Last year I was in Berlin and as I was going through my photos I realised I haven’t milked it enough and that there are tons of places I haven’t talked about on the brilliant city, so here we go.
Several people recommended K’UPS Kebab Gemuse in Prenzlauer Berg to me as the best place to get that late night delicacy, and damn they were on the money. I’m not going to pretend it’s some high class or life changing kebab, but they’ve managed to attain the perfect ratio of meat to vegetables, and their sauce is a like a sloppy kiss from god/buddha/[insert diety]. Plus, the hip interior of the place definitely shines above the usual place you stumble upon in a stupor.
While we’re on the subject of kebabs, let’s talk about the Reichstag. Yes there’s a link, Merkel apparently enjoys a mean kebab and when she’s not chowing down she can be found at Germany’s parliament, which has a quite remarkable glass dome on offer to explore. You walk up a spiral walkway along the glass wall to reach a rooftop terrace giving you a lovely view of the city for FREE. Don’t forget to register for a time slot though or you’ll have to queue up and that’s just wasted viewing time.
If you want to see the creme de la creme of the 1950’s classical Socialist ‘wedding-cake style’ houses then Karl Marx Allee has to be on your architectural radar. It’s one of the few places where the grand flair of the East still remains intact enough for you to get lost in an imagined past. My top tips, aside from just walking around and looking up are the Cafe Moskau, which once was DDR’s biggest cafe and restaurant, and Kino International – a cinema where one day my film about a Balkan girl who visits her relatives in the West but ends up in 1970’s East Berlin will première (2025).
When in Berlin you will see a lot of Photomats throughout the city, so make sure you have enough Euro coins and poses because they are the best souvenirs, even the ones that don’t quite work (way better than filters!).
Maria Bonita (named for a Brazilia folk hero) is nothing fancy but the food is simply delicious and gets two thumbs up from me. Although I was very hangry that evening and would have given anything two thumbs, but this little spot deserved it as the dishes were some of the best Mexican offerings I’ve had (though not too photogenic) and for one hour I had a feeling I was in little pink Mexico heaven as the cute place was full with Mexicanos having shots of tequila.
Berlin is Valhalla for vintage and flea markets enthusiasts who want to score some hidden treasures. Most ‘flea markets’ in big cities – I am looking at you Portobello Market – are aimed at the tourist trade with lots of souvenirs but it’s the opposite in Berlin where the junk is actually worth delving into.
Check out other things I loved (and a few things I didn’t) in Berlin.
Did you have any missed shout outs for cities you’ve already blogged on?
Before I talk about more of the awesome things I did in Berlin, I want to take a look at the less awesome or disappointing things I’ve done, because everyone runs across those. Just the things that weren’t for me.
If you are a frequent reader you might have noticed that I do like a burger. So when I heard about Burgermeister – a place that’s set in old public toilets under U-bahn tracks, I could not wait to see what the fuss was about! I soon found out the place had as many assholes as when it was a public toilet. First was the queue, then I got hangry, after that fellow customers started to annoy me by being rude about tables and then when I finally got my drink it turned out their bottle opener didn’t work. But all of that would have been ok if the burger was good, but it wasn’t, it was pretty much like a Burger King patty: dry and tasteless and the melted cheese didn’t even taste like cheese (it was the worst). Eva said she had it at 5 AM which actually makes sense because to me it was nothing but post-clubbing comfort food.
When I read the description about the Red Berlin Tour I imagined it would be an interesting walk highlighting the life, architecture and culture of Berlin during the Cold War, but it was not as advertised. Instead, it was essentially a Berlin War Tour – which wasn’t bad at all, as our guide knew everything about that, but just not what I’d had in mind. And I think I was thrown off by the fact there was also a ‘Berlin Wall Tour’ from the same organisers. Afterwards, my own self made tour around Karl Marx Allee provided me with what I was looking for.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Christmas Markets to be honest, they were packed, all were same and the sellers were rude (it was Christmas, isn’t everyone supposed to be a tiny bit jolly and all?), the overpriced stoll was hard as stone and I paid €1.50 for what was supposed to be a butter pretzel but of course there was no butter to be found. I did enjoy the alternative Christmas Market in an abandoned theme park because it had a different atmosphere and their langos was great.
Sometimes you end up in an area where you’re really hungry and didn’t have anything prepared for and you walk into a random restaurant that looks slightly busy, Block House turned out to be a chain like Aberdeen Steakhouse in London and it wasn’t particularly bad or good, just you can get tastier food that will cost you a lot less. So not an recommendation for people who enjoy food, or, as importantly, are on a budget.
Schonefeld Airport was so sad, they can’t handle the amount of people and they probably are not upgrading anything because they are building a replacement airport – this was supposed to open in 2010, but apparently it’s not expected until 2017. Thankfully I didn’t get here too early.
Here are some more awesome things I’ve seen and done in Berlin.
Teufelsberg – Teufelsberg is a hill home to a former US Listening Station which was used in the Cold War. The S7 to Potsdam will take you to Berlin-Grünewald and from there it’s a 20 minute walk through the forest up to the hill. Guided walks are available daily every full hour from noon until dawn and do book ahead as the place can only be visited with a guide. The tour is around one hour and will take you around the abandoned complex, where you will find graffiti and street art adorning everything, but you’ll really just want to enjoy the view over the Grünewald from atop the listening tower, it’s like nowhere else in the city (or at least I haven’t found it). There’s a history tour available too, which describes the workings of the listening post from the 1960s onwards while you wander around.
