12 Facts About Berlin That Are Actually Lies

If you ask the average person about Berlin, chances are they'll be lying to you. "No we're not," they'll protest, but that's just a bonus lie they're telling shortly before their pants spontaneously combust, because in actuality, they don't even know they're doing it. Yes, there's a lot of misinformation about the German capital and we're here to help stop the spread, starting with these truth-busters...

Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1. JFK called himself a jelly donut

So, yes, a Berliner is a donut. And yes, Kennedy said "Ich bin ein Berliner." But grammatically speaking, the former US president was still correct (although it’s true that a native German would’ve more simply said ”Ich bin Berliner” and taken out the “ein”), and no one in the city genuinely thought he was referring to himself as a pastry.

Flickr/Remko van Dokkum

2. Berlin is the startup mecca of Europe

The city’s certainly proud of its local startup scene and with good reason -- successful startups like Zalando, SoundCloud, and ResearchGate were born here. By 2020, startups could create 100,000 jobs, but some experts still criticize the present day as over-hyped and immature. London is, in fact, the largest startup ecosystem in Europe... five times bigger than Berlin.


3. Smoking in bars is legal

Nope, it’s really not at all. The law says smoking is only allowed in bars smaller than 75m that don’t serve food, and officially, nightclubs are always supposed to have their own separate smoking room -- but of course, neither is regulated.

Flickr/Tim Reckmann

4. The döner kebab was invented in Berlin

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is widely believed the döner was a Berlin invention -- even the city’s official website says so. Indeed, Kadir Nurman started selling grilled meat in pita bread at a zoo food stall back in 1972. But this was only a modern variation of a snack that has been mentioned in European travel books all the way back to the 19th century.

spreephoto.de/Moment/Getty Images

5. There was just one Berlin Wall

There were really two, but “Berlin Walls” just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. In between the walls was a 140m “death strip” secured with guard towers, tripwires, and soldiers with shoot-to-kill orders.


6. Berliners are rude

"Berliner Schnauze" is so misunderstood. The local are definitely direct, outspoken, and sometimes comically a little off-color, but let’s just give Berliners the benefit of the doubt, shall we? Inside, everyone's super nice!

Flickr/Andreas Levers

7. Teufelsberg is Berlin’s highest point

It was recently discovered that a rubbish site in Pankow took the title from Teufelsberg, a former NSA spying station and hill made of World War II debris. Thanks to debris from new constructions, Arkenberge is now a little under two meters higher. Suck on that, NSA!


8. The city is relatively small

Geographically, it's actually huge. To put it into perspective: Berlin is actually nine times bigger than Paris and geographically the same size as Bangkok.

Flickr/Marc Ehrich

9. Berlin is anti-commercial

Berlin’s anti-authoritative, alternative streak is certainly alive and well, but it’s also important to realize how quickly the city is being commercially developed. Berlin is the home of KaDeWe, the largest department store in continental Europe and the Mall of Berlin, what will be the biggest mall in Germany. But what’s the most concerning for Berliners are the luxury multi-million dollar apartments proliferating instead of affordable housing. Forget neighborhoods. The city is being gentrified.

Flickr/Alexander Whillas

10. Immigration to Berlin really started after World War II

The first big wave of immigration to Berlin actually goes all the way back to the 1600s. The city took in a large group of Huguenot refugees from France, doubling the local population to 4 million.


11. Mitte is boring

Today it may be a tourist trap, rarely traversed by the hipsters of Neukölln and Kreuzberg, but the history of Mitte is anything but vanilla. Located in the former East Berlin, the neighborhood was once an epicenter of underground cool, illegally occupied, and re-built by young squatters and creatives.


12. Berliner’s can’t get enough of David Hasselhoff

Actually, this one is true. The man is a goddamn legend.