Those of us who were here in the 1990’s remember Torstrasse as a dilapidated, run-down avenue dividing the historic district of Mitte from the then equally shabby residential district of Prenzlauer Berg. Back then the taxi drivers still liked to refer to it as Wilhelm Pieck Str as it was known in DDR times. The street (“Tor” – gate, “strasse” – street) originally got its name from the four gates in the city wall which stood here in the 1800’s. Nowadays the Oranienburger Tor subway station is one of the last reminders of the gates that once stood along this street. While the area north of the River Spree and south of Torstr rapidly developed in the late 1990′s into the art and fashion district of Mitte, the area to the north of Tor up to Zionkirchplatz and Kollwitzplatz remained untouched for much longer. Now however it is experiencing a long overdue revival and although there are still undeveloped bomb sites and unrenovated buildings to be seen, a new scene of hip bars, clubs and art galleries is springing up en masse.
One of the first hip bars to open in the area was the Odessa bar, formerly located in a tiny spot on Steinstrasse, a street more known for its brothels than anything else. With its new location on the corner of Gormann Str and Torstr it has rapidly become of one the coolest places in Mitte giving a whole new meaning to pretentious hipsters and beautiful people of the chic new Berlin. Prior to the arrival of the Neue Odessa the area’s nightlife was dominated by the decidedly unpretentious local favorite Café Burger with its licentious “meat market” reputation. Less than a year ago Burger was upstaged by a trendy newcomer called Trust which opened only one hundred meters down the road. Trust was founded by the owners of the two already famous Mitte nightclubs, Cookies and Weekend. The idea was to target the more upmarket crowd which has increasingly been moving into the area. Here you can buy “Trust” brand alcohol such as champagne or vodka served in two sizes, 0.2 and 0.5 liter bottles complete with mixers. The bathroom scene has also cut through the red tape by building interconnected toilets making it easier to see what you neighbors are up to in their stalls.
The art scene has also been rapidly developing on and around Torstr with galleries and fashion boutiques opening up throughout the length of the street. Most of the galleries are located on the western end between Rosenthaler Platz and Oranienburger Tor while the majority of the fashion is located on the eastern end between Rosenthaler and Rosa Luxemburg Platz. Twice a year the international mode scene comes to Berlin with the Bread and Butter tradeshow and Fashion Week throwing parties throughout the city. Without fail the southern side of Torstr around Trust becomes an impromptu street festival with makeshift bars and dj’s banging out the beats until around midnight when the police come to shut it down. Gallery hopping has become a popular local pastime where art lovers and free booze enthusiasts co-mingle every Friday evening at vernisage style parties. One location in particular,Brut has seized upon the current trend with an artsy, fashionable bar with quality wines and simple yet upscale snack food. The food is a French-German fusion of sausage and cheese platters served on a massive slab of tree trunk with thick, hearty bread on the side. It has been open for almost 2 years and they specialize in quality drinks served in a candlelit, wood décor. Simple yet elegant it is located ideally between the upper-class party goers of Trust and the more local and welcoming good times of Café Burger.
Restaurants have also sprung up in the area, the Asia Fusion of Toca Rouge being a locals’ favorite located between Borsig and Gartenstr. Another Asian fusion newcomer to the scene is Dudu situated in the Seifenfabrik serving a creative mixture of sushi with a Korean flair. Noto is yet another new restaurant serving up quality 4-course meals at a reasonable price. The name is a play on its location, north of Torstr. An older more traditional resatuarant is Vino and Libri with a classic Italian menu on the corner of Gormannstr.
On September 3rd this now ultra-hip part of town will be celebrating its continued development with a block party of already over 1000 confirmed Facebook guests. In old school Berlin style this is not an official government sanctioned gathering so the times for the festival are a conservative 15:00 until 21:00. If you happen to be in the area be sure to come down and experience the change that is Germany’s capital and see all the best the new Berlin has to offer.