Top 5 for Berlin
- Check out one of the inevitable visiting art exhibits at one of the many museums. Berlin is known for fantastic art, and it’s a wonderful place to appreciate it.
- Stand beside the Berlin Wall, and then take in the Topography of Terrors behind it.
- Check out a Berlin Flea Market (Trodelmarkt).
- Wander around the Jewish memorial, Brandenburg Tor, and Parliament Building.
- Enjoy the city’s thoroughly funky nightlife and bar scene.
Where to stay
- Cheap: Baxpax Downtown Hostel is centrally located, clean, has friendly staff, free WiFi, and lots of public spaces for meeting new friends and relaxing. They also offer single rooms with ensuite private bathrooms for very reasonable prices.
- Higher End: Hotel Melia, on the Spree and just a stone’s throw from Baxpax, is pricey but beautifully decorated, with large spotless rooms, spa-like bathrooms, and wonderful welcoming staff. Avoid the “tapas” restaurant though.
Everyone in Berlin seems to have a “vibe”. Locals go about their day in however fashion they choose, and appear not to give a damn what anyone else thinks. Even the architecture seems to say “I’m weird, get over it”. It’s a city of funky strangeness, and something about it is so alluring. My first step into the city was to take a hop-on hop-off bus tour – as it was January and -18 degrees Celsius and walking around seemed a silly idea. Tours like this are great because they give a broad overview of the major sites, and an idea of what you would like to return to. I hopped off at the Brandenburg Tor (Gate), and wandered around the Jewish memorial and Parliament Buildings. The following day I took a guided tour of the German Parliament Building, a really interesting and worthwhile tour if you’re at all interested in politics. For art lovers, Berlin is a gold mine. The Dali exhibit at Potsdamer Platz is a fascinatinf collection of Dali’s early sketches, which show a completely different view into him as an artist, and his ultimate progression to surrealism. Another great exhibit was the Picasso visiting exhibit at Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings). Titled Frauen, Stiere und Alte Miester (Women, Bulls, and Old Masters) alludes to the organization of the exhibit, divided by themes occurring in Pablo’s art and life (e.g. Circus folk, women, bullfights, politics). It contains what is claimed to be the oldest collection of Picasso works in the world. The exhibit was thoroughly impressive and I think the most insightful look in Picasso’s life I’ve ever seen.
The Topography of Terrors Museum at the Berlin Wall is humbling, horrifying, informative, and fascinating. It provides a very honest and raw view of the events of the Second World War. The Tiergarten is worth a walk if you’re looking for some greenery and nature.
For some unique keepsakes, visit one of the many flea markets littered around the city, ranging in style and price range. I found a gorgeous Polish china teacup and saucer, and a beer stein inscribed with the former GDR logo on the base. For high-end shopping, the KaDaWe is a must-see. The German version of Harrods Department store in London, the KaDaWe is a 8 floor monstrosity of clothing, designer purses, makeup, shoes, books, housewares, and of course Champagne and oyster bars on the top floor.
Where to eat: Berlin offers everything from dirt-cheap donairs to incredibly pricey Michelin star restaurants. The best example of this is Bier’s Kudamm 195 Currywurst Shop on Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg. Here, you can buy both currywurst, Berlin’s famous cheap street food, and a bottle of champagne. Why not? Everything seems like a good idea at 4 am. Currywurst is a deep fried sausage, cut into pieces and covered in ketchup and curry powder. It was inspired by American and British soldiers in World War II (who loved ketchup and curry powder respectively). Another recommended street food is Doner Kebab – also well known as being some of the best Doners you can get in Germany.
Cheap: (<10 euro): DaDa Falafel (Linienstraße 132) – This unique pseudo-fast food restaurant serves totally delicious Mediterranean fare at great prices. Expect to be crowded in at small tables, elbow-to-elbow with your neighbour. The mixed platter; with hummus, beef souvlaki, tzaksiki, and freshly baked pita is amazing. Extra points for awesome presentation as well.
Monsieur Vuong: This Vietnamese restaurant serves delicious Vietnamese-style soups and stirfries – with proper spice and fresh flavours. Try the unique and delicious teas and juices.
Ausfurtz: This beer bar, popular with locals and tourists alike, is the place to try unique beers from around the world. I recommend BarBar- a South African beer brewed with honey. While the beer is global the food is local – traditional hearty and heavy north German fare. The goulash with bread dumplings was perfect on a cold winter night.
Mid-range: (10-30 euro) Restaurant Aigner offers local traditional dishes such as Schnitzel with warm potato and cucumber salad. Food is solid, but not unique or particularly inspiring.