City Break Ideas: See the Best of Berlin
Berlin is a culturally rich city, with dozens of visitor attractions connected with its historic past. Wander through the eerie concrete blocks of the holocaust memorial commemorating the lives lost under Nazi rule, pass through the iconic Brandenburg gate or walk along the East Side Gallery – a 1,316 metre stretch of the Berlin wall decorated in vibrant graffiti celebrating the city’s reunification.
Explore the city above and below by taking in the sights from the dome of the historical Reichstag, meeting place of the German Parliament, followed by a guided tour of the underground bunkers used during wartime air raids. The DDR museum gives a fascinating insight into the lives of East Berliners before the fall of the wall, while the Bauhaus design museum, the collection of renowned fashion photographer Helmut Newton and the Kunstraum – a contemporary art gallery in Kreuzburg – will satisfy art and design lovers looking for a visual feast.
Here are our top five attractions for any visit to Berlin:
Where to stay
As you’d expect there’s a huge selection of hotels in Berlin, but here are three of the best located:
- The Berlin Mark Hotel is right in the centre of former West Berlin, close to one of the most famous shopping streets – Kurfürstendamm, or the Ku’damm as locals call it.
- Winters Hotel is a stone’s throw from Checkpoint Charlie in the Mitte district. The location couldn’t be better for visiting the holocaust memorial, preserved pieces of the wall and the many museums nearby.
- Renowned for the enormous capsule aquarium in its lobby, the Radisson Blu Hotel is an easy stroll to the DDR museum, museum island and Alexanderplatz.
Between trains (S-bahn), trams and the underground (U-bahn), Berlin has an amazingly efficient transport system for getting around. It’s a good idea to purchase a Berlin Welcome Card as soon as you arrive. As well as a travel pass for the various modes of transport, you can avail of discounts for many of the top attractions. Alternatively, you can get an all-day public transport ticket at the station in the airport, which allows you to take unlimited journeys. If there’s a few of you it’s worthwhile buying a group ticket. Up to 5 people can travel on this ticket up until 3am the following day.
A trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without rummaging around one of the outdoor markets that can be found throughout the city. You might be saddened by the fact that you can’t take any of the cool mid-century furniture back on the plane with you, but you can still smuggle a few small homewares and some quirky artwork into your suitcase if you persevere.
If you’re looking for vintage threads, the sprawling second-hand clothes shop Humana at Alexanderplatz is worth a look, or stroll around the upmarket neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg with its turn-of-the century apartment blocks, wide, leafy pavements and well-tended playgrounds, and discover hip boutiques selling retro furniture and clothes.
For a taste of luxury, browse the aisles of the KaDeWe department store on Tauentzienstrasse (the largest department store in continental Europe). Take a breather at the Leysieffer Café on the Gourmet Floor for a delicious pastry and a cup of earl grey tea, or visit one of four champagne bars for a refreshing glass of bubbly.
From street food to fine dining, traditional German fare to international cuisine, Berlin caters to all culinary tastes. A few of our tried-and-tested Berlin eateries include:
Nocti Vagus – For a completely different experience, try dining in the dark, while being served a set menu by waiters who are legally blind. Experience tastes and textures without the distraction of your surroundings.
The Bird – A meat lovers mecca, where the beef is flown all the way from Iowa. You’ll need both hands to grapple the juicy burgers in this American-owned establishment. The thick hand-cut chips, spicy chicken wings, giant pickles and beer-on-tap are equally moreish. Go with an empty stomach, and if you haven’t booked, prepare to queue for up to an hour to get a table in this hopping joint.
Kuchi, in the Mitte area, serves delicious Asian cuisine in attractive surroundings. Try Mr. Miyagi’s Pizza Sushi with salmon, chilli mayo, cucumber, scallion and massago.
Babel in Prenzlauer Berg is somewhat of an institution, serving up towering plates of delicious Lebanese food for over 10 years. Get a taste of everything with one of their famous mixed platters with lashings of hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, kafta, schawarma and halloumi.
When to go
Weather-wise, spring and summer (average temperatures of 22-25ºC ) is a great time to visit Berlin, especially if you want to make the most of the outdoor beer gardens. During the winter, the temperature in the city can drop dramatically, so prepare to wrap up warm! In the months leading up to Christmas, Berlin is famous for the magical Christmas markets found throughout the city. With over 50 to choose from, it’s the perfect place for festive shopping. You’ll find more information about the best Berlin Christmas markets to visit and nearby accommodation in Christmas Markets section of the ClickandGo Blog.
- The most popular baby names in Berlin are Leon for a boy and Mia for a girl.
- With 2 zoos, Berlin is the city with the most zoo animals in the world.
- West Berliners used to throw their rubbish over the wall, to dispose of it cheaply.
How to get there
With so many sights, restaurants, bars and markets to discover, Berlin is a bustling city that you’ll want to revisit time and again. If you’ve never been or you’re returning for another look, check out ClickandGo for the best Berlin City breaks, including flights from Dublin and accommodation options to suit all budgets.