Since the holidays are getting closer and some of you might still need some holiday inspiration – well you should come to Berlin! It is for sure one of the most interesting and alive cities in Europe, it’s my home and what’s more, starting from August there will finally be direct flights from Ljubljana to Berlin with easyjet!
So if you really do decide to come and visit the best city in world, here are some tips:
First of all, you should be aware, that you will probably fly to Flughafen Tegel, which is in the north. Berlin is a big city, and if you have an AirBnB, a hotel or a hostel in the south, you should be prepared for a lot of traveling. So it’s probably a good idea to check your accommodation options on a map before booking.
You should also keep in mind that Berlin does not have one center, like Ljubljana for example, but at least three – in Mitte around Hackeschermarkt and Alexanderplatz, in the former West around Kurfürstendamm and around Kottbussertor in Kreuzberg. They are all worth discovering and you could spend one week in each of these neighborhoods without getting bored.
But as I grew up in the centre north (in Mitte and Prenzlauerberg), that is where my tips will be concentrated on.
Food and drink
In Berlin you will never be short of options where to eat, that’s for sure. If you’re in Kreuzberg and feeling hungry just head for Oranienstraße and Oranienplatz, and you will be sure to find something that suits you. If you’re in my neighborhood, come to Kastanienallee and Oderbergerstraße. Have a really good Currywurst at Konnopkes Imbiss under the Underground station Eberswalderstraße (which is over ground there), or for some beer garden vibes, go to Prater on Kastanienallee or Clärchens Ballhaus in Auguststraße (both places I have spent a lot of time in, on different family occasions). For breakfast or just when you’re feeling like it, have some waffles in Kauf dich Glücklich on Oderbergerstraße. Although if you’re on a budget I suggest you have coffee in a Backshop (so something like a bakery) rather than a Café. That’s what I always did with my friends, because Backshops are usually just as cozy as Cafés (just maybe not as stylish), they are cheaper, and as they’re often run by Turkish families, you can have Baklava with your coffee. In Tiergarten there are two really nice Biergärten / cafés: Schleusenkrug (close to the zoo) and Café am Neuen See, where you can hire rowing boats for a little cruise around the canals and lakes in Tiergarten. One thing you really should not miss (and I have missed very badly since living in Slovenia), is Döner. Döner (maybe you know it as Döner Kebab, but we just say Döner) is what we eat when we’re coming home from a long night out, and it’s just perfect. It doesn’t really matter where you try it, as long as you do.
For bars it’s basically the same as for cafés, they are everywhere, if you’re in the right neighborhood. I really can’t name any top ten list or anything, because there are just so many and you will surely find one you like, just by trying them out. For clubbing, you should take the U-Bahn to Warschauerstraße or Moritzplatz, both neighborhoods with plenty of places to try out.
For the boring normal shopping you can go to Hackescher Markt, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz or Kurfürstenstraße. But Berlin is full of interesting Shops and markets which are always worth a visit. In Made in Berlin on Neue Schönhauser Straße (near Hackescher Markt), there are enormous amounts of gorgeous (but also expensive) Vintage clothes – I got my Prom dress there. More second hand shops are again on Oderbergerstraße. For bargains you should come to Mauerpark flea market on Sundays. In the front there are lots of homemade jewelry and food, but in the back people are just selling the stuff they don’t need anymore, so don’t give up to soon, I swear I bought 2/3 of my clothing there. For some oriental vibes have a stroll across the market on Maybachufer (on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:00 to 18:30) and try some Turkish food.
Chilling and vibes
When the sun is shining, we hang out in a park. Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe, and we have lots of wonderful big parks. I already mentioned Tiergarten, where the Elector of Brandenburg went hunting in the 16th century. Today it’s a gigantic green space with little lakes and streams and of course the Siegessäule in the middle. It’s definitely worth strolling across especially if you were planning to look at the Brandenburgertor or the Reichstag anyway. If you’re in the east, you could have a break in the Volkspark Friedrichshain, another nice big park with a lot of history (and a café!). The hills in the middle, which you can climb to see across the city, are made of destroyed Second World War bunkers and bricks from the ruins of houses. And in a south eastern corner of the park you can visit the graveyard of people who died during the revolution of 1848. There’s also a nice fountain called Märchenbrunnen (fairytale fountain) – a very good photo setting! If you’re visiting in summer and haven’t got any plans for the evening yet, I suggest you check out the Freiluftkino Friedrichshain (an open-air cinema in the middle of the Friedrichshain – just don’t forget to bring a blanket and snacks), here’s the link to their website: http://www.freiluftkino-berlin.de/english.php
Weinbergspark in Mitte near Rosenthalerplatz is also very nice for a break. It is surrounded by cafés and shopes and there are always lots of people lying on the grass in Weinbergspark, pretending to be lying on the French Riviera. As kids, we went ice-skating on the little pond at the bottom of the hill and today you are very likely to spot some German celebrities having an ice-cream in the park.
