We will be in Berlin in late October. We are looking to rent a vacation apartment; what are the desirable areas of the city in which to define our search? Qualities we're looking for are easy access to the U-Bahn, good selection of markets/food stores in the vicinity, safety.
Definitely, I agree with the description of Charlottenburg (I always stay in Charlottenburg)...I would add Zehlendorf; it's more pricey but is closer to Potsdam. It also has nice neighborhoods. Less pricey is Wilmersdorf, also nice neighborhoods.
Of course, the area to be avoided absolutely in Berlin is Neukoelln. Berlin is also my favourite city in Europe along with Paris; one must not leave out les francais...both #1.
We've only been to Berlin once but liked staying in Western Berlin near Kurfurstendamm and the Zoo station. For us, it was convenient to be near the Bahnhof "Zoo" for great transportation connections to any part of the city. It's a nice neighborhood with good, reasonably-priced restaurants and KaDeWe Department Store nearby.
We stayed at Pension Peters--you could look up the hotel location on "Google Maps" to get an idea of the streets nearby.
The city is way too big to give you a blind recommendation. Ask us with direct addresses and we shall be able to comment on those.
Avoid Neukoelln (in the western part of the city). I stayed with a friend there a few weeks ago and while it isn't unsafe, she considers it a German version of a white-trash neighborhood.
I'd been meaning to join the RS site, and Sarah's post was the stimulus that finally spurred me to do it. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the term "white-trash" is extremely offensive on several levels. For an accessible explanation of why, you could google ""The term “white trash” is offensive in two major ways." One thing is clear: a term like this has no place on a Rick Steves site, or anywhere in the web, for that matter. Those involved may not have understood that fact, but here's your cue. Cheers, Alex