An air of coolness overrides an edgy undercurrent in a city that serves up cultural elegance for the perfect European getaway. Steeped in history, a city so often described as not the most pleasing on the eye holds true to the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So grab your passport, pack your bags and let’s make our way over to Germany, where the country’s capital invites you to scratch the surface and peel back its many layers, where upon doing so you will discover an urban grit belonging only to a city where the beauty lies from within and where you should prepare yourself to be blown away by a uniquely vibrant, offbeat personality.
If your wanderlust fantasies are provoking thoughts of an old worldly picturesque German city, then quite simply, you’re not thinking of Berlin. Beautiful architecture aligned with cobblestone quaint streets simply doesn’t make the cut here, instead you are treated to a city that holds a truly unique identity that not only sets itself apart from the rest of Germany, but also the world. Berlin is not a city that’s trying to be cool, it just so happens that it manages to be so with very minimal effort. Old fashioned high rise buildings, bedecked with graffiti strewn walls fuse perfectly together with an open, diverse, attitude that explodes into life within a pulsating fashion and cultural scene, making Germany’s Capital a city that you will want to visit time and time again. So with the formal introductions out of the way let’s take a peek at what Berlin has to offer.
How to get around Berlin:
Upon arrival in Berlin it is worth considering buying yourself a Berlin welcome card. A 48 hour welcome card for zones ABC will cost €23 and includes free public transport on all network systems for 48 hours. It also offers discounted prices and even free entry to many city attractions. The card will also cover your transport from Schönefeld airport into the city if you so happen to be arriving at that very airport.
If you arrive in Berlin via Schönefeld airport then the easiest way to get to the city centre is to take the S9 on the S-bahn. This leaves from the S-bahn station right outside of the airport terminal and goes all the way to Berlin Central train station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof)
One thing that you won’t lack for in Berlin is options on their public transport system. With the inclusion of trams, buses, the S- bahn and U-bahn leaving you with many ways to navigate your way around the city. Another great way to manoeuvre your way around Berlin is by bicycle. With cheap rental prices and dedicated bicycle lanes all over the city, making cycling a fast, effective, fun way of taking in the city’s many sights.
Where to stay:
Located within the chic Mitte district of Berlin surrounded by a variety of trendy bars, galleries, eateries and shops, is the splendidly refined Gorki Apartments; providing a more homely stay for your visit to Berlin, the apartments provide impeccably elegant furnishings within a more private and peaceful city centre location.
Boutique Hotel i31 Berlin Mitte offers a more contemporary feel for your stay in Berlin; A Boutique hotel also located within the Mitte district, rooms here provide guests with a clean, neutral minimalist feel whilst facilities include a sauna and fitness centre. A variety of restaurants are located within a 5 minute walking distance with access to the U-bahn and S-bahn a short 200 yard walk away from the hotel.
If you’re looking for a more budget friendly accommodation alternative then why not try The Cats Pajamas Hostel; located within the cool Kreuzkölln neighbourhood of Berlin, this fantastic hostel offers cheap, clean, modern style rooms, whilst the surrounding neighbourhood provides you with a vast array of dining opportunities.
Ok, so with our travel and accommodation now taken care of let’s start our trip by making our way over to Berlin cathedral. Located within the Mitte borough, opt for a stroll along the river Spree where you will be provided with ample opportunity to set your gaze upon its beauty from afar. Perched proudly upon museum island, head inside for a historical tour and a chance to witness some fine architectural brilliance.
Upon finishing up at the cathedral a historical lesson awaits your arrival upon Museum island. This UNESCO world heritage site is home to no less than five world renowned museums; Pergamonmuseum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum all take centre stage allowing the historically curious minded an open invitation to indulge.
Although an attraction predominately known for its history, the Museum island colonnades allows for the chance to reflect and watch the world go by. Aligned with the river Spree, if you make your way down there early morning for sunrise you will find a serenity away from the usual busy nature of city life.
The bridge that lies across the Spree from Museum island allows for a great vantage point to take in the view down river and into the city. So prop yourself up on the bridge and take a moment to drink in the view whilst Berlin’s resident cycling enthusiasts whizz behind you at a rate of knots.
