Berlin is the best. No matter who you are, what you’re into, or what you want from a city break, Berlin’s got you covered. History buff? You’ll be in your element. Techno fiend? You’ll be stomping holes through the floors of Berghain. Foodie? You might decide to just stay and live there. Berlin. Is. The. Best. Here’s a video and a few tips to make it even better.
If you plan on seeing as many of Berlin’s sights as you can during your trip, it’s worth investing in a Berlin Welcomecard. Berlin is a big city with loads of neighbourhoods to explore; and you’ll have a difficult time trying to get to them without using the city’s (excellent) public transport system. The card covers you for all public transport in the city and comes with a mini guidebook, as well as discounts and concessions for over 500 shops, attractions, theatres and restaurants in the city. Prices start at €19.90 for 48 hours, but you can add extra days or include airport transport and museum entry if you want; just choose what suits you.
One thing you can (and definitely should) use public transport for is a DIY hop-on hop-off city tour. The 100 and 200 bus routes take you past the city’s most famous sights, and they’re a great way to check the big sights off your list of things to see. Start at Alexanderplatz after visiting the TV Tower and make your way past the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Berliner Dom, Schloßplatz, Museum Island, the Victory Column, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin Zoo and more. Oh, and if you can, try to get the very front seats on the upper deck, the windows are huge and clean and offer great views as the bus moves around the city.
If you want to go up into the Reichstag Dome, you’ll be delighted to know that it’s totally free to visit – but you can’t just turn up and enter. Visits have to be booked, so go to the booth across the road from the building itself to reserve your time slot (and don’t forget to bring photo ID which is required to make a booking). There is usually a queue at the booking centre, but it moves quickly enough and it’s worth the time.
As well as visiting the big landmarks, go to smaller-but-important sights too, like Checkpoint Charlie (Friedrichstraße 43-45) and the Holocaust Memorial (close to the Brandenburg Gate), and definitely don’t miss the Eastside Gallery on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, to see how a symbol of separation and oppression was turned into a thing of beauty and hope.
The food in Berlin is a dream for both the mouth and the wallet, and an absolute nightmare for the waistline – but who cares, when it tastes as good as it does.
Currywurst is the classic Berlin street food, and the best one I’ve had is at Curry 36 right beside the Mehringdamm underground station. This, conveniently, is located about 15 metres from Mustafas, Berlin’s most famous kebab joint – so if (like me) you’re not afraid of making an absolute pig of yourself, you can try to check both of those boxes in one gluttonous excursion (like I did). Berlin’s large Turkish community means there are loads of places to get excellent kebabs, so don’t be afraid to try some lesser-known places too – for one thing, you won’t have to queue as long for your feed.
There’s a lot of great Vietnamese food in the city too; I had some gorgeous noodle soup in Miss Saigon in Kreuzberg. Big, tasty bowls of Pho cost between €6-9 and are particularly nice on a cold day in the city.
If you fancy a burger, you might as well go full tourist and get one from Burgermeister. For one, it’s probably the only time you’ll ever eat a burger served in an old public toilet (don’t worry it’s not a toilet any more). Besides that, the burgers are really good. Head to Oberbaumstraße train station, and like a visit to Mustafas, you should be prepared to queue for your food. Don’t worry, it just means you’ll be extra hungry by the time you order, so you’ll be even more likely to get their excellent chilli cheese fries
Don’t be afraid to explore and go off the beaten food-trail too, you really never know what you’ll find – my best discovery was Arminius-Markthalle (10 mins from Berlin Zoo on the U9), where you’ll find a huge open-plan market hall with multiple different restaurants serving everything from fish and chips to Alabama style BBQ. It’s a really charming place with the perfect dining atmosphere, and the food is so tasty that I ended up going twice.
In addition to the check-list stuff I mentioned earlier, try to get to some of Berlin’s lesser-known sights and neighbourhoods, where I think you get a fuller sense of the city.
The Alternative Berlin Walking Tour is a great way to see some of these. It’s a free tour (but make sure you tip your guide if you enjoy it!), and it’ll give you a little insight into Berlin’s subcultures and alternative history. The tours differ depending on the guide and the day, but if it doesn’t bring you to Hackescher Markt make sure you go there yourself to see the art, and wander round the museums, shops, cafés, the cinema… and the creepy and very cool Monster Kabinett.
RAW-Gelände is another very cool little spot to explore – it’s a derelict train repair station that has been transformed into a thriving place with tonnes of street art, a weekly flea market, an indoor skate park, a climbing wall, and some banging clubs too (including the world’s smallest disco in a gold painted phone booth). It’s one stop away from the Eastside Gallery, and a short walk from Friedrichshain which is jam-packed with gorgeous little shops, bars cafés and restaurants and well worth having a wander around.
Foodies and bargain hunters in particular will like the Turkish Market in Kreuzberg. It’s on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11am to 6:30pm, and in its stalls you’ll find everything from fresh meat and herbal teas to clothing and souvenirs. It’s a sensory overload in a good way, and when you’re there you should 100% shell out €2 for a slice of Gözleme (Turkish flatbread stuffed with cheese and spinach). It’s tasty and greasy and amazing.
There are plenty of places where you can easily part with your hard-earned cash, but if you want to find truly interesting little shops where you can buy something that you can’t find in H&M or Primark, hit Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, or the area around Hackesecher Markt.
You should have cash on you – lots of places in Berlin don’t accept card payments, so if you’re used to using your card for everything from coffees to clothing, you should change tack and use cash in Berlin, to avoid hassle.
Most shops are closed on Sundays, so if you want to go shopping and you only have a weekend in the city, make sure you do that on the Saturday.
Fligths to Berlin
- Dee Murray