he I recently did a trip with my friends to Germany’s capital, Berlin!
Berlin is a gorgeous city, and the biggest for the country of Deutschland. It’s definitely a metropolitan, and there are some things that are unique to Berlin while others are quintessential German. Berlin is worth a trip, due to its historical significance, along with the diversity of what one person can do while there. Hopefully, this helps you plan out your own getaway!
Only 3 and a half hours away, I want to brag that this was my smoothest driving trip. Berlin is mostly autobahn country from where we’re at. Interestingly enough, there are few Essos but each has a sex shop nearby which kept things interesting. There happened to be a ton of polizei out when we headed towards Berlin, but nothing major happened. Since it’s the beginning of fest season, it is to be expected to see more German police out in general.
Heads up- Berliners are only allowed to rent out rooms now through Airbnb, so say goodbye to homes, houses and condos to yourself. Due to the heavy market of retail estate rentals, they have banned people from this privilege with Airbnb. Remember- if you want to go to Berlin, you will either have to look up a hotel or a room, thanks to barring laws. There’s a strong hotel market here, but the smartest option is to pick a place near a metro station or bus stop. In my opinion, after getting to our hotel (which our friends were awesome enough to get), staying in a parking garage with your vehicle is a good idea, considering city traffic and residences. For a whole day in the garage, we only owed 13 Euros a day, which totaled up to 39 Euros. If you do use a parking garage, note that they will not take any 50 Euro bills or higher, so make sure you have 20 Euro bills and less on you!
The pictures you see in this were taken by myself and our friends, Megan and Maddie!
Berlin is an area you can travel that can be done in a 4 day, and good to come back to visit. Our visit consisted of seeing the typical sites, and then putting in other details. I will list the sites we went to, along with the places that might be of interest to others at the end, along with food, nightlife, and interesting facts that might lead you to other routes; I will further break it down too on how friendly the event is family wise, and how much you can expect to spend while here.
So, first and foremost, I think it’s fair to say that Berlin is the most expensive city in Germany. With that said, I highly recommend booking a walking tour to see the popular attractions. Walking tours are one of my favorites, and I love love LOVE the Sandmans’ tour. Sandmans gives you the tour, and then you tip the guide. This is much better than the average tour, which you pay and you might or might not like it. The perk with this is Sandmans’ tours will have a local/localized person who will take you to a decent priced part of town to feed you during the breaks and give you all the tips you want to find your attractions. This kills two birds with one stone, because not only are you getting informed on the area and learning more about it, but you’ll get concrete information from someone who lives there and has been for a duration of time.
I opted for the Sandmans’ New Berlin tour, and had a Kiwi (New Zealand) guide: http://www.newberlintours.com/ He lived in the area for 4 years, and took us not only to a cool part of Berlin to eat, but told us hilarious facts. For example, this hotel you see by the Brandenburg Gate was actually the infamous one where Michael Jackson hung Blanket over the balcony.
On the New Berlin Tour, you’ll learn about the main attractions of Berlin, including
- Brandenburg Gate
- Site of Hitler’s bunker
- Holocaust Memorial
- Checkpoint Charlie
- The Berlin Wall
- TV Tower
- Pariser Platz
- Luftwaffe HQ
I found the tour interesting, because he mentioned much of Berlin’s history as well, which would be new to many, including history buffs. Berlin was a rising city with the Prussians while also having intersectional ties to other countries; then, in the history we know, it became a powerhouse during the Nazi Regime. Due to this, there are a few more tours given to Berlin visitors listed on the Sandmans’ site. One of the best parts of the tour to me was the Holocaust Memorial, which I take to heart personally. Kids will love it because of the pillars, but it’s recommended to enter quietly and remain respectful.
I don’t want to give away any of the details about each monument for future visitors, but I will say the Berlin Wall is worth visiting on your own. It stretches across Berlin and is still one of the longest standing walls in the world. The memorial for the Berlin Wall is spectacular, and includes English translation. It’s broken into four parts, labeled A, B, C and D, and you notice what part of Berlin was considered East and West. The spotlights for walkers and bicyclists are the biggest giveaways of the separation, along with the building designs. To this day, it blows my mind to think a city, let alone a country, was split by a wall, but Berlin does a fantastic job of showing the replicas and the authentic pieces.
Tiergarten is another beautiful free location to visit. It’s a ginormous park that is like Central Park, but even more elegant. The park has its own metro stops, and it’s a fresh breath of air. There’s many statues within this former Prussian king’s hunting grounds.