Lying adjacent to the bridge and situated on the Spree promenade sits the life size statues by Wilfried Fitzenreiter. Drei Madchen und ein Knabe (Three Girls and a Boy) are loved by the local residents and tourists alike. The statues are a popular photograph opportunity amongst tourists, so don’t miss the opportunity to sneak a quick picture with these life size figurines.
There’s always room on a visit to a new city to partake in a spot of retail therapy. So if you can no longer hold that urge to shop, then a visit to Alexanderplatz is in order. Often referred to as Alex, it is Berlin’s largest public square and certainly one of its most popular due to its vast array of retail shops, cinemas and restaurants. It is also home to the Fernsehturm- East Berlin’s famous television tower; an imposing building that dominates the city skyline. To describe the tower as merely an attraction would be to understate its value to Berlin, as it is seen as more of a symbol that proudly represents the city. Both locals and tourists have a love affair with the tower that is recognised as Europe’s highest building open to the general public. So why not scale the dizzying 368 meters as you climb your way up to the viewing platform, where upon doing so you will encounter the spectacular 360 degree views over the German Capital?
Have your walking shoes at the ready as it is now time for us to take a stroll through history and witness some extremely fine art work. Stretching over 1.3 kilometres, the east side gallery is the longest remaining strip of The Berlin Wall and is now an open-air art gallery located on the banks of the Spree near the centre of Berlin on mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Immediately after the fall of the wall, 118 artists from 21 countries began painting the East Side Gallery, with its official opening as an open air gallery beginning on the 28th September 1990. The magnificently colourful east side gallery has managed to transcend something that originally served as a reminder of Berlin’s traumatic past into a representation about its vision for a future as a city moving forward-freedom, unity and hope!
From the east side gallery to Checkpoint Charlie. Here you can delve into more of the city’s past history by learning about the Western Allies best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Located on the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, it’s worth taking the time out of your day to pay the extremely popular tourist attraction a visit whilst it also provides the photo opportunist a fantastic chance to snap away. Be sure to also pay the Checkpoint Charlie museum a visit, where you can engulf yourself within the history of the Berlin Wall and the incidents surrounding it.
Need to take a moment to catch your breath and take the load off your feet? Not to worry, I know just the place where we can take a moment to view this fantastic city from afar within the tranquil haven that is Viktoria Park. Climb up to the top of this fantastic piece of greenery and take a seat whilst allowing yourself to unwind and simply admire the view.
Once you have caught your breath back and finished marvelling at the views from Victoria Park take a journey over to The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) to reflect and remember all the Jewish victims who suffered and lost their lives due to the tragic events that occurred during World War II. A sombre and reflective reminder of tragedy and horrific mistakes that have occurred during history that must never be repeated as we strive for equality in a world where we can all co-exist harmoniously.
Just a short stroll away from the memorial lies the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Steeped within history take a walk through the historical gate as you glance towards the fine architecture and enjoy the melting pot of activity around the area as tourists alike snap away on cameras taking selfies and photographs.
A mere stone’s throw away lies one of Berlin’s most historical buildings, Reichstag. The current home of the German parliament is an architectural wonder, with the rooftop terrace and dome offering visitors the chance to gaze over the fantastic view of the city below.
Now I know that exploring a new city can be hungry work, so how about we grab a bite to eat? Luckily for you I know just the place- Lucky Leek is a friendly, fine dining, vegan restaurant that serves up great tasting, inventive, food. So sit back, relax and enjoy your surroundings as you choose from the wide variety of dishes on offer and enjoy some sumptuous plant based food.
A perfect trip deserves a perfect ending and what better way to bring the curtain down on my visit to the German Capital than a sunset with a view. So with that in mind, I made my way over to take in the giant Molecule man sculptures at Treptower Park. As I parked myself to witness the sun go down, I marvelled in the spectacular scenery laid out before my very eyes whilst taking a brief moment to reflect upon what a truly fantastic city Berlin really is. Truth be known, I didn’t know what to expect of my visit before I set foot inside Berlin, but I do know that I couldn’t have expected to fall for this city in the way that I did and this thought led me to try to come up with the perfect summary to do this captivating city justice, when upon doing so I realised that I didn’t need a summary to describe a city that had surpassed my expectations but instead I just needed one word- COOL!