3 September 2015

Suitcase. Berlin, Germany - Travel Guide

When I told people I was off to Berlin for Bank Holiday weekend they all had a similar response “You know it’s really grungy right?” Yes it’s true I’m definitely more of a classic girl but despite this I was really excited to visit a city that had such a story to tell… Grungy or not…

With London forecast to be rainy and 15 degrees and Berlin said to have sunshine and 30+ days, I figured I’d made the right move and I had, the weather was glorious.

I stayed in a fab hotel by Potsdamer Platz. Inspired by Scandinavia, the aptly named Scandic Hotel provided a peaceful place to rest my head away from the hustle and [grungy] bustle of the city. I even had a lovely view of the square and if you choose a superior room you’ll get unlimited use of the mini bar – win! Book here or via Expedia.

The thing I was most looking forward to was undoubtedly the history of Berlin; the endless wars, the ruthless dictator and the wall that divided a city for nearly 30 years. Truth be told I have a fascination with the World Wars like that of a 65-year-old-man #noshame. I found myself wandering the streets thinking if walls could talk imagine all the stories these ones would tell… The city’s Free Walking Tour provides a great place to start, I got the lay of the land and some valuable details about Berlin’s history. I even stood above the space where Hilter’s bunker used to be. There’s nothing there now to remember him which seems like a fitting ode to an evil little man.

Berlin does seem a poor city yes [in fact, it’s the poorest capital in all of Europe] but it also has plenty of character. Pieces of the Berlin Wall are still scattered around the city acting as constant reminders of the sad history, yet the locals are smiling, happy and largely a very artistic community.

There are plenty of spots about town to get your dose of history like the Jewish Memorial, The Topography of Terror museum and the various chunks of the Wall that still stand in the capital.

Some of the originals messages that people sprayed on the wall are still there. It's very poignant. This one says: To Astrid. Maybe someday we will be together.

Whoever you are, I hope your wish came true.

Then when you’re feeling sombre from the stories of war that tore this city apart, a walk through Tiergarten is the perfect place to clear your mind. Over 5km of greenery and winding paths can certainly have that affect.

If you make a trip to Bikini Berlin hotel, their rooftop bar provides a great viewing point.

Museum Island is also not to be missed with its iconic buildings framed by the River Spree.

And if you fancy wandering or biking through the neighbourhoods then the upper reaches of Mitte and all of Kreuzberg are great spots to check out. The architecture of the city is certainly unique and a direct result of the city’s communist occupation. Bare, minimalistic and a bit space-like, but interesting all the same…

As far as cities goes, Berlin is rather sprawling so it can take some time to get around… If the weather’s nice and you’re up for it then I would suggest getting a bicycle. Some hotels have them for free or otherwise you can hire them from a range of shops for €12/day. It was the only method of transport I used in 3 days, no need for taxis, buses or subways, plus you’ll certainly have earned all those beers and schnitzels, and you’ll sleep well at night.

And who knows what you'll see when you're riding, you might even come across a little piece of NYC on your travels...

If public transport is more your thing then the subway network across the city is very extensive and runs much like London’s tube. A single trip will cost you €2.70.

The food of Berlin was quite possibly my favourite thing about the city. So much choice and it’s all so great. If you’re not a fan of German fare then never fear because you’ll find every cuisine here and if you do your research there’s a hotspot for everything!

Chipps is a great spot for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Their menu is deliciously simple with eggs, pancakes, muesli and the like.

Burgermeister officially takes the cake for the best burger of my life. A humble little shack-like setup under the railway line, they're a bit ugly (have you ever seen a beautiful one though?) but totally delicious. Be prepared to queue a little but I guarantee the wait is worth it.

If Japanese is more your style then Dudu in Mitte is incredible. A quaint little Japanese garden, it serves some incredible sushi and rice dishes. The seafood bowl was incred.

I simply had to try the local speciality; Berliner Weisse. Pink beer! I really loved it and wish I could find it here in London (do let me know if you have!?). It’s like a tangy limey beer that fizzes more like champagne and then combined with a special pink flavouring it ends up with a tangy raspberry taste. Yum!

And of course, I needed a schnitzel. This one from world-famous Lutter & Wegner was INCREDIBLE, definitely visit these guys if you’re after a nice dinner and it’s a fair price too.

Finally, the chocolate! I didn’t realise but Berlin has two very famous stores: Ritter Sport and Fassbender & Rausch. Ritter Sport is more like your Willy Wonka store, it’s bright, fun and has every flavour you can image. Fassbender & Rausch is more like the Harrods of chocolate with these incredible chocolate statues on display and elegant boxes that make perfect gifts.

To give you an idea of scale, this little guy was about 4ft tall

Both have cafes attached to them and I can highly recommend the treats on offer at both. When it comes to the actual blocks of chocolate though I think I fell in love with Ritter Sports more, can you tell?...

See, I told you Berlin was a food haven, all of that in three days! Lucky I was riding my bike everyday to burn it all off!

So what are you waiting for, book a trip (return flights from London are available from just £70) it’s a great place for a long weekend and I guarantee you’ll return historically enriched and with a very sated stomach.

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Photos by Krissie.