Hallo! Wie geht’s?
After the exams, Megs and I decided to go on a short getaway to the German capital. Neither of us had been there before and, although Portugal was also a tempting destination, we went for the colder option since it was January after all!
Here’s what we got up to over the four days – a very comprehensive trip as we managed to visit all the places on our list, as well as discover many good places to eat! #foodielife I’m giving you some tips and stay tuned until the end for a list of my favourite things to do!
We flew to Berlin on Thursday the 25th of January. It was an evening flight and we made it just in time because the traffic held up the Airport Shuttle and security held up Megs (who would’ve said she looks like someone carrying drugs? :P). We did make the flight and managed to grab some dinner to take with us. It was quite funny because it was raining both when we got on the plane and when we arrived in Schönefeld, so it kind of felt like we’d never left (and the fact that I napped the whole flight through was also disorienting). The trip to the hostel was alright. I had the instructions given to us by the hostel and Megs had the German knowledge to get us U-Bahn tickets and not get lost, so we made a good team. We reached the hostel at around 10pm, dropped our stuff and explored the building which was amazing! We ended up at the bar planning the next few days and chatting with some other guests before calling it a night.
We stayed at PlusBerlin Hostel. I would highly recommend this place. We stayed in a 4-bed female dorm with ensuite bathroom. The room was clean, comfortable and warm and we had lockers. The staff were super nice and helpful (they even changed the bed for us when there was a mix up one of the nights) and the building is great. An old textile factory, it is by Warschauer Straße U-bahn and S-bahn stations, making transport super easy, and very near the East Side Gallery and Mondersohn Brücke, as well as a lot of good places to eat and go out. In the weekend both the hostel and area were bustling with activity (you could hear music playing at night so bring some earplugs with you!). The bar-restaurant was great – they had a Latin Night going on when we arrived-, there is a swimming pool, common areas, photoautomat, launderette and luggage storage. And you can get an all-you-can-eat breakfast for 6.5euro which has a fantastic choice of food, from savoury to sweet, pretty handy for us! Megs was a super fan of the scrambled eggs… I would highly recommend the hostel and would just advice taking a padlock and an extension lead as plugs were scarce in our room!
More info: https://www.plushostels.com/en/plusberlin
DAY 1 – FREITAG
On our first day, we decided to go on our own walking tour of the city and visit most of the main monuments and, boy, did we do that. We did over 30000 steps and were knackered in the end, but it was totally worth it. I do love walking around a city as I really think it is the way to get a feel for it. We were fortunate to have decent weather during our stay, the worse day was the first as it was quite foggy in the morning and drizzled in the early afternoon, but we were expecting snow so we were lucky! If you go in the summer, I would suggest renting a bike to follow our itinerary. You can get them for a day for 10-12 euros and distances in Berlin are quite large as there are a lot of avenues but it is a city made for bikes: flat and with dedicated lanes all around. Here is our itinerary for the day:
· East Side Gallery – our first stop, right by our hostel. We walked along it and admired the graffiti. It was our first encounter with the Berlin Wall and it just felt so bizarre to think that the city was split in two for so long! The murals are beautiful, vibrant and colourful. Definitely a must.
· Alexanderplatz – main shopping square, full of malls and tall buildings.
· TV Tower – we actually weren’t able to see the top on the first day because of the fog, but the spire is certainly visible from anywhere in Berlin as we later found out. It happens to be the tallest building in Europe!
· Nikolaiviertel – a traditional style quarter that is actually fake and was built by the Communist government.
· Royal Palace
· Berliner Dom – massive cathedral; looked amazing from the outside but we didn’t go in as it was 7euro!
· Museum Inseln – we didn’t actually go to Museum Island on this day, but we walked past it. It is great to have all of the museums in one place though, saved us so much time!
· DDR Museum – student entry was 6euro and it was a super interesting museum about life in Communist Germany and the Wall, with a lot of artefacts, information and interactive activities as well as a reconstruction of a typical flat of the time. Highly recommend.
· Unter den Linden – the main avenue in Berlin, where the Opera is and a whole lot of other grandiose looking buildings.
· Friedrichstraße – more lively street perpendicular to Unter den Linden, it has more shops and places to eat.
We decided to go on the hunt of a place to grab some lunch in Friedrichstraße and walked by a few lunch-on-the-go places and bakeries, but in the end we stumbled upon Eden Vietnamese restaurant in one of the side streets. It was such a great choice! We avoided the usual sandwich and were able to sit down and enjoy a proper meal in the warmth. They had a lunch deal and it was clearly a popular option among the locals as it was buzzing inside with business men and women. Highly recommend.
· Brandenburger Tor – have you even been in Berlin if you don’t take a selfie with the Gate?
