With busy night life and amazing architecture, Berlin is by far a capital that stands out and defines itself not only as a city and capital but a city that has stood the test of time. Its people have witnessed this city grow from a settlement of Germanic tribes to the economic, tech and cultural powerhouse it is today.

Overview

Berlin, 1688 (Wikipedia)

Germany’s capital, dates to the 13th century. Reminders of the city’s turbulent 20th-century history include its Holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall’s graffitied remains.

Divided during the Cold War, its 18th-century Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of reunification. The city’s also known for its art scene and modern landmarks like the gold-coloured, swoop-roofed Berliner Philharmonic, built in 1963.

Nowadays, the vibes that Berlin exudes together with its bustling night life certainly make this capital city a must for any seasoned traveller.

Travel and accommodation

Like most modern travellers do, the best way to get to Berlin is by plane. Other options are there since Germany is a country accessible by air, land and sea however.

There are two main airports in the city: Berlin Tegel (TXL), located in the northwest and Berlin Schoenefeld (SXF), located in the southeast.

boarding the plane

We chose the option to go with Ryanair, as we always tend to do, eh-hem! Prices are quite affordable all year round but budget for around £70 return per person from London.

We landed at Schoenefeld airport and from there we were able to take a train to the city and then walk to our hotel which was fairly central.

To find the best flights from your local airport, be sure to check out our guide here.

In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates.

We chose a hotel in central Berlin with good transport links to the main attractions. There are plenty of places to book; we stood at Select Hotel Style Berlin – nice, clean and the staff were friendly.

Things to do

One of the things your will quickly realise (depending on where you call home) is that Berlin is a large city but nothing that you can’t manage within a weekend. There are many itineraries, however we will walk you through what we did and hence would recommend it.

We thought we can get good value for money from the Berlin Card which includes public transport and offers discounts at the attractions we wanted to visit.

We got the card just for the city, however for a weekend break you can comfortably choose the Potsdam area also as you most likely will want to see it – read more and you’ll see why!

If you don’t have enough time in the city, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.

German Parliament (Bundestag)

The first stop on our tour was the the German Parliament (Bundestag). The Reichstag is an impressive building and carries much meaning across the Prussian/German history.

Best time to visit is in the morning on a sunny day. You can also book appointments to see the top of the Parliament which opens a great panoramic view to central Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate

You will find that most mainstream attractions are around the Parliament. Hence from there we chose to walk to our next POI which was the famous Brandenburg Gate.

A German Arch of Triumph if you will. Sure, it wasn’t anything like that back in the 18th ct. when Frederick William II decided to create a “Heroes Arch”.

If anything, it was a humble gate, but through the centuries and different leaders, it became what it is today. Best time to visit is early morning, make sure to avoid the crowds since you might not be able to get that great pic you so much wanted!

Holocaust Memorial

Continuing our walk we went to the Holocaust Memorial which hosts an underground museum. The significance of the stones is debatable; however, a generally accepted explanation is that the irregular stones try to confuse us and make us wonder if we haven’t gone too far. Once there, the sense is as intended, we felt.

Potsdamer Platz

Continuing with our walk we decided to go to Potsdamer Platz, a very vibrant and corporate feel part of the city. However, this square has a harsh reminder right in the middle of it – sections of the Berlin Wall.

It serves to remind current and future generations that a wall once stood here separating their great city.

Checkpoint Charlie

From there we make our way to another famous location – Checkpoint Charlie! The importance of this military Crosspoint dates back to after WWII when Berlin was split in Allied controlled sectors; Checkpoint Charlie being the crossover point between the Russian and American sectors.

Despite its notoriety and appearing in many movies, the site is not something unseen as it ultimately is a checkpoint. However, with the Cold War and various spy exchanges, it made this site an undoubtable point of interest for many tourists.

We recommend sitting at the McDonald’s right next to it and enjoying the view with a drink of your choice.

Museum Island

After having lunch we decided to go to “Museum Island”, the area in Berlin that hosts most of its museums. It’s an easy and accessible way to visit any museum you feel might be worth your interest.

Gendarmenmarkt

On the way there we stopped by Gendarmenmarkt where you can find a great square with two twin churches and the Berlin Concert Hall. A must for any self-proclaimed traveller!

Berlin Cathedral

Depending on where you come from on the “Museum Island”, you will be greeted with the imposing view of the Berlin Cathedral which dominates the view. Looking to its left you can see an esplanade which opens up to the many museums that are on the island.

Teenagers practicing their skateboarding, kids running and adults sitting and discussing life’s problems constitute the view of this open space park.

Be sure to go behind the cathedral on a warm sunny day and enjoy a nice cold white beer!


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Berlin TV Tower

Next on the list is the Berlin TV Tower which is minutes away from all these attraction. If anything we barely used any public transport since all those attractions are so close.

