Berlin is a vibrant, multicultural and unpretentious modern capital city. It still shows glimpses of its dark, turbulent history and possesses an incomprehensible affinity for the music of David Hasselhoff.
Getting There And When To Visit
The flight time to Berlin from London is under 2 hours so makes it an ideal destination for a city break at any time of the year. We went in Winter, which is the best time for cheap flights and accommodation, although Berlin is one of the cheapest capital cities in Western Europe. We were lucky with the weather, it was cold and we did have snow but it wasn’t too cold and the snow wasn’t disruptive. However at the time of writing the current daytime high is -1°c and the low is -7°c.
The usual selection of low cost airlines fly to Berlin but it may be worth checking British Airways. To our surprise their flight and hotel package was as cheap as the budget airlines. Also the price included checked bags up to 23kg. (We paid for the full trip ourselves and were not funded in any way, well apart from the Christmas money my mother gave us!).
Things To Do
Berlin is large and spread out and does not really have a centre, basically due to it’s divided past. However getting around is straight forward, there is an efficient and more importantly, easy to use public transport system. The ticket machines at the stations have an English language option. To find out more about getting around and to check the current fares visit Public Transport in Berlin. Berlin is a photographers dream, so have your camera at the ready and before you go check out the best places to take photos in Berlin to save time.
The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is the iconic Berlin landmark. It was the symbol of division between East and West Berlin but has now become the symbol of German unity. The gate was first opened in 1791 and has survived Berlin’s tempestuous history despite being heavily damaged during the Second World War.
The Reichstag Building
The Reichstag was first completed in 1894, ‘mysteriously’ burnt in 1933, blown up in 1945, rebuilt in the sixties and finally redesigned by Norman Foster with the addition of the famous glass dome in the nineties.
To visit the dome you need to book online in advance (free) and you will need photo ID when you arrive.
Memorial Of The Berlin Wall
The memorial retains a 200 foot long section of the wall as it was when the wall fell. Go to the visitors centre first next to the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station. The centre gives you an overview of the memorial and explains what there is to see and do.
Allow a couple of hours to really look around, definitely a Berlin ‘must see‘.
The Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also referred to as the Holocaust Memorial is a sobering concrete block design by Peter Eisenman. Walk through the narrow gaps between the blocks which are designed to give ‘an uneasy, confusing atmosphere‘ and the whole sculpture aims to represent ‘the ordered system that had lost touch with human reason‘.
From 1961 to 1990 Checkpoint Charlie was the main entry and departure point for non-German visitors entering East Berlin. Also in 1961 it was the place where US and Soviet tanks went head to head in a demonstration of cold war brinkmanship.
There is a replica of the guard house with ‘soldiers’ but avoid these as they are simply demanding money for photographs. A bit of a shame as other areas commemorating Berlin’s dark past are a bit more poignant and respectful.
On a lighter note…
The Famous Berlin Currywurst
If you’re a fan of sausage, ketchup and curry powder then this is the dish for you. Before our visit we thought the currywurst was something involving a rich curry sauce and sausage but it is just a sausage covered with ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder.
Belin has been bombed, divided and finally reunited, it has now become one of the most intriguing and exciting cities in Europe. Follow in the footsteps of Einstein, JFK and David Bowie and get inspired by this fascinating destination.
As for the Berliners love for ‘The Hoff’, we are still baffled. (We actually heard him being played 3 times during our stay!)
Have you been to Berlin recently or do you live there, what are your tips for our next visit?