Berlin is a fascinating city, with everything you need for a truly memorable trip. Whether you’re a history buff or a gallery-hopping culture vulture, an adventurous foodie or a nocturnal party animal, Berlin has something for everyone.
However, with so much to see and do, it can be hard knowing where to begin. I was only going to be in the city for 36 hours and wanted to make the most of my time there. Luckily, thanks to a mixture of travel blogs and recommendations from friends, I arrived with a suitably long list to work my way through.
So, if you’re planning a quick trip to Berlin, here are a few tips for making the most of your time there.
Travelling on the cheap with Ryanair meant I flew into Schönefeld, which is Berlin’s second, smaller airport. Getting into Berlin from here is easy enough, with regular ‘airport express’ trains that take you right into the centre in about half an hour. For some unexplained reason, we were sat in the station for about 40 minutes before the train decided to leave, but after that little blip it was smooth sailing.
The city has a great public transport system, but I always prefer to walk when exploring somewhere new. You see so much more and uncover things you may have missed if you’d spent all your time on buses or trains. I did take the U-Bahn a couple of times, but spent the majority of my time walking instead. The self-service ticket machines are pretty self explanatory – just don’t forget to validate your ticket before getting on, or you could get fined.
Things to see
Berlin has some world-famous landmarks and attractions, so you’ve no shortage of options.
East Side Gallery: A former stretch of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery was transformed into an open air art gallery featuring over 100 different paintings from artists all around the world.
Brandenburg Gate: One of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century and has been the site for many major events throughout the city’s history.
Reichstag Building: Five minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, home to Berlin’s parliament. If time allows, it’s definitely worth going up to the dome on top, where you can see panoramic views of the city. Bare in mind though, you need to book trips in advance – you can’t just turn up on the day and hope to go up.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: On the other side of the Brandenburg gate is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The site is made up of 2,711 concrete slabs on a sloping field, as well as a ‘Place of Information’ which includes the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.
Museum Island: As the name would suggest, it’s an island full of museums – five to be exact. From ancient Egyptian relics to priceless works of art, there’s enough here to keep you busy and entertained all day long.
Where to eat
What’s the point in going on holiday if you can’t indulge in the local cuisine? Berlin has a fantastic, multicultural food scene – all the more reason to walk everywhere rather than get public transport, to burn off all the excess!
Chipps: A great spot in Mitte for breakfast or brunch, Chipps offers all sorts of tasty dishes, with veggie and vegan options available. It’s in a quiet part of the neighbourhood, making it the perfect place to relax and start your day, before you get into the hustle and bustle of the city.
Berlinburger International: Found in the arty hub of Neukölln, Berlinburger International is little more than a hole in the wall, with a handful of seats outside. People queue and wait for their orders sat on the street and after eating there it’s easy to see why it’s so popular – hands down one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a lot of burgers). Considering how tasty the food is and how big the portions are, it’s great value for money too – a burger, curly fries and a couple of beers and I still had change from €20. I went for a beef burger, but they do offer veggie and vegan options too.
Mogg: Housed in a former Jewish girl’s school, Mogg is an artisan deli and a must-visit lunch spot. All of the usual deli classics are on the menu, from salt beef and pastrami to Matzo ball soup and bagels.
Sahara Imbiss: When you’ve had a couple of drinks and start getting peckish, this is the place to go. Serving African street food, their falafels are second to none. And unlike in the UK, where chilli is the go-to choice, here you get your dish served with a peanut sauce that will knock your socks off.
Steel Vintage Bikes Café: Part bike shop, part coffeeshop, this place is definitely one of the most unique, memorable cafes I’ve been to.
Where to drink
When it comes to nightlife, Berlin certainly isn’t lacking. I decided to skip the super-clubs and stick to bars instead, spending most of my time in Neukölln working through some recommendations. While it’s hard to play favourites, Café Futuro and O.T. Projektraum both stood out for me, thanks to their excellent Negronis and gin & tonics – definitely both worth a return visit.
And just like that, the trip was over. It’s surprising how quickly 36 hours flies by. I’ll definitely be making a return visit in the near future – not leaving 5 years in between trips like I had previously!
Lisbon and Amsterdam are the next two trips I’ve got lined up, so if you’ve got any recommendations or top tips for either of them, let me know in the comments!