Berlin Travel Tips
Berlin Travel Tips
Berlin is well-known for its nightlife but you cannot discount the culture and history of the city. It is a fascinating city that was separated by a WALL for four decades; a city that was a part of two different countries. It is a very unique city: west and east that have come together to be one. However, the city’s history goes beyond the past century. It dates back to 13th century and it was the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia for three centuries before becoming the capital of the unified German Empire in 1871 and would once again become the capital of a unified German state after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990.
When To Go?
If you do not mind a bit of cooler weather, I would recommend spring or fall. There are fewer tourists which makes a big difference. I went in the fall: the colours are beautiful. The weather is a bit cooler (15 degrees Celsius maybe) but you’re walking around the city so you warm up quickly. But you really can’t go at a wrong time; the city is buzzing all year round!
Where to Stay?
Berlin is a fairly large city so be careful about where you stay. I was using airmiles so I wasn’t particularly picky about where I was staying but I realized later that it was not the best area. Decide on your price and pick a neighborhood or location where you will spend a lot of time: maybe Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg? Just try to stay a metro stop: that is always my number one consideration. Berlin has MANY hotels so you should be able to find one for a very good price or really cheap if you stay at a hostel.
What to See?
There are too many places to list but I will mention my favourites!
1. Museum Island – there is a small “island” in Berlin that is the home to Berlin’s state museums. These are just a small list of museums in all of Berlin but they are my favourite. You can also visit Berliner Dom while on the island; it is not far from the museums and is free to visit. My top choices are:
Neues Museum is where the Bust of Nefertiti is located along with the rest of the Egyptian museum and papyrus collection. The museum collection also contains a Neanderthal skull and Heinrich Schliemann’s Trojan finds. This is a spectacular museum and one of my all-time favourites.
Altes Museum which houses the antique collections (divided with the Pergamon Museum) such as a large Greek collection including the treasury.
Pergamon Museum which contains more antiquities such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus from what is now Turkey. It also contains sculptures and art from the ancient world such as Hellenistic, Greek and Roman.
2. Checkpoint Charlie (and the museum) – the checkpoint may not be operational anymore but some of the signs still exist plus there is a museum with lots of photos and stories about escapes.
3. Schloss Charlottenburg – I was lucky enough to attend a classical concert at this palace where the musicians were even dressed in 17-18th century garb. The music was of course W.A. Mozart (there can be no other) and J.S. Bach. This used to be the summer residence of the Prussian kings and it is lovely.
4. Reichstag – one cannot visit Berlin and not stop by the German Parliament. You can book free tours or visit the dome at the top. You may need to book in advance as they allow only a small number of people into the building each day.
5. Brandenberger Tor – a short walk from the Reichstag is the Brandenburg Gate. You walk down a lovely park area with trees on both sides to get to the Gate. Once again, the colours are very vibrant in the fall. The Gate was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia in the late 18th century as a sign of peace. It was right beside the old Berlin Wall and is now part of a cobblestone pedestrian area.
How to Save Money?
First, get the Berlin Welcome Card. This is a favourite of my Berlin travel tips! You can save a lot of money on museums, transportation, maps, etc depending on the card you select. If you plan to visit museum island, there is a card that covers it (one example: three day pass for 38.50 euros which covers museum island, reductions of 25-50% to more than 200 tourist and cultural sites, free transportation depending on the zone you select which may include the airport, city map and guide plus shipping to your home before you travel to Berlin).
Second, if you don’t get the welcome card, get the Berlin Museum Pass instead which covers many museums in the city for 24 euros for three days. It covers 50 museums in the city including Museum Island, the Jewish Museum and the New National Gallery. You can get the pass at the Berlin Tourist Info or all participating museums.
Fourth, street food is good and delicious plus also very economical. There is a good variety and you will save some moolah! Look for “Imbiss” food stands: good Turkish food. And try the currywurst – Berliners are known for it. And it is delish! There is even a currywurst museum near Checkpoint Charlie (no, I did not visit)! And of course, BEER!!!!!
Fifth, visit the parks especially Tiergarten. It is near the Brandenburg Gate and is a lovely place to rest, have a picnic or to enjoy the scenery!
Sixth, the Topography of Terror is a free outdoor museum. Over a million people visit each year and is located on former grounds of the SS and Gestapo. This outdoor museum is open daily 10 am to 8 pm.
Lastly (thanks Tamason), try the free walking tours. I usually join one and they provide a good overview of the city and provide some history as well.
Berlin is a very easy city to navigate. The transportation system is excellent plus there are many areas you can walk. Bus 100 passes most of the top touristy sites. Or rent a bike to travel around the city as I mentioned above. You can use the trains (U-Bahn or S-Bahn) as not everything in Berlin is nearby nor on the bus route. The trains are easy to use.
Berlin, along with most of Germany, are fairly well versed in English. They may even speak better than English than you. You probably don’t need to learn German BUT I am a fan of learning the language of the country you are visiting. If you do not wish nor have the time to learn German, at least learn a few key phrases. The locals will appreciate it and will respond in English to you. I spend six months learning German and rarely needed to use it. A good rule: Germans under 40 will likely speak English but those over 40 may not. I encountered many older Germans who did not know one word of English.
Where to Spend Your Saved Money?
Kurfürstendamm (Ku’damm for short) is the shopping district where you can spend, spend, spend until you are broke. You can also find the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) – it’s a massive shopping mall. Or visit Mauerpark on the weekend for the flea markets! These are all great places to shop and top of my Berlin travel tips!
What About the Nightlife?
Berlin is a jumping city. Go and explore at night. When I was there, I met some people and we hopped into a cab and asked him to take us to a nightclub. We hit up a few that night and for some reason I cannot remember the names of the clubs. Was it the beer? 🙂 But go and have fun. It is a nightclub paradise. Ask the locals where to go or your hotel/hostel. They should know the places to be.
Have fun in Berlin! Have you gone yet?
You might also be interested in: