Berlin is a city that is rich in history from both the WW2 and the Cold War. Those who are history buffs will definitely enjoy a visit to this city, it is somewhere we would love to take our Dad some day. However even if this does not appeal to you Berlin has fantastic night life and shopping! A city that was divided before 1989 by the Berlin Wall segregating East and West of the city has become one of the most interesting places on earth.
Our arrival from Amsterdam to Berlin was very smooth. Our train stopped at Berlin's Hauptbahnof Station. This is ideal as you can get anywhere in the city from here. There was an abundance of options when it came to finding somewhere to eat so we decided to stay in the station as opposed to walking the streets laden with luggage.
The transport system in Berlin, similar to Paris is fantastic. It is very accessible and easy to navigate. Kate knew we would use this system everywhere we went so we decided to purchase the Berlin Card. We bought the card for €29.90 at the train station to ensure we got the maximum use out of it for the 72 hours. We opted to buy the A,B,C 72 hour package as we knew we wanted to go to Potsdam, Wannsee and Sachsenhausen all outside of the city. We didn't have to pay for any form of transport whilst in the city (buses, trams and undergrounds). The card is activated by punching it at the small red boxes inside the station. The card offers lots of discounts for major attractions including the TV Tower, Madame Tussauds and the Zoo. Definitely worth every cent! Make sure to download a map of the metro in Berlin if you are planning to use it as it will be very helpful when you are going from place to place.
There is another option 'Berlin Card All Inclusive' which gives you unlimited transport, one free day on the Hop on Hop Off Bus and free entry into 30 Berlin Highlights. This option is more expensive and for 3 days is €109. If you are planning to buy this ensure you read all of the free attractions to make sure you will get your money's worth. The lady we bought ours from was very honest and informed us that it is difficult to get your money's worth.
Another option we considered was the Berlin Pass. This pass includes free entry into 60 attractions. We would advise ticking the places you wish to go and calculating whether this will be of worth to you or not.
We booked the Best a Western Spittel-markt through Booking.com. This was probably our best hotel yet! The location was ideal as it was less than a 2 minute stroll from the nearest underground and 2 stops from the main square Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz.
The hotel itself was ideal. It was very comfortable, modern and clean. Our room was a a good size for these people and the bathroom was of an excellent standard with both bath and shower facilities. It also had a heated towel rack which was brilliant as we are hand washing some clothes (interrail life).
I would definitely recommend staying around the following areas:
⁃ Oranienburger Tor
⁃ Potsdamer Platz
Obviously there are many many more but it is worth having a look at the metro to see the best areas before you book. This is something we will do now before booking hotels which we would never have thought of before.
We were definitely creatures of habit when it came to Berlin.
Kate absolutely loved this place when she was in Berlin and talked so much about it that it was the first place we tried when we arrived at the train station. They are everywhere in Berlin and that is probably why we ate there 3/4 days!! It is an Italian restaurant which serves Pizza, Pasta and Salads (we didn't sample any lol). The best part is that the food is all cooked fresh in front of you. You get to choose exactly what is in your pasta or pizza. They make it up before your eyes so you can ask for more or less of your favourite ingredients. The food there is incredible and very reasonable. We would highly recommend this spot to anyone traveling to Berlin.
We found this bakery on our first morning in the city. We found a gem! The chocolate croissants are amazing!! We sampled a baguette and panini - both delicious! This is a chain bakery and so they can be found all around the city which is great when you're hungry and don't want to be disappointed.
Kate had been to this bar with her friends when she previously visited Berlin. It is located in the centre of Alexanderplatz, adjacent to the train station. The food here was delicious and also reasonably priced considering the location. There is a great atmosphere in this bar with a cocktail menu longer than some of the books we have read. This bar offers cocktails at €5 during happy hour!
This bakery is also a chain which offers fresh baked goods all around the city. Lukas sampled their pizza slices and pretzels, both got great reviews. The goods there are very reasonably priced.
THE FREE TOUR
Kate recommended that we start our trip in Berlin with one Berlin's many free tours. You don't have to pay for one of these tours at the beginning but give what you think the tour is worth at the very end. It is a great way to see the city on foot whilst learning about its history. We know our Dad would love this tour and would hate to be his tour guide with his questions!!
We started the tour like most do at the Brandenburg Gate. Most of the tours start from here so it's a good place to start. We wanted to take some photos so arrived an hour before the 11am tour began.
Brandenburg Gate: One of the most iconic places in Berlin. It was commissioned as a sign of peace. It is also great Instagram material.
Site of Hitler's Bunker: This is very interesting as it is unknown exactly what happened to Hitler. Most historians believe he committed suicide in a bunker in May 1945 but the Soviets have never released evidence to prove this. The site is now a car park as the people of Germany wanted to focus on remembering the victims and also feared Nazi sympathisers would make this spot a shrine.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: Many of you have probably seen pictures of this moving memorial. The architect which designed these 2,700 concrete blocks also created the 911 memorial in New York. There is a museum beneath the memorial which is free and worth a visit.
Checkpoint Charlie: This was one of the best known crossing points between East and West Berlin. It is now commercialised with fake US soldiers charging €3 per person for a picture.
Luftwaffe HQ: Former Reich Air Ministry
Bebelplatz (Book Burning Memorial): A library with empty shelves to commemorate the burning of the books at Bebelplatz under the Nazi regime.
Humboldt Univeristy: The city's university in the heart of Berlin.
Topography of Terror: Read about the experiences of those divided by the Berlin Wall during the war and see the remains of the wall.
