Since returning home to the UK in November, I’ve been waiting for my next great escape. With Thailand falling through and a few short trips failing, I was looking forward to March and heading back to work. Fortunately, I have a friend who loves to travel too and when she suggested a February mini break I was all for it. After issues with booking a trip to Prague, we decided on Berlin for no other reason than we had never been before.
After flying via Paris with Air France and being treated to a complimentary bar, we arrived in Berlin and stumbled across the most confusing public transport system ever. I have a great sense of direction, consider myself an expert on the tube and flawlessly navigated my way around Paris’ underground a few years ago but this baffled me. The main issue was a lack of signposts, it was incredibly difficult to figure out where to head. Thankfully, my sense of direction pulled through and we found our way to the hostel. Over the week, my understanding of the transport system vastly improved and the only other issue we really had was an out of date map we picked up from the hostel which lead us to spending a great deal of time looking for the U12 underground line… a line we later discovered disappeared in 2003!
We stayed at A&O Hostel Mitte which was described as a Central location. Although just across the river from the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery, there is pretty much nothing else to do in the area. We struggled to find places to eat which weren’t McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts which was the main dilemma. Thankfully, the u-bahn is just an 8 minute walk and the s-bahn is just a 15 minute walk across the river so pretty easy to connect to. If you really want to stay centrally however, I would definitely recommend somewhere more like Alexanderplatz, Zoologischer Garten or Potsdamerplatz.
We stayed in an private twin room at A&O rather than a dorm which was great value for money. We paid £206 through LastMinute.com for connecting flights NCL to TXL with 4 nights accomondation. The hostel could do with touching up in a few places but for comfy beds, warm water and private bathroom, it was a great price. It was also really quiet although I can’t vouch for the dorm side of the hostel. Mainly, the hostel seems to be a youth hostel with an incredible amount of school groups around. That would probably be my main criticism as it is difficult to get a seat in reception to abuse the wifi and recreational activities like the pool table was monopolised by school kids. They all seemed to be staying on the dorm side so my assumption would be it could get quite noisy in that area.
After an evening of chilling in the hostel bar and an early night, our first day in the city was spent exploring the main tourist points. We had a walk along the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery and although there is not much information regarding the Berlin Wall itself, there is a lot of beautiful and powerful artwork. We then visited the Reichstag Dome to see some panoramic views of Berlin. Due to its location in a parliamentary building, security is tight. You need to register online in advance providing personal details and booking a time slot, need to arrive with ID and pass through security and then are escorted until you get to the dome. The views are breathtaking though and the audio guide provides some great information both about the building, parliament and the landmarks you can see across Berlin. From there we could see the Brandenburg Gate so had a short stroll through Tiergarten Park to visit it.
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous landmarks in Germany, commissioned and built as a symbol of peace. It is now considered an icon of German and European history as it was severely damaged during World War Two, isolated and inaccessible during the times of Berlin Wall and featured prominently in the media during the tearing down of the wall. The Gate has also been a point where several US presidents have given speeches and a place of political protest. Close by is also the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, dedicated to victims of the Holocaust. Although it has no specific reason behind design, it does have a resemblance towards a cemetery and provides a moving and touching tribute.
After a morning full of history and culture, it was time for a bier. I’m not a beer drinker myself but when in Rome… or Berlin! After a quick drink, we headed to Tempelhofer Park which is the site of an abandoned runway. My travel companion is cabin crew and obsessed with planes so it seemed like a perfect location to visit and was pretty cool. We even saw someone propose there. After that the weather turned sour. Windy, raining, the full shabang and so we headed back to the hostel. Due to the miserable weather, we didn’t want to venture too far in the evening but as restaurants and bars in the area are practically non-existant, we settled for a pizza and a few drinks in the hostel bar.
On the second day, we visited the Charlottenburg Palace. The palace was commisioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Fredrich III, elector of Brandenburg and later King of Prussia. Upon her death, both the palace and surrounding estate was renamed as a dedication to her memory. Over time it has been home to several Kings and also seat to the President of Germany. Another location badly damaged in the war but beautifully survived and rebuilt to its former glory. The palace is beautiful however, during our visit, a lot of construction was taken place which removed some of the charm from it and the famous gardens were restricted which was quite a shame.
That afternoon, we took a tour around Gedenstatte, an abadoned, former Stasi prison which was incredibly interesting. Our tour guide was a former inmate so the stories told were incredibly informative and it was pretty cool to explore.
We headed to Alexanderplatz for dinner and had a meal in Cancun. Beautiful Mexican food, an extensive list of cocktails and great atmosphere. The night then consisted of joining The Original Pub Crawl. A great way to explore the Berlin nightlife and get to know people from all over the world. We have a great time chatting to different people and drinking the night away… some of us a little too much as I got a bit carried away and left the final club as soon as we arrived. The crawl begins at One80 Hostel in Alexanderplatz taking you to three bars and finally a club. I’m unfortunately unable to give you too many details about the bars specifically but I had a great night and would highly recommend joining the pub crawl.
Our final day was spent in a hungover state of wandering. To be honest, we had convered everything in the city that we wanted to do and our trip could easily have been cut down to just the two days. We had no real plan or destination for the day and found ourselves exploring the Sony Centre, visiting Sealife Centre, checking out Berlinerdom, enjoying Bratwurst at Andy’s Diner and browsing the Berlin Mall. One thing I would recommend from the day is grabbing some macarons from Cafe Lucre. Delicious!
Another early night was on the cards due to an early morning flight but we were ready to go home. I had a fantastic time in Berlin and really enjoyed exploring it, however the trip could have been experienced in just two days and it is a location I didn’t fall head over heels in love with. A location full of incredible history, culture and politics but very urbanised, lacking the certain charm that makes my heart ache to leave the city. I’m glad I have visited but the city is not high on my list of places to return.
Have you enjoyed Berlin? Stay tuned for a bucket list and stories of abandoned Berlin…
*All opinions are my own and just that: opinions.
**This blog post was not sponsored or endorsed in any way.