Aunt Benny – I was lost somewhere in Friedrichshain, it was cold, it rained and when I saw the lights I just rushed inside. And to my surprise I stumbled upon this cute spot and decided to go inside. I was welcomed with a cosy and Pinterest worthy interior and got myself (what turned out to be) delicious carrot cake and fresh mint tea to warm me up. They also have a selection of sandwiches, bagels and soups which makes it a great place for a lunch.
Berlin Wall Memorial – When it comes to the wall everyone is talking about the East Side Gallery (the longest standing bit left) but the Berlin Wall Memorial outside Nordbahnhof is much more impressive. The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it and gives you a great impression of how the border developed to keep people from trying to go to the other West Side. On November 9th 2014 (the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall) the permanent exhibition “1961 – 1989. The Berlin Wall Memorial opened in the renovated documentation center. It’s dedicated to the history of Berlin’s division and explains the political and historical situation that led to the Wall’s construction and fall. It’s opened daily from 10.00 to 18.00 and free of charge.
The Bird – there are a lot of burgers places in the city and it was hard to pick one. This confusingly-named place (cow, rather than bird was the main animal on the menu, though some chicken options were available) in Prenzlauer Berg was a good pick and their American style burgers are approved by Tea. Next to burgers you will find steak, a selection of beer and whiskey on the menu. I did miss milkshakes though.
Sofortbild-Shop – heaven for polaroid fans. Here you will find a hidden cavern full of of old polaroid cameras (prices range from €50 to €90) and a wide range of films by the Impossible Project. Plus they sell Fuji instax cameras and film. Mulackstrasse, where the shop is located, is generally a nice alternative street you need to check out too.
When I go travelling I usually have a daily budget in my head, but I don’t always manage to stick to it. I like to look back and think of travel expenses I could have avoided if I had. Today I am sharing my Berlin mistakes.
Travel ticket – I wanted a 7 days ticket, but you can only buy those at U Bahn Stations and there were none near where I was. So I had to spend €1.70 to get to one way.
Day card – I also spent €6.90 on a day ticket and ended up just taking 4 trams. The weather changed – and so did my plans.
Water – A lot of stores sell ‘still’ mineral water when it in fact still has some bubbles/fizziness. This type of water just makes me thirsty so I don’t drink it. Gone forever are the 3 euros.
Tour – I have only had good things to say about all the free New Europe tours I did (when you pay what you think it’s worth at the end), so when I read Red Berlin description I thought I could give their paid tours a chance. While I thought it was going to be a look at life in communist Berlin it was more of a Berlin Wall Tour. It was bad and €10 is what I usually give at the end of the tour, but it just wasn’t what I expected.
Starbucks – I mean it wasn’t essential, but it was mere laziness. You know when you arrive at the start of the tour and decide to get a drink and something on the side so you can sit down and make use of the Wi-Fi (that for some reason never works for me). I did that and €9 faded into oblivion.
Food – Germans tend to put meat into everything and it isn’t always obvious on the packaging. When I bough a sandwich that read mozzarella and spinach on the front I did not expect to find pork in it. Since I don’t eat pork I pretty much threw away €4.50.
Pretzel – Pretzels are good, but butter pretzels are soo much better – and I don’t mind paying an one euro extra. But at a Christmas Market I was sold a normal pretzel for a butter one. There went my €1.
So, that’s just over €35 (£28 or $42) wasted.
PS – don’t skip paying on transport – I saw an unfortunate girl get caught on the train by the plain-clothes inspector and handed a €40 fine – now that’s a money mistake!
For the past few weeks I got to wander around in Berlin, learn more about the history, practice my German and go to some great (and some less great) places. Expect a few posts dedicated to my favourite things and spots.
DDR Museum – Don’t except in-depth history lesson, but rather a close up peek behind the scenes living in Germany in DRR through memorabilia and vintage style posters, video and audio. Much of this is displayed in fold out or open up drawers which works well, but means there is often a lot of annoying children drawn to them. However, for the mere 6 euros entrance fee (4 student) it was surprisingly insightful and did what all museums should do – made me want to go and learn more. Plus, it has a car simulator in an old Soviet style Trabant, which magically transports you to the streets of 1970s Berlin (perfect if you don’t want to try a Trabi tour). It might be worth booking at a less busy time.
Fast Rabbit – I am not vegetarian or vegan but the food was great and I really liked the home made fries (called a potato gangbang) and their amazing smoothies, but it was their wraps that really impressed me, they were delicious and full of flavour. And the combos make it super affordable, so if you are ever in Prenzlauer Berg you might want to check it out – You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy a meal so don’t let that scare you off, plus you’ll be drawn in by the cute bunny sign by the entrance.
Stay at Michelberger Hotel – I shared these photos earlier, but if you get the chance to book a room there do it! Michelberger is a really a typical hotel with comfortable and cute rooms. Bed, shower and wi-fi (when looking for a hotel that is what matters to me most) passed the test and get an A. One of the best things is the downstairs area where you can doze off on one of the combi couches and relax with a drink, read a book or check your social media.The location is ideal as well, minutes away from Friedrichshain with many great coffee shops,cute boutiques and restaurants, and the U+S-bahn and tram is just outside. It might be worth booking a table in advance if you want to try their restaurant as it can get booked up especially around the holidays.
Go to a supermarket – One of the joys of going abroad is checking out the supermarket and what great things they have to offer (who is with me?!). In Berlin you will see Kaisers or Netto here and there (but the bigger markets like Kaufland is what you really want) just make sure you go inside and see what they have to offer. Their Milka, Haribo, Kinder and Ritter range is much bigger than anywhere else. If your store also has a bakery go for a pretzel – with butter (though sometimes it can be a bit of a puzzle trying to find where they’ve put butter in the pretzel!).