The Ultimate Travel Guide to Berlin, Germany
Berlin, the capital of Germany, claims that there is something different to do and see every single day of the year. Without repetition. Let’s look at some statistics to justify that statement.
The city area covers 345 sq miles of which 1/3 consists of forests, parks, public gardens, lakes, canals, and rivers. All of which offer opportunities to walk, swim or go on boat trips.
Berlin boasts 138 museums, more than 400 art galleries, 24 castles, and over 700 hotels, not to mention two famous streets which need to be explored: Kurfuerstendamm and Unter den Linden.
The sheer volume of sights can be overwhelming so it might be a good idea, to start your Berlin experience with a Hop on Hop Off sightseeing tour.
That way you get a perfect overview and can then decide which places you want to visit in depth later on.
Berlin is an extremely cosmopolitan city and the second most heard language is: Turkish. Kreuzberg, an entire district, is favored by Turkish immigrants, many of whom are by now third and fourth generation Germans. Go and take a look at the colorful shops and street markets and if you fancy a kebab, this is the place to go.
Talking about food and language: Berlinerisch is the local dialect with many words you won’t hear anywhere else. What’s worldwide known as ‘burger’ is a Bulette in Berlin and a bread roll is a Schrippe.
At weekends, Berlin’s bars and nightclubs have no closing time and many are open until the next morning or even all weekend without ever closing. You can party to your heart’s content and sober up and enjoy the sunrise in the Grunewald or on the shore of the Wannsee.
Think art and history, river trips, great food, entertainment, and top-notch shopping and you get a good picture of what to expect from your Berlin stay.
Best time to visit
Berlin has a mild continental climate, with frost being common in winter and warm, often humid days in summer. Spring and fall can be chilly. It’s an ideal place to visit year round, just bring the right clothes.
How to get there
Berlin has two commercial airports, Tegel and Schoenefeld which serve a great number of airlines. A new airport, called Berlin Brandenburg Airport is scheduled to open in October 2019 and will replace Tegel.
It’s also possible to travel by train from other parts of Germany or Europe and you’ll arrive at Berliner Hauptbahnhof, the largest grade-separated railway station in Europe.
Buses or taxis will take you to your final destination from either port of arrival.
Berlin has an extensive public transport system comprising U-Bahn (metro) S-Bahn (above ground), Bus, tram, and 6 ferries.
Cycling is very popular in Berlin with many miles of marked cycling paths. If you wish you can move around on bicycle which you are allowed to carry with you on U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and bus.
Places to stay
With nearly 800 hotels available, it’s difficult to choose.
Bristol Hotel Kempinski
My favorite, for nostalgic reasons, is the 5star Bristol Hotel Kempinski directly on the Kurfuerstendamm.
The Kempinski group now owns 74 luxury hotels all over the world, but the original, and for 20 years only luxury hotel in Berlin, was the one built by wine merchant Berthold Kempinski in 1897 on the site where the actual Bristol Hotel now stands.
It offers all the amenities of a 5-star hotel, including a pool and spa as well as a first class restaurant but the best feature is the location at the beginning of the Kurfuerstendamm/Tauentzien. Every venue you might want to visit can easily be reached from there, (even a U-Bahn stop is in front) and you can experience the unique atmosphere of one of the world’s most famous boulevards.
Pension Hostel StayComfort
If you are on a budget and don’t mind a shared bathroom but want a classic style building and central location, consider the Pension Hostel StayComfort am Kurfuerstendamm.
There is a common area and wifi throughout the building, U-Bahn stop Nollendorfplatz is right at the door.
Hotel Pension Am Savignyplatz
For 2-star comfort in popular Wilmersdorf, the Hotel Pension Am Savignyplatz Kantstr. 22 is ideal.
Windows are soundproofed so you hear no traffic noise, breakfast is included and the hotel is convenient for shopping and sightseeing. WiFi throughout and private bathroom, all at reasonable prices.
