Achtung Baby: the rise of Berlin as creative city and startup hub


In our second photo essay on Berlin, we showcase diverse facets of what makes this city an innovative hub, covering traditional heritage as well as contemporary trends.

PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 225 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Despite the troubled past of the 20th century, Berlin has risen to become a major creative hub. For example, mural artists have transformed the Berlin Wall, one of the most iconic symbols of the Cold War, into one of the world’s longest open-air mural walls (see our earlier photo essay here). The messages from these murals resonate across other periods and countries as well.

Inspired by developments such as the German reunification after the Cold War, rock band U2 began recording their award-winning album Achtung Baby at Berlin's Hansa Studios in 1990, according to Thilo Schmied, President, Berlin Music Tours. David Bowie had also recorded part of his Berlin Trilogy albums in the same studio.

Berlin’s creative communities have come together to form effective lobbies for promoting their spaces, as documented by researchers and community activists such as Thomas Honeck (IRS Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space), Lutz Leichsenring (Creative Footprint Music), and Mario Husten (Holzmarkt Cooperative). Key priorities are ensuring that creative spaces are affordable, safe, inclusive and collaborative.

The five museums on the Museum Island in Berlin showcase the power of brilliant museum design to trace the development of civilisations across the world. The sculpture of Nerfetiti in the New Musuem is one of the most-visited artefacts in the collection, along with other ancient Egyptian sculptures.

A range of factors such as talent, economic contribution, diversity and technology help cities win the City of Design title by UNESCO. Berlin received this designation in 2006, as did Montreal and Buenos Aires; they are part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

The city also hosts the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, Berlin Flash Film Festival, International Green Week, Transmediale, Improfestival, Comic Invasion, Open Air Gallery, Worldtronics, and Jazz Festival Berlin.

The city is now ranked as one of the top startup hubs in Europe, with notable startups such as Zalando, SoundCloud, and Babbel; more recent players include VOJD Studios, Auto1, N26, Snapshot, LemonCat,, Peat, EcoIntense, Fincompare, and Solaris Bank.

The Adlershof Science Park hosts one of the world’s most prominent photonics clusters, and the city is also home to global accelerator and investment firm Rocket Internet. Prominent events for startups include Tech Open Air and Hub.Berlin; there are also smaller events such as SofaTalk, Coding Day, TechTalk, InspireFest, Product Sprint, and World Blockchain Roadshow. (See also YourStory’s regular coverage of Germany’s startup scene here.)

From ‘Capital of Spies’ in Hollywood movies to ‘Creative City’ of the 21st century, Berlin has certainly come a long way. In this photo essay, we showcase the creative neighbourhoods and events of Berlin such as the Open Air Gallery and New Museum exhibitions, along with street art and even ads for smart cities and environmental preservation.

Now what have you done today to see how you can contribute to the creative quotient (CQ) of your city?

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at!

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.



Updates from around the world