Berlin is a both gritty and beautiful in equal measures. While other major western cities have become homogenized and lost their individuality, Berlin has retained its radical edge. It still has a plethora of underground bars and clubs. The street art and graffiti is striking, vibrant and abundant. The vibe is slightly edgy, but refreshing in these days of globalization.
Recent history plays a major part in Berlin’s persona and the city is teeming with World War 2 sites including Hitler’s Bunker, Checkpoint Charlie and the iconic symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall. With its plentiful and diverse museums combined with its alternative scene, Berlin is culturally rich and unpretentiously cool. It’s also much cheaper than most of the other major European cities. What’s not to like?
Berlin’s Schonefeld Airport is located about 14 miles from the city centre. It is well-served by a variety of airlines from the USA and all over Europe, including a growing number of budget airlines. On arrival, the cheapest way to get to the downtown area is by S Bahn City Train (45 minutes), regular train (30 minutes) or bus (50 minutes). Taxis are much more expensive, but can be worthwhile if you have large amounts of luggage.
Berlin has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. Two of the most popular neighbourhoods to stay in are Kreuzberg and Mitte. In Kreuzberg, a fusion of Turkish immigrants, hipsters, hippies, anarchists and alternative life-stylers make it an interesting locale to hang out. There are a high concentration of cool bars and restaurants to choose from.
Mitte is in central Berlin and is close to all the major tourist attractions including Museum Island and Brandenburg Gate. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and shops to enjoy between checking out the sights.
Hotel Calma is a great mid-range option in Mitte. With friendly staff and comfortable rooms, it is also well located and there are cafes, bakeries and bars nearby.
You will need a little sustenance to kick off the first of two busy days exploring the delights of Berlin! Tomasa’s (Kreuzbergstr.62, 1096 Berlin) is the perfect place for a hearty breakfast. The old red-brick villa is lovely and there is an outside terrace for summer days and a fire inside to ward off the chill in winter. The menu is extensive and the food delicious and substantial.
Culture Overload at Museum Island
Museum Island has FIVE museums to explore. If you plan on visiting all of them, it will take the best part of the day. Alternatively, you could just pick out those that have most appeal to you. One of the highlights is the bust of Egyptian Queen Nerfertiti (1345 B.C.) which is in the Neues Museum.
Depending on your level of interest in history, art and archaeology, it may be worth your while purchasing a Berlin Pass. This will give you access to up to sixty museums and attractions in the city.
The Berlin Wall
In the afternoon head for the most iconic site in the city, the Berlin Wall. Separating East and West Berlin during communist Germany from 1961 to 1989, the wall is now an outdoor gallery of 120 paintings. Much of the artwork is vibrant and colorful, but also has a powerful message to convey.
Checktpoint Charlie, nowadays a popular tourist attraction, was the crossing point between east and west. The nearby Mauermuseum recounts the history, escape events and stories of families living on both sides of the wall.
Amrit – Indian/Asian Fusion Food in Colourful Surroundings
After stomping all over Berlin, it’s chill-out time. Indian/Asian food is the speciality at Amrit a flamboyant chain of restaurants that can be found across the city. Dinner is enjoyed amongst buddhas, ornate fountains, exotic plants and brightly-colored parasols. The food is varied and excellent value, as are the cocktails.
Rose’s – A Kitschy Night Out
If you have any energy left after dinner, why not make tracks back to Kreuzberg to indulge in a little nightlife. Rose’s Bar (Oranienstr. 187, 10999 Berlin) is a kitsch drinking den with pink furry walls, glitterballs and bizarre sculptures. 80’s-90’s dance music entice the mixed crowd onto the floor.
Mauerpark Sunday Morning Market
If you happen to be in Berlin on a weekend, don’t miss the huge Sunday market at Mauerpark. It’s essentially a flea market, but also has lots of arts/crafts stalls, live music and food trucks. Why not try the German classic, Curry Wurst, for breakfast?! On summer afternoons, thousands of Berliners gather at the park to enjoy Bearpit Karaoke. A wide variety of performers take to the stage and no matter how bad they are, the crowd keep cheering. The atmosphere is fantastic and it has become a popular weekly event.
The Jewish Museum
Well worth squeezing into your two days is the Jewish Museum which takes a poignant and informative look at the history of German Jews over the last one thousand years. Particularly striking is an art installation dedicated to the Jews murdered in the holocaust.
No visit to Berlin would be complete without a glimpse of the neo-classical Brandenberg Gate, one of the great landmarks of the city. A stone’s throw away is the impressive, but sombre Holocaust Memorial. In the park opposite, there is a separate memorial for LGBTQ victims in the form of a concrete cube.
Traditional German Food at Schnitzelei
For an authentic German dining experience, try Schnitzelei (Roentgenstr.7, 10587 Berlin). The schnitzels are a revelation and the menu includes a great choice of tasty German treats. A small glass of beer on the house makes for a warm welcome.
All that Jazz at B.Flat
Round off your two day sojourn in Berlin, with a visit to jazz club, B.Flat (Dircksentr 40, 10178, Berlin). It’s an ideal place to relax, enjoy the cool vibe and some live music before heading back to the airport the following morning. Auf Wiedersehen Berlin…..until next time.
(Due to the current situation regarding COVID-19, be sure to check advice relating to travel to Berlin. It is also possible that hours and services may be restricted)