhere?
nice area. schwarze pumpe at choriner strasse (mixture of pub and cafe and bistro), scotch and sofa (living room ambience with lots of people), near senefelder platz and "muschi obermaier" on torstrasse are my favourites there. careful if you don't like smoke
be sure to stroll around kastanienallee, oderberger straße, kollwitzstraße and around rosenthaler platz.

don't know what is meant with "berlin" bar. either a trashy small unrenovated place with second hand furniture (like "mama" or "ä" in neukölln) or an old pub, serving traditional berlin beverage and food (like tiergartenquelle in tiergarten or felsenkeller in schöneberg)
What is it like staying someplace around the Tiergarten? Any recommendations?
I live not too far from Tiergarten, and my recommendation is that you only stay there if 1) it's near the zoo (excellent transportation everywhere) or 2) you plan to be the kind of tourist out all day walking around the gate, monuments, etc and don't care much about nightlife. Tiergarten is a nice place this time of year for the day tourist but it's got almost 0 nightlife.

Also, for the other person interested in nightlife: Orianienburg (sp?) and Kreuzberg, anywhere near the U1 line.
Just a word of caution, don´t stay near Berlin's TV tower and a hotel next to the Brandenburg Gate,
Todays headlines......
Yeah, don't care much about night life, will be out and about all day. Just looking for a cheap pension or B&B with-out a shared bath room. Any suggestions?
Moondancer, I suggest Zoologischer garten (S+U) area...
A good Tiergarten pension is Hotel Hansablick. Though it's not the cheapest.

Farther away my favorite place to stay is Pension Majesty.
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