Given my love for Deutschland and the fact that I’ve already visited 8 other German cities, you’d think I’d have made it to Berlin long ago. Nope! Only last week did I finally check out the German capital and I’m wondering why it took me so long. Of course I loved it – of course. No surprises there. The hotel we stayed at was fantastic (25Hours Bikini Berlin, FYI) but I’m saving that for another post, so read on for a roundup of everything we did, ate, and saw on a winter city break to Berlin. Obviously this was my first trip so I can’t claim to have an ‘ultimate guide’ or anything like that, but hopefully it’ll be slightly informative for any fellow first timers.
On that note, point no.1: IT WAS VERY COLD. Take your biggest Big Coat. My one regret is not taking my big coat. Seriously, why did I take a hood-less, non-waterproof, wool coat, when I could’ve taken my feather stuffed duvet coat that would keep me warm in the Arctic? That I’ll never know. Take gloves… and a scarf… and a hat… you get the idea.
Anyway, day 1! A cramped Ryanair flight, train to the city centre (easy as pie with a Berlin WelcomeCard), mooch around our hotel, and a quick freshen up later and out in search of food we went.
Food and Drinks in Charlottenburg
So, out we headed hoping to just wander aimlessly and stumble across some of those cool bars and foodie places Berlin is known for. T’was not so! The streets seemed awful quiet for a Saturday night in a capital city and just found ourselves walking past more shopping kind of areas. However once we headed more in the Charlottenburg direction, we found The Hat Bar, a cool jazz bar with tasty cocktails, and Quasimodo restaurant that was nicely casual and with gooood food. Turned out to be a good spot in the end because the food was exactly what I fancied; my winter warmer salad was filling and tasty but without being stodgy, and came with goats cheese (always a winner) and a kind of rye bread that seemed quite random but was delish. I’d like to have a proper nosey around Charlottenburg if I visit again.
Breakfast at 25Hours Bikini Berlin
Full blog post (and another 50 million photos) to come about our stay at the 25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, so for now I’ll just say DECOR GOALS and leave it at that.
Explore the city with a Berlin WelcomeCard
I had a quick flick through the recommended sightseeing routes in the WelcomeCard guidebooks, and whilst we didn’t follow any to a T, we took the general recommendation of heading across to the other side of the city then slowly making our way back. Groundbreaking idea, I know. The name ‘Alexanderplatz‘ kept cropping up in guidebooks/blog posts so we headed there on the U-bahn first. I’m not sure what we were expecting but Alexanderplatz turned out to just be the equivalent of Piccadilly Gardens with not much to see there besides the TV Tower. Sooo after a little wander past the Berliner Dom (Cathedral) we ended up back on the metro for another couple of stops towards the East Side Gallery.
Visit the East Side Gallery
This area felt more like the Berlin I’d expected! Grittier, if you will. Despite the fact that it was freezing (have I mentioned that already?) I really enjoyed slowly meandering along the remnants of the Berlin wall, snapping pics of my fave artwork.
Oh and ‘Eat Currywurst‘ should probably be a heading in itself, because you absolutely can’t miss that one. Having seen enough currywurst stands knocking about that we assumed it was the ‘thing’ and so obviously we must eat it. So that we did. Sausage, chips, and gravy, how very Northern eh. It’s one of those ‘awful but so good‘ foods and had to be done. I saw plenty offerings of vegan currywurst too, so no excuses! Pretty cheap, served by an exceptionally miserable lady, but very tasty.
Drink Gluhwein by the Brandenburg Gate
Well, the drinking Gluhwein part is optional, but awful appealing when the feeling in your fingers is disappearing by the minute. (Yes it was only about 3 degrees and yes I was wearing gloves but nothing wrong with a bit of drama ok). I consider hot wine a winter trip necessity, anyway! And obviously the Brandenburg Gate makes a pretty iconic backdrop to drink it by.
Visit the Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of those not-cheery-in-the-slightest, but must-visit spots. Granted our trip didn’t follow much of a historical theme, but I wanted to at least visit the memorial to those who died so tragically.
Potsdamerplatz Christmas Markets
Why no Christmas markets pics, I hear you ask? Because there were none. I’d looked up which Christmas markets would be open at the time (17th-20th November) and Potsdamerplatz was the only one. Technically open yes, but only a handful of the stalls were actually operating, and it clearly wasn’t into the swing of things yet. I thought late-ish November would be definitely Christmassy as the markets were in full swing when I visited Hamburg at this time of year, but I thought wrong. Christmas decorations were being set up across the city so I’m sure it’ll be all systems go on the festive front by next week. Oh well!
Checkpoint Charlie & the Berlin Wall Museum
Checkpoint Charlie is one of those places where there isn’t loads to actually ‘do’, but it’s a historically significant spot to visit nonetheless. Crazy to think of the separation and conflict that occurred at this very spot. As for museums, I wasn’t sure which museums to check out during our time as we wanted to see as much of the city as possible, but did check out the Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie (with discounted entry thanks to the WelcomeCards). Would definitely have visited others if we had just one extra day though!
