Monday, 5 January 2015

What To Do In A Weekend In Berlin

Recently I was lucky enough to be swept off to Berlin for a long weekend. Berlin, the capital of Germany is a very cosmopolitan city. With a population of only 3.5 million and an area of approximately two-thirds of the size of London, the capital of German has lots to see and do and great shopping.

I am no expert on Berlin but this is my guide as a first timer on what to do in a weekend in this fascinating capital city.

When to go





A Christmas Market In Berlin

Summer is a popular time to see the city's parks and attractions and another popular time is December to see the Christmas markets.

We went in December and can highly recommend visiting at this time of year. In the Christmas markets, stalls abound with Christmas decorations, trinkets, mulled wine and decorated gingerbread. It does get very cold at this time of year so wrap up warm. When we were there in December, temperatures went as low as -6 degrees C and it snowed one day.

The Language


English is spoken is most places in Berlin so if you only know a few words of German it should be no problem, although it's only courteous to learn a few phrases to get you by on a short trip.

Transport

As the attractions in Berlin are spread out I would recommend using the local public transport to get around. The transport system is easy to use - one ticket can be used on the U-bahn (underground) the S-bahn (train) and the bus and tram system. A day ticket cost 6.9 euros. If you are not a fan of the underground you will be pleased to know it is much less crowded than in London. Tickets on the underground are bought from ticket machines in English and German and you can buy a ticket for one journey or a ticket to last you all day. The machines do not take MasterCard and Visa although Maestro is taken so make sure you have Euros with you to pay as a backup.

Official Taxis are metered and prices are comparable or slightly cheaper than in London.

History

Berlin has a troubled and violent history. During World War 2 it was virtually destroyed by bombing and artillery. At this time in history, it was the centre of the Gestapo - the German secret police and Hitler spent much of his time in Berlin and had one of his many residences there. Even after the Second World War, the city was divided into East and West by the Berlin Wall. I'm not an expert in history so I have added relevant links throughout this post if you are interested in reading up more.

What To See 


Topography of Terror

This indoor and outdoor museum on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, was the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the street, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street, A somber but worthwhile museum about Berlin from 1933 to 1945.

The Berlin Wall





A Section Of The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989, constructed by the German Democratic Republic, that
 cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin until it was opened in November 1989. Many people tried to cross the Berlin Wall and not everyone survived. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls which circumscribed a wide area - the "death strip" that contained anti-vehicle trenches, "fakir beds" and other defenses. 

The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the "will of the people" in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked East Germany and the communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period.

There is an interesting free museum that explains the history of the Berlin Wall and charts the timeline, those that escaped and those that died trying to escape as well as the fall of the wall.

Checkpoint Charlie



Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Today you can have your photo taken with the 'army guards' that are employed for tourism.

Berlin Zoo

The Berlin Zoo is the oldest and best-known zoo in Germany. It is considered to be the most visited zoo in Europe and one of the most popular worldwide. With over 20,000 animals, there is a lot to see and do. It's a perfect family attraction and great for some light sightseeing.

The Brandenburg Gate



 The Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century archway in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany. It is built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel. During the post-war partition of Germany, the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall, and the area around the gate was featured most prominently in the media coverage of the opening of the wall in 1989.

Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events and is today considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace.

Where To Eat

There are lots of cosmopolitan places to eat in Berlin with cuisine from all nationalities, and you can find many excellent places, both independent restaurants, chains, and cafes. We had gluhwein (mulled wine) and the local lager at a traditional German pub and ate from the menu of German specialties including a German version of Wiener Schnitzel.

German specialties are hearty and many are based on meat and potatoes with ingredients such as cabbage popular.
 For snacks, Bratwurst which is a German sausage is eaten at many stalls at the side of the street. Currywurst, which is a sausage with ketchup and curry powder wasn't as bad as I imagined! 




Currywurst

Le Faubourg Restaurant

This French restaurant, part of the Sofitel Berlin Kurfuerstendamm, ranks highly on TripAdvisor and is worthy of one Michelin star in my opinion. Choose from traditional or nouveau style food, and with dishes like saddle of venison with pancetta, sweet potato, brussels spouts and mushrooms and sautéed sea bass on champagne lentils with straw potatoes, you will be in for a treat. A special occasion place, expect to pay 100-150 euros for a meal for two with wine.

Hard Rock Cafe, Berlin


Always dependable where ever you find them around the world, the Hard Rock Cafe at Kurfuerstendamm is no exception. I think you can't beat the burgers here and my son rates the rack of ribs highly. Use priority seating via the website to have first seating when you arrive and to avoid a long wait. Expect to pay 40-50 Euros for a meal for two, more if you are having alcohol.

