I lived in Berlin for 4 years. It’s a fantastic destination for a weekend or longer city break. It’s chock-a-block full of history, art and avant garde. It’s a capital of culture – both high culture and all number of subcultures and youth movements. In summer it’s hot and sunny; in winter it’s freezing but often still sunny, with clear blue skies above Christmas markets serving steaming cups of Glühwein. You will find info about all the main sights like the Berlin Wall, Brandenberg Gate, the museums and the Jewish memorial in a guide book. These are my personal tips for getting out and about in the ultimate East-meets-West city.
My favourite places to visit off the beaten track…
- Gärten der Welt im Erholungspark Marzahn – incredible urban re-generation project with authentic Moorish, Japanese, Chinese and Korean gardens. Completely unexpected among the housing blocks of East Berlin. Take the S7 or U5.
- Treptower Park – Great park for a wander after Sunday brunch in one of the nearby places like Freischwimmer. Check out the flea market in the warehouses behind the Arena concert venue and the Badeschiff floating pool. You’ll also get a great view of Molecule Man and the Alex behind the Warschauer Brücke from the bank of the Spree. There’s an open air bar on the Insel der Jugend in Treptow Park. Nearby, on the other side of the bridge, is the East Side Gallery – a strip of decorated sections of the Berlin Wall.
- Schloss Charlottenburg – Palace and gardens in the heart of the West. Great on a sunny afternoon. Take the U7.
- Bundestag Cupola – designed by Norman Foster. It’s a classic sight. Avoid the queues by booking into the restaurant.
What Berlin does best…..
- Punks and alternative culture – practitioners of punk culture are to be found in the Mauerpark in Prenzlauerberg. For slightly more mainstream subcultures, check out the latest clubs in Tip or Zitty magazine (German language).
- Brunch – East or West, you’ll find plenty of one-price, eat-all-you-can-eat buffet options.
- Urban beaches – they are everywhere in summer – best options are the Bundespressestrand near the Bundestag and the original one near the synagogue on Oranienburgerstrasse.
- Turkish culture – it’s not called the biggest Turkish city outside Turkey for nothing! Get off the overground U-Bahn at Kottbusser Tor and soak up the atmosphere of a kind of urban Anatolia! The Turkish Market, Maybachufer, Kreuzberg is on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11-6. If you can’t find enough to eat at the market, go to Hasir at the other side of the Kotti – it’s the most authentic and best in the Hasir chain.
- Weinerei – Veteranenstraße 14 – U Rosenthaler Plz. Pay a euro for a glass and then drink whatever wines you like, help yourself to the buffet and pay what you see fit as you leave!
- Solar Bar –16th and 17th floors, 76 Stresemannstrasse, nr. Potsdamer Plz. A former CIA lookout point during the days of East Germany. A glass lift whisks you up to a slick and comfortable lounge with spectacular 270° views across the city. Go for cocktails at sunset.
Eating in Berlin
- Facil – http://www.facil-berlin.de/
Sleek, minimalist décor in this restaurant which is in the Mandala hotel on Postdamer Platz which you wouldn’t even find if you weren’t looking for it. At lunchtime, 18€ for one course, 28€ for two, €39 for three. Fine dining in a way Berlin doesn’t normally do!
- Monsieur Vuong – www.monsieurvuong.de
Fresh, simple and delicious. Vietnamese food prepared in fornt of you if you can get near enough to the bar. It’s small and there is often a queue out the door. Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, Mitte.
- Mar y Sol – http://www.marysol-berlin.de/en/start.htm
Tryto get a table on the terrace during good weather. Like a small corner of a Balearic island on Savignyplatz in the heart of West Berlin.
Spindler und Klatt – http://www.spindlerklatt.com
Schicki-micki am Spree! Eat dinner while lounging on a bed and staring out across the Spree. Also a club later on – avoid the queues and bouncers by booking for dinner
- Freischwimmer – www.freischwimmer-berlin.de
This is a laid back, sunny restaurant based in a series of boat sheds on a small tributary of the Spree. Last time I was there they did an eat all you can eat brunch buffet for €8!! Very close to Treptower Park – the perfect start to a late, lazy Sunday afternoon. U Schlesiches Tor.
Have fun! Viel Spass!
© Lynn Sheppard