Berlin in Five Days

JUL 25,2013 - JUL 29,2013 (5 DAYS)

General

We did a five day trip to the amazing Berlin during Summer 2013.

The city is electrifying and has its own unique rhythm. It's a very large city and requires a lot of walking. On your way, don't hesitate to peek and enter Berlin's many alleys - you'll find many surprises there - whether it's a hidden garden, cool stores or nice cafes.

On our visit, Berlin's sky line was full with cranes and many parts of the city were under construction. Berlin's Champs-Élysées Unter d. Linde avenue was under heavy digging with a new subway line (5?) work in progress, so we had to adjust our plans accordingly.

Germany

5 DAYS

Berlin

5 DAYS

History

You cannot miss Berlin's dark past popping out at you from every corner, and you don't want to. It's a reminder to us; what can happen when a country loses it's moral conscious.

Weather

Weather was hot. Between 29-35 centigrade. There's no AC in most of the street stores, subways peers, subways, and buses. Take that into account - travel with plenty of water, sunscreen, hats and very light clothes (shorts). On our last evening it started pouring rain. I guess rain can ruin your trip, so the heat in that sense was better. 

Perhaps June or September will be better suited for traveling Berlin.  

Citywalk

Berlin is huge. And the walking distance between the different places is large. Bring good walking shoes. We preferred walking the city, but if you have trouble with walking there are plenty of alternatives - bikes (Berlin is a Biker's heaven), sightseeing busses, sightseeing bikes, etc. 

Transportation

We arrived for 5 days so we bought the five days version of Berlin's Welcome Card which gives you free access to all public transportation options, discount at various places and coupons. It's worth every penny as it saves you from the hassle of buying individual tickets for each ride. We bought the Welcome card upon landing at Tegel Airport. 

You need to validate your card after buying it. At the U/S stations there are ticket validation machines. You need to validate it only once or it's ruined. When you use the bus you can show it to the driver. 

Berlin has a very good transportation system, although it takes a couple of days to get it all. With the Welcome Card you'll get a map. We used it all of our trip to get around and to understand which bus/U/S/M to take. 

Berlin public transportation includes:

  • U Bahn - Subway although it rides also above ground
  • S Bahn - Upper train (although it has rides underground :-))
  • M - Tram lines
  • Buses

We used U, S and Buses. We never waited more then 5 minutes to any one of them. 

Accommodations

We stayed at Hotel Berlin. It was very nice, great breakfast, nice rooms, nice lobby and located near the Nollendorfplatz station, and #100 bus line . Recommended. 

Sightseeing

We booked two tours in advance: 

(1) Reichstag guided tour - you can pre-order them here (free).

We did it a couple of days before the flight and received the confirmation letter after less than 24 hours. We booked the guided tour followed by a visit to the dome. If you don't book the tour, you'll have to stand hours in line, and visit only the dome. 

(2) Berliner Fernsehturm - Berlin TV tower: We took the early bird tour but there are various options including a visit to the bar/rotating restaurant. Do yourself a favor and book that in advance. The outside line was very long when we arrived at 8:40, and upon finishing the tour we saw the inside line. Also, very long, without air conditioning... 

Our Reichstag tour was booked for the last day at 12:00 and the Berliner Fernsehturm for our second day. So we planned accordingly. 

Food

We found the German restaurants really nice. We weren't too picky about ratings or anything. As long as we saw enough people/locals sitting in the restaurants we joined. After all, good beer can be found anywhere... 

One word of warning - in many places, kitchen is closed around 21:00, so if you target a specific place, make sure it's open when you're there. If not, try to catch dinner before. The beer gardens usually stay open till 23:00 so it's another great option. If you haven't been in a beer garden before, it should be a must-do on your list.  

Citywalk

This is a summary of all our walking routes. I tried sketching them all on google maps, although google tries to be smart when it shouldn't so you may get some weird map. But the general routes are there.

Shopping

In large shops there's a possibility to to get forms for VAT tax return. The return is valid on products, not services. In one of the places they asked for my passport id so have it ready. 

The refund process at the Tegel airport was very easy and quick. They refunded cash. The girl in front of me was too young (<18 or <21), and she had some troubles with that. 

General

Almost all stores and institutions are closed on Sunday. Plan accordingly. Our Sunday day plan turned out to be perfect (see above).

Transportation

First day

We arrived to the hotel around 14:00, and we immediately took Bus #100 to Brandenburg Gate. There are two stations near Brandenburg Gate - one near the Reichstag and one after. We left the bus on the second station.

Food

At that station you'll find Cafe-Lebensart in which we ate lunch. I ordered Berlin's famous currywurst with french fries and it was the best I tasted the entire trip. In other places they drowned the sausage with too much ketchup.

Sightseeing

The plaza before the gate is called Pariser Platz and it's always full with action - street shows, guys dressed up like Russian soldiers, etc.

