About a month ago nine of us packed our bags and headed up to Germany for a friend’s wedding. They got married close to Tangermünde, a very cute little town in Stendal, in a farm shed that looked like it was taken straight from a fairytale. While the wedding was the main purpose of our trip, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to see some more of Germany so we decided to spend a couple of days in Berlin before flying back to South Africa.
After a long commute we ended up having only one full day in the city, and we were adamant to make the most of it. Luckily between the great Google, Lonely Planet, Tripadvisor and the awesome people of Instagram, I got some great recommendations and finally put together what turned out to be a brilliant itinerary. Next time you visit Berlin, I can definitely recommend the following stops on your day plan.
Try visiting in summer
If you’re able to, I highly recommend you visit Germany in the summer. We went in July, which offered fantastic weather, and we didn’t feel overly bombarded by tourist crowds. A big plus is the fact that the days are super long, with the sun only setting around 10pm at night. That means you have a lot of time to explore, and the warm days will lure you to linger outdoors for as long as possible. Europe in winter definitely has its charms but the short days and icy weather does make site seeing a bit of a challenge.
Should you do the tourist attractions?
One of my favourite things about Europe is the rich history so I always try to work in some churches, museums and significant sites while there. Berlin was interesting though because their history is so traumatic, and because that trauma is still fairly recent and raw. You’ll find that a lot of the historical attractions are quite sombre, from the Holocaust Museum to Checkpoint Charlie and the site of the Berlin Wall. We decided to work through these quickly and attempt to find the lighter, positive side of German history and modern culture. We also ended up skipping the Holocaust Museum, mostly because we ran out of time and partly because I become intensely upset by this part of history.
We spent most of the morning on Museum Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features a fantastic variety of art galleries, statues, and the magnificent Berlin Cathedral. If you’re into history, it’s definitely worth setting aside a few hours to explore this area.
Go for a craft beer
At this point you’ll be craving a craft beer so head over to Braufactum. They have a fantastic selection of brews on tap, which you can enjoy while giving your feet a rest.
Hop on the train
From Braufactum we meandered over to Alexanderplatz, which though listed as a popular attraction is really just a train station with a bunch of franchise food vendors and retail stores. It is, however, a great central point from where you can catch a train in any direction. The metro is a fantastic way to navigate the city, getting you around in no time. Buy a day ticket, which will allow you to use all the public transport at a cheaper fair.
Head to the Tiergarten
The Tiergarten in Berlin’s most popular inner-city park, originally a hunting ground for the elite. It was established all the way back in the 1500s, which means you’ll be treated to incredible tree lined avenues and glistening canals. We took the S to Tiergarten Station and then walked to Café am Neuen See, probably one of the best finds of our trip. Here you’ll find a collection of restaurants parked right next to the river. We spent a good few hours just soaking up the general atmosphere while enjoying cold brews (or Apfelschorle in my case) with delicious Bratwurst, while watching the row boats glide down the river.
Go try some famous Currywurst
Currywurst in one of those things you have to try while in Germany, and Kannopke’s Imbiss is famous for selling the best currywurst in town. Take the U to Eberswalder Straße and you’ll find their little stand propped right underneath the bridge.
The area surrounding Eberswalder Straße was my favourite in Berlin, packed with local designer shops and awesome street art to guide your way. While there you can also go sip a beer under the trees at Prater Biergarten, the oldest beer garden in Berlin.
Eat a Kebab
Apparently you have to eat a kebab in Berlin, and from what I’ve heard the best place to get one is at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab. Unfortunately this was one thing we couldn’t get round to and I am still beating myself up about it. So if the craving hits at 10pm after a long day out, do yourself a favour and swing by.
Overall Berlin is a fascinating city and definitely worth visiting. If Germany was a family of perfectly groomed siblings, Berlin would be the artsy, grungy and somewhat disheveled cousin – and that’s what you’ll love about it.
Have you visited before? What are your top spots? Pop them in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you.