We recently spent 5 days and 4 nights in this lively, exciting city and I can’t wait to book a trip back! We did A LOT of walking and general sight seeing, taking in the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the area around Alexanderplatz and Mitte district. We were staying a little out of the centre in a nice, quiet district but getting the U Bahn (the tube) into the centre and around to the different districts made life very easy and it’s not very expensive either! Our favourite areas were definitely Fredrichshain and Kreuzberg with their fascinating side streets with lots of cool bars and boutiques to investigate, but we also loved Alexanderplatz too. I’ve had lots of lovely emails and messages on social media asking for my recommendations, so below are some of our trip highlights.
1. DDR Museum: http://www.ddr-museum.de/en
A real gem of a museum. I saw it in the rough guide and, as we wanted a little culture on the trip, it seemed like a good idea for our first full day. I can say with out hesitation that it’s the most interactive and fascinating museum I’ve ever been into (and I’ve been to a lot!). It’s also reasonably priced and you really get your money’s worth. The museum focuses on daily life in the GDR , which I found both horrifying and fascinating. It really bought home to me how much I value my creative freedom! The museum has many interesting sections, even though its really just 2 rooms, and they allow you to touch and explore many displays, including a 1970s GDR home and a prison and interrogation room. This museum really is a trip must see!
2. Berliner Dom: http://www.berlinerdom.de/?lang=en
A picture of this came up on my instagram feed and after chatting to the girl who had posted it, it sounded like a very good idea to take a look. It’s just 5 mins from the DDR Museum, in face you can stand at the museum and get a spectactular view of the back of the Berliner Dom from across the river. This is part of the Museum Island area of the city centre, which houses some amazingly grand galleries and museums. Once inside the Dom you are in for a treat as, not only is it incredibly vast & beautiful but, if you follow the stairs up to the top you will be able to walk around inside the Dom and finally go outside too and see the city from up high on the rooftop. This was by far my favourite way to see the city.
2. White Trash Fast Food: http://www.whitetrashfastfood.com/
It’s hard to describe White Trash as the vibe is what’s so great about this amazing place! I think myself and Tom are quite a rock and roll couple (we are often told this) but if we were a venue we’d be White Trash! One of the staff said it had just changed location and is now much bigger and the place is HUGE! You enter via an old graffitied train carriage and into a junk yard garden that looks like Turkey Point from John Waters ‘Crybaby’. Inside it just gets better, with a chaotic mix of Americana and German Rock & Roll, all housed in a big warehouse space that somehow feels so cosy. The food is great, the booze is good too and neither are expensive. There’s a cover charge for the DJ but the music is worth every penny and it’s got a really lively atmosphere. This was Tom’s favourite place and we had a really fun night here. We didn’t book as it was mid-week so we chanced it and managed to get a table, but it was busy. If you go at the weekend I’d say booking a table is the way to go.
4. East Side Gallery: http://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de/
I spotted this from the train window and we made an impromptu stop and I was so glad we did! Basically it’s the preserved area of the Berlin Wall (a really big bit as it stretches quite a way long the bank) that is painted on by artists and it’s well worth a look. We had a leisurely walk along the wall in the sun and it’s something I really recommend you do as it’s a huge part of the city’s history.
5. Alexanderplatz, Berliner Fernsehturm (The TV Tower): https://tv-turm.de/en/tickets-preise.php
After going to the DDR Museum this place took on an added interest for us as it was built as a symbol of East Germany and the GDR (have a look at the DDR in Colour book for a fascinating look at it in the 1960s – 80s ). A trip up the TV Tower was recommended to us by a friend one night down the pub as one of the best ways to see Berlin from the sky and they weren’t wrong! You get a 360 degree view of the area and it’s stunning. We went late afternoon and had a few beers at the bar up there and just took it all in.
