Just got back from a cold holiday in Berlin. Some people would say that December is not the best time to visit the city. I say it is. It was my second time visiting a cold Berlin. Here is a four day guide:
DAY 1: FRIDAY
We landed very early at Schönefeld Berlin Airport. We would “easily” have got to central Berlin if it wasn’t that buying a ticket involved a good 45′ spent in a ticket queue. Mad.
Tip 1: How to move around
We mainly walked everywhere. But for those daytrips further out, we managed to survive and get around with U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (trains that cross and go out the city).
There are no ticket barriers to use the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams or regional trains. However, you can be asked to show your ticket anytime, so you better have it. To get into the bus one has to show the ticket to the driver.
Another option would be renting a bike. Very affordable and easy, since there are bike lanes EVERYWHERE. I love it.
So we got to Alexanderplatz and there we found one of the biggest Weihnachtmarkt (Christmas market) of the city. The offer would be the same everywhere: Bratwrust, typical sweets, GühlWein, Xmas gifts and fun fairs.
Tip 2: Where to stay
Location as always is very important. After looking for different options, including Airbnb and apartments, we finally chose EastSeven Hostel (Schwedter Strasse 7). Just as they claimed to be: relaxed hostel in central Berlin. Small, cosy and clean.
The closest underground station is U Senedefelderplazt. The Kollwitzkiez district, as well as Mitte, are close to the city centre, easy to get around and have nice cafes, restaurants and local shops.
Before we dropped our bags at the hostel, we stopped for a bite at
Impala Coffe (Schönhauser Allee 173): Amazing warm tasty bagels that made us go back the next day. Loved the woman making coffees. She would shout Hallo! to every single person crossing the door and she would not speak to me in English. Loved it! Strong character!
Tip 3: Where to eat
Berlin offers an affordable wide range of culinary varieties. Cheap + good = great.
Vegan food seems to be the trend in local and small restaurants (Germans are very ECO). But of course one can always find bratwurst, salami and ham sandwiches and other world wide cuisine represented in the city.
I didn’t take pictures of any of the meals we had, which was the intention, since the trip was all about relaxing and disconnecting. Smartphones away! (It was freezing, so getting the phone out was paaaainful). But because I exercised my brains, I do remember the places we ate in. 😉
After a quick siesta (Ryanair flights are so early…) we wandered around our area for hours. From Senefelderplatz to Eberswalder Str. through Kastanienallee, Schönhauser Allee, Kollwitzstrasse, Oderberger Str…. admiring the windows of the cuttest local shops and restaurants in town. This is what we found.
Marubi Ramen (Kollwitzstrasse 47): Feeling cold? I had this amazing Chanpon Ramen. The food was just great, and without glutamat!
We didn’t find out what it was until the next day, when a resident explained to us that it used to be an old brewery and we could actually visit a very good Museum about the history of East Berlin for free.
DAY 2: Saturday
We ended up having a quick breakfast in a random cafe in the city centre but it charged our batteries for an action packed touristic day.
DDR Museum: It’s an interactive museum about the East Germany and the Soviets. One can see, touch and feel the society of that period. The entry fee is 7 euros for adults. Despite the Museum at the Kulturbrauerei being free, it is good to see this one too, since it’s more dynamic and also has a better approach to non German speakers.
After that visit, we walked in the direction of Bradenburger Tor via Unter den Linden avenue. Along it one can come across many landmarks: the Berliner Dom, Pergamonmuseum, Bades Museum, German Historical Museum, Neues Museum, Konzerthaus Berlin… among others.
Once we got to the Bradenburger Tor and admired the Reichstag on the right and Tiergarten ahead, we met up with a friend.
We headed to Postdamer Platz where we had a brastwurst for lunch at the big Weihnachtmarkt. After some shopping, we walked in the direction of the Welt Ballon Berlin to end up at Checkpoint Charlie and greet the American soldiers. But after all that walking we needed something warm urgently!
Westberlin (Friedrichstrasse 215): coffee bar and media shop. We ordered coffees, tomato and coconut soup, carrot and cheese cake. Absolutely everything was spot on. What a cheese cake!
After that treat, we met my friend’s friend who lived in Berlin and made plans for the evening.
Tip 4: Where to party
We didn’t properly go out, as in, party party, but we went all the way to Warschauer Strasse. The whole area has a very young, hipster, urban feel. The vibe is cool. There are many bars, clubs, and restaurants around to choose from for a mad night out. Berlin is well known for its party party.
Badeschiff (Eichenstraße 4): A swimming pool in summer, a Xmas market in winter. 3 euros entry, but worth it. Had a relaxing down time by the river, good nice Gühlwein and better company. Preparing our tastebuds for a feast.
Emmapea (Revaler Straße 99): This place serves up Mexican food, most of it veggie, in one of the coolest parts of Berlin. By the way, nobody speaks Spanish there, despite the menu board all written in Spanish.
And after some more drinks in an Indian restaurant we embraced bedtime like babies.
DAY 3: SUNDAY
After a nice breakfast at Impala Coffee (again) we headed towards Flohmakrt am MauerPark, 10 minutes away from our hostel. Vintage flea market and street food, perfect plan for a Sunday morning.
Just off the market, walk towards the Berlin Wall Memorial along Bernauerstrasse (parallel walk). There are pictures and audios compiled all the way down to the memorial, explaining how life was in that area, where East and West Berlin were divided by the Wall.
Well in to our cultured day, we carried on with Berliner Unterwelten e.V. (Brunnenstraße 105) underground tours to real bunkers. Worth paying 11 euros each. Interesting, impressive, shocking. The tour guide was really good too.
Two minutes away, in front of the Gesundbrunnen shopping centre, you will find:
Curry Baude (Badstraße 1,) : Known to offer the true ‘Berliner Curry Wurst’ or sausage. To me, just a fried sausage with a curry taste.
And after a long walk and rest, started the evening with:
Gong Gan (Schwedter Str. 2): Super cute restaurant, with cool furniture, Lego blocks and other random stuff serving Korean home cooking. Their speciality is the Bibimbab. It was the first time I was trying it and I found it a difficult concept to understand and digest.
And with a full belly we went for a taste of a different night out at Clärchens Ballhaus (Auguststrasse 24) original dance hall located in the middle of Mitte district. It has been in operation since 1913 and there are still plenty of events throughout the week with lessons available. We planned to see a piano performance at Spiegelsaal, other of its rooms, but the concert got cancelled.
DAY 4: MONDAY
We started our last day in Berlin in:
Il Buco di Heidi (Schönhauser Allee 177a): Italian breakfast. Oh Dio! Kept us on our feet for more than 6 hours! Lovely Ciabatta!
Off we went to East Side Gallery, which we intentionally left for the last day see list since it is further out (but not really). Captivating paintings on the wall, deep messages, from multicultured artists.
And we ended our trip in the Jüdisches Museum (Lindenstraße 9-14) with more art and history. The architect, Daniel Libeskind, couldn’t project a better memorial in a building. All is meaningful, despite the author claiming to let the public interpret it themselves. Goose bumps.
And finally, back home. But the trip is not yet over.
Tip 5: What to learn
Apart from some good rest and company, the most important thing for me from a proper holiday are the learnings. Now that I am back, I find myself reading up on:
- West and East Berlin and their goverments
- World War 2 and Nazis
- Soviet Union
- Jews holocaust
And planning to watch the following movies:
- Good bye, Lenin!
- Sophie Scholl – Die letzten tage
- Das Leben der anderen
- Berlin ’36
- The Wall: live in Berlin
- The Great Dictator
- Schindler’s list
- Judgment at Nuremberg