It feels as though I’ve been on a solo tour through Germany and boy, is this an underrated holiday destination. It has so much to offer in the form of amazing history, culture, trendsetting cities, fashion, gastronomy and sights. I was recently traveling in Berlin for exactly 48 hours to collect my new Singapore passport and I took the opportunity to run around for two days, exploring this awesome city often dubbed as Germany’s ‘coolest’ city and for good reason!
What To Do When Traveling In Berlin:
If you have a weekend, or 48 hours like me, to spend traveling in Berlin, this is an idea of what one could potentially do. Berlin is all about neighbourhoods – very similiar to London and New York. And just like those cities, they have a fantastic metro system that connects exactly to where you need to go. However, if you are anything like me, you enjoy walking the most. I spent the majority of my 48 hours, walking the streets, really getting to explore the neighborhoods. Of course, with a limited amount of time, you can’t see it all – in fact, you’ll probably never see it all because it is an ever-changing and exciting place, a city to always come back to.
If it’s your first time going to Berlin, it goes without saying that you need to see its famous cultural landmarks. However, if you are limited in time, stick to seeing the symbol of Berlin, The Brandenburg Tor or Gate which is beside the architectural gem, The Reichstag (you need an appointment to go in and see it so plan ahead) as well as the War Cemetery, which is beautiful and thought-provoking. They are all within walking distance from each other, but if you are up for it, you can walk down Friedrichstrasse to Checkpoint Charlie, another famous sight. Along the way on the right, you will pass the iconic Hotel Adlon Kempinski, which has housed every prominent guest you could imagine. It is also the site where Michael Jackson famously dangled his baby off of a balcony from.
I, however, have been to Berlin about 3 times, and so I wanted to see something new. I started by walking the streets of Prenzlauerberg – a very hip district, full of cool cafes, boutiques, trendy families with ‘street style’ en mass and some gorgeous buildings. In Google map terms, I left Rosenthaler Platz and walked up the whole of Kastanienallee up to Eberswalderstrasse. Then I took a right and walked down Knackstrasse all the way to Kollwittzstrasse, which takes you back into Mitte area via Schönhauser Allee. I found a wonderful little children’s store, saw some amazing street art and had a couple of coffees in some very cool cafes along the way.
Then I walked around Mitte, checking out all the different shops – they have a mix of brand name shops and local boutiques so there is something for everybody. Places to watch out for are Hackesche Hof, which has the famous Ampelmann store for local souvenirs, the Cinema Cafe, which is the oldest cafe in the Hackescher Markt area; it has a cool cinema, plus an awesome graffiti-covered alleyway (there are many of those in this city so make sure your phone is charged)!
I then took the subway from Hackescher Markt station to what is probably best described as the King’s Cross of Berlin, Zoologischer Garten. Yes, correct… this is the stop for the brilliant zoo that Berlin has, which I will make sure to check out on my next trip to Berlin. However, this area has recently been regenerated and is buzzing with activity. I went to the Bikini Berlin Concept Mall, which was full of pop up shops, which is an interesting new concept similar to Box Park in Shoreditch, London. Then, I went up to the Monkey Bar in the trendy and fantastic 25Hrs Bikini Berlin Hotel, afterwhich I had dinner (and a brilliant one) at the restaurant Neni, which holds beautiful views overlooking the gardens of Berlin and very hip spot with great cocktails, vibe and atmosphere.
The next day, I walked down the famous Ku Damm, which is like the Champs Elysees in Paris. Up one end is the high-end shops for all your high-end needs and down the other end leads towards the zoo and central train station. I’m a hotel lover, so on the walk, I stopped in by the new Hotel Zoo just besides the gorgeous Apple Store. What a fantastic hotel and breakfast at The Grace Restaurant was just lovely. Next, I went to pick up my passport from Potsdamer Platz, which is basically the financial and business district.
Thirty minutes later, I had a new passport and nowhere to go. I realised as I thought back to my last few trips, that I had not seen the actual last remaining bit of the Berlin Wall and so, I decided to go see it. I hopped on the train and took it to Waschauer Strasse Station. As you get off here, directly across the street is a great little boutique hotel called The Michelberger Hotel. It’s more like a poshtel – or a desitel – a posh or design hotel. I was going to walk right by it, but then a doorway caught my attention with a sign above saying ‘Honolulu.’ I was intrigued and walked in to find a delightfully casual, shabby chic cafe, so I stayed to have a ‘brotchen’ and drink. They make their own coconut water and it was hands down the BEST coconut water I have ever had. After a quick telephone and personal recharge, I continued my 5-minute walk down to the ‘Mauer’ – i.e. Wall. It was really cool to see what remained from DDR times. I didn’t walk the whole stretch, although I would recommend it.
After a few token shots, I crossed the bridge over the Spree to the other side, which led me straight into the edgy neighborhood of Kreuzberg, which actually is quite gentrified by now. Despite that, it had some incredible street art, cool boutiques and a plethora of places to eat and drink, so it is definitely somewhere to go for dinner and drinks on a night out. Again in Google Map terms, I walked down Skalitzer Strasse then right onto Oranienstrasse, which is the main stretch of road in Kreuzberg that you need to see. This will lead you to Moritzplatz Station, which takes you on a train back to Ku Damm. You could also walk up the whole street until you come to Checkpoint Charlie.
I was staying at a hotel in Charlottenburg which is a beautiful neighborhood in West Berlin, not too far from the center at all. This is also a pretty area full of cafes and restaurants and my hotel, Hotel Sir F.K.Savigny was just across the street from Saigon Green – a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant where I had dinner the night before. Afterwards, I had a late flight back home. Luckily, getting in and out of the city with public transport is super easy in Berlin. Berlin Tegel Airport is not very far out, which is not typical in a city in Europe. I took the airport bus X9 into Zoologischer Gartens and then I walked about 20 minutes. I could have taken a taxi but why do that when you can walk this gorgeous city.