To celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary, we headed off to Berlin for a mid-week-mini-break.
We landed late afternoon and whizzed through immigration in less than 5 minutes, getting us safely into the city centre and to our hotel by sunset. We checked into Soho House Berlin, excited to experience the signature luxury and elite-indie coolness the property chain is known for. A listed building in Mitte set over eight floors, Soho House Berlin's dominant Bahaus building was built in 1929 as a department store and today stands proud at the intersection of two of the cities main boulevards. The massive (by Berlin standards) old building boasts 65 guest rooms and we were treated to one of the best. An "extra large" room on the 8th floor - I was a giggling mess when we opened the door and took it all in.
Soho House is famous for making their guests feel like they're in their own home. I could definitely live here!
Guests of the hotel have access to the members only bar and restaurants which occupy the top floor and roof terrace - no cameras or phones allowed up here so I'll let their professional photos show you around.
On our first night in Berlin we explored the Kreuzberg area and the bars and restaurants adorning the banks of the Flutgraben canal. White Trash is a burger joint with a difference. The kitsch interior combines elements from the Chinese restaurants it used to be, with rock and roll décor influenced by the bands who play on the stage inside the main bar. Locals and tourists alike crowd in for cheap eats, drinks and live music every night. We were there on blues night with a variety of different groups coming in the jam. They were good but not great and after a few beers we decided to move on to somewhere a bit more upbeat and we didn’t have to look far. Just next door, Club der Visionaire is built on old barges hanging over the water. Although its advertised as a club, it’s more of a bar or after party venue as the dancefloor is small and the music, although good, is relatively quiet. We took up a place at a table on the large deck, under a weeping willow that hangs over half of the bar, and sat back to people watch those who had clearly been out all weekend! Keen to try one more place before heading back to our giant bed we ventured over to the otherside of the canal to Freischwimmer for a nightcap.
After a lazy breakfast on the rooftop the next morning we wandered down to Alexanderplatz to the Fat Tire meeting point. Fat Tire run bike tours around Barcelona, Paris, London and Berlin and having thoroughly enjoyed the Barcelona tour, we decided it would be a great way to get a feel for the city and the main sites. Berlin was basically flattened during World War 2 and has since been rebuilding some of it’s old landmarks….and burning the exteriors to make them look old which is fairly strange! The tour focused mainly on Nazi history and Berlin’s political past.
First stop – Bebelplatz - the site where the most famous book burnings took place. The square is surrounded by university buildings and is home to a poignant memorial to the events that took place here when Hitler ordered thousands of books to be destroyed.
A line from Heinrich Heine's play in 1821 is engraved on a plaque in the square and reads: "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people."
Second stop – Checkpoint Charlie. Our informative guide recapped the reasons behind the building of the Berlin wall and the process for crossing it at one of 4 checkpoints, including Checkpoint C for Charlie, in Berlin. And of course I had to get the obligatory photo with the realistic guards.
Third stop – Berlin Wall & watchtowers. It really is mindblowing to think that the wall divided Europe for so many years.
Fourth stop – Jewish memorial. Designed by Peter Eisenman and opened in 2012, the memorial is also known as the holocaust memorial and made up of 2711 blocks of concrete arranged in a grid. At no point is the ground upon which the slabs lie flat, creating a feeling of unsteadiness and confusion as you walk through the maze. In the centre of the memorial, the slabs are over head high, and as fast as a person can appear in front of you, they can disappear again behind a different block. The whole experience makes quite an impact.
Keen to brighten the mood our guide took us through the city park next on route to a beer garden in the Tiergarten, Berlin's leafy parkland, and then, having refueled, we continued on to the Reichstag.
If you book in advance you can climb Norman Foster's glass dome which is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to the city.
Then finally we came through the iconic Brandeburg Gate.
We finished the tour with sore legs (and bums), buzzing brains and and full of excitement at the thought of going back to some of the museums we’d passed. But we'd definitely had our fill for one day and I could hear the tub calling my name...
For more on what to do, see and eat in Berlin, check out my travel guide.
What's your top tip for Berlin?