Best places to eat
Berlin cuisine is meat and gravy heavy, with mashed potatoes, dumplings and, of course, Sauerkraut. If this is to your liking you will enjoy sampling all of this in the cozy and old-fashioned atmosphere of Marjellchen in Mommsenstr. 9. Add copper colored wall, jazz and an ebullient owner and the dishes, influenced by Silesian specialties and accompanied by good German wines, will go down well.
Given the big Turkish population in Berlin, you might be tempted to go for a good Turkish meal. The best place to do so is the romantic Osman’s Tochter (daughters of Osman) in Pappelallee 15, Prenzlauer Berg.
Apart from mouth-watering traditional dishes like koefte, kebabs etc. and a warm welcome, you’ll also find plenty of vegetarian dishes and honey dripping deserts.
A classic among fine dining in Berlin is the rooftop restaurant Zlata Praha in Meinekestr. 4 near the Kurfuerstendamm. Here you can sample the best of Czech food whilst enjoying the view.
No Berlin food section without street food, a feature of the city which has been around forever. For a quick snack, nothing better than to stop at one of the kiosks which you’ll find at virtually every street corner for a Currywurst (curry sausage) which was invented in Berlin. Or a Bratwurst in a Schrippe or a fish filet in a roll or a cut up Bulette with a generous helping of eye-watering mustard. Accompanied by Berliner beer.
In summer, Berliners love their Weiss mit Schuss. It’s a light wheat beer, served in a huge glass tankard with a dash of raspberry syrup.
Language, currency etc
The official language is German but English is widely spoken. The currency is the EURO and credit cards are accepted everywhere except paying for your currywurst.
WiFi throughout the city.
Things to do and see
As suggested you might take a city tour and then decide to look more in-depth into these wonderful things to do.
An absolute must is a visit to the Museumsinsel, a unique experience to see not one but seven museums grouped together on an island in the middle of the city.
The probably most famous collection, the Pergamon Museum is currently closed, undergoing extensive renovations but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting the others.
You can’t be in Berlin and not visit at least one castle. Head for Schloss Charlottenburg in Spandauer Damm 10. It’s Berlin’s largest palace built in 1699 by Friedrich III as the summer residence for his wife Charlotte. The baroque castle and gardens are a fine example of architecture and garden design. Have a coffee break in the lovely Orangerie.
You can easily spend half a day visiting three of Berlin’s most prominent landmarks: the Brandenburger Tor, Siegessaeule and Reichstag combined with a walk through the Tiergarten and if you still find time, a visit to the world famous Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
Head for Berlin Mitte and a unique example of vibrant urban renewal in form of the Hackesche Hoefe. It’s an art nouveau complex of eight combined courtyards for living, shopping, art, entertainment, and dining. Hackesche Hoefe has become a symbol for the lively new Berlin scene and is, therefore, a must see, day or night.
Given how much of Berlin’s area is covered by water, treat yourself to a boat trip on Berlin’s biggest lake, the Wannsee (website).
It’s not really a lake but an extension of the river Havel which flows through Berlin, as does the river Spree.
Best places to shop
First place in this section belongs to the 120 years old KaDeWe (short for Kaufhaus des Westens) in Tauentzienstr. 2.
One of the largest and most prestigious department stores, the KaDeWe is a Berlin institution. With more than 60.000 sqm of floor space, there is not a designer who is not represented here. Plus furniture, toys, cosmetics and, best of all, the legendary food hall.
After all that looking and shopping, rest your feet on the top floor and enjoy the Berlin panorama incl. the emblematic Gedaechtniskirche on the Silberterasse.Their specialty: vol au vent.
If you want futuristic and brand new head for the Mall of Berlin on Potsdamer Platz which only opened in2 014. All shiny and sparkling you can shop till you drop.
Berlin Travel and Tour Packages
Berlin Half-Day Walking Tour
Having witnessed a multitude of historical events, including both World War I and II, the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city of Berlin is filled with fascinating stories that are just waiting to be uncovered.
General advice to enjoy your visit to Berlin to the hilt: bring time, comfortable shoes and a spare suitcase for all your purchases.
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