Berlin has been on my bucket list for some time now and I was finally able to tick it off my list. Considering how big the city is and how much I enjoyed my visit, another re-visit to Berlin might have to ensue in the coming months. There is a huge amount of places to visit and so much history to take in. My 4 day city break only gave me small glimpse into this vibrant city. Below are recommendations of the places I was able to see on this trip.
Tip – Buy a Welcome Card A,B,C at the airport for 3 or 5 days. This includes transport on all buses, S-Bahn, U-Bahn and transport to/from Schonefield airport.
AREAS IN BERLIN
Mitte – Basically translates to centre and aptly describes its location in Berlin. It is the 1st and most central borough in Berlin which contains both former West and East Berlin districts. The River Spree runs through this borouh, and where you will find Museum Island, Alexanderplatz, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Cathedral, TV Tower (impossible to miss from anywhere in the city), Brandenburg Gate and the major tourist sites.
Prenzlauer Berg – Is part of the Pankow Borough. This area was once part of old East Berlin and was then the Bohemian centre in the 90’s. In recent years it has experienced gentrification. It has a yuppie feel with boutiques but still holds a relaxed, youthful vibe. Locals describe this area as the place you re-locate to once you have children.
Kreuzberg – Located south of Mitte. It was once the poorest area of Berlin but is now a trendy cultural hub of cafés, bars, pubs and nightclubs. It’s a great area for a night out in Berlin.
Neukölln - Is the 8th borough in Berlin referred to as “Little Istanbul” and located just beyond Kreuzberg. It’s gritty, diverse and brimming with Turkish cafes selling all sorts of Turkish delicacies. You will find a mix of students, artists, bohemians and Turkish living here who are attracted by the cheap rent. Don’t be put off by this suburbs brusque exterior, which I found safe and inviting. Gentrification is on the rise here (much to the dislike of some locals) so in a few years time this suburb will have changed dramatically.
East Side Gallery
Bode Museum - Museum Island
SEE & DO
Free Walking Tour – I participated on this walking tour on my first morning. My tour guide was knowledgeable and he gave a lengthy and informative introduction to Berlin and the main tourist sites. It’s a great way to get your bearings around a new city.
Bearpit Karaoke – Every Sunday in Mauerpark, you can watch entertainers perform in the amphitheatre. If the performers here are not to your liking, you can move around the park where you will find a multitude of different buskers. We saw a busker with a didgeridoo (how random!), and guitarists/singers from Australia and South Africa. There was a festival vibe in the park with a clash of punks, hipsters, hippies and tourists milling around.
Scheunenviertel – Also referred to as the “Barn quarter” in Mitte because this area once contained barns that were used to store hay for the large cattle market situated nearby. You can do your own walking tour using this suggested route courtesy of National Geographic. It is a shopping hub of independent boutiques.
Monbijoupark - When you complete your walking tour of scheunenviertel, head to this park by the River Spree where you can relax with a coffee or beer. You can bring your own and hang out just like the locals do. If you don’t have your own drinks, go to Strandbar Mitte by the railway line and relax in one of their many beach chairs on the grass.
Outdoor concerts – Check the internet for outdoor concerts that take place during the summer in Berlin. I caught a free Pianist Concert outside Bode Museum, which was a lovely way to spend the evening with a bottle of wine.
Reichstag Dome – Visit the glass dome here for an unobtrusive and 360 degree views of the city. It’s free entry but you MUST book online to visit this building. Designed by Norman Foster in 1993, the design was initially controversial but has since been accepted as one of Berlin’s most important and well-known landmarks. As you make your way up the spiral path, the audio guide will give you a clear description of all the different buildings you see before you. You also get an aerial view of the main hall of Parliament from inside the dome.
Jewish Museum – This is one of the largest Jewish Museums in Europe with additional buildings built by architect Daniel Libeskind. If you only have time to visit one museum on your trip, then this is the one to see. You will easily spend at least 3 hours here and the audio is worth the 3 euros. You will get an in depth look into WW2 as well as the German-Jewish history and culture.
East Side Gallery – Located near the River Spree, this is an open air gallery and an international memorial. It is a 1.3 km long section of the original Berlin Wall. Stroll along the east side of the wall and admire the graffiti that was painted by artists all over the world in 1990. It is said to be the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world.
