Things to do in Berlin

Meat horse or unicorn

So, tenth wedding anniversary jaunt with himself, to Berlin. Large and small boy safely in the care of mother in law (and father in law for that matter). We had booked flights and a hotel in the summer and done zero further planning. This meant some typical touristy things were immediately off the “to do” list (we looked at the Reichstag the day before but it was 10 days until the next available slot).

So here are some things we did and loved, followed by some that weren’t amazing and some that we missed out on.

The good

1) Find somewhere quirky to eat, away from the tourist trail

We had a very early start with a 6.40am flight so by lunch time we were huuuuungry. Having walked past a range of tourist places on Unter den Linden we called upon TripAdvisor for help. A quick browse and we found Chipps on a parallel road and just a short walk away.

Quirky menu, still serving breakfast plates at 12.30pm, and really good coffee.

It always pays to step off the beaten track a bit – well we think so. You never know what you might find.

(Failed to take photo of himself dipping side salad in the maple syrup that came with French toast and very crispy bacon, too busy laughing with despair.)

On the second day we found Steel Vintage Bikes Cafe, again really nice food and coffee. Himself had an amazing iced chocolate.

Another great place we found for food was Upper Burger Grill in Mitte. It was popular and we sat outside because we hadn’t booked, but it was warm enough and there were blankets for the chilly. I had an amazing cheese burger in a black bun.

2) Body Works

Having decided against the TV tower (see less amazing things) we went to Body Works instead. Their card machine wasn’t working so we had to find a cash point (easy enough) and no bags are allowed – there are lockers for a small fee.

Inside it’s mesmerising. The guy who made the installations had a TV show a few years ago, but seeing them up close, absorbing at your own pace (with an English audio guide, though no other languages apart from German), and getting to do so interactive things was totally engaging.

Here’s a semi-fleshed unicorn, you get the idea.

3) Rent a scooter

I think there’s a really different approach to mobility here. Maybe I’m just living in a non-city bubble in the UK. There are loads of instant rent options for transport. We saw scooters, bikes, mopeds (electric?), electric bikes and even cars that you can just hire at a moment’s notice. They’re scattered everywhere, loads of different brands.

By the end of the first afternoon we’d walked 20k steps and GoogleMaps informed us it was a 45min walk back to our hotel. So himself downloaded an app, registered his credit card, reserved two scooters and we found them and climbed on board in about 5 minutes.

I think the different brands have different charges and payment methods (we loaded credit onto the app), different policies and rules about where you can leave them when you’ve arrived. You’re meant to keep to cycle paths and not use pavements or leave them in the park. We might have strayed onto the pavement as it was rush hour and I was scared as a first timer.

We got back to our hotel in about 10 minutes for 9€. Cheaper than Uber and faster than walking or a bahn.

4) Victory column

We saw this from the taxi to our hotel from the airport (such decadence) and decided to walk past on the way to the centre. It’s in the middle of the round about at the centre of Tiergarten park, you access it through tunnels under the round about.

Just 3€ for an exhibition on German and world monuments and their historical context (in English too), then a very lot of steps up to stunning views.

Down towards the Brandenburg Gate

5) Drink weisse bier

Nostalgia alert.

I lived in Strasbourg for a year during my degree, a city with strong Germanic influences…. and lots of nice weisse bier. When presented with the opportunity to partake something approximating the genuine article, it shall be grasped with both hands!

This wasn’t actually Erdinger but some local stuff. Who cares if it doesn’t go with Italian food.

6) Holocaust memorial

You’ll cry. There just aren’t words.

7) DDR museum

We were there on a Saturday and it was quite busy but really interesting and interactive. It’s a broad ranging and fact based overview of the realities of living in East Germany before the reformation, describing pretty much all aspects of life.

8) The river

Whether you take time for a relaxing walk between the river and the Tiergarten park, wander along on Museum Island’s banks, or venture on one of the cruises the Spree river is a great way to see Berlin from a different perspective.

9) Classic food

Not specifically Berlin food but you cannot miss out on donuts and cinnamon rolls. Husband even found his beloved spatzle.

10) Tränenpalast

We stumbled across this outside the Freidrichstrasse bahnhof while trying to pick a river cruise. It’s a smallish, free exhibition documenting the effect of the isolation of West Berlin and the impact on East Germans when they said goodbye.

The Palace of Tears was aptly named.

11) German Technology Museum

Throwing in one more for free. We had a huge choice of museums on our last afternoon. We plumped for staying away from Museum Island and went to the other side of town to the technology museum.

This would definitely be one for families. If we’d had the children we could have spent and entire day easily. Loads to see and do.

On our way we stopped at Potzdammer Platz and found one of the few remaining bits of the wall.

Less amazing

The TV tower (Fernsehturm)

It looks striking from outside and I’m sure the views are amazing but we balked at 16€ each to go up and it had a really long wait. We went to Body Works instead.

Pretzel from a street vendor

Expensive, really dry and definitely not worth it.

Cafe breakfast

Really, the moral is “pick your cafe for breakfast with care”. Dry pain au raisins, slow service.

Museum Island

We didn’t go to any of the big famous museums, partly because that’s not our thing and partly because they were mobbed. We walked through them late afternoon and there must be a registry office close by as there were loads of bridal parties taking photos. It just felt a bit over the top and forced.

Things we missed

There was no way we’d fit in all the cool stuff in three days, especially with zero planning. These are the things we would have done too if there had been more time.

  • Gluhwein
  • The Reichstag
  • U bahn and S bahn
  • Bus tour
  • Checkpoint Charlie exhibition
  • St Niklaus quarter
  • East Side gallery

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