Germanys capital in the North East of the country, smack back in the middle of Europe, has reinvented itself over the last 10 years and become a popular destination for those looking for an affordable weekend break, as well as those chasing decent nightlife and backpackers touring Europe.
Given the city’s remarkable recent history it’s no wonder that tourists interested in learning more WW2 and what life during the post war period was like in a country divided by a brick wall. But there is so much more to Berlin than it’s past.
Almost every major city in Europe offers direct flights to the German capital and for the time being there are 2 airports to chose from - Tegel or Schonefeld. Tegel is by far the best option - just 20 minutes from the city centre, the tiny airport means that you can go from plane seat to taxi in less than 10 minutes. Berlin is building a brand new airport which will lead the closure of the other 2, but at the moment they're struggling to finish and open it so until they do, chose Tegel!
WHERE TO STAY
Looking at a map of Berlin is confusing to say the least and there is little information to find online about which area of the city is best to stay in. Personally I don’t think you can go wrong if you’re within walking distance of Alexanderplatz and Museum Island – from there you can get to anywhere.
Brilliant hotels in the area include Hotel Indigo, Hotel Amano and The Circus Hotel (which also has a hostel across the road). However THE hotel in the city has to be Soho House. With a fabulous location on Torstrasse and with a fabulous bar and rooftop pool it is the perfect base.
For those on a budget, Friedrichshain is popular with plenty of hostels popping up around the area thanks to it’s lively streets full of bars and restaurants. Just 2 stops away from Alexanderplatz on the U-bahn it’s a good option and a must for a night out for those staying elsewhere.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
A thriving, trendy city, Berlin has a plethora of food options to suit every palate and budget. For inspiration, Still in Berlin has is a fantastic resource for inspiration and restaurant reviews. Here are some of our favorite spots:
White Trash Fast Food serves large portions at very reasonable prices. This quirky, old chinese restaurant, now live music bar and outdoor eatery is full of amusing knickknacks. There is live music every night of the week and a guaranteed crowd of students, tourists and locals. Just next door, is a nightclub built right on the water, on a series of pontoons and is the perfect place to continue the party after dinner. If you're looking for something a little more relaxed, Freischwimmer on the other side of the canal serves good food and drinks in a converted house boat.
Friedrichshain is an up and coming area with 2 buzzing streets perfect for a bar crawl or dinner. Spaetzleknoedel is famous for popular for traditional German food done well, while Hops and Barley is a trendy and lively microbrewery for those on more of a liquid diet.
SEEING THE SIGHTS
By far the easiest and best way to get around Berlin is by bike. The public transport links are efficient and taxis are reasonably prices for the evenings, but during the day a bike really makes sense - roads are wide, most have bike paths and motorists are more considerate than I've found in any other city. Fat Tire have a variety of different tours to chose from but their standard city tour is a must. Departing at 11am and 4pm daily, there's no need to book in advance, just show up at the meeting point by the TV tower in Alexanderplatz and off you go! The tour takes 4-5 hours and it's an ideal way to get your bearings, see the main sights, learn about the city's history from one of their informative guides and meet other travelers! Don't worry there is a stop in the Tiergarten for food and beer!
If you're not booking a tour and want to know what the "must sees" are, make sure you plan include the following in your itinerary:
- Topography of Terror - free museum all about the war and Hitlers Secret Police
- Checkpoint Charlie - learn about what is was like to travel from East to West Berlin during the years of the Berlin Wall.
- Jewish Memorial - a huge labyrinth of concrete blocks. Clever and Eerie.
- Brandeburg Gate - the famous arch from so many movies and history book. Don't miss seeing it in real life
- Reichstag - Germany's main government building. So significant in the history books and now there's a new glass dome on the top of it offering views right down into the leadership offices. Designed by Norman Foster, the dome is open to the public however visitors need to register in advance and the queue are long so be prepared and sign up before you travel!