And now finally: Mauerpark. I now it’s not exactly a secret anymore, but if you happen to be in Berlin on a Sunday, come to Mauerpark. There is karaoke and lots of music and picnicking and of course there is the flea market I mentioned already. Every Sunday masses of tourists, but also lots of people from Berlin, flood into Mauerpark and don’t leave until night. I live two blocks away, and we can always hear the drumming and singing coming from Mauerpark through our kitchen window. And in the evening, go to Oderbergerstraße or Eberswalderstraße to buy a beer in a Kiosk (more precisely – buy a Berliner Kindl in a Späti!) and then come sit on the top of the hill in Mauerpark to watch a beautiful sunset.
I’ve got one insider tip for you, that’s so insider, I’m not even sure if it actually still exists. But if you did as I suggested, and went to Mauerpark on a Sunday, and need a break from all the people and all the noise, you can take a walk over to Zionskirche (which is the church we go to on Christmas) and have a look if the tower is open. If the door isn’t locked (it’s a door just behind the entrance on your left), you can climb the steps to the top. I think you will be asked for one euro to support the church, but then you can enjoy the view above the roofs of the city, without masses of other tourists ruining it.
On a rainy day
Berlin has loads of interesting museums and galleries and I’m sure every good travel guide lists them all. Me personally, I really love the paintings in the Alte National Galerie on Museumsinsel (C.D. Friedrich, French Impressionist, Caravaggio and many many more). If you’re on a tight budget but want to visit some museums anyway, here is a list of all the museums with free entry in Berlin: https://www.berlin.de/museum/eintritt-frei/
As you most surely know, Berlin is full of history. There are a lot of museums and monuments about war history, Nazi history and Berlin Wall history. I don’t think I have to tell you to visit the East Side Gallery, but if you are interested in some more Information about this period of time, you should also take some time for the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer on Bernauer Straße. It combines a wide spread open air exhibition along the remains of the Wall (all the way down Bernauerstraße from Mauerpark to Nordbahnhof) with a museum about the history of the separation of Berlin.
Aside from coffee in nice cafés and visiting galleries, there is one more thing I love to do on a rainy day: going to the Cinema. Again, Berlin has loads of cinemas; open air ones (like in Friedrichshain), huge complexes like on Alexanderplatz or Potsdamerplatz and then there are the little hidden ones. One of these is Kino Acud in the backyard of an artist’s house on Veteranenstraße (next to Weinbergspark), then there is Kino Babylon on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (not so hidden, but built in the 20’s) and there is the Cinema Central in the famous courtyard complex Hackesche Höfe on Hackescher Markt. All of these show Arthouse films as well as mainstream films, but in a much nicer atmosphere and for a lower price. For more information: https://acudkino.de/Programm http://www.babylonberlin.de/programm.htm https://www.kino-central.de/
As I already mentioned, Berlin in too big to visit on foot, if you don’t want to be concentrated in only one neighborhood. The public transport system of busses, S-Bahn (over ground), U-Bahn (underground) and trams is pretty good in Berlin and you should definitely think about buying a public transport ticket. There are some special offers for tourists (check them out on: https://shop.bvg.de/index.php/group/73) and you can purchase the tickets on the yellow machines on the platform or in some kiosks. It is not wise to use the public transport without a ticket, ticket inspectors do check regularly – trust me, I have lost a lot of money that way. The other option to get around in Berlin is by bike. Nearly every Hotel and Hostel offers bike rental and there are lots of different apps you can download. But don’t drive on the pavement or on the wrong side of the cycling path with your bike – another easy way to get rid of your money.
Also keep in mind that on Sundays and public (church) holidays nearly all shops are closed in Berlin. Some kiosks might still be open, but for very urgent matters try shops and supermarkets in big train stations like Hauptbahnhof (the main station), they usually stay open.
I hope I managed to give an overview of all the possibilities for food & drink, shopping, relaxing and culture that are waiting for you in Berlin. If you have any questions, just ask me and I will be happy to help. Last of all, have fun in Berlin!
Invited by Josephine Kreutzmüller, an EVS volunteer at OŠ Ivana Cankarja Trbovlje and MCT