One thing we didn’t know was that you have to book your time at the TV Tower so make sure you book that in advance and plan your day accordingly. The views are amazing and truly worth any wait. Make sure to go before sunset as you may want to take some pics.

DDR Museum

No visit would be complete (in our opinion) without visiting the DDR Museum, just to see how things were in socialist Germany … and to make the most of the Berlin Card.

There are some interesting bits there but nothing too fancy as you’d expect except, they have a Trabant which you can virtually drive! Yes!

Stasi museum

Another place we visited was the Stasi museum. The Stasi, Ministerium für Staatsicherheit (German: “Ministry for State Security”), were secret police branch that were tasked with population surveillance and counterespionage.

Their headquarters, now a museum, were so well concealed, it took us a good 30 min to find it although we had Google Maps with us on the phone. What can I say – they did their job.

Guided tours are offered by the museum which narrate the experience. Per se, we believe the items in the museum speak for themselves and are things James Bond himself would envy.

Anything from secret pen recorders to booby traps, they had it all. The museum describes some of the horrors average citizens went through and the state of terror this organisation created.

The Stasi museum is in East Berlin and on the way to the museum, we stopped at the East Side Gallery. There you can see the conserved graffiti project by 118 artists covering part of the Berlin Wall and celebrating its demise.

Berlin Presidential Palace (Bellevue Palace)

Some other places you can visit in Berlin include Berlin Presidential Palace (Bellevue Palace) which has been the official residence of the President of Germany since 1994.

You can also see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a famous landmark of western Berlin which was badly damaged in a bombing raid. This has been nicknamed by Berliners “der hohle Zahn”, meaning “the hollow tooth”.

Potsdam and the Prussian Palaces

We dedicated almost a full day to go to the nearby town of Potsdam. A bit of what Versailles is to Paris or Windsor to London. We took the earlier train and arrived by 10am in Potsdam.

Sanssouci estate

It’s a quick ride and the ticket isn’t that much either. From the Potsdam train station you can either take a bus to the Sanssouci estate or walk. We walked, of course!

At the Palace you will be astonished – since Frederick the Great himself decided to be buried there. Essentially, it’s an estate for the former Prussian Kings designed to impress guests.

The idea being that Berlin was for official visits; Sanssouci for the unofficial ones.

“Quand je serai la, je serai sans souci.”
“When I shall be there, I shall be without care.”

Frederick the Great. His inscription written at the foot of the statue of Flora at Sans Souci, where he wished to be buried. His body lies in the church at Potsdam; reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 230.

New Palace & Oriental tea house

It hosts an estate of several palaces, including the original Sanssouci Palace and also the New Palace along with an Oriental tea house, vast English style gardens and fountains.

Best way to visit this estate is by planning your visit on the train and make sure you know where you want to go as the estate is large and it will take some time to go from one place to another.

Charlottenburg Palace

Back to Berlin – definitely visit Charlottenburg Palace. If you had 1 day in Berlin – this palace is a must! Again, best to plan your visit as the Palace does close in line with most attractions.

Also, after the visit make sure you go in the Palace’s gardens and enjoy the fountains and birds whilst eating your favourite nuts. Don’t forget to throw some to the pigeons…

Food highlights

Finally, we reached the food section! Can’t stomach all of this on an empty stomach! (Wink). In true “us” style we decided to have a German feast.

And what better way to do this than going to a Bavarian beer hall! Yes, you read it right!

Best thing about these venues is that they provide a hospitable and generally authentic (or perceived to be) style dining. Prices won’t always be on the cheap – but hey, if that is an issue – kebabs go for much cheaper.

We went to the Hofbräu Wirtshaus Berlin. Generally speaking, you won’t need a reservation as this is a food hall ultimately which implies loads of sitting available.

And sure, remember this is a typical German Bavarian style food hall – not Prussian. The menu is fairly simple but provides a great variety to try various delicatessen. I chose the pork shank – oh yes!

It was good.

We also decided to go to a typical Berliner restaurant. And Berliner it was! The name: Fat Landlady (Dicke Wirtin). The name is just as glorious as the food was.

Home cooking without any fuss served in a cosy dinning area that makes you feel you’re at home. Be ready to mingle because often waiter will bring other guests to your table to maximise space.

If that’s not your thing, make sure to pre-book. We tried pork schnitzel, roast pork with red cabbage and dumplings, bratwurst with parsley potatoes and of course apple strudel.

Conclusion

Berlin is a city that combines excellent touristic points of interest, great city vibe and very easily accessible. Within a weekend, you can most certainly visit the city and if you want, you can even combine it with Potsdam. It truly is a family and visitor friendly city, feels safe all throughout.

For more, please watch our YouTube video that I put together.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:


  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.


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Paul Nabosnyi

I am Paul and together with my wife, Hristina, we love travelling. I am originally from Romania. I am an IT sales professional. We enjoy city breaks and long haul destinations. We also like cooking and my passion is baking! In order to burn the calories from all that eating (hehe) we also cycle.

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