I recently wrote a post about what NOT to do when in Berlin, and promised the follow up – what you should do when in the capital of Germany. In honesty, there are so many things you could do – the city has two centres thanks to Communism, and so you are effectively getting two city breaks for the price of one. Here is a handful of things I think a trip to the land of wurst would not be complete without.
1) Eat Apple Strudel. It was really, really cold when we were in Berlin, so warm apple strudel with cream went down a treat as a break from sightseeing. We went to Cafe Einstein, which is most famous as the cafe in Inglorious Basterds – ironically, where they eat Apple Strudel. There are several Einsteins around Berlin – a small one can be found on Unter Den Linden, right next to Checkpoint Charlie. The best one, however, is on Kurfürstenstraße, and is the one featured in the Tarantino film.
2) Visit Museum Island. I’m not big on going to other cities and looking at their museums unless it has something to do with their history or identity, but in Berlin, Museum Island just can’t be missed. We ended up going because it was the only thing open on Easter Sunday, but not only does it offer great views of Berlin Cathedral and the Humboldt Box, the museums are awesome. We went to the Pergamon museum, which is famous for it’s scaled-up replica of the Pergamon Altar.
A warning – the security here take their job seriously, and I mean, really seriously. I was being told off and followed at one point and I have no idea why – maybe I just look like a dodgy Classics student…
3) Do the tourist thing. Berlin has SO much history, really it would be impossible to come here and not do it. Visit Checkpoint Charlie. There’s not a lot there, and the queue for the museum is round the block. Go to the Holocaust Memorial – it really is quite eery wandering through all the stone coffins. Walk the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. In some parts, you can walk between the two sides of the wall and pretend you’re in CoD. If you really want to.
4) Go to the Topography of Terror. It’s a tiny museum on the site of the old SS building, and is not far from the main tourist spots so it is easy to fit in. Outside, there is a timeline of Berlin, from WWII through Communism to the fall of the wall. Inside are photographs from the holocaust, and they are not for the feint hearted. Some of them are extremely distressing – but none as much so as the card used to ‘grade’ people, and decide whether they were German enough to live.
5) Visit KaDaWe. It’s the second largest department store in Europe, after Harrods (naturally), and ticks the history box, the shopping box and the eating box, making a one-stop-shop for Berlin fun. It was originally owned by a Jewish family who, during the Holocaust, were banned from ownership, and during the war it was partially destroyed when an American jet crashed into it. It’s never seen better days, though, as it now houses the most impressive food court I’ve seen. Every cuisine is on offer – simply choose what you want to eat and sit at the small, circular bar while the hot chefs cook your meal in front of your very eyes. It’s also brilliant for gifts, from the massive chocolate section to the Steiff bear area.
6) Eat lots and lots and lots of food. Berlin is a foodie heaven. There are restaurants everywhere, not to mention wurst sellers. Grab a currywurst on the go, and late at night treat yourself to a yummy borek stuffed with cheese and spinach. In the evening, there is an array of restaurants to pick from. Our favourites were:
Spaetzle und Knoedel – a traditional family-owned German restaurant that serves pure German stodge.
Dascha – a Russian restaurant decked out as an old, Communist living room. Photos and weird wall paper aside, their traditional Russian food is just what you need on a cold Berlin evening.
Feuer und Flamme – a fondue restaurant popular with locals, the portions are enormous, so share! We shared one cheese and once chocolate between us, and we couldn’t finish it off. The best part is the sheer choice of cheeses and chocolates – but you’re dipping fruit in, so it’s healthy, right?
If you have more time, I’d recommend catching a gig at the Berlin equivalent at the O2. Or, if you fancy a dip, head to Badeschiff – a swimming pool cut into the river Spree, in the summer you can feel as though you’re swimming in the river and in the winter, covers are pulled up to make an almost sauna-like atmosphere. You might also want to book well in advance for lunch or afternoon tea at the Reichstag building – the dome at the top offers views all over Berlin, but there is quite a waiting list!
We spent 4 days in Berlin, and we stayed at the Plus! Hostel in Warschauer Straße, a great location next to the famous ‘double bridge’ and right opposite an U-Bahn station. Travel by U-Bahn is definitely recommended – as long as you don’t get stuck in the doors!