Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany. For a long time I wanted to visit and spending a week there made me explore things at my own pace soaking up the vibrant multicultural scene that is currently Berlin.
The city has history everywhere, beautiful buildings, delicious food spread around all kinds of restaurants and cafes all wrapped in a busy city but easy to go around.
So, without any further revealing here’s my Berlin Travel Guide with everything you need to know prior and during your visit. Hope you love it as much as me!
PREPARE YOUR VISIT TO BERLIN
LANGUAGE // German is the main language in Berlin but you can easily find information in English in most places and ticket machines. Staff in public places can speak some level of English.
CURRENCY // Euro
BUDGET // Reasonable cheap. Compared to other big cities like London or Paris, is cheap. You may spend €20-€30 daily on a budget. Meals in a fancier restaurant costing €25. Of course take in consideration tickets money and other extra activities. Always over-budget to be safe in my opinion!
ELECTRIC // Power sockets: type F – Standard voltage: 230 V – Standard frequency: 50 Hz
CLIMATE // I visited in August wan it was hot and dry so pack really light clothes! Usually very cold Winters with occasional snow, mild Springs and Autumn and very hot Summers.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT // All year round. Summer will be better to get to know the city and enjoy the weather sitting down in a cafe but Winter as its attractions too. Oktoberfest, the Christmas Market and the Festival of Lights are some events that I would love to go back for.
HOW MANY DAYS? // It’s up to you. There is a lot to do and it does take some time to get to places but if you’re going just for a weekend you can hit the main attractions and get to know the city just as well as you will understand in this Berlin Travel Guide.
GETTING TO BERLIN
Berlin has two airports: Tegel International Airport (north-west) and Schönefeld (south east, where the cheapest companies fly into). From Tegel you have buses directly to some of the main train/metro stations or you can take a taxi. From Schönefeld you have the S-Bahn trains and regional trains into town and also buses. Plan your trip here.
You can travel from most European countries by train to Berlin. Use the InterCity and EuroCity trains from Deutsche Bahn (DB).
The long distance buses that come from all over will arrive at the Central Bus Terminal, the Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof in Charlottenburg.
Berlin has very good accesses by car and roads are overall in good condition. Would recommend it get there by car but then explore it in another way as the traffic is maniac. Parking is good.
WHERE TO STAY IN BERLIN?
Berlin is a very big city, so I would advise you to get a map, circle all the things you want to see and then look for a location that is suitable for that or is very close to public transports as they work well.
There are 12 districts in Berlin with 5 being the main ones where people tend to stay.
Mitte is the historical centre of Berlin where most of the famous monuments are located. Museum Island and Alexanderplatz are located there. Prenzlauer Berg is an area full of life. Pankow area has lots of restaurants, bars and shops. It is close to major attractions like Prater Garten, the oldest beer garden in Berlin.
Friedrichshain is a trendy cool area with lots of artistic vibes. East Side Gallery is located here. Kreuzberg it’s rich in cultural diversity and were some serious hipster’s coffee houses and bars are located. Turkish food can be found everywhere. Charlottenburg’s it’s where the beautiful Tiergarten park and Charlottenburg Palace are located and where lots of other historical buildings are too together with some of the most expensive shops.
For my time in Berlin I stayed in the Hilton Berlin located in the Mitte district. You can read about it here.
Also Airbnb is a good option and you can stay in some really cool places within a cheap price, check it here.
GETTING AROUND BERLIN
Berlin is quite easy to go around, coming from someone that gets lost easily! For public transportation the machine tickets have the English option and there are maps everywhere, so if you know the stop you want it will be an easy ride.
Trains // S-Bahn or regional are fast and on time.
Metro // U-Bahn easy to use with maps and stations clearly indicated.
Bus // There are many lines possible but will be a slower transport to get to know the city.
Bike // A great way to explore and there are bicycle paths in most parts of the city.
Berlin is divided in zones so think about where you want to go on the map to get your tickets. There is the option of buying an all-day ticket for all transports or some of the tourist passes included this as well.
