365Bristol City Guides: BerlinPosted on: 26 May 2018
As one of our editorial team makes his way around Europe this summer, it’s only right that we document the travels and give you some hints and tips on what to do and where to go in some of the top cities on the continent. First stop: Berlin – Germany’s vibrant cultural hub and home to some of the world’s most recognisable historical monuments.
While I originally intended to spend two days and two nights in Berlin, it quickly became clear that that definitely wasn’t going to be enough to see and do everything I wanted to. As well as getting to see the city’s tourist spots like the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery, I wanted to make the most of my short time there and get a taste of its world-famous club scene. I wasn’t there long before I decided to extend my stay for two more nights.
Having landed and checked into my hostel late at night, I woke up early the following morning and went for a quick run to get my bearings. I’m not the running type at all but I recommend it as a good way to figure out your surroundings and see some of the sights in a new city. Unfortunately, my plan for a ‘quick run’ soon went out the window, and I ended up getting lost and essentially going in circles for the next two hours. Not that fun at the time, but it did mean that I saw most of the city centre area, accidentally covering the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie in the process.
Of the three main attractions, I felt that seeing the latter two once was enough for me – they were both impressive, but I wasn’t too bothered about going back to have a closer look, especially since they’re two of Berlin’s main tourist traps during the daytime. However, I was keen to go back to the Reichstag to spend more time there – the area is steeped in history.
Tip - If you’re visiting a monument like the Reichstag and want to learn more about it but don’t have the money or time for a tour, just latch on to the back of an English-speaking walking tour group for a bit. You can learn all sorts of stuff for nothing – for example, did you know that when Hitler rose to power in 1933 he banned all opposing political parties in Germany? I didn’t, but I do now, and I’ve still got my ten euros in my pocket.
Personally, I found the historical side of the city really interesting and would recommend you take in as much of it as you can while you’re there. If possible, get down to the Typography of Terrors – not as grim as the name suggests, it’s essentially a museum of documents and photography that tells the story of the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany in the 1930s and the details of the years that followed. If history isn’t your thing, however, rest assured there’s still plenty to do.
Berlin is full of amazing statues, monuments and sculptures, and my personal favourite was this one of a Greek woman about to take a thundering free kick, located in the city’s Historic District.
The area is also home to a lot of great art, whether it’s the contemporary galleries on Auguststraβe or the more popular murals along a remaining section of the Berlin Wall, better known now as the East Side Gallery. There’s also loads of great street art strewn around the city – keep your eyes peeled for great pieces by respected artists Blu and MTO in the Kreuzberg area.
I found that despite its size, the city is really easy to get around. The public transport (i.e. the tram service and underground/overground train links) is great, but it’s still a nice place to walk around if you’ve got the time and the weather’s good.
Tip - It might be that I just got lucky, but during my whole five-day stay in Berlin I didn’t get charged for any public transport. Didn’t see one person checking tickets. I only used it a few times, but if you’re looking to save a bit of money, just jump on and keep your head down if you’re only going to be on for a couple of stops. Obviously follow this advice at your own risk – you won’t always get away with it, and I hear the fines are pretty heavy if you do get caught.
I spent my final day in Berlin at a huge carnival-style street party in Kreuzberg. It was essentially a one-day festival, full of food stalls, live music and cocktail stands, and the weather was perfect. If you get the chance to go to something similar during your visit, definitely take it. The party atmosphere was great, and the aromas coming from the diverse selection of food stalls was unreal.
The day was followed by a night at Sisiphus, a club located slightly outside the city in the Rummelsberg area. I can’t tell you much about my night there, but I will say that despite a wait of almost two hours to get in, it was well worth it - one of the best venues I’ve been to in any country. It boasts a huge outdoor courtyard area and four or five individual stages/rooms – more like a small festival than a club. Parties there are known to carry on well into the following day and throughout full weekends, so you can make a real time of it if you’ve got the stamina.
Despite the flights being pretty cheap (if you pick the right time), it has to be said that Berlin is a pretty expensive place, especially compared to some other European cities. You can, however, cut corners and save money if you need to – you just need to be smart with things like food, drinks and travel.
Tip - If you’re looking to drink on a budget, head to one of the Spati located throughout the city. They're basically the German equivalent of an off licence, but many of them have outdoor seating areas, so you can sit outside and drink €1/1.50 beers instead of €4/5 euro drinks at a bar or restaurant. It beats sitting and drinking in your hostel/hotel, and I found the atmosphere at a Spati to be better than most bars and restaurants.
On the whole, Berlin massively exceeded my expectations, partly due to the great weather we had but mainly due to the wide variety of things to see and do. It’s a cliché but there really is something here for everyone, all ages, all interests, and (almost) all budgets. I will see be back again very soon, hopefully with a bit more money to play with.
Accomodation – Heart of Gold Hostel, Johannestraβe. A pretty nice hostel – modern, clean, has its own bar and outside seating area. If you can afford to, book a smaller room than the 40-bed dorm I stayed in (it’s not easy to sleep with 39 other people knocking about and coming and going through the night). Cheap compared to other accommodation in the same area and in a decent location. 8/10.
Flights to Berlin leave Bristol airport daily. To check out flight times and dates and to book yours, visit their website.
Having moved to Bristol from Cornwall in 2015, Matt recently completed a degree in Journalism at UWE. He is keen on a wide variety of musical genres, as well as taking an interest in art and illustration, producing his own work in his spare time. Matt makes the most of Bristol's diverse nightlife and attends live music and club nights regularly. Get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.