Berliner Dom: This beautiful cathedral is breathtaking. The street entertainment here is amazing!
Reichstag: The German Parliament is one of the biggest buildings we have ever seen! This imposing building is very impressive!!
EAST SIDE GALLERY
This is a must see if you are planning a visit to Berlin. The Berlin Wall is still intact here and street art is everywhere. If you are interested in art this is definitely somewhere you should visit. Also perfect instagram material. You can see the iconic fraternal socialist kiss mural here. You can get here by getting the metro to Ostbahnof Station.
This park spans across central Berlin. We walked from Brandenburg Gate to the Berlin Victory Column passing the Soviet War Memorial on the way. In Tiergarten park you may also be interested in:
Berlin Zoo: Kate visited here when she came to Berlin with her school. She thought it was one of the best zoos she ever visited. Kate felt as though the animals were just walking around as there were very little barriers but upon closer inspection there were huge drops and small fences to ensure the animals didn't escape.
Towering 368m above Berlin, the Tv tower dominates most of the city's skyline. We decided to go in the evening time as it has a wonderful view of the city and a great observation bar. If you buy the ABC all inclusive metro card, you can get 25% off admission or 20% off for students. You queue and you are given a entry time. There's a waiting area where you can get your picture taken and have a drink. When your number pops on screen you hop on the high speed lift that takes you up to the top in 40 seconds. The circular glass dome allows you to soak up the fascinating view. Here you can enjoy a delicious cocktail, fine wine or a light snack. You can reserve a seat at the bar in advance. Above the bar is Germany's highest restaurant. The dining tables rotate and it takes one hour to fully turn on its own axis. Lots of people get engaged here! We really enjoyed a cocktail and would highly recommend the strawberry daiquiris. The cocktails are around €10 each.
SACHSENHAUSEN MEMORIAL and MUSEUM
We bought the ABC all inclusive metro card which included transport our to Sachsenhausen. Whilst on the free walking tour the day before, they advertised a guided tour to this location. It was €16 each for a student. We bought the tickets in advance and decided to do the 9am tour as the duration is quite long and we wanted to be back in time to fit in some more sights. The tour takes between 5-6 hours which in our eyes was a bit too long! We met at the Brandenburg gate and boarded the train. It took around 40minutes to get to the location and probably a 20 minute walk to the museum. Surprisingly it doesn't look like a museum and it is nestled in the back of a housing estate so we're not sure how you would find it without the guided tour. The tour guide stopped in all the key locations on the way in and it was very informative especially if you've forgotten your history from school or never did it. There are no shops/ cafes here so we would recommend bringing snacks with you. You should wear comfortable waking shoes as you do a considerable amount of walking and you're on your feet all day. Much of the trip is outdoors so bring a raincoat. It really is quite a sobering and harrowing experience. We don't want to spoil this trip for you but you can see various things like the dormitories, showers, remains of the gas chambers. You cannot take pictures of certain things like propaganda as there is a fear this will be used inappropriately. It's illegal to share anything like this in Germany which makes sense. We learned a lot on this trip and we would highly recommend it.
This is the Times Square of Berlin. It's very Central with lots of the main train lines running through this station. The Hop on Hop off busses take off from this point. There is a wide range of bars and restaurants in this area, so if you get off here you are sure to get something tasty to eat. Of course our favourite restaurant is there - Vapiano.
The Sony Centre is at this Stop and it is definitely worth doing. It's got a few restaurants and bars and a fantastic cinema. If you're visiting the Sony Centre, you should try to go at night as the ceiling changes colour. The lighting is quite cool but when the cost of construction for this centre was €750, it would need to be. We went to the cinema here and had a relaxing evening. They have a wide variety of English films available and the cinema is very modern.
We took a train to Wannsee which took around 30 minutes. Some of you may have heard of Wannsee as it was the location that Hitler and key leaders made Final solution. We took a bus from the train station that would take us to Wannsee Haus. On our way there the bus stopped at Libre Man ..... which is the a beautiful house and garden of the artist. You can pay €8 entrance to the garden and house or like us just enjoy the garden views from behind the fence. The Wannsee Museum is the next stop. It's a free museum but encourages customers to give a small donation. The museum offers a great insight into how the final solution was made and the impact that it had. A stunning a location for such a horrible decision to be made. Beside the Haus there is a hotel and on the day we were there they were having a a white garden party with live music and champagne. It looked beautiful!
On the same day we went to Wannsee we headed to Potsdam as they're on the same train line. We got off at Potsdam main station and took a 10 minute bus to Sanssouci Park. There is an ensemble of palaces and garden complexes which were built under Fredrick the Great during the 18th century. We went to Sanssouci Palace which is the main focus of the park. It truly is a remarkable location. Again you can pay to enter the palace but for us the grounds we're suffice. Around 40 minutes on a train takes you back to Berlin.
So if you want to take a break from the history or Berlin and all of the sights there are plenty of shops. With great streets and malls there's an endless list to choose from: TOPSHOP, PRIMARK to ZARA and PULL & BEAR. There's lots of high end shops too if you're looking for a special treat. There's two well known malls called KaDeWe and Alexia.
Surprisingly we found BERLIN quite a reasonably priced city to visit. Lots of the museums are free and with our transport card we were able to hop on and off trains and busses as much as we wanted. No one ever checked that we had tickets but we certainly got good value for money. We set ourselves a budget of €50 max per day and we found that we weren't maxing our budget in Berlin at all. In fact €50 lasted two days in this city.
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