If you hadn’t already noticed from the many Instagram and blog posts, last month I went on a 3-week adventure around Europe. My very first stop in Europe was Germany where I spent just over 24 hours in Berlin. That’s right I only had one day in Berlin, I wish I had longer to explore this amazing city but I made sure I made that day as Jam-packed as possible. Keep reading to see how you can spend your time wisely in Berlin.
So although our first stop on our Interrailing trip was Berlin, we originally flew to Hamburg as it was so much cheaper. We managed to get an early flight (read – too early) to Hamburg, arriving at around 9.30 am. And then came the tricky part … how to get from Hamburg to Berlin. To keep things as cheap as possible we decided to get a Flixbus to Berlin Bus Station. It only cost 15 euros and took around 3 hours. There were some delays on the way and we finally got to Berlin at around 3pm, taking another 45 minutes to get to our Hostel! We stayed at the ‘PLUS Berlin’ hostel, a very luxurious hostel but still incredibly good value for money! The best thing about this hostel was that it is located Friedrichshain, only a few minutes walk to the Wall Museum and the infamous East Side Gallery. So of course checking out the artwork was a big priority.
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a former section of the Berlin Wall but following the fall of the wall has turned into the longest open-air gallery at over 1.3 km long! As you can imagine, there are over 100 paintings from various artists covering the entirety of the wall. It doesn’t take long to walk the length of the gallery, but it is really nice to stroll along and take in the artwork. Of course, we had to get a few cheeky pics on our way and you can see a few of them below. My all-time favourite had to be the blue car, it gave me so many Harry Potter vibes. We got to the wall at around 5 pm and there were still so many tourists trying to get the perfect photo. Keep this in mind when you plan your trip, but if you purely want to admire the artistry, it should only take around 30 minutes to walk along. There is a really cute ice-cream shop at the beginning of the wall where we decided to treat ourselves (… like we hadn’t already treated ourselves enough), and in the heat of the sun it is just what we needed! TIP: There are hardly any shops or cafes near the gallery so take a drink with you when you go. We ended up in a very strange Japenese place that only had fizzy apple juice… not ideal.
After enjoying the East Side Gallery we made our way to Alexanderplatz! One good thing about Berlin is that the public transport is fab and it doesn’t take long to get between places. Alexanderplatz is one of the main central squares in East Berlin and is filled with lots of bars, restaurants and shops. We decided to go hunting for food and found a nice Italian, yes I know we were in Germany and ate Italian food…classic. After eating probably too much pizza and getting sassed by a waiter, we decided to head towards the Museum Island. As it had been nice weather we decided to sit on the grass between the Berlin Cathedral and the museums, with the sun setting, it really did make for a beautiful view. Although we didn’t have time in our 24 hours in Berlin to go into the museums, it was nice to relax and appreciate the stunning architecture. Only a short walk away from the Museum Island was the Brandenburg gate. Even though we knew we would see it the following day, we were really keen to see it lit up at night! The gate is absolutely beautiful and the photos I took definitely don’t do it justice. If you get the chance to see it at night, I would definitely recommend it.
Free Walking tour
If there was ONE thing I would recommend to do whilst in Berlin, it would be to do a free walking tour. Most European cities have these and they’re a great way to see lots of attractions in a city in a short space of time. It also means you don’t get lost trying to find the sites (like us) and get interesting facts about each attraction. Free walking tours tend to be tipped based, and so at the end of the tour, you can pay exactly how much you think it was worth. This is great as it means you don’t pay a fortune up front for a shitty tour! We booked our tour with Sandemans and had the lovely Lucy as our tour guide. Lucy was absolutely incredible, her vast knowledge and enthusiasm for the city really shone and she set the bar high for the rest of our trip. In total, the tour lasted around 3 hours and we saw so many Berlin sites and learned lots about the city at the same time! PS. if you’re looking to get your step count up, a free walking tour is a way to do that.
The tour began at the Brandenburg gate, it was so interesting to see how different it looks in the daylight. It really is a beautiful structure and the history behind it makes it even more worthwhile to see. A fun little bit of trivia of this part of the tour was seeing the hotel where Michael Jackson hung his baby outside the window. You always see that picture/meme floating around the internet so it was quite surreal to see the actual window … wierd.
Following on from the Brandenburg gate was a short walk to the Memorial of the murdered Jews of Europe. For me personally, this was the best experience in Berlin as the monument has so much history behind it. Consisting of the 2711 concrete slabs of varying heights, it is an incredible experience to walk around and fully immerse yourself in the structures to interpret them in your own way.
After walking through the memorial we head to the Site of Hitler’s bunker. Although the bunker is located in a carpark and you cannot see the actual bunker (it has been filled in for obvious reasons), it is a crazy experience when you realise where you are stood. Despite there being not much to see, the history of the spot is extraordinary and it is worthwhile going with a tour guide to truly get an insight into the importance of the bunker. The tour then moved on to see the last standing section of the Berlin Wall. It is fascinating to see the wall in person as you truly get to see how tall it was and the difficulties people faced trying to get from East to West Berlin. It was great to hear the creative ways of how people escaped, ranging from disguises to makeshift aeroplanes highlighting just how desperate people were to flee East Berlin.
Of course, we had to see Checkpoint Charlie on this tour! It was really interesting to see one of the borders between East and West Berlin, although I must say the now surrounding area does let it down. Naturally, the checkpoint could not be located anywhere else, but the atmosphere would be a lot better if you couldn’t smell the McDonald’s right next to it! Right near Checkpoint Charlie was a line where you could have one foot in East Berlin and one foot in the West, literally in two places at once … Incredible!
The remaining parts of the tour took us the Bebelplatz, the Berlin universities, the TV Tower and the Burning of the books memorial, all of which were amazing to see.
Sadly after the walking tour, all that was left to do was to grab some lunch near the river (and get attacked by many wasps) and to get our train to Prague! Overall Berlin was an amazing experience, and I am gutted I couldn’t spend more time here. Not to worry, that just gives me an excuse to come back!
Have you been to Berlin? Where would you recommend to go?
Thanks for reading,