· Reichstag glass dome – you have to book the visit in advance (free) on the official page and arrive early to go through the security procedures but it is totally worth it! The Dome itself is an amazing construction and gives you a chance to enjoy the skyline of Berlin while being guarded from the weather. A free audioguide is included (but mine didn’t work L ).
· Tiergarten – the big park in the centre of Berlin, which was used as a hunting ground for the royals. It was quite gloomy and sad in January but I can imagine it being a great place to chill in the summer!
· Holocaust Memorial – the famous concrete blocks to remember the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a bizarre construction made out of blocks of different heights set up in a squared shape so that you can walk between them. A must-do stop.
· Potsdamerplatz – the skyscraper-filled part of Berlin. Honestly, if you are into architecture, Berlin is a really good shout! There are so many different buildings! We also walked past Topography of Terror, the museum built on former Gestapo quarters, but visited it the following day.
· Checkpoint Charlie – crossing point in the Berlin Wall, safeguarded by American soldiers.
· Jewish Museum – student entry was 3euro and the museum was interesting. It was definitely not what I would have imagined. The exhibition is set out in three differently themed axis and has a very modern take on the history of the holocaust. It has a few objects with the stories of the owners which I found super interesting.
After that we were quite hungry, so we decided to walk back towards the hostel to The Bowl, a vegan restaurant which had been recommended to us. I ate a massive quinoa bowl with parsnip fries and veggies, as well as having a rosemary, blueberry, pear and lime lemonade. It was quite a busy restaurant and on the pricier side, but the food was so worth it!
My first impression of Berlin was that it was a gloomy city, not so much because of the weather itself but because of the massive spaces and buildings which didn’t come across as inviting. I still think it is not the prettiest city in Europe, but once you find the cool and hip spots, you get to like it better and the more time we spent exploring other neighbourhoods, the more we grew fond of the city.
DAY 2 - SAMSTAG
Saturday was museum day. We took the U-bahn to Potsdamerplatz (7 euro for a Tagescarte –day ticket- for zones AB which is the centre or Berlin / 7,50 for a ABC day ticket). If you plan on visiting more than one museum and you can’t get the student discounts, I would recommend saving money by getting the Berlin Welcome Card which, depending on the price, gives you free travel pass and entry to most museums. We first went to Topography of Terror, about Nazi Germany. The exhibition is free and quite in depth so I would suggest setting aside 2 to 3 hours to visit it properly, but definitely give it a visit!
We then walked to an Indian restaurant by Potsdamerplatz that we’d seen the day before called Amrit. We had veggie curry and spinach chicken which were so good! Just make sure you ask for tap water so they don’t charge you an expensive bottle ;) We then took the U-bahn again to Museum Inseln. There was a lovely market on the way and the sun had come out so it was quite the change from the foggy day before. I wanted to see the Pergamon Altar (Pergamon Museum) but the room has been under renovation since 2014! We got a ticket nonetheless (9euro day entry to all museums with student discount) and it was still worth it. The Ishtar Gate was mind-blowing and they had some amazing pieces from Babylon, Ancient Rome, India and the Arabic countries. I found the collection to be quite well-rounded and a nice change from the usual Egyptian, Greek and Roman stuff I am used to seeing.
We then headed to Neues Museum to see the bust of Nefertiti. You are not allowed to take photos but it was a lot larger than I imagined it to be, definitely pretty that’s for sure! They also have a bronze age Golden Hat (there are only four in the world), but aside from those two main pieces, I found the collection to be average. I was more amazed by the size of the building itself – the staircases were insane!
Because we had some time to kill after the museums, we decided to walk to Alexanderplatz and get the U-bahn to a different area of Berlin so we went to Neukolln. It seemed to be a residential area for multicultural communities. There were a tonne of Turkish restaurants and a load of random shops. We walked back towards Kreutzberg, which reminded me of the Latin quarter of Madrid: multicultural vibes and a lot going on. We’d decided to go to Burgermeister for dinner, as it had been recommended to us by a couple of people, but it was super busy when we arrived and because we can also get good burgers in the UK, we decided to keep going along Skalitzer Straße, which was full of cool restaurants and hip places, until we reached Baraka. This was a Moroccan restaurant we’d walked past the night before and that looked amazing. It is family run, super welcoming and was super busy on Saturday night. Because we hadn’t booked, we had to wait for a bit to be seated but we honestly had the best falafel I’ve ever eaten and I also had some home-made baklava. Honestly, if you like Moroccan food, definitely book a meal here!
DAY 3 - SONNTAG
On Sunday we decided to explore different areas of Berlin. We took the S-bahn to Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, as there is a flea market on Sunday mornings. We hopped on the wrong S-bahn but it didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem, I actually highly recommend getting on the U1 line just for some sightseeing from above; you can see the Parliamentary buildings and the Victory Column perfectly! Once we got to Mauerpark, I was gladly surprised to see it is not only a flea market but also artisans’ market. There were so many things I wanted! Remember to take cash out in advance and allocate plenty of time to properly browse around. The food stalls looked really good so you definitely have lunch there! I ended up buying some pins and patches and a Spleen backpack for my travels, so quite a productive visit.