Where To Stay

We stayed at the Sofitel Berlin Kurfuerstendamm. A lovely hotel in the west of the city with large modern rooms and a surprisingly affordable cost for a city center hotel. Expect to pay £100 - £150 a night for a room for 2 people. I couldn't fault the hotel but as many of the sights are in the East of the city perhaps I would stay in a more central hotel next time.
If you're wondering where to stay in Berlin, Katie from Wandertooth has a great guide here.

So this is a guide on what to do and see in a weekend in Berlin, as I said I am not an expert. 
Tell me, have you been to Berlin? Do you have any recommendations on what to do and see?


Chez Maximka
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52 comments

  1. It sounds like a great weekend - I would love to go and see the Christmas markets. Great guide for people who haven't been before.

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    1. Thank you Mummy Of Two, that is very kind of you to say so. The Christmas markets were lovely.

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  2. a great guide, Berlin is somewhere we want to go soon

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    1. Fights are short and it's a great city full of history.

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  3. I've never been to Berlin, but it's always been somewhere I'd love to visit, especially the Brandenburg Gate

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  4. We went so long ago (before kids) but we really loved it and thought there was so much to see. Would really like to go back and take the children sometime soon...

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    1. There is lots more for children to do, such as the Museum of Modern Technology.

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  5. This is a great guide. I have never managed to go to Berlin but I would love to! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Jen x
    Http://jenjbboutique.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Jen and I hope you get to go one day.

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  6. I would love to visit some of the famous old music bars - if any of them are still there!

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  7. Oh thank you, will have to show this post to my teen she is going to Berlin next month. The markets look amazing x

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    1. I am sure she will have an interesting time.

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  8. I really want to get to Berlin - I've been once before but it was a flying visit so I'd love to return and explore properly - thank you for all of the tips!

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  9. This is a great guide for anyone heading out to Berlin. Sounds like good fun x

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  10. It looks like you had an amazing time, I went to the Christmas markets at Nuremberg a few years ago, it was amazing! xxx Thou Shalt Not Covet

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    1. I love the Christmas markets in Europe. I went to Prague last year and that was lovely too.

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  11. Looks like you had a brilliant time, have never been to Berlin but looks so lovely. I would love to go and experience the Xmas market xx

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    1. Hope you get the chance to visit one day.

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  12. Looks like you had an amazing time! Berlin looks so cute at Christmas time, no doubt due to the german markets! :)

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  13. I'd love to go to Berlin, great post. So many ideas and tips

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  14. Thank you so much for this post, I am thinking of going on a sun holiday near Berlin so it has been very useful.

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    1. That sounds interesting, let me know if you do book.

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  15. I really want to go to a German Christmas market. Hopefully we'll make it to one this year :)

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  16. Berlin is on my list of places to visit, but I would rather go at Christmas time x

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    1. It was lovely at Christmas time but very very cold.

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  17. I visited Berlin many time when I was younger. It is a great city with many wonderful things to see.

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  18. A brilliant guide for those, like me, that have not visited Berlin before. The Christmas Markets sound amazing and with all that history, this sounds like a great place to visit.

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  19. Oh wow, I would love to go to a German Christmas market. It seems like a wonderful place with so much history

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    1. I thought the Christmas markets would close after Christmas but they were still open to the New Year.

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  20. I would love to visit Berlin and take in all the history. Does look amazing.

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    1. Maybe you will get the chance one day. It is relatively cheap to buy fights there from the UK.

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  21. I so want to visit a German Christmas market.
    Thanks for a lovely guide, it's somewhere on my to do list

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    1. Hope you get the chance to go one day Clare.

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  22. I went here many years ago when the wall was still there. To be honest it was spooky. At checkpoint Charlie you could see the guards on the eastern side watching you. When you took the underground it went very slowly though the empty stations in the eastern side and a couple of guards watched you. I would love to go back and see how it has changed

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    1. Oh gosh, that sounds really interesting Alison. I wish I had visited the city years ago so I could see how it has changed since the late 80s, early 90s.

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  23. What a great weekend! I always fancied visiting a German Christmas market, maybe one day. I've never been to Berlin, its history is very violent and tragic, as you say. Thank you for linking up with #OutandAbout linky.

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  24. Looks like you had a great weekend! For some strange reason Germany and Austria are the two places I wouldn't want to visit :)

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    1. I think Austria is very different to Germany in my opinion. You should visit, I bet you would like both countries.

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  25. Berlin is top of hubby's wishlist and I have bookmarked this post for future reference. Looks like a fascinating place to visit

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    1. Hope you get the chance to visit one day!

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  26. oh it looks like you have had a fantastic time , bberlin is not one of our first choices of getting away but it certainly does look appealing

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