Berlin. Anyone who has gone recently will tell you it’s great and how amazing it is but my memories from my trip in 2005 are sad. Nothing went wrong on the trip and I was meeting my sister which was great, but I came away with a feeling of blahness. Shay, my friend who I went on BBC’s Pointless with moved there nearly two years ago and there has always been an open invitation to stay. This year as part of my Lululemon #18in18 goals I made a commitment to visit Shay and a few weeks ago I spent a long weekend with him.
It became clear from researching and Shay’s suggestions that my lack of enthusiasm for Berlin centered around its history. There is lots of sadness with WW2 and then the Berlin Wall and you can spend days wading through those stories. A directive was given to Shay, no concentration camps, only small amounts of the history and at least one secret local spot. Here are the things we got up to;
Berlin Walking Tour. Run most days with multiple start times this tour takes you to all the historical points, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and Hitlers Bunker. Locals from all backgrounds volunteer to take these ‘free’ tours and at the end you can chose what you pay. Please note when deciding what you want to pay that the tour guide pays EUR2 to Sandemans for marketing of the tour and they typically last three hours.
Drinks on the Roof. Walk past the TV Tower and go to Radisson Park Inn and pay a few euros to head up to their rooftop bar. There are great views, deck chairs to lounge in and a bar with an enthusiastic cocktail maker. Motel One in West Berlin has the most luxurious rooftop bar that is massive inside and out. Free to access, I recommend the Ginger Lemonade as a fresh, alcohol free pick me up.
Preussanpark Thai Food Market. A local favourite with few tourists, this market sees the local Thai community coming together to share traditional food. Considered a health and safety nightmare by the German government, this open air food market is constantly under threat of closure. When we went there were easily 30 stalls selling all sorts of food, drink and sweet things with plenty to pick from. Cash only, take a picnic blanket or towel to sit in the park, eat and relax.
Fleamarket at Mauerpark. Every Sunday this large park opens up to the biggest car boot sale you have seen. Clearly deceased estates and abandoned garages have been emptied and you can find everything you want here. New glasses frames, teapots, those plastic crosses for tiling bathrooms. It is a bit overwhelming! There are a bunch of food stalls and a couple of amphitheatres where performers do their sets whilst people bring you a large beer. Chilled!
Become a Zoo Attraction. Bikini Berlin is a modern shopping centre that will shelter you from any weather situation, full of pop up stalls with independent artisans. From the rooftop and within the centre view Zoo and the monkey exhibits. Have a moment of meta when you realise those in the zoo are watching you like another exhibit!
C/O Berlin. Centrally located C/O Berlin rotates their photography exhibitions every month and they have a great little café for lunch. This is the perfect spot to visit before your afternoon flight with plenty of storage downstairs for suitcases. Take a few coins as they also have a photoautomat for all your photo strip needs.
East Side Gallery. The largest open air gallery, this strip of the wall has been decorated by artists and gives you the most realistic re-enactment of the oppression of the wall. Whilst not really that tall I felt like my power had been taken away and it was quite stifling not being able to see the other side.
Eat Well. Tasty burgers can be found at The Butcher. Japanese fine dining at 893. A mix of hipster bars and gastronomy along Simon-Dach-Strabe. Head up the winding stairs to an all day brunch at House of Small Wonders. Tuck into north Vietnamese dishes in the tea house of Chen Che. Step right back into Saigon at District Mot.
Cash is Queen. The Germans favour cash over card payments with many large shops and restaurants not equipped with any payment facilities. A step change for me who never carries money in London, but something you quickly get used to.
No Jaywalking. It stuck me how obedient German pedestrians are. No one crosses the road in Berlin unless the green man is shining. Shay told me how late at night he walked across the road and was shouted at by someone nearby despite there being no traffic on the roads!
On Sundays We Chill. Not much is open on a Sunday in Berlin. The shops in the main train stations and a few museums. The locals are spending time with their families or going on a endless walk and talk! It is quite nice as the city calms down and you can feel the relaxed vibe.
Enjoy your trip to Berlin. Let me know what your tips are in the comments. PF xo