Over the past two years, Berlin has gained a reputation as one of the Bitcoin capitals of the world. Around the city, there are nearly two dozen restaurants and shops accepting the currency, including six concentrated in a single block. Room77, the restaurant that started it all, holds Bitcoin meetups on the first Thursday of every month, and dozens of people attend. The most recent meetup on August 1 saw unusually high attendance, with a number of prominent Bitcoin activists from Europe and around the world attending; stateless political activist Mike Gogulski, Defense Disributed‘s Cody Wilson, Bitcoin developer Amir Taaki, bitcoin.de operator Oliver Flaskamper and Mihai Alisie and myself from Bitcoin Magazine were all present.
The story started with Room77, a restaurant specializing in burgers located in the heart of Kreuzberg, a district of Berlin known for its left-anarchist history. The restaurant’s owner, Joerg Platzer, first started accepting Bitcoin in 2011, just before the peak of the first bubble in June. Several news sources in the local media reported on the event, showing customers paying around 0.5 BTC for a burger. Like all other Bitcoin-related businesses, Room77 faded somewhat in prominence as the 2011 bubble collapsed, but the restaurant kept going, and at the end of 2012 Platzer started the Bitcoin Kiez, a campaign to expand Bitcoin’s presence in the city to beyond just the one restaurant. In November, Platzer announced two new businesses accepting Bitcoin, by December the figure was up to six, and now, after seven months of continued expansion in 2013, the total count on the semi-official bitcoinkiez.de map stands at 17.
It is important to point out that the picture of the Bitcoin Kiez in Berlin is not quite so rosy as some of its more fervent enthusiasts claim. The media hype around the area can easily lead one to have the impression that the neighborhood around Room77 is plastered with Bitcoin-accepting businesses almost one after the other, and Bitcoin is “as easy to use as cash“. In reality, however, even in the heart of the Kiez around Room77 one needs to look hard to find the other Bitcoin businesses around. Having nine businesses all within several hundred meters of each other may seem like a lot on paper, but given that there are several hundred fiat-only businesses within three hundred meters of Room77, it ends up appearing somewhat underwhelming when one actually goes there. The other nine Bitcoin-accepting locations in Berlin are scattered around the city; you need to make a specific effort to find and go to each one. That said, however, the success of the Bitcoin Kiez in Berlin should not be understated; there is no other city in the world with even ten Bitcoin-accepting locations, with second place perhaps going to San Francisco with around five. Berlin is thus pretty much the only city in the world where one can live entirely on Bitcoin without relying on an established support network, and enjoy the experience. The city has restaurants accepting Bitcoin, a tour guide, places to live through either 9flats or unterkunft.de and a thriving Bitcoin and hacker scene. And things are only going to get better.
For a more detailed look at Bitcoin in Berlin, be sure to look out for the upcoming issue 13 of our magazine. Additionally, Solene and Lorenza from the European Bitcoin community have provided a large number of pictures from the Bitcoin meetups: