Sunday, 8 November 2020

How to Spend 5 Days in Berlin

I count myself as one of the lucky few that managed to get a way at least once this year. After three cancelled holidays in a row, it was safe to say this trip was well earned and a much needed break. After spending the majority of this year staying home I was eager to do a city break and make the most of the culture, food and history Berlin has to offer. I spent the grand total of five days exploring this city and thought I would share my itinerary to help you with everything from where to eat to what to see/do during your stay.
With only a short, early morning flight from London, my sister and I had the full day to get comfortable as well as immerse ourselves in the nearby sites. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Berlin, based in Potsdamer Platz which was walking distance for what we had planned for the day. Breakfast was included so we were able to start each day with a latte, OJ and a cooked egg dish of our choice (normally eggs florentine for me). We also booked into the Club Olympus Spa on the top floor to utilise the indoor swimming pool with a large outdoor terrace and floor to ceiling windows to showcase the view. I would recommend staying here as the staff were both friendly and helpful and the location was the ideal starting point with so much history right on their doorstep and an underground just round the corner to get you to the places further afield.

Day one

Wednesday 


For some relaxation in the middle of the city we started our day at Tiergarten Park. A 210-square-meter green space to get lost in its many walking paths and to stumble across the water points, statues and sites within. We saw a lot of people on bikes or scooters if by foot isn't particularly your thing. Worth a visit, especially on a warmer day - the perfect picnic spot or place to laze around.

 This can take you on the scenic route to one of the city's best-known landmarks Brandenburg Gate - it’s Berlin’s only surviving historical city gate. It initially symbolised Berlin’s Cold War division into East and West, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall it became the symbol of a reunified Germany. A great stop for a classic touristy photo opportunity.

Also within reach is the Reichstag Building which has multi-tiered Glass Dome in Germany's government district, known as the Bundestag. The architecture captures both the old and new so well and offers the chance to see where decisions and history is made for the country.

Tip: Before you travel book Reichstag online so you can see the inside for the guided tour or to enjoy the café - the spots fill up quick so do it in advance to avoid disappointment!

We finished our day window shopping at Hackesche Höfe a community of nine individual courtyards of boutiques, restaurants and cafes. With lots of footfall its a good place to shop or sit and people watch. A mixture of independent stores and household names means you are sure to find whatever you are looking for.

Day two

Thursday 


To start the day with yet another green space, we headed to Mauerpark which is public linear hangout for people of all ages. They have a skate park, graffiti wall art, flea market and karaoke stage on the weekends - its the gift that keeps on giving and keep you occupied and entertained for as long as you would like. 

Note: If you like fashion and lifestyle magazines I would suggest popping into Rosa Wolf which is just down the road from here - so many great options and coffee table books.

If you continue down the road for a while you come across the Berlin Wall. This is a unique public space that has a walking path leading you through the area where the Berlin Wall once stood. It is both outlined and a short space of the original wall still stands. It provides an opportunity to learn about stories of families separated by the Wall, both the tragic and successful escape attempts, and the details of when and how the Berlin Wall came to be.

As we were so surprised by the lovely weather we were keen to spend as much of it outdoors as we could, therefore Himmelbett Community Garden was our next stop as its the perfect place to sit in the sun. Whether you fancy a walk around the allotment, to sit in the garden or order a cup of coffee, alcoholic beverage or a delicious piece of home-made pizza baked in the their very own brick oven. This is something which we were told about from a friend of my sister who moved there a couple years ago, always good to do something recommend by a local as its offers a more authentic experience of the city.

Day three

Friday


With the delayed flight-fatigue kicking in and thousands of steps later we took things at a much slower pace and spent the day wandering the royal summer residence that is Charlottenburg Palace. This was one thing I was adamant I wanted to visit and was on my must-see list of nonnegotiable's. It's the largest palace in Berlin and the tree-lined gardens inspired by Gardens of Versailles are well worth the trip out of the centre. Something about the decadent interiors and manicured gardens that draws me in wherever I go.

Day four

Saturday 


Feeling re-energised we made our way to the East Side Gallery which once served as a divide between East & West Berlin. The open air gallery is fully covered in murals after over 100 artists from all over the world were invited to come and paint it after the fall of the wall. With 1.3 kilometre length of wall to see the colourful memorials it's the perfect morning stroll. I find the morning is one of the better times to go, the earlier you get there the smaller the crowds. One of the most famous pieces of art is by Dmitri Vrubel which depicts the Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev kissing East German leader Erich Honecker – a Soviet sign of great respect. 

