An article in The Economist published this week discusses Berlin’s evolution over the last years, wondering whether the city is no longer as “cool” as it used to be.
It really depends on what you mean by cool. It is not because Berlin is flourishing that it is losing its cool. It is just changing – in many ways for the better. Unemployment is going down, the population is growing and most of the city is undergoing significant regeneration and gentrification. Prosperity and “cool” should therefore not be seen as antagonists.
Granted, Berlin may be less dominated by the underground scene which made it cool in the first place, and gentrification is not necessarily always a positive (the now chic and elegant former working class district of Prenzlauer Berg is a key example causing mixed feeling and lots of debates). It is also clear that the city’s growing popularity is causing new challenges, such as the housing glut having turned into a shortage, resulting in soaring Berlin property prices and rents.
This does lead some of those who “made” Berlin cool in the first place to move elsewhere. For instance, many people now refer to Leipzig as the “new Berlin“, as Leipzig is, in many ways, like Berlin ten or twenty years ago (although at a smaller scale): Leizpig property is still cheap, with numerous houses still standing empty and hence attracting young artists and students on a budget.
Most others though will stay and benefit from Berlin’s improving economic outlook. Shops, restaurants, artists, bars, clubs – all of them have opportunities to be better off than one or two decades ago, attracting more visitors. Berlin is also a growing hub for tech entrepreneurs and is really being taken seriously as a world leader on the international start-up scene, besides Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv or London.
We believe that, also like London (after apparently losing its “cool” in the mid-nineties, according to the same Economist article), Berlin has a great future and will, for sure, remain one of the most – or the most – exciting city in Europe for a long time.