Ok, so I am not a german doughnut, but I do love Berlin. I have been fortunate enough to visit Berlin a couple of times and would go back much more frequently if I could as there is so much more to explore.
Berlins long and complicated history is evident throughout its streets and buildings, its past intertwined with its present.The city once divided is now whole but the divisions are still clear through its architecture. The imperial West full of grand palaces and buildings, the Brandenburg gate dividing the city and becoming the gateway to the soviet style East.
This is a city to wander through, you can easily walk to most of the main attractions without getting on the super efficient over and under ground train systems.
Starting your day at Kurfurstendamm Strasse ( I stayed at the Metropolitan Hansa hotel http://www.metropolitanhansa.com/ last time I was there) which is one of the main shopping streets in Berlin and home to department store KaDeWe. The store is huge, and at the top is the Wintergarden a restaurant/ cafe located on the 7th floor, the glass roof giving wonderful views of the city. From Kurfurstendamm you can walk down to Berlin Zoo ( opposite is one of the main train stations – you can get a bus to the airport from here!), its small but delightful and a pleasant place to spend the afternoon if you like animals. The zoo itself backs onto Tiergarten, the city’s main park and a great place to spend the day in the summer or go for a picnic if the sun is out. If you don’t fancy strolling through Tiergarten, then you can jump on the S- Bahn from Tiergarten to the Brandenburg gate. Coming out of the other end of Tiergarten you come to the Reichstag, the parliament building of Germany. You can go to the top of the Reichstag to its roof, and its domed viewing platform which gives amazing views of the city.
A word of advice, there are always queues, so get there early in the morning, otherwise you could end up queuing for a couple of hours ( and if its raining it’s no fun!). From the Reichstag you can make your way into the old east through the magnificent Brandenburg gate!
From the Brandenburg gate you can stick to Unter den Linden Strasse which takes you all the way along to Museum Island and straight to the centre of what was East Berlin.
Along Unter den Linden you can see examples of magnificent imperial German architecture and the country’s history, the enormous Russian embassy looms on the street reminding you of its presence in the city for such a long time, there is a Gugenheim museum a sister to the one in New York with rotating exhibitions. You can also experience the delights of German street food here, stopping off at one of the snack shacks for Bratwurst mit Brot ( sausage in a roll!) and perhaps even a cheeky afternoon beer!
Along Unter den Linden you can take one of its side streets and delve further into the city’s history, some of the walking tours will go down Wilhelmstrasse to the place where Hitlers bunkers was alleged to be. Friedrickstrasse is definitely worth a visit as about half way down is Check Point Charlie, the famous symbol of the Cold War. It has become a tacky tourist attraction, but it’s definitely worth wandering down there to see a little bit of history. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, and especially in the summer an outside dining option then I would head to Gendarmenmarkt, a square just off Friedrickstrasse, a beautiful example of 18th Century architecture. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants dotted around the square offering simple lunches or a cafe and kuchen stop!
Carrying on further up Unter den Linden if you take a left when you reach the river you can walk to Museum Island home of some of the country’s finest museum collections. Along this riverside path there isan art and vintage market, definitely worth a look if you are looking for Cold War memorabilia. You will probably want to give a day to the Pergamon and Egyptian Museum if you like your history as there is so much to see. One of my favourite spots are the shops and restaurants that are housed in the arches under the railway line ( Georgenstrasse). The Universities are located around here so the bars are a regular for students looking for a cheap beer. The arches have some amazing vintage shops in them. You can also get a taste of your first Berlinerweiser here ( a beer that comes in red or green! personally I prefer the red!).
Carrying on from Museum Island you get to the heart of East Berlin, crossing over the river past Berliner Dom, you are on Karl Liebknect Strasse.
From here the looming TV tower gets even more dominant, and at the end of the street is Alexanderplatz, one of the easts main squares and home to Gallerie Kaufhoft, an enormous department store. The first time I went to Berlin it was before the stores makeover, and you felt like you were walking around a soviet era store, grey and bleak and very little stock, but now after a makeover it is a light and spacious cube of glass, that glows green at night. To experience more of GDR-era architecture, and relics of East German architecture head down Karl Marx Allee, now a protected historical monument.
That is one of my favourite walks in Berlin, but to fully take it all in you can split it down into two or three days worth of stuff if you are planning on visiting all the galleries and museums on route!
Of course there are lots more things to see and do, you cannot go to Berlin and not see the Wall. The best place to see the remains of the Berlin wall is at the East Side Gallery (Ostbahnhof, Warschauer Strasse train station), the Gemaldegalerie – which houses one of the finest collections fo European art. The city is full of things to do and see!
Of course all this walking around is going to make you hungry. As I said before you have to try german sausage, and the best way is from a street seller or snack shack that fill the city. Eat it in a crusty roll, with chips if you fancy it and a cold beer. Of course there are the traditional dishes to try, like schnitzel or goulash type dishes. But it is also possible to find high standard cuisine, one place we found was Gugelhof, an Alsatian restaurant. The food was lovely, full of flavour and the service warm! http://www.gugelhof.de/. If you are into your beer then of course this is the country to visit, and the local speciality is Berlinerweiser, a beer that comes in red or green ( thanks to the syrup they add) and is delicious!
Berlin is a great place to go for a long weekend or even a week as there is so much to keep you entertained.