Edgy Berlin is the euro winner attracting the cool crowd

British home buyers can find good value in the popular German capital of Berlin, as well as new designer family quarters and grand architectural projects.
The Cold War Berlin — with its Western sector enclosed by a concrete wall — may have inspired David Bowie to write his classic Seventies anthem Heroes but it is the new Berlin that is attracting a wave of British buyers seeking a cool place for a second home that will give them maximum value in euro bricks and mortar.

Holiday homes in Berlin
© Alamy
New Berlin is attracting a wave of British buyers seeking a cool place for a second home

The city's winters may be cold, with weeks of snow guaranteed, but legendary German efficiency ensures it will never be the "wrong kind" of snow able to disrupt Berlin's transport system. This is a year-round capital in every sense. The old city, famed for squats and underground culture, is making way for architectural grand projects and designer family quarters.

The once grim thoroughfare Schoenhause Allee, in the former Communist East, is transformed as a nappy valley so popular there are complaints of a gridlock of designer baby buggies. The offshoot Kastanienallee, linking central district Mitte to Prenzlauer Berg, a newly desirable inner suburb, is packed with hip shops. Heimat Berlin is a natty milliner with floor to ceiling headgear. Temporary Showroom is stocked with the cutting edge international capitalist clothing demonised under Communist rule.

Holiday homes in Berlin
From £354,000: apartments at yoo berlin come with interiors by Philippe Starck
A symbol of the old meeting new, as East met West, is the Neues Museum, which has incorporated demolished elements for its re-opening and is the pinnacle of modern architecture. These days Checkpoint Charlie is "Meet you at the gift shop checkout, Charlie!" as this famously zoned city finds its united capital city identity.

The transformation is drawing the biggest design names. Phillipe Starck is coming in to add cutting-edge design to what was a concrete blockhouse jungle. Tacheles is a glass and steel pyramid development in Mitte with interiors designed by Starck backed by a Swiss developer. A swanky loft, in what was the grim heartland of the former East Germany, is symbolic of the turnaround. From the Stasi stalking the strasse to Louboutins strutting the streets of a city which has grown to about 3.5 million people.

Germany might be the economic powerhouse of Europe but this is not yet reflected in property prices. As a work in progress and with many neighbourhoods still bearing Second World War and Cold War scars, the market has remained at a modest level. Prices have yet to catch up with a city which is striding towards a status befitting the economic fundamentals of this industrial powerhouse. But signs are that this is changing.

Berlin has become the country's unlikely property hotspot given its sprawl and plentiful grim reminders of world history. Between 2003 and 2011 prices ticked up 40 per cent and more recently there has been an even healthier rise. Over the past years prices have spiked at 17 per cent, putting the average Berlin apartment price at £1,710 a square metre.

Despite prices jumping, tempting offers still abound. A single bedroom pied à terre in the bustling residential district of Mehringdamm can be yours for little over £85,000.

Holiday homes in Berlin
An apartment in Bredowstrasse in Berlin-Moabit
Falling in love: why Britains are enjoying Berlin
"The purchase was pretty uncomplicated and, as you might expect, the German system is straightforward with no nasty surprises. The flat needed fully redecorating but the structure was sound and did not require any radical work to make it a decent, liveable space," says Christopher of his Bergmannstrasse buy.

"I was also lucky because a balcony had already been planned when I purchased. I now have spacious extra outside space looking out on a charming leafy courtyard. The neighbourhood is bustling and friendly. I am confident that there will be rental demand to cover my investment."

And Britons are falling in love with Berlin. It has now entered the top twenty of the UK's favourite property destinations — a very cool option for city living. The days of buying a flat in Berlin for the price of a garage in London are gone, but there are still tempting offers. A two-bedroom apartment in Mitte is possible for around £240,000.

Berlin's transport links are making leaps forward. Main rail station Hauptbahnhof is a monumental new building which has risen a short distance from the Reichstag and is truly a rail crossroads, linking the German capital to major cities by high speed.

And soon air travellers will have a Berlin gateway befitting the city. Until now, air traffic was dispersed between airports in a sign of the fragmented make-up of the post war Berlin — with the arrival of the Willy Brandt airport, 21st century air travel will start at last. Expect German style and efficiency. Heathrow eat your heart out.

* To buy in the Mehringdamm area try aden-immo.com/english; and engelvoelkers.com
* Otherwise big agencies to give you a choice across Berlin:
Danziger and Weibezahl: dwi-berlin.com (German only)
Engel & Voelkers: engelvoelkers.com

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