CITY GUIDE: BERLIN, GERMANY


Berlin is a city which I've wanted to visit for a while now. Its ever changing art and culture scene and rich history has meant that it's always been on my radar, and I finally got around to going last week. I went as a short city break with my mum and my sister and we were lucky enough to visit on a weekend which was uncharacteristically hot for April. It was so nice to spend a few days in the sun after spending far too long in rainy London! Although we were only in the city for a couple of days, we planned everything that we wanted to see in advance and still managed to pack a whole lot into our trip. Want to know the best little spots to eat, drink and see the sights in Berlin? Keep reading!


Sights

Berlin is absolutely bursting with huge, beautiful buildings, each of them rich with their own history. You won't be able to get far down one of the central streets without stumbling across one. There is so much to see, but these are just a few of the main sights which you should definitely try to get to.

Reichstag's Dome. A huge glass dome located at the top of the Reichstag Building, the main parliament building in Berlin. There are a lot of different spots to view Berlin from above, but Rechstag's Dome is a rooftop spot which is free to visit if you book your tickets in advance from the grounds below.

Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe. You may have seen photos of people posing around the famous huge grey blocks which stand as a memorial for the murdered Jewish people of Germany's past. This isn't a spot to grab a tourist photo, but is an important site to visit nonetheless. Walk through the blocks and let their looming presence help you to reflect.

The Tiergarten. The Tiergarten is the biggest central park in Berlin and is absolutely beautiful - I'd definitely recommend spending an afternoon there! Every corner you turn within the park offers a different view, from gorgeous winding rivers to groups of people sunbathing in the nude (yep, really!). Part of the Tiergarten also backs on to Berlin zoo, so as you walk through it, you can catch glimpses of flamingos, tropical birds and zebras, without paying the usual zoo prices! We hired bikes inside the Tiergarten and used these to get around the winding paths for a few hours. I'd definitely recommend this if you want to ride bikes in Berlin, but you're worried about cycling on the roads and don't want to join a tour.

Checkpoint Charlie. A checkpoint which was once used as a crossing point between East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie is now a relic which tourists and locals can pass through freely on their travels. We actually stayed right next to Checkpoint Charlie while in Berlin, so it was easy for us to visit a couple of times. Even if you're staying more central, it's definitely worth making your way over to the checkpoint to get some photos and learn a little more of Berlin's divided history.

Brandenburg Gate. A must see sight in Berlin, Brandenburg Gate is a beautiful and powerful landmark. The Gate has played a big part in Germany's divided history, and has been the site of many turbulent events throughout their history. Now, it is seen as a symbol of strength and unity. If you're able to pick a time of day to visit Brandenburg Gate, I'd definitely recommend seeing it at sunset - watching the last of the light through the arches is a spectacular sight.

Berlin Radio Tower. The most famous of all of the viewing points in Berlin, the radio tower is definitely worth going up for the highest views across the city. It's a little more pricey than some of the other viewing points and I would argue that it doesn't offer the best views across the city, however it's definitely the spot which allows you to see the furthest. Grab a drink at the bar at the top, or just wander around the sphere soaking up the views.

Museums

Between the cities relationship with art and its history, there are a huge variety of museums to visit in Berlin. As it was so warm when we visited, we decided just to pay visits to the outdoor ones, but there were plenty of interesting places that we missed. If you think you'll be visiting a few museums during your time in Berlin, it's definitely worth getting yourself a museum pass. These can be bought online or at most of the central museums and will make it much cheaper to hop between them.

East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is technically a museum, but is actually a long stretch of one of the last standing parts of the Berlin Wall. It's been completely covered in political art from Germany's own artists, making your walk along it a pretty special one. I'd definitely recommend walking the length of the wall, and then settling down for a drink by the river in the East Side.

Museum Island. located in the middle of a U-bend in the Spree river, museum island offers a cluster of a few of Berlin's biggest museums for you to visit. It's home to Berlin's national gallery as well as The Pergamon Museum, a museum of architecture. Even if you don't want to visit any of the museums, it's definitely worth visiting this spot and walking between the huge towering buildings.

Food


There are some really wonderful food spots around Berlin, from classic street food to pretty brunch spots. We found that the best location in the city to find good restaurants is Mitte. This is where most of the below suggestions are located. One great thing about the food scene in Berlin is how well it caters for vegetarians - there are vegan options on most menus!

Shiso Burger. An infusion of burgers and Asian cuisine, Shiso Burger is definitely not a dinner spot to miss. It's a small joint located in Mitte, with tables spilling out on to the street to house its huge number of guests. (be prepared to wait around for a table, it gets pretty busy down there!) We sat outside at Shiso Burger on our first night and had the best meal of sweet potato fries, portabello mushroom burgers and edamame beans. This place had a really cool atmosphere, friendly service and the food was to die for!

Clärchens Ballhaus. Located just down the road from Shiso Burger, we found Clärchens Ballhaus by accident and decided that we'd return to eat there the following night. This place is absolutely beautiful - especially in the evening. The building is a huge, dilapidated old ballroom, and the gardens which surround it are overgrown and magical. Choose one of the outside tables, eat pizzas and drink beer under a canopy of plants and fairy lights. Then, once you've finished your meal, head inside the building to where the action takes place. Inside is a huge dance floor where we found dozens of strangers all energetically dancing the tango - it was a pretty cool sight!

House of Small Wonder. This was my favourite food spot that we visited in Berlin and if you're a fan of pretty interiors and tasty brunches, it's definitely one for you. Hidden away in an industrial looking building, you wouldn't expect House of Small Wonder to have an interior as beautiful as it does - bursting with green plants and huge windows. I'd recommend getting the matcha latte and french toast croissants - both were fantastic!

Curry At The Wall. There are a lot of street food spots to grab a hotdog or Germany's signature 'currywurst' in Berlin. From my experience, the best ones are the street food vendors who have little shops, rather than vans in the parks or at the fairs. My favourite that we visited was Curry At The Wall, located near Checkpoint Charlie. They were clean, reasonably priced and also had a vegan bratwurst and currywurst on sale. I tried the vegan currywurst and it was fantastic!


A few other recommendations

Take the tubes. Berlin is a huge city and your map can be a little misleading when it comes to the distance between sights. On our first day, we walked everywhere, but this meant that we spent a huge portion of our day walking around empty streets, rather than seeing sights. This is great for accidentally stumbling across spots on the way to your destination (we stumbled upon The Topography of Terror without meaning to!), but if you don't have much time in the city, it's definitely worth catching the tubes. They're easy to navigate and work out very cost effective if you buy a day pass.

Use the photo booths. All across Berlin, there are little vintage looking photobooths which cost 2 or 3 euros to use, depending on their location. Once you put your money in, there's no screen to see how you look and the little bulb flashes away four times. You then get a little black and white print out strip - definitely a cheap souvenir!

Buy food from the train stations. If you're on the go and you've already eaten your weight in bratwursts, the tube stations are a pretty cheap option for grabbing a quick snack. We found that the further underground you go in the stations, the cheaper it is to buy food and water, so be sure to go a few flights of stairs down before settling for a pretzel or a bagel!

Download an offline city map. Offline city maps are your absolute best friend when it comes to navigating a city in a foreign country. I use Maps.Me to find my way around and I love how useable it is. Whilst you have wifi at your hotel or hostel, you can download the map of the entire city onto the app, ready to use when you've turned off your data. You can also add pins to all of the spots that you want to visit, so you'll never be without somewhere to head next.


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