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From the gate counter clock wise you'll see:

  1. Berlin info store - we didn't find it too much useful but if you didn't purchase the welcome card, I think you can buy it here.
  2. Commerzbank
  3. American Embassy
  4. DZ Bank - you got to enter and see what Frank Gehry build there.
  5. Akademie der Kunste - toilets(!) and cafe
  6. Hotel Adlon - for the rich and beautiful. Also a nice cafe if you can afford it. We couldn't...
  7. Starbuck - hate their coffee but their Frapuccino was a lifesaver in those 5 warm days.
  8. Kennedy Museum - we didn't visit.
  9. French Embassy
  10. Desdner Bank

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DZ Bank hall

Citywalk

Since we planned on being in the Reichstag  another day we continued from Brandenburger south on Ebertstraße. After crossing Behrenstraße you'll see the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas
und Ort der Information (Holocaust Denkmal).

You can see our route on the map above. We visited:

  • Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas und Ort der Information(Holocaust Denkmal).
  • Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism (Across the street)
  • Postdamer Platz and sony center - nice place to catch something to eat. On warm days the heat under the glass dome is hotter than the heat outside, so find a place with AC if you plan to eat inside the center.
  • Topographie des Terror - impressive exhibition on the rise of the Nazism in Germany and specifically in Berlin's context.
  • Abgeordnetenhaus von Berlin - the state parliament (Landtag) for the German state of Berlin.
  • Hi Flyer - since we already booked the TV tower we just looked at it from below.

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  • Trabi Safari - we didn't take the ride but it was nice seeing these cars.

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  • Checkpoint Charlie - bit disappointing. Not too much to see unless you're cold, there were souvenir fans.

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  • From there we caught the U train at Kochstr, two stops and got down at Mehrindamm, at Kreuzberg. Follow the map above and visit Bergmannstraße. Here you can visit roofed market, antique and secondhand shops, restaurants, bars, etc. The neighborhood and street are fun and welcoming and you can stay there for your dinner.
  • After that we visited Viktoria Park which was a nice place to give our sour feet a rest. Then we headed back to the Postdamer Platz to eat something and then to the hotel.

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Food

We ate dinner at Andy's Diner & Bar outside the Sony center. The place was nice, we saw many locals eat there so we joined them and had a nice dinner. We returned another evening when we had plans to eat inside the Sony center only to discover the heat inside the dome was unbearable. 

Citywalk

Second day

  • As mentioned above we took the early bird tour at Berliner Fernsehturm. It was very nice seeing Berlin from this high and we were really able to understand it's structure.

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  • We stopped for a Frappuccino at the Starbucks below the TV tower and continued our walk toward Alexanderplatz. Here you can find several large shopping malls. We went to visit Alexa with its impressive three story Madia Market consumer electronics store.

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  • We then headed back toward Fernsehturm and then continued to toward Neptunbrunnen (The Neptune Fountain).
  • Besides the Neptunbrunnen you can find Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church). You can peek inside.
  • Cross Spandauer Straße and enter Nikolaiviertel. It's a very nice place to visit - supposedly the oldest part of Berlin although most of it isn't authentic. A nice place to visit. You'll find there the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas' Church), which was rebuilt entirely after WW2. Feel free to wander around between the shops. There's a nice Brauhaus there but it was too early and too hot for us.
  • We crossed the river north and visited Marx Engles's Forum.
  • Do "Frogger" (we did that a lot in Berlin) to the other side of the road and there you can either visit Sea Life (we skipped) or go take a leak at Radisson Blu. Don't forget to look up when you enter the lobby...
  • Hackescher Market
  • Hackesche Höfe - a complex consisting of eight interconnected courtyards, accessed through a main arched entrance at number 40 Rosenthaler Straße. Nice place to visit. Very nice stores and galleries, although very expensive.
  • On 39 Rosenthaler Straße you can enter another courtyard which is dedicated to the memories of the holocaust. We visited Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt (Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind). There's also a nice cafe when you enter the courtyards, and it worth visiting here also for the Graffiti.

Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

  • Jüdischer Friedhof Berlin-Mitte - the old Jewish cemetery which the Nazis eliminated almost completely. Besides several tombstones on the south side, they left nothing. At the entrance you'll see the memorial built by Will Lammert.

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  • We continued to Auguststraße which was filled with galleries. In Auguststraße 69 you'll find KW gallery . We didn't like the exhibition presented at that time so we didn't enter. On the way we ate at Clärchens Ballhaus (see below). 
  • Next on the route, Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) which was destroyed in 1943 bombardment and was rebuilt in 1988. 
  • From there we crossed Monbijoubrücke and arrived directly to the museum island (Museumsinsel) and the Bode museum. 

From there we just continued touring in the museum area without visiting any of them. The heat fried our brains and we just wanted to get some rest at our hotel.

Shopping

Fun Factory Store Berlin - It's on your way, so don't miss it. Even you're not the potential customers. The design and aesthetics of the store is just cool. 

Food

We ate at Clärchens BallhausFood was nice, beer and atmosphere even better. It's located in a nice garden which allowed us to rest from the hot weather. This place is supposed to be a ball house in the evening if you brought your evening gowns with you...  

