For the Toussaint holiday weekend a couple of weeks ago, we decided to take a trip to Berlin with Rio’s brother Roel in tow. Below are some photos and recommendations from our stay in the capital of Germany – a city I surprisingly found myself liking despite the teeth-chattering weather and scores of construction zone sites.
While in Berlin, you get the sense that something big is about to happen in this historic, tumultuous city. And perhaps that’s why many people compare Berlin to a younger New York. There’s a youthful, energy in the air that’s subtle, but undoubtedly growing with each passing day. Soon enough, Berlin will have to shed its “Poor, But Sexy” status as more tech companies and startups take root there and transform it to what’s already being touted as Europe’s Silicon Valley.
Above: Ready for a 4 hour+ walking tour! Below: Berlin Cathedral.
Rough Translation: “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.” – Heinrich Heine. Below: Holocaust Memorial, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Where to Stay
Hands down, The Circus Apartments! With Rio’s brother Roel traveling with us, it made more financial sense to book an apartment instead of two hotel rooms. I had heard great things about The Circus Hotel, so I decided to book us a two-bedroom, two bath apartment at their sister property – The Circus Apartments. Wow – what a freaking apartment! The concierge is located in The Kitchen Cafe on the main floor of the building and were extremely helpful. Prior to the trip, they had also contacted us with detailed directions, a list of their favorite local spots to check out and welcomed us with a goodie bag of drinks (non-alcoholic) and snacks. Loved this place and highly recommend it for families, friends and couples traveling together.
What to See & Do
Consider buying the Berlin Welcome Card for discounts at many of the city’s sights, as well as unlimited transportation on the metro and buses. We ended up saving about 10 euros with the card.
Climb up the easy 200+ steps to the dome of the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom). Four euros gains you entry into Berlin’s largest church and views of the city.
Sign up for a “Discover Berlin” guided walking tour with Original Berlin Walks. 12 euros for four hours (9 euros if you have the Berlin Welcome Card) was more than worth it.
If you only have time to visit two museums (or only that much patience), be sure to visit the comprehensive German Historical Museum. Housed in the oldest building on Unter den Linden, this museum shares the country’s checkered history over the last 2,000 years. After spending half a day here, visiting the Topography of Terror won’t seem that interesting. And the two-part The Holocaust Memorial, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a moving, powerful memorial that every Berlin visitor must see. Aboveground, walk through the field of stelae and come to your own conclusion on what it means. Below ground, the museum details the personal lives of the 6 million Jewish people who were murdered during WWII.
Walk along the East Side Gallery. When you reach the end of the wall, you’ll see a photo exhibit showcasing other places in the world that are separated by walls. Afterwards, cross the Mitte River and keep a look out for the various street art in the hip neighborhood of Kreuzberg – the equivalent of Shoreditch in London or Williamsburg in New York.
Pass through what many others couldn’t nearly 25 years ago: Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). Berlin’s former city gate stands as a symbol of what was a once-divided city. While there, don’t be surprised to see a variety of tourist acts like humans in bear costumes (the symbol of Berlin) and people dressed up in old military uniforms.
In Berlin on a Sunday? Head to the Mauerpark Flea Market for karaoke, boozing and shopping.
Where to Eat & Drink
Monsieur Vuong – the spring rolls at this no-reservations Vietnamese restaurant were beyond delicious! Perfect ratio of crispiness, and shrimpy goodness on the inside. And it wasn’t too oily.
Grab a drink amongst the hipsters at Mein Haus Am See, and try to avert your eyes from the couples sucking face in the smoking room. There’s a club downstairs too if that’s your thing.
If you’re in the Gendarmenmarkt area, pop in Bavarian beer house Augustiner for sausages and a liter of beer…all to yourself.
Don’t Forget to Download (For Free!)
Berlin is home to more street art than I’ve ever seen. If you want some insight into the artists and graffiti you discover while wandering the city, then download the Street Art Berlin app.
Listen to the Berlin podcasts on the Rick Steve’s Audio Europe app to learn about what it was like to be in Berlin during the fall of the wall, and what it’s like to live in Berlin today. Sadly, there isn’t a walking tour for this city, but, it’s still a good listen anyway.