If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago I headed to Berlin. I travelled with my mum and we spent an amazing 5 days exploring the city. I’d been to Berlin a couple of times before in my Uni days but it was great to discover the city anew with my mum. Here are a few our favourite places.
Although the outside is currently undergoing a makeover it is worth looking past the portaloos and scaffolding and buying a day pass to view Berlin’s biggest palace. Built in the 17th Century as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, (consort to Friedrich III) it is an incredible sight to behold. Each room is themed according to the fashions of the time or the whims of various Prussian royalty and offer a fantastic insight into the everyday opulence of times gone by. From exquisite marble sculptures to gold-gilded everything this is a series of buildings guaranteed to take your breath away.
You can easily spend a full day exploring the various buildings but if time’s not on your side or you don’t fancy paying the €12 for a day pass you can actually visit the gardens for free. On a sunny day it’s a great place to go for a dander and it’s also really popular with runners and cyclists too. It’s pretty much flat the whole way round and paths are wide enough to offer wheelchair access too.
There’s a lovely lake that’s teeming with geese and we even spotted a rather majestic looking heron wading about among the lily pads before taking flight to escape our prying eyes. Where we’re most likely to trip over a feral pigeon on Oxford Street the bird that is all over Berlin is the sparrow. We must have come across thousands of them in every corner of the capital and their sweet chirping served as a cool soundtrack as we took in the sights.
Prenzlauer Berg / Kollwitzplatz
We stayed in a terrific Airbnb in Prenzlauer Berg – an area I’d never visited before – and we loved it. Located in the former GDR area of Berlin it was once home to an intellectual and bohemian crowd and played an important role in the peaceful revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall. Today it’s still home to the art crowd but also welcomes students, young families and professionals thanks to its close proximity to the city centre and more affordable rental market.
Although we were in the heart of a major city Prenzlauer Berg doesn’t feel overcrowded in the slightest. Roads and pavements are uncharacteristically wide – pavements accommodate pedestrians and cyclists comfortably and there are little pockets of greenery no matter how many stories high your gaze stretches. Most people in Germany tend to live in rented apartments but that doesn’t stop them having window boxes or plants – even trees – on their little balconies.
Our lovely host, Carolina, told us one of her favourite places to visit was the Eco Market on Kollwitzplatz on Thursdays so we decided to take a look. It was so lovely to see the community supporting local producers and crafters and the items available for purchase were really good quality. Often when I see eco products they look a little too ‘homemade’ to warrant the sometimes hefty price tag. Yet here the traders seemed to pitch their products at the right price for consumers to queue up with their mason jars and canvas bags to do their weekly shop. While you’re there head down Rykestrasse to visit the Water Tower. If you’re into seriously chic yet sustainable fashion I stumbled upon a beautiful shop called Mio Animo, where you can actually watch their creations take shape at the back of the shop. It’s a bit pricey but if you want to treat yourself to something really stylish and unique I’d go here.
The Reichstag is home to the German Parliament and is completely free to visit though you must book tickets in advance. It’s not possible just to turn up on the day so do bear this in mind. Similarly, if you’d like to have some food or drink in the restaurant at the Dome you must reserve your table in advance. They don’t accept walk ins for security reasons so make sure you book to avoid disappointment.
If you want a good vantage point to see the vastness of the city then this is it. The building fuses old and new to impressive effect and it’s said that the glass dome is open to the public in part because it is located directly above the plenary chamber. Debating politicians look up and are reminded who they were elected to represent. I loved being able to look out onto the city and see grasses and gardens on top of buildings tens of storeys high. Be aware, it’s pretty windy up top so wear a skirt at your own risk!
Hackescher Markt is the ideal location for weary wanderers to grab a bite to eat or a libation or two. It’s a bustling area with restaurants offering any number of cuisines you might like to try and on Saturday there’s a great market if you fancy picking up some souvenirs. Head out of the train station and follow the signs for Museuminsel, (Museum Island). You’ll pass a park with deck chairs down by the water – a great place to watch the world go by and be serenaded by buskers as you enjoy a Berliner Kindl Weisse – Waldmeister’s my favourite! Or carry along the water’s edge toward the museums or hitch a ride on a boat tour. They come in anywhere around €9 – €15 and normally last around an hour. If you’re tight on time but want to squeeze the pips out of the remainder of your stay I’d recommend letting your wallet take the hit and hopping on board. If the weather’s nice sit up top for the best views but don’t forget the sunscreen!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some our favourite places to visit. If you’d like to see what else we got up to head over to Instagram or Twitter and enter the hashtag #talesofberlin
Until next time,