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Citywalk

Third day

We caught the train to Bahnhof Berlin Friedrichstraße and started there. We walked south on Friedrichstraße, turned west on Unter den Linden till we reached Brandenburger gate, turned east till we reached Friedrichstraße again and then went south with Friedrichstraße. On the way you'll see - 

  • Café Einstein - nice coffee and cakes
  • Madame Tussauds - we didn't enter
  • British Embassy - nothing special to see except the building which is blocked to cars due to terrorist threats. 

South on Friedrichstraße you'll see:

  • Galeries Lafayette Berlin - we saw a 3000 Euro woman's bag there... Too cheap for us. We aim higher :-) Get inside only to see the building.

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  • Quartier 206 - connected to Galeries Lafayette. Get inside only to see the interior design. 
  • Fassbender & Rausch - a must! On the corner of Charlottenstraße and Mohrenstraße. Amazing chocolate shop. Don't miss it! We tasted some amazing chocolate. You can find amazing chocolate models, for example the Reichstag or the toad below... 

PRIMARK

  • Gendarmenmarkt square - some say the prettiest square in all of Berlin. I agree with this statement. 

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While there, I managed to catch a karting tour. I managed to catch this tour another time in our stay, but do I always drove so fast and things seemed to catch me under surprise. This is what I managed to shoot:

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  • If you continue along the route you'll see on your way: Berlin's opera house (Staatsoper Berlin), St. Hedwig Catehdral, Humboldt university and the old library (Alte Bibliothek). Most of these buildings were under heavy renovation so we just enjoyed the scaffolding... :-)
  • Neue Wache - the old watch house. Get inside to see the memorial. 
  • Berliner Dom - We used the welcome card to get some discounted tickets and got inside. This place is very nice. You can climb to its open dome, and it's worth a visit. As other places, this place don't have AC, so climbing on the stairs to the dome can be a sweaty experience. But it's worth it. 

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Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

From there we continued to Neue Schönhauser StraßeAlte Schönhauser Straße, nice streets filled with galleries and stores. Don't hesitate to explore every alley you see. You'll find nice surprises everywhere. 

Shopping

After resting a bit, we went to do some shopping in Primark. It was very nice and worth it. I personally bought something like eight T-shirts within a price range of 2.5-3 Euros for a shirt. I put them in the washing machine several times already and they haven't shrunk or lost color so I can fully recommend them. 

My wife (the real reason we went there...) bought something like 5(!!!) different bags for something between 5 and 8 Euros for a bag. 

Citywalk

Fourth Day (Sunday)

  • Treptower Park - where we were suppose to visit the Soviet War Memorial but we had a minor navigation error so we missed it. I put it on the map above just in case. We also visited Zenner, a 100 year old building hosting one of the largest beer gardens in Berlin. On the way back we walked along the river and it was nice seeing how people spend their day off - a blanket, a book and the river. 
  • Heading north, and crossing the bridge, below us we saw the Molecule Man statue. Very impressive work of art.

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  • Going north we reached a closed party (11am!!!) in the Arena area ,so we had to bypass it completely. On the way north (started at Puschkinallee which changed to Schlesische Strasse) we entered Kreuzberg. We saw many nice pubs on the river which were open on Sunday morning. 
  • Turn right on Falckenstenstr. and cross the Oberbaumbrücke (Oberbaum bridge) toward the East Side Gallery

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The East Side Gallery  stretched for more than 1 km and includes some really neat pieces of art!

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Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Citywalk in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip   

This is the second place where I managed to shoot the karting tour...

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Sightseeing

After catching our breath (35 centigrade....) we made our way  to Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg which hosts a flee market every Sunday. This place is super cool even if you don't buy anything. It's worth coming here to absorb the culture and the atmosphere - clothes, vinyl records, beer, Turkish food, currywarsts, and many more clothes - all mixed up with a good mood and good vibes. 

A Must. 

We were there at noon on a super warm day. People had to chill out... 

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Sightseeing in  Berlin, Germany, visiting things to do in Germany, Travel Blog, Share my Trip

Food

After going back to the hotel to get some rest we headed toward Schleusenkrug - a beer garden which was quite close to our hotel. I couldn't understand how exactly to get there so we took a cab. The driver dropped us at the Zoological Garden station and told us just to head north to the park. After 200 meters you're there. 

This place is really nice, serves good food, great beer, and has a really good atmosphere. We enjoyed the food, the beer and the company. 

Sightseeing

Fifth day 

We had a pre-scheduled tour at the Reichstag so we arrived a little earlier and toured the area, including the German Chancellery, Angela's crib :-)

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The Berliners calls it Bundeswaschmaschine (federal laundry machine)...

The tour in the Reichstag was very interesting and impressive and included a visit in the plenary and the dome. It was interesting to learn that Hiltler never sat in the Reichstag. This is the reason Germany decided to move it's Bundestag to this building after the reunion with east Germany.  

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Shopping

We had to bring some presents home for our kids, so we headed to Prenzlauer Berg again, which gave us an opportunity to enjoy this cool neighborhood again.  We headed toward Ratzekatz Spielzeugland  which turned out to be a really nice store with a large variety. After that we just toured the place.

Shopping

We had some time to kill before the flight so we headed to the Zoo station where we visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial, and continued to Tauentzienstraße - a street filled with shops (mainly clothes) including the famous KaDaWe mall. 

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