Monday, 20 April 2015

City Break: Berlin

At the beginning of April I spent five days in Berlin with my family, as my Mum wanted us to have one final family holiday before I graduate and have to become a real adult (what a terrifying thought).

None of us had visited the city before, except for my Mum, who had been when she was a child, when the wall was still dividing the East and West sides. As this was our first time, there was a lot we wanted to fit into the five days, so we made an itinerary before we went.



My Mum used an app called Tripomatic to plan each day. Once you have entered the dates of your trip, the app gives you suggestions of areas to visit and attractions worth seeing and allows you to add them to your itinerary.  As well as displaying the attractions on a map, which helps you to group together attractions within reasonable distance of one another, Tripomatic gives you information, a photo gallery and a timing estimation for each attraction. I would definitely recommend this app for short city breaks, even if you’re just looking for some inspiration. It also has suggestions for accommodation and transport.



Accommodation

For the duration of our trip we stayed in a Mercure Hotel near to Checkpoint Charlie. It was a great location for everything we wanted to see, being a five minute walk from the nearest underground station, and the hotel itself was reasonably modern and very clean, as long as you’re okay with a lot of orange décor! We didn’t have much interaction with the staff, as we didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel, but they were friendly and helpful when checking in and out.

The rooms were really spacious, with the added bonus of a balcony and chairs. The only thing I would say, is that the hotel was much too warm, and we had to leave the balcony doors open whenever we were in the room, as the ‘fan’ didn’t appear to do much. Seeing as it was only about 12 degrees whilst we were there, I can’t imagine how hot the rooms get during summer!

Building close to our hotel


Travelling around

Public transport in Berlin is really efficient and noticeably cleaner than British transport; during our stay we used buses, trams, trains and the underground. All services run frequently, asides from the odd bus replacement, and once we had got used to the different lines and maps it was extremely easy to get from one area to another. As a group of five, we could get a group day-travel ticket for about 15 euros, which allowed all of us to make unlimited journeys across the city on any form of transport for the day (within the first few zones).



Eating

We ate breakfast at local cafés and coffee shops each morning, as it was considerably cheaper than the hotel breakfast, and we generally ate lunch wherever we came across during the day. In the evenings we tended to look for places to eat around the hotel, mostly because our legs weren’t up for any more walking by this point!

If you want to try something traditionally German, then you’ll want to be on the look-out for currywurst. This isn’t a hard task – the stuff is EVERYWHERE. In short, currywurst is sausages drowned in curried ketchup, which we decided is perhaps an acquired taste?! We got our currywurst fix at a restaurant called Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt, a really lovely restaurant in a Bavarian style with great beer and sausage dishes (of course).



Another restaurant worth mentioning is French brasserie, Entrecôte; it has a great atmosphere, the staff are impressively attentive and, most importantly, the food is amazing.


Things to do

As I said before, we fit a lot into five days, visiting museums, climbing towers and learning a lot about the city. Rather shamefully, my knowledge of Berlin’s history during the Berlin Wall days was really poor prior to our visit, so this was very much an educational visit for me!

Museums and Memorials

Our hotel was one block away from Checkpoint Charlie, so that was one of the first things we visited. Checkpoint Charlie was one of three checkpoints at which you could cross from the East to West side whilst the wall was up between 1961 and 1989. Nowadays there is a replica guard house and sign, with a couple of actors dressed as military policeman. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which is on the same road, is an essential visit if you want to know more. There is some really fascinating information inside about some of the terrible conditions of the time, as well as the lengths people went to in order to enter the Western side without being caught by the GDR.





The Holocaust Memorial has recently become one of the most iconic landmarks of Berlin, and it’s definitely an impressive and quite overwhelming structure. I was expecting it to be a place of tranquillity and reflectiveness, so I was a little surprised to find children using it as a playground, people jumping from block to block and using the lower levels as benches. Maybe that’s what it was built for, but I just felt it was a little disrespectful, considering purpose of the space.



Berlin Wall Memorial and the East Side Gallery are also must-sees in my opinion. The memorial is the only bit of wall with which the original grounds behind it have been preserved, whereas the East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the wall, which has been turned into an open air gallery.

Berlin Wall Memorial

East Side Gallery






One final memorial worth a visit is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – the church was bombed during World War II, but the remains have been left as they are, as a symbol of reconciliation.



Buildings and Architecture

The architecture in Berlin is really interesting, with there being a stark contrast between styles in what were the Eastern and Western sides. The Reichstag Building is home to Germany’s parliament, and entry to the building’s dome and roof terrace is free, although spaces need to be booked quite far in advance. Sadly we didn’t book in time, but visited the exterior all the same.



Brandenburg Gate is another of Berlin’s iconic structures, dating back to the 18th century. It was probably one of the most crowded areas we visited, but it’s an obligatory photo spot!



Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower are within walking distance of each other, and both over spectacular views of Berlin, although the TV Tower is much higher. Thankfully lifts take you up the 203 metres to the viewing point of the tower, however if you want to climb the cathedral then you need to prepare yourself for 270 steps.

The Cathedral


The TV Tower

View from the top!


Shopping

We did a little bit of shopping during the week, with a visit to the shopping centre at Potsdamer Platz and KaDeWe Department Store. Even if you’re not going to shop, I would definitely recommend at least having a wander around these areas.

Other

If you’re in Berlin for long enough, the Zoo is well-worth a visit. What is great about Berlin Zoo is how open and spacious it feels, with many enclosures not being divided by huge fences or barriers, but by a ditch or moat. Whilst the neighbouring Aquarium isn’t quite as impressive, it doesn’t cost much extra to buy the combination ticket.

My new best friend




My final recommendation for Berlin, would be the Tiergarten, the 520 acre park in the middle of the city, with the Victory Column at the centre. The Tiergarten is really beautiful, and offers a nice break from city life for an hour or two.





Five days in Berlin seemed like the ideal amount of time to stay in Berlin, and it allowed us to fit in everything we wanted to see; though I could have stayed for longer and definitely intend to visit again someday! 


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6 comments

  1. Aww wow it looks so amazing! Great post.
    Alex // www.prettythoughtsx.blogspot.co.uk

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  2. Berlin is such a beautiful city and your photos have definitely done it justice! I'd love to visit one day. It sounds like you had a lovely (and very busy) 4 days whilst you were there. If I go on a mini break to berlin any time soon, I'll 1000% be checking back to this post for tips on where to visit :)
    xxx
    Tasmin | Grandiose Days

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    Replies
    1. Aw thank you!! I'd definitely recommend visiting if you have the chance. Hope some of the tips are helpful if you do! xxx

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