Holocaust Memorial – This is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Cement slabs of various heights and sizes have been erected in a grid system. Walk through the memorial and on a quiet day it can be quite eerie. Below the memorial is a place of information that stores the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.
Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) – This memorial commemorates the division of West and East Berlin by the Berlin Wall and the deaths that occurred here. Visit the documentation centre that has exhibitions and a 5-storey observation tower.
Bauhaus Museum – Although unimpressive from the outside and looking like a faded, rundown museum, the collection inside is interesting. Audio is recommended. Just watch out for the strict staff inside who will berate you if you take a photograph!
Cafe Am Neuen See
Rowing Ponds - Tiergarten
EAT & DRINK
Café am Neuen See – Situation in Tiergarten by the rowing pond. Come here for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The pizzas are cheap and highly recommended.
Lichtensteinallee 2, 10787
District Mot – A Vietnamese restaurant with interesting décor that is trying to mimic a cafe you would find in Vietnam. The pho was flavoursome and they do traditional iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk.
Rosenthaler Straße 62, 10119
The Bird – A New York style bar and restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg with decent food and worthy of the top reviews it gets.Am Falkplatz 5, 10437
Clarchens Ballhaus – Located in North Mitte, you will feel like you have stepped back in time in Berlin. You will get to experience a different era of Berlin where the original dance hall still stands today. Go for dinner on a Saturday night and sit in the enchanting front courtyard. The food was tasty and generous in portions. I had the veal schnitzel which was bigger than the plate it came on! If you feel like a boogie, the DJ will start spinning old school tunes from 10pm onwards in the dance hall. The entrance fee to join the partygoers indoors is €5.Auguststraße 29C, 10119
Lugosi – This seductive cocktail bar in Kreuzberg serves a fine selection of cocktails. Candle lights help to create a moody, ambient setting. Great place to meet friends for a drink before dinner. I headed to Cocolo Ramen Bar below for dinner afterwards, which is just around the corner.Reichenberger Straße 152, 10999
Cocolo Ramen Bar – The staff were friendly and 2 thumbs up for the ramen noodles they serve here.Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39, 10999
Goldberg – I came across this bar/restaurant one night as I was meandering through Neukölln. It was a relaxing spot to sit outside with a drink and food was delicious.Reuterstraße 40, 12047
Yaam Bar - I happened to stumble upon this beach bar by River Spree after my visit to the East Side Galley. This multi-purpose venue has an outdoor beach bar, holds club nights, gigs, you can play sports, is kid friendly, and has a multi-cultural, relaxed, reggae vibe. Revive yourself with a couple of drinks or more.
Monkey Bar – This bar overlooks the monkey pit in the zoo. I didn’t get to visit this bar this time but I have heard it is worth a visit for the chance to have a drink with the monkeys, so to speak. Separated by a glass wall, the monkeys will keep you entertained and amused whilst you relax with a drink in hand.
Budapester Straße 40, 10787
Flohmarkt am Mauerpark – Is the largest flea market in Berlin and on the day I visited, it felt like the majority of Berlin’s population and all its tourists were here. It has a huge and varied selection of stalls selling second hand, bric-a-brac, vintage items, hand made goods, plenty of food stalls. If you tire of the crowds then you can give your legs a rest in the biergarten where you can have a beer (of course) plus food. This market is also adjacent to Mauerpark if you prefer a greener space to rest in.
Bernauer Straße 63-64, 13355
Every Sunday, 10am - 5pm
Flohmarkt am Arkonaplatz – Is smaller than Flohmarkt am Mauerpark and a 5 min walk away. If you are short of time, I would just concentrate on going to Flohmarkt am Mauerpark.
Hackescher Wochenmarkt – If you wander through Scheunenviertel on a Thursday or Saturday, there is a farmers market where you can try a pomegranate juice or grab a cup of freshly chopped watermelon for €1.
Near Hackescher Markt S-Bahn
Every Thursday and Saturday
Markthalle Neun – Visit on "Street Food Thursdays" for dinner where you will get plenty of street style food choices. It has a great atmosphere but gets very crowded and is difficult to find a place to sit down unless you come across some luck on the night you visit.
Eisenbahnstraße 42, 10997