We spent the afternoon in Northern part which brings us to UNESCO World Heritage Site Museum Island (Museumsinsel). It is one of the most visited sites in the capital and is home to five world-famous museums and many others. If you are a fan of the arts and history they have almost every option for you. Made up of Altes Museum (Old Museum), Neueus Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationgalerie (Old National Gallery), Bode Museum and Pergamon Museum, you aren't short of options and could easily fill your time in this area alone.

An impressive landmark nearby is the Berlin Cathedral also known as the Berliner Dom. Its decorative design both outside and inside can't be missed when in the surrounding area. Unfortunately, it was closed on our trip due to reconstructions and renovation work so we just got to appriciate it from the outside.


Tip: We mostly opted to go by foot which meant we came across some great places and hidden gems, one being the idyllic Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai quarter). A small area made up of narrow streets and quaint houses in the oldest residential quarter of Berlin - reminded me a lot of a certain Disney princess village.

We ended the day watching the sunset at Berliner Fernsehturm Tower (TV Tower) which has an stunning panoramic views and the perfect way to capture the city from above.

Day five

Sunday 


On our final day we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe a grid formation of 2,711 rising and falling rectangular grey concrete blocks. A place to reflect upon the horrendous mistakes of history, created by Peter Eisenman for visitors to remember the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The maze like design holds an underground Information Centre which includes moving exhibitions including the Room of Names, the Room of Dimensions, and the Room of Families

Following this we hopped on one of the many boat tours available that range in time, ours was 1.5hrs on the River Spree. It meant we were able to see some of the sites from a different perspective and something low energy but still enjoyable to do before heading to the airport. This is a good option to see some of what Berlin has to offer in a more comfortable, relaxed and seated manner.

Food 


Before wrapping up this post I thought I would include a small section on food as if you have particular dietary requirements like me its always a useful section to have. If you are Vegetarian, Vegan or GF then I have some places you should check out below:

If you know and follow me, you will know how much I enjoy a good brunch. Rumour has it this was the best place to go from my research so of course we had to check it out. Safe to say House of Small Wonder lived up to expectations. They provided a generous portion size and we were surrounded by the warm wooden interiors with a countless number of plants. Serving Japanese influences mixed with local produce, you have from 9am-4pm to taste something off their brunch menu. I opted for the two organic scrambled eggs with potato gratin and spinach salad and a pink mimosa to drink.

If you are looking for some celebrity endorsement Cafe Schwarzes, a day to night cafe was enjoyed by former Berlin residents such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. With an easy going, laid-back feel and plenty of space you can order breakfast at literally anytime of the day. 

Note: Go upstairs and grab the window seat if its not already taken to overlook the busy city street. Also be sure to check out the bathrooms here - the silk cased walls was initially a bit of a shock!

Depending on what you get up to, you may prefer something to grab and go. The 6-strong chain restaurant Beets & Roots offer poke bowls, wraps and salads which available to eat in or takeaway. I had the Avocado Burrito Bowl which was a healthy and delicious option, plus they are prepared freshly everyday.

Looking for a sweet treat? I have two destinations that might curb your cravings. Firstly, Brammibals Donutsvegan bakery specialised in handmade donuts. This was also an opportunity to have a pumpkin spiced latte to start off the autumn season. Spoilt for choice my sister and I went halves on the Cookies Dough and the Bischoff donuts in order to taste both, the queues that go out the door proves their popularity. If you are looking for a hot drink and something to nibble on Nosh Nosh is another tasty option. With macarons in multiple flavours to chocolate and even cheese they have every snack you can imagine and might I add a very instagrammable store.

On to dinner, if you are looking for a fine dining experience you must try Cookies and Cream. We treated ourselves to the 5 course tasting menu, my first ever and I think something that I will become a regular at from now on. The presentation, the service, the way it tasted - spot on. We also had a German bottle of wine to make up for the fact we hadn't eaten any of there traditional foods. If you went on a weekend like we did and don't want the night to end, we popped in to the neighbouring bar called Crackers for drinks afterwards.

On that note of not eating the local cuisine, whoops! They had such amazing Vietnamese eats. We went to both Quy Nguyen Vegan Living and Vietbowl which we thoroