Berlin is one of those places that everyone said was amazing, and I always wanted to go, but never got round to it. So back in summer, we hatched a plan for a girls’ party weekend and booked for November. Turns out that unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually pregnant, so I was five months gone by the time we got there. So it was less “oonst oonst”, more “oooof can I have a waffle”, but still a fantastic place to visit.
There are lots of reasons to go – incredible art galleries and museums, amazing nightlife, great shopping and restaurants, and a truckload of history. Imagine a capital city without a finance district, not brimming with lawyers and bankers, but artists and musicians, and you get a very cool city like Berlin. Add to that people are friendly, everything is great value, and you can still smoke in bars (not so great for those who are 5 months pregnant) and you have the perfect long weekend.
We can’t claim to have even scratched the surface of what’s on offer, but here’s some tips on places to visit:
1. The Holocaust Memorial
I can’t put my finger on why this is so perfect, in fact no-one I’ve spoken to can, but it just is. It’s somehow magnificent and powerful and subtle and moving and I have no idea why. Round the corner from the Brandenburg Gate, I could spend a long time wandering amongst it all.
2. Views from the Reichstag
You can get a lift up to the roof and look from the top of its glass dome for an amazing view over Berlin (it’s free), but it’s also a beautiful building. You should also have a look at the Roma gypsy memorial in the Tiergarden nearby.
3. Wander round the Scheunenviertel (Barn Quarter)
This is one of Berlin’s oldest and most quirky areas and if you wander around slowly, you can find gorgeous courtyards, rambling alleyways, painted houses, shops, cafes and galleries. It reminded me of the roads between Spitalfields and Brick Lane – once a run down area, now filled with art, shops and cafes. We also saw an unbelievable number of cool-looking galleries all along the nearby Auguststraße.
4. Eat curry wurst, have a German meat and cheese fest, and try Berlin’s restaurant scene in Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg
Anyone who eats meat and cheese in such great quantities, including first thing in the morning, has my vote. We ate fantastic German food in Oderquelle on Oderberger Street and loved the cheap buffet breakfasts in the nearby cafes on Sundays. I also loved the relaxed vibe and lovely pan-Asian food at Toca Rouge on Tör strasse in Mitte.
5. Visit the retro vintage clothes shops and record shops in Prenzlauer Berg
I was delighted to find the original vinyl of “Ferry Cross the Mersey” as well as vintage shops selling amazing clothes, shoes and bags – shops that were museums in themselves.
6. Check out the flea market on Sundays in the Mauerpark
Apparently the king of Berlin fleamarkets, it was sadly closed when we were there but still served a mean currywurst.
7. People-watching and whisky drinking in Berlin’s bars
We liked Café Schwarzsauer in Prenzlauer and Melody Nelson cocktail bar on Novalisstrasse in Mitte. Great music, cool people, smoky as hell. Made me wish I’d gone a decade ago…
8. Visit the Jewish Museum and Museum Island
The Jewish museum is housed in an amazing building and is huge, charting German Jewish history from the beginning and focusing on the Third Reich, with sculptures and a lovely café. You should also see the Berlin wall museum at the Potsdamer Platz, and Checkpoint Charlie, but sadly we didn’t have time.
You could also spend a day, if you weren’t distracted by waffles and gluhwein and winter markets, visiting Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island). It’s a small island in the Spree river which is a UNESCO site in itself as well as the venue for 5 museums , the most famous being the Pergamon museum, but also the Neues Museum, Altes Museum, National Gallery and Bodemuseum.
9. Head to Berlin’s clubs
Sadly I missed out on this being the size of a baby elephant, but I would definitely want to go back and try one of Berlin’s great clubs. The most famous is Berghain, and there’s also Kater Holzig, Wilde Renate, and Chalet.
We flew Easyjet from around £60 each way.