6. Vintage shops (The Garage and Colours, HUMANA)
Let’s face it, I was there to shop and I don’t think I left a single store empty handed and neither did Tom! On our first walk about we spied The Garage, an amazing basement vintage shop just around the corner from our hotel. Both it and Colours (Colours was over in another area that had some great antique stores) offered vintage by the kilo and had a great mix of clothing from the 1940s – 1980s. The Garage had more 1940s and 50s stuff mixed in with their retro items, while Colours seemed to be heavily 70s and 80s, but both were very cheap with individual items for as little as 3 euros! HUMANA (we visited the one in Friedrichshain, there are several in Berlin) wasn’t actually a vintage store as 3 out of the 4 levels were second hand, however it was huge and had one big dedicated top floor to vintage which was split into decades and priced accordingly. Again it had a lot 1970s stuff, which seemed very popular and even a section classified as ‘DDR (GDR) Originals’. I mainly bought from the big stores as it was such a great deal in these and I was like a kid in a candy shop! Tom also found loads of clothes as the menswear sections were huge too. In fact we both bought home so much stuff we had to leave our spare shoes in the hotel room as our suitcases just wouldn’t close!
Colours, The Garage and Humana are all listed on here plus some more vintage shopping ideas: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/aug/17/10-best-vintage-fashion-berlin
7. Tiki Heart: http://www.tikiheart.de/
Although I have already covered it in depth (here) it’s definitely on the list! An amazing café with a huge cocktails list that’s open till 1am and decorated with a huge tiki collection, what’s not to like? We went here for dinner on the 2nd night after lots of people recommended trying a ‘Lemmy’ burger (the food is named after rock legends, genius!). The food was great and it wasn’t just reasonable it was cheap, as was the booze! We returned for breakfast twice and again we were not disappointed! The staff even gave us lots of great advice on where to visit for cool shops and bars, advice that lead us to Warschauer Strasse which we loved.
8. Fredrichshain – Unique Shopping
The area of central Berlin felt quite big, with great big wide streets and I was keen to find a smaller area a bit like the backstreets of Paris that I love so much so I asked the guys at the Tiki Heart and they recommended here. Just a short walk from Warschauer Strasse Station there are loads of cool, small vintage shops (I love the warehouses but I was after boutiques too), great cafes, wine bars, diners and unusual shops, I even saw a couple of vintage hair dressing places! We found a very cool Rockabilly shop and bought a few more Tiki bits, had wine in a lovely bar and generally wandered around the area later afternoon/early eve. HUMANA is not far from here, we sort of stumbled across it on leaving one of the side streets.
9. The Ramones Museum and Bar: http://www.ramonesmuseum.com/
We really loved this place, another gem of a find! We just happened to see a flyer for it taped to a lamppost one evening and put it straight on our to do list. On the last day we popped over early evening and paid 5 euros each for entrance and a beer. The museum is beyond charming and houses an awesome collection of Ramones memorabilia. It’s got a great coffee shop/bar and we stayed for a few hours in there just hanging out and drinking. The wall in the bar has been signed by heaps of famous bands who have visited the place. I’m a big Ramones fan, in fact, I was wearing my Ramones t-shirt the day we arrived in Berlin, but even if you aren’t a big fan this cool little hangout is worth a visit.
10. Austria: http://www.austria-berlin.de/
This place was another accidental find as we were looking for another place that had closed. We fancied a chilled night for the last one and this seemed perfect. It was warm and friendly and the food had more of a traditional, home-cooked feel in a inviting, rustic setting. I had the Goulash and it was delicious! This was probably the most expensive of the evening meals we had on holiday but it still seemed very reasonable and we were given a shot of schnapps at the end each when we tipped the waiter (this seemed to be a bit of a thing in Berlin restaurants which I loved). The whole thing felt very Austro-Bavarian and was a great way to round off the holiday.
I hope this blog is useful to anyone planning a trip out to Berlin and if you haven’t been yet I thoroughly recommend you go, you won’t regret it!