A standard ticket costs €2.80 with zones AB and you can travel in one direction for two hours, changes are permitted (in case you get lost, like me!). Always remember to validate the ticket on the yellow machines, it will stamp the time you started your journey. Credit cards are accepted in the ticket machines. Plan your journeys here.
MAIN ATTRACTIONS IN BERLIN
One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks and also where major historical events took place over more than 200 years of history. Initially built as a royal city gate was damaged and rebuilt in many occasions like in the World War II. During the Cold War was used as a division between the East and West Berlin. It was also where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to celebrate the falling of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989. Since then it has grown to be German’s symbol of unity and freedom.
The Reichstag is the meeting place for the German Government. You can visit the glass dome for free but you still need tickets that you should book in advance, here.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE
It’s nothing like I have ever seen. The memorial was set up to remember the horrible acts from the Holocaust and to honour the victims. The concrete blocks are arranged in different patterns and none is the same as the previous. There is an information center on the underground.
This area that is surrounded by the Spree River in Mitte district is where 5 of most important museums in Berlin are located. It’s considered UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in Museum Island, this cathedral is one of the most beautiful places for me in Berlin. It’s not free to visit but honestly just the views from the cathedral are very inspiring with the Gothic architecture. There are some restaurants and cafes around to enjoy the views and a really nice garden where you can have a picnic and enjoy the sunshine.
This museum shows how life was during the Soviet occupation in East Berlin.
EAST SIDE GALLERY
When the World War II finished, the allied split Germany into four areas. The eastern part went to the Soviet Union, the Western to the United States, then Great Britain and France. Unfortunately in 1961 the Communist government of the East Germany started to build a concrete wall (more than 140 Kilometres) with the purpose of stopping the “western fascists” from coming to East Germany.
It lasted until 1989 and many people were murdered trying to cross the border. As the Wall was being demolished, a one mile stretch was restored by more than 100 artists that turned into an open air gallery with beautiful messages and paintings celebrating peace. This is now known as the East side gallery and I loved the walk seeing each one of the painting as all of them have messages that still applies nowadays.
Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East and West Germany when the Berlin Wall was up. Nowadays, a replica can be seen there and it’s one of the most tourist places I have ever seen, maybe because some action movies have been filmed there like the ‘Octopussy’ from the James Bond movies. If you do want to see the original building it’s possible in the Allied Museum.
TOPOGRAPHY OF TERROR
It’s probably one of the places I have spent most time and it’s completely free. This sort of open museum located where the Gestapo headquarters (Nazi police) were in the pass, shows people documents and photos of the main perpetrators. It shows the crimes and the ways the Nazis used to cause terror all over Europe. Outside there are large panels that show how life was when Berlin was taken over by the Nazis.
BERLIN TV TOWER
The tallest structure in Germany with 368 meters has a 360° view of the city. Buy your ticket in advance and it will tell you exactly the time for you to go there so there are no waiting times. The views were good but there were so many people that in some areas people could barely move which made the experience less good and not worth it in my opinion.
It’s not so much a place to see or something to do but it’s definitely something to look for. The little traffic men, that you will see everywhere, was created as a strategy to reduce road accidents and has become a symbol in Berlin with souvenirs of it in most stores.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK
One of the first foods I wanted to try in Berlin was the Schnitzel because I just wanted to see how different it is from what I have tried in other countries. It’s excellent! Well recommended.
Then I was excited to have a Pretzel something I never actually tried before. There are so much variety, you can have simple ones or with all kinds of fillings. I had a nice picnic by the park while enjoying this and a hot dog (sausages are just everywhere).
Everyone told me to try the Currywurst, a hot sausage cut in slices with ketchup and curry powder which is normally something I would not go for because of the curry! I must say it’s delicious and I get it why people are eating this all the time. Try Curry 36 an outdoor snack bar that is very popular in Berlin.
Then other recommendations is to try the Eisbein (Pork Knuckle), a Döner Kebab and obviously the German Beer! Even that I’m not a fan of it I do recognise it that it looks good and there are a lot of types for you to try!
Berlin is so much more than the main attractions and the awful events that took place in the pass. It’s a vibrant city where people enjoy life and accept the other (at least that’s how I felt). There is so much more to see from this Berlin Travel Guide even after my week there and I hope to come back!