Next up on our Eurotrip was Germany’s capital, and largest city. We took an EasyJet flight from Amsterdam to Berlin’s main airport, Berlin Schönefeld.
Berlin is one of those cities residents absolutely are in love with, and tourists tend to be very split on. It’s not quaint, or cutesy, or even very historic in design. (It was, after all, mostly destroyed during World War II.) But it’s a city with a unique vibe, one that Berliners – whether native or transplants – are very proud of.
Berlin is big, and spread out. It’s not walkable like some smaller European cities, but the trains make it very easy to get around. We ended up staying in Friedrichshain, just far enough from the center of the city that it’s quite a walk (or a very short train ride) to get to tourist-central. But the neighborhood itself felt a bit more authentic, a bit of a Brooklyn vibe when you venture out and into the adjacent Kreuzberg neighborhood. Along the Spree river, you’ll see East Side Gallery – a part of the Berlin Wall which has since turned into an art gallery.
Where to Stay
- Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof – I’ve previously written about Marriott’s new Moxy hotel brand and my stay there. This is definitely a great value, but a little farther from the heart of central Berlin. It is right across from the train station however, making it commutable in only a few minutes. The hotel itself has a great lobby bar, and caters to its millennial tenants, including pickup for a free walking tour (mentioned below).
What to Do & See
- SANDEMAN Walking Tour – This free walking tour of the city begins at the Brandenburg Gate (look for the red t-shirts). Our hotel actually had an escort that grabbed people from our lobby and took us to the starting point by train. It’s a fantastic tour of the city which, considering its history, is filled with stories that only a tour guide could tell you. Because it’s free, the guides work on tips only (average 10-20 Euro per person). The company also offers several other paid tours as well.
- Museum Island – If a formal museum is your thing, this little island in the river has plenty of them, including Neues Museum, Altes Museum, and DDR Museum (an interactive museum that lets you experience life under communist rule).
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – The name speaks for itself, but you have to see it in person to experience the artist’s intentions behind this unique memorial. (This is a stop on the SANDEMAN Walking Tour.)
- Reichstag Building – The German Parliament building which has been an important governmental building before, during, and after WWII.
- Checkpoint Charlie – Also a stop on the walking tour, this famous crossing point from former West Berlin to East Berlin manned by the Allied forces was also a symbol of the Cold War. Although the original no longer stands, an exact replica has been built.
- Berlin Wall East Side Gallery – This portion of the remaining Berlin Wall has been painted into an open-air gallery, featuring murals form all different artists, and serving as a memorial to the fall of the wall.
Where to Eat & Drink
- Badeschiff Beach Bar – A beach bar, right on the River Spree, is a sunbathing hangout during the day and music venue at night. There is a small cover charge, but bring your bathing suit to swim in their in-river pool or lay in the sand.
- Zur Letzten Instanz – Dating back to 1621, this is Berlin’s oldest restaurant. While it can be a bit crowded with tourists, its traditional menu and decor make it an important stop on your culinary tour of Berlin.
Burgermeister – This former train station bathroom is now a delicious burger joint. It’s like Berlin’s take on Shake Shack, and its worth the wait in line for a juicy burger. Best for lunch.
Overall, Berlin is one of those places you have to appreciate. Its complicated history and now redefined culture makes the city unique, and it’s certainly worth a stop on a tour of Germany. Berlin is a city that owns its past and doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. That authenticity may be overlooked by a passing tourist just looking to see some old buildings, but there’s a reason tons of tourists flock to this capital, and tons of people never leave.
Want more places to visit in Berlin?