Berlin is a city packed with history and culture. I will admit that I did feel slightly out of my depth, as I’m not particularly book smart and never really studied history at school. None the less, I did still enjoy immersing myself and learning all about the stories of the city, with my fab best friend as my tour guide (she is probably the smartest and most level-headed person I have ever met).
As soon as we fly in to the airport, we caught a train that took us straight into the city centre. There were people on hand to help you out with choosing the right ticket and getting to the correct platform, which was super helpful because the details I had written down were really confusing (go me). Once we got off the train it was a quick tram to our easyJet hotel which was in a great location – right in the middle of it all with great transportation links: https://www.booking.com/hotel/de/easyhotel-berlin-hackescher-markt.en-gb.html?aid=304142;label=gen173nr-1FCAEoggJCAlhYSDNiBW5vcmVmaFCIAQGYAS64AQzIAQzYAQHoAQH4AQuoAgM;sid=09dc31100649772aba3c3ab21c75d205 Okay, the rooms were a little snug, and the shower situation is a bit weird if you aren’t travelling as a couple, but it was okay for a night or so.
The first thing we did was catch a tram to the Brandenburg Gate. It was literally a case of getting off the tram, having a quick look at the Gate and the memorials around it, and running to a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby because it was SO INCREDIBLY COLD. The Gate is quite a sight to behold – striking and dominating. The memorials and written mementos in the square near the Gate were heart-wrenching and hit home, it’s a very moving place to visit.
After our stop in Dunkin’ Donuts for banana hot chocolate (okay, yum), we walked under the Gate and across the road to the Holocaust Memorial. If you didn’t know what it was, you would probably have walked straight past it, because it looks like lots of different sized concrete blocks in a square. After eavesdropping on a tour-guide, these random blocks are supposed to represent an interpretation of the different levels that the Holocaust affected people. It’s a nice place to privately pay your respects, even though the concept of it is a little far-fetched, as you can walk amongst the blocks and sort of get lost in your thoughts.
The next thing we did was probably one of my favourite things of the whole trip. We visited the Berlin Houses of Parliament, as they offer a free tour around their panoramic viewing area/dome. Okay, yes it does sound pretty boring, but honestly I loved it! Plus it was free. Because the recent scares the security is tight, so you will need to bring your passport with you to be able to get in. Then you go up to the viewing area in a lift and offered an audio guide – take one! These guides are fantastic as it explains about all of the buildings you can see in the skyline and gave us some ideas of where to go and what to see. The photo opportunities are also pretty sick as you walk your way up the winding path to the top of the dome.
The rest of out first day was spent wondering around the Mall of Berlin and eating in the massive cafeteria style eatery, where there is food from all around the world (plus McDonald’s if you’re anything like me.) Outside the Mall is a section of the Berlin Wall with some funky art on it to marvel at. Pieces of graffiti-covered wall can be seen all over the city.
The next morning we got up early to catch the train to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. At the train station there was this amazing little cafe pop-up that sold pretzels for 60c – I was buzzing. I noticed that street food in Berlin tended to be pretty cheap throughout the city, custard donuts being my favourite snack on my trip (I do recommend).
Anyway, the zoo was fantastic. We pre-booked our tickets online to save a few quid and the queue, and walked straight in. We were lucky to go on a quiet day – most of the time it felt like we had the park to ourselves, even if the park is massive. The animals had large enclosures and the team were fantastic with them. I was particularly excited to see the polar bear and the elephants. I would recommend extending your ticket to include the aquarium, as that in itself was awesome. I could spend hours watching the jellyfish, I swear. Loved it, a definite must when visiting Berlin if you love animals.
After the zoo we headed to Hamburger Bahnhof, the Berlin Museum of Contemporary Art, which was recommended on the Parliament Tour for featuring Andy Warhol prints. It was a bit pricey to get in (bring your student ID if you have one) and I’ll admit it, some of the work was a bit, well, weird. The Warhol section was cool, it was amazing for me to see his work in the flesh. However, if you’re not a really artsy person, this probably isn’t the attraction for you.
As Alexanderplatz was two tube stops away from our hotel, we headed there in the evening to see the Alexanderplatz World Clock. Bit of a let down to be honest, but still super fancy and it was cool looking at all the information on it. There are also lots of shops nearby to peruse through and a massive Primark.
We then headed to the Fernsehturm – Berlin’s TV Tower. We pre-booked tickets online again to save pennies, time and faff, but honestly the staff were really faffing around and it took a while to get to the top which was really annoying. The view is pretty cool, but I’ll admit it’s hard to take photos because they leave really bright lights on that reflect off the glass. Nonetheless, if you love a good view (like me), then you might be interested in giving it a go, and the city at night was really pretty to look at.
During our time in Berlin, we also visited some other historical points of interest such as Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall Memorial.
I loved Berlin because there was so much to do and see; my favourite points being the Parliament Dome and the Berlin Zoo. I also loved the cheap pretzels and doughnuts! I would recommend visiting Berlin if you love history, or even just for a fun-filled city break, as it is a fantastic city to explore whether you know much about its culture or not.