If you’re after ‘hidden hipster rooftop bar‘ (that’s hidden bar, not hidden hipsters) then this is absolutely the one. I read about a ‘hidden’ place called Klunkerkranich that sounded pretty cool, and thought it wouldn’t actually be ~that~ hidden as it was on the rooftop of a carpark beside a shopping centre. However, finding the way into said carpark after the shopping centre closed was easier said than done. Eventually we found an entrance with a lift up to the 5th floor where Klunkerkranich was to be found, but were still confused even on getting there. Turns out you have to follow the animal footprint thingies on the ground which take you to the other side of the car park and up a ramp, and then you arrive at the most painfully hipster gathering spot you ever did see. How very Berlin. There’s a €3 entry fee per person and the kitchen does shut fairly early so be aware of that. When we arrived (8:15 ish) there wasn’t a single free table inside – it seems weird for somewhere to be so buzzy when there’s literally no evidence of it from the outside! We didn’t have much time so ordered a fairly random selection of pulled chicken, salmon, olives, and bread and ate outside in a sheltered spot. Rather chilly in Berlin in November but with scarves and hats and gloves it was ok! I can imagine this place is just perfectttt in summer. Actually I thought that about lots of places in Berlin – I’d love to visit again in summer and enjoy the city in a totally different way.
Head inside the Reichstag Dome
Aforementioned lack of time was due to having a slot to visit the Reichstag Dome at 9:30. During my limited research I’d read about booking a Reichstag visit in advance, but this was only 2 days before flying so not many slots remained. Book early, people – then you might actually get to go in the daytime! There are airport style security checks to get in, but it’s totally free. Obviously nothing political was actually going on in the building at this time, but it’s an impressive and interesting building to visit anyway to look around the dome and see Berlin from above. All the mirrors and spirals and heights are pretty dizziness-inducing I must say! Also, I foolishly assumed it’d be reasonably warm as it was indoors but oh did I assume wrong. It was most definitely still cold and I quickly rebundled myself up.
Cycle around Tiergarten and the City Centre
Our hotel hired out bikes, so we booked a couple to collect at 9am on our second day and set off through the Tiergarten park towards the Victory Column monument we could see from our room. Was bloody freezing and my hands were cold even with gloves, but a lovely bike ride nonetheless! The Tiergarten park was wonderfully quiet with the last of the autumn leaves still kicking around. The cycle took us past Alexanderplatz for emergency warm clothes purchases, then onwards towards a couple of food markets around the East Side, then back through a random route through the city suggested by google Maps that I have no idea where we actually went.
Stop for Coffee at Heissa Holzmarkt
Boardgames, cute candles, and a penis pinata. Sums up Berlin pretty well tbh. Most stores/stalls/cafes were sadly closed when we visited, but one was open and serving dirty chai lattes that hit the spot just nicely. Oh boy the cosiness was appreciated. Heissa Holzmarkt seemed to be a little area filled with creative spaces, yoga studios, bars, markets and that kind of thing. I saw posters advertising the Christmas shenanigans starting soon and I wish I’d seen it in full festive swing!
We stopped by Markthalle Neun en route too as I do love a good food market, but I don’t have many snaps of that one. Another notable point: take cash! Our tastings were limited to one bowl of risotto between us here, as we’d ran out of cash by this point and no stalls accepted cards. I’d assumed that pretty much everywhere would take card as on my previous couple of city breaks the food markets have only accepted card payments, but was not the case. Silly me had only taken leftover euros from previous trips and thought it’d be fine, so take this as your word of warning to have cash to hand.
Last night dinner at NENI Berlin
I wasn’t sure whether to include this in my hotel blog post or this one, but would recommend eating here whether you’re staying at 25Hours or not so here we are!
We actually checked out the NENI restaurant on our first night thinking we’d maybe eat there, but oh how naive to think we could get a table like that. Turned out the only available booking in the duration of our trip was 9:30pm on Monday night, so 9:30 on Monday it was. So yes, it’s good but YOU GOTTA BOOK. I chose the ‘Sabich’, described on the menu as a ‘Street food speciality from Tel Aviv with baked eggplant, humus, tomato salsa, har brachatahina with amba and soft-boiled organic eggserved on laffa bread‘. Not a clue what a couple of those ingredients actually are but oh my it was good. There’s a bit of a hummus theme to the menu (chickpeas in general actually… falafels too) and I’m not complaining about it. Naturally being on the 10th floor and overlooking the zoo makes for pretty nice views from NENI too, so I’d definitely recommend as a final night treat.
Key points if you can’t be arsed reading the entire dissertation:
Berlin is a fairly expensive city. I’d say on a par with London, save for the public transport which is nowhere near as extortionate as even Zone 1. Obviously cocktails in fancy bars are bound to be expensive so that isn’t a very good benchmark, but coffee shops and that kind of thing seemed reasonably expensive too.
Book things in advance. Don’t do as I did, ie. read blog posts and articles suggesting booking in advance, but then actually leave it until the day before. BOOK THE BLOODY THINGS if you want to have a choice in when you visit places like the Reichstag.
Take cash Euros. More places only accepted cash than I expected.
If you want a Christmassy trip, go at the very end of November/December. No Christmas markets will be set up by mid-November, despite what you may expect!
Anddd breathe. That was a long one! Would 10/10 recommend Berlin for a winter city break. If we’d had longer than 3 nights I’d have liked to visit the zoo, nosey in more shops, spend longer around the east side at night, and visit more museums, but I guess that’s a good enough reason for another trip. Hotel review coming soon, too!
The Berlin WelcomeCards were complimentary thanks to Visit Berlin, but of course all opinions are my own anyway!
Lily Kate x