I liked the Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg area; the buildings are blocky but colourful and it was just such a nice area to photograph! We walked to the Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Straße and I thoroughly enjoyed the museum. It was so interesting, with videos and photos and a section of the wall just as it was when it was taken down in 1989, with all the security measures around it. It was very insightful into the life of divided Germany and how the Wall was destroyed and I learnt so much about a part of history I was quite oblivious towards. Highly recommend the museum.
We then took the U-bahn to Charlottenburg, another area of Berlin, and had a late lunch at Repke, a small German and Swiss restaurant on one of the back streets. It had been recommended to us and it was a good chance to try Spätzl and Flammkuchen. The staff were really nice and the food was good, although it wasn’t my favourite cuisine.
Charlottenburg itself is a lovely area, definitely the expensive side of the city. It is full of expensive shops and beautiful buildings, which reminded me a lot of Paris. We stopped at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was bombed during the Second World War and instead of being rebuilt, they came up with a very modern way of reconstructing the church and bell tower. Definitely worth a visit, it was one of my favourite places! The church was really pretty and different, - also with free entry!
Finally we took the U-bahn to Charlottenburg Schloss, the palace. It was late so it was closed, but since it was January I doubt we were missing out on the gardens… It was quite grandiose but somehow felt like it was lacking something? Like a much simpler Versailles.
After that we took the U-bahn back to Friedrichstraße and went to Witty’s just under the station for some currywurst and beer – you can’t go to Berlin and not try it! We walked along the street down to Checkpoint Charlie before making our way back to the hostel to pack for the next morning. It was a long day but definitely good and we also took some cheeky (and quite embarrassing) photos at the photoautomat! Such a great souvenir!
DAY 4 - MONTAG
Monday was our last day so we got ready and checked out of the hostel, leaving the bags in the storage space. Since museums close on Mondays, we decided to visit Bauhaus. We did a short stop at a supermarket to get our hands on more flavours of Ritter Sport (got to make the most while Schokolade is cheap) and nearly got lost on the way but Google Maps saved us. Unfortunately, the permanent Bauhaus exhibition was closed because it is going to be transferred to another building in April (and won’t be open in the next few years! So make sure you check online!). However, there was a temporary film and photography exhibition from the New Bauhaus school in Chicago and I absolutely loved it! I loved the more modern works of Amy Yoes and Sophia Thomsen, or the sixties works of Richard Nickel and Arthur Siegel.
After Bauhaus we walked towards Tiergarten to get a closer look at the Berlin Victory Column from the main avenue and then we made our way along the embassies to get back to the U-bahn, stumbling across a vintage story I had actually jotted down while researching but had not looked up the location! It was a vintage kilo store called Garage and I couldn’t stop myself and ended up getting two trousers for 9euro. I just can’t help it with vintage stores.
After that we went to Markthalle Neun near Skalitzer Straße. It’s a food market with stalls from different places. Monday and Wednesday mornings are to be avoided apparently because most of the stalls were closed, but we went to Mani in Pasta and ate some amazing pasta and spoke a bit of Italian. I also couldn’t help but get some focaccia too, I miss Italy!
We then decided to walk around the area, which was full of street art and walked along the East Side Gallery to Mondersohnbrücke. It is apparently a great place to watch the sunset, but the sky was overcast and it looked like it was going to start raining any minute so we decided to bail and go back to the hostel to use Wi-Fi/charge our phones/chill for a bit. I accidentally threw away my day ticket with my old receipts and decided to buy a single to the airport, despite never having our tickets checked. Good thing I did because they checked at the last stop and were fining people! The trip back was fine. Schöneberg Airport is probably the ugliest airport I’ve ever been to, but it was doable. We got some food and found two seats in a corner to have dinner before our flight and the trip back to Bath was ordinary.
All in all, I think Berlin is a cool place if you know where to go or have friends there who are in the loop with the cool and hip areas and events going on. History-wise, the Wall was amazing, but I have been to prettier cities in Europe. I would suggest going in Spring or Summer as I imagine it would be a great place to explore by bike or walking around and having picnics by the River Spree or in parks. However, going in January was also alright as the city is prepared for the cold and transport, shops and museums are all heated!
Without further a-do, the list of my favourite places in Berlin!
MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES (in no particular order)
· Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
· East Side Gallery
· Ishtar Gate at Pergamon Museum
· Berlin Wall Memorial (Bernauer Straße museum)
· The Reichstag dome
· Bauhaus Museum
· Taking some photos in the many photoatomaten around the city – they make for a great souvenir!
· Having a Moroccan dinner at Baraka, just make sure to book!
Bis zum nächsten Mal!