This is our first time to Berlin despite being in Europe for over 2 years now! Our M.O. is to travel outside of Germany but we are glad we made it to Berlin. It will be a regular trip for us now since it is easy to get to, reminds me of NYC’s creative coming-up culture, and it’s cheaper than Stuttgart from transit to food.
The flight is direct, one hour, and less than $100 per person roundtrip. The train is about 8 hours so not for me. The Tegel airport has a shuttle bus to public transit, and a really easy train system. Buy tickets online through the transit app – download it before the trip. Cost for 2 people is about 5 euro to the city center. Public transit in Berlin is fast and easy and with the same ticket you can change from train to bus.
Pick up the Oooh, Berlin! Maps. There are different ones in each area with good spots to go reccomended inside.
With recommendation from a friend, we stayed in the Checkpoint Charlie area as a good hub for the first time visit. We spent most of the weekend in the areas above or near Alexanderplatz. We were lucky to have met more good friends while in Copenhagen that lived in Berlin to meet up and go out together. Plus, they gave us the down-low on cool spots in Berlin for our first visit. We will definitely be back there again soon.
Checkpoint Charlie is the more famous ID checkpoint where diplomats and leaders were allowed to cross the wall from the American Side (West Berlin) to the Soviet side (East Berlin) of Berlin. There are bricks in the street pavement tracing the line of the wall and lamp posts that differ from one side to the other, as well as older, prettier buildings on the West vs. square ugly buildings on the East but otherwise it can be hard to differentiate when you are on which side now. There are cranes for construction and new businesses everywhere.
Free Walking Tour – The tour meets daily and has a bunch of themed tour options, both free and paid guided trips and times. Our guide was from Canada and did a good job explaining the history, but we felt like we didn’t really see too much – still worth it for an intro to the city, and always a bonus to be able to ask questions like, “what are all the colorful pink pipes for?” The answer: water flow while construction takes place since Berlin is apparently on a swampy area. The best unexpected part was taking us to the Holocaust monument which is a large controversial art installation of concrete blocks. They don’t represent anything specific, the interpretation is up to you and it’s an odd feeling to walk through it not being able to see above or around anything, not being able to hear because of the sound echo. A must see/do.
The Wall or what is left of it is in two main sections apart from each other. The one is within walking distance to Checkpoint Charlie where the main museum exhibit is. Both outdoor and underground, it is free to read and walk down. There is a lot to read. We need to go back and read it again. The second part of the wall, which we drove by (below), is now the longest art gallery.
Trabi Tour – Such mixed feelings on this one. Probably wouldn’t recommend it over other things but it was an experience for sure. You see a few places but not much. Our guide was also French so it was a little hard to understand him over the radio with the two-stroke engine car noise during the tour. The car is loud – think lawnmower loud. There are no seatbelts, which caused a family in front of us to leave. The seatbelt thing wasn’t an issue for us – it is part of the experience in driving the original old cars. It also smells like the engine which you get to see during a stop to the gas station to refuel mid-tour. We thought that was unusual too. They should really put that in the program. The history of the car is neat, especially stories like it taking decades to get one, parents in East Germany would put orders in for their newborn babies in hopes of getting a car for them by the time they were 18. Unreal.
TV Tower – We booked this for lunch in advance with fast-track tickets for the last day. Touristy. The food was not great, as expected, but good enough. Glad we did it just to see it and the great view. It’s the tallest thing in Berlin. The rotating tower took a minute to get used to, you can feel it and tell it is turning unlike other 360 restaurants. Next time, we may do the evening tickets just to see the view at sunset, but it would have to be a really nice day which is a gamble. We were lucky and had great weather the entire time. Plus it was unseasonably warm for this time of year which I also love.
Flea Market at Mauerpark – If we lived near here, we would have so much stuff. One of a few huge flea markets in Berlin with snacks and flowers too. Old and new things in bins everywhere and handmade crafts too. The things I wanted to buy included an large very heavy old stop sign, and a trunk, also large and of course, heavy. We did take away a fresh pressed juice – amazing, and a cheesecake slice – best food of the trip.
Because we were too excited to eat it -this photo of Mauerpark Flea Market is courtesy of TripAdvisor.
- House of Small Wonder – GREAT breakfast stop. Unassuming location. They have a location in Brooklyn, NY too. Small plates, big flavor. Good coffee, vibe and they only take cash. So glad we went.
- The Pit – Fantastic BBQ spot. Get the cornbread too. We picked up from here and took with us to The Muted Horn (below). De-lish.
- Foodora – Food/restaurant pick-up and delivery service from a mobile app.
- Risa Chicken – Grilled late-night chicken snack – we did not go here, but friends recommend it for late-night.
- Currywurst – Berlin is famous for this, wurst trucks and restaurant stops are all over the city. We did not partake this trip.
- Jones – A-Maze-Ing. Loved everything, even the cone which is rare for me. Definitely going here again.
- Oak & Ice – Reccomended online for breakfast but we didn’t make it for that, so we just stopped in for ice cream and sorbet. Fresh/good flavor for Germany, nothing crazy. The coffee was great.
- Cuore di Vetro – We did not make it here, but according to reviews, we need to next time. It’s on the list.
The Beer (in no real order)
- The Muted Horn – Our favorite. Run by two young Canadians, one formerly in the tea biz. Fantastic local spot recommended to us by friends. Located next to the Penny grocery store in a neighborhood location. We brought our own food the first visit, you can also food delivered there. They recommended an empanada place around the corner for a snack – delicious and cheap.
- Lager Lager – Beer store with a couple on-tap and a few tables. We will go back, we bought a few bottles to bring back that were great recommendations from the guy working there. Also not too far from The Muted Horn.
- Mikkeller Berlin – Also our favorite. Small local bar, cool vibe. Always good Copenhagen beers, rotating tap, good people.
- Stone Brewing Berlin (pictured above)- Tour with tasting, restaurant and gardens you can book online in advance. We Ubered out there and back because it’s quite a trek without a car. It would be really fantastic spot for a party. The place is in a warehouse they spent 30 million to renovate into the restaurant and brewery. The furniture alone cost a fortune. It’s really a great experience just to see the space and design. The tour was good/short with some samples after. There is a shop in the front too. They didn’t have anything different like we expected that we couldn’t already find in Germany or have already had somewhere else, so that was sad, but it was still worth the trip out to see it. The food was good for dinner, a little expensive and spicy! That is very rare for Germany.
- BRLO – Local brewery with a good sampler, outdoor space in a warehouse right off of the train station stop. Also has food, huge sandwiches and veggies. Cool atmosphere, ok beers.
- BIRRA – A second location from the one in Rome we visited. Local stop, good beers, run by fun Italians.
- Monterey Bar – 250 beers between the tap and bottle selection, outdoor street seating at long tables, local vibe. Right across the way from BIRRA. Good stop.
- Brewdog Berlin Mitte – The standard beers, but also has food, everything looked amazing, was fresh, but taste was just ok. Bar is large and good for groups.