Another event is visiting the museums. The pass is 24 Euros per adult, 12 Euros per student (show your school ID.) The pass can be purchased along the Brandenburg Gate, with other locations; 50 of the museums are free with the pass, but not all are. I would strongly advise to sit down and decide what you want to see, and see if the pass covers the cost. Weigh your options and then decide. We went to see a dinosaur museum that held the largest rebuilt dinosaur display, which was only 9 Euros per adult. One of the best perks about it is it lasts for 3 days, so you can go on a walking tour without worrying about cramming every museum you want to see in one day. Museum pass site: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/museum-pass-berlin
Finally, I saw an ad for the Gay Berlin! Berlin happens to be one of the more accepting bigger European cities for LBGT, and they have pamphlets. I found it awesome, considering many cities are touchy on the subject. There are also a lot of nightlife clubs in general in Berlin. http://www.patroc.com/berlin/
One of the coolest things that happened was the May Day parade, which is the beginning of the fest seasons. I was so happy to see the public events in person, and being able to participate it. Seeing one of the largest fests in the country and being in it was fantastic! Berlin typically has a different event going on the weekends, so if you’re feeling spontaneous, go towards Brandenburg Gate and see what you get into!
To note to parents, there is also a lot of kid friendly Berlin activities, like the zoo, who holds the most species in the world. Here’s the links for that: http://www.top10berlin.de/en/cat/family-276, http://www.zoo-berlin.de/en
The food in Berlin is fantastic, and very diverse. Since it’s the largest city in the country, Berliners love to cater to other cultures. We had Italian, Spanish and German food while out, along with small sub shops and to go sandwiches for all great prices. The best way to find the cheapest food is simple: avoid the tourist trap areas, avoid American chains and walk the block! I found bruschetta for 3 Euros (with 5 of them!) and a pizza for 8 Euros that was 2 blocks away. Our Spanish food with tapas was only 4 Euros per tapa, and was worth the 20 Euros we spent- that was 5 blocks away. Be willing to walk your area and see what is available. There are many convenience stores like Edeka around. My personal favorite are the to-go shops in the metro with sandwiches- those were delicious.
Busses and metros are your best bet for moving around in the city. Metro tickets are 17.50 Euros a day, per group; busses, I am not too sure on, but here’s a link to help you with both, including prices, maps and suggestions! https://www.berlin.de/en/public-transportation/
If I was you, I would definitely find parking with your host or a parking garage. The driving in Berlin is atrocious and the parking for the public is an accident waiting to happen. Parking in a garage for a day is around 13 Euros, and you don’t have to worry about reparking. Much of the city is chalk filled with parking garages- the smartest decision is to stay somewhere where you have both a parking garage and some form of public transportation nearby.
The best tip I have for Berlin is to window shop for your tourists goods and don’t consistently shop in the center. Many shops are side by side and have the same goods, with ranging prices. Get your Berlin wall piece, magnets and shot glasses at the fairest shop. You can find better prices at different parts and each shop is more specialized in areas. For example, we got my sweatshirt at a shop selling clothes, and our magnet, shot glass and Berlin Wall piece at a shop that only had Berlin pieces.
Now, for the prices on random activities we did:
Berlin TV Tower-
Kid friendly, but you will have to use an elevator to go up and down. There’s an open bar on the floor. You will be the entire city of Berlin from a 360 degree view! I recommend going at night, because you can see everything and it’s stunning in perspective.
Price: 13 Euros, and it ranges depending on the month.
Can be a bit graphic for kids, better suited to very young or older. Sidewalks available outside, so stroller friendly and even in the memorial center, which has an elevator.
Price: Free, including the memorial center across.
Good for all ages, since there’s no graphic images and it’s a monument.
Great for all ages! You can see the pictures of the American and Soviet soldiers, who stare at the opposing side. I will note, there is a KFC in the museum and it’s very capitalistic, and more expensive. Also, to take a picture of the actors, you have to pay them. However, if you can sneak one of the Checkpoint and them, kudos to you.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Acceptable for all ages. The church was bombed during WWII and remains in a ruin-esque state. You learn the history of the cathedral and right across from it is the “replacement”, which can hold Mass.
Price: Free, but donations are recommended.
Cathedral Isle and Museum Island
Going along with the museum theme, towards the square of Berlin are different sections of interests for people. Two churches are across from each other- the French and German cathedrals, which are both stunning. However, one is still a cathedral; the other is free, but now a representation of German’s political history. For the museum isle, you will find MANY museums near each other, so check your passes/interests, and plan accordingly!
Price: Free for the cathedrals, not sure for the museums
Reichstag is Germany’s equivalent to the states’ Pentagon. It’s a spectacular building that you can literally see through- it’s transparent and the outside’s made of glass. According to our guide, Germans want to be able to “see” what their representatives are doing, so that is the reason behind the material of the building. I was told you can go in there, but it’s usually booked weeks in advance. Sometimes, they have mornings they give out tickets, but you’re waking up early to be in line.
This beauty was right by a metro stop, and worth the walk. If you go from Brandenburg Gate, you can walk through Tiergarten, go towards its center and get to this monument. It’s actually a statue that is honoring Prussian war victory, and you’re able to visit it, if you wish to do so. The architecture is spectacular, including a Renaissance inspired mural for the middle section.
Cost: 3 Euros to enter and climb
Finally, here’s some Berliners with tips as well!! http://www.spottedbylocals.com/berlin/
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