Are you planning a city trip in Europe? Let me give you a tip: Berlin!
The capital of Germany is the best place to be in Europe when you’re interested in culture, architecture, clubbing and of course a former soviet atmosphere, still noticeable in the city today. I stayed in the city for 5 days and really loved it. To help you plan your trip I compiled this article giving tips I experienced myself.
In this city guide I will give first hand tip on what to see, where to eat and lots more.
When looking for accommodations be sure you end up in the former east side of the town. The east side is by far the most interesting place to stay.
The best locations are Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. It’s very easy if your hotel is located near an u-bahn station or a big city center. We booked into the Ibis Berlin Mitte, just a 5 minute walk from Alexander Platz, and Prenzlauer Berg as a backyard in my opinion the best place to stay. Prenzlauer Allee 4.
If you’d like to try the soviet atmosphere check out the DDR hotel or Ostel. Don’t expect luxury, but you’re staying in a room frozen in time. Did you see, goodbye Lenin? Well something like that. The ostel is located next to the Ost bahnhof at the Wriezener Karree 5.
Berlin has an excellent public transport system, connecting all corners of the city by U-bahn, S-bahn and bus services. So a wise thing to do is to buy a Berlin Welcome card when you arrive at the airport of Haupt Bahnhof. The card, available in several versions (48 and 72 hours or 5 days), gives you unlimited access to all public transport. It can also be used to travel to and from Tegel airport (with the TXL bus service). More info check http://www.visitberlin.de/welcomecard/
Things to do
Lots of city guides on Berlin are available so I won’t repeat all the things to see and do when you’re in town. Off course you should check out the Brandenburger Tor, the Bundestag, the Holocaust Memorial and the Gedachtniskirche. Be sure not to miss the Alexanderplatz, the Potsdamer Platz and off course the Mauer at Check point Charly and the East Side Gallery.
So tips if you ask me, that can’t be found in the guides often are:
Citywalk though Prezlauer Berg, Mitte and Friedrichshain. Get a tast of the real Berlin! The first is as said before the most exciting one. A great neighborhood where the resistance against the DDR was formed. Later lot’s of punkers could be found here, and now it is one of the most wealthy places is town. When visiting the places stated above, your already in Mitte, so enough said about that. The last place of interest is Friedrichshain. This is the most original part of east-Berlin and still in the most crappie state (less restorations) with lots of students and artist living here. So very interesting. If you’re there, cross the Oberbaumbrugge and check out a piece of Kreuzberg as well.
Soviet war memorial in Treptower park. Located near the Oberbaumbrucke next to the Spree is a popular hangout for Berliners on a Sunday day. Also lot’s of ferry cruises start here with tons of dreadful tourists. But that is off course not the reason to go there! Hidden in the park is a enormous war memorial, Soviet style.
Flughafen Tempelhof. This former airport (closed in October 2008) is situated in Schoneberg and played a important role after the second World War, when it was used by the allies for the Berlin Airlift operation. In those day’s the town was cut off by the soviets and this was the only way in. The airport building is still one of the largest building in the world and a great example of Nazi engineering. The fate of these grounds are still unknown, but if you manage to get a tour (only two times a day), do so! We took a two hour trip and it was impressive. You’ll see places untouched since the war (for example the great hallway) and go inside the secret bunker, burned out by the Soviets.
Alexanderplatz and Fernsehturm
Neptunbrunnen and Fernsehturm
Berlin Dom am Museumsinsel
Neuen Wache, Unter den Linden.
Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz
the good old Trabi, also as convertible!
Mauer @ Niederkirchenstrasse
Zentral Flughaven Tempelhof
Tempelhof WW2 entrance hall not visible for public. (above main entrance) Look at the burned roof! not touched since.
Gedachtniskirche @ Kurfurstendamm
Siegessaule in Tiergarten
Statue of Soviet soldier holding a child and stamping on a crushed Swastika, Treptower park.
Soviet War Memorial in Treptower park
Where to eat
Off course eating is no problem in a Multi-cultural city. To start you certainly need to try the specialty of Berlin, the curry wurst. There is really one place to do it: Konnopke’s Imbiss in Prenzlauer Berg. This traditional imbiss located under the u-bahn station of Eberswalder strasse is terrible to look at, but the wurst is world famous. Beware, the Imbiss is closed on Sunday and on other days there can be long queues. Combine it with a walking tour through Prenzlauer Berg and take it as lunch along the way.
If you like Asian food, as I do, I can recommend Mao Thai, also located in Prenzlauer Berg. This traditional Thai which you can find at the Worther Strasse 30, serves the traditional dishes and off course my favorite: Tom Yam Kai soup.
A great Greek tavern can be found in the Oderbergerstasse 16, called Labyrinth. The place doesn’t look Greek but sure tastes so.
When visiting Checkpoint Charly, take your lunch at Sotto Sopra, friedrichstrasse 209. A great Italian family restaurant.
Another lunch tip when you’re in Mitte near the Fernsehturm and the Museum isle is Shi-Mai. This Vietnamese restaurant is located at the Karl-Liebknecht strasse 5 next to the aqua cube and the sea-life center.
In for a quick WanTan soup, you should visit Monsieur Vuong. Located in Mitte at the Alte Schonhauser strasse 46.
Another great Italian restaurant, especially if you’re into pizza for the night is Restaurant die 12 Apostel, located under the railway tracks near the Friedrichstrasse S-bahn station. Georgenstrasse 2. I took the Pizza Judas ;)
And last but not least, get your Sunday breakfast at Nola’s located inside the Volkspark (veteranenstrasse 9, u-bahn Rosenthaler Platz). On Sunday you can’t eat ala-card but only the buffet, and this is really something. Combined with a great terrace this is the starting point for a walk through Mitte.
Conclusion: lot’s of variety to eat, and best of all, Berlin is cheap!
In for a dance? At the moment Berlin is the most interesting place of Europe when it come to modern electronic music (house, techno and in Germany still popular: Rave). As you can imagine there are some great clubs as well. Three tips:
Watergate Club, Falckensteinstrasse 49. This club next to the Oberbaumbrücke is the place if you’re into techno. Huge windows give a great view at the Spree river.
Cookies, corner Friedrichstrasse, Unter den Linden. If you got style and you hip and happening, this is your place to be. Cookies is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays!
Week-end, located at the 12th, 15th and roof story of Alexander Platz 5. This is the former Haus des Reisens during DDR time’s.
As you might know if have several hobbies, but managed to get yet a new one, street art. And this doesn’t mean I go out with the spray-can myself, but as it comes to photography, I’m in.
Step back for a moment, how comes? This new hobby. The first day I didn’t notice much of the artwork around, although I photographed my first piece at the Marx-Engels-Forum. A day later I stumbled upon a book called Urban illustration Berlin: a street art city guide. And a new hobby was born. The book also featured a map and most of the art work can be found in Mitte, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. In the days to come I chased down lot’s of them. And guess what, there is a complete street art scene in Berlin, and it’s even used as postcard for the tourists.
Later on I will publish a massive photo compilation of my street art findings.
Berlin is one of the most interesting cities to visit at this moment in Europe. Tons of things to see and do. The former soviet atmosphere, especially in the east side of town, gives it a unique twist I don’t encounter in any other city in Europe yet.
All tip I gave above are findings of my own, so don’t come crying if you didn’t like one of them. If you have tips off your own, please post theme below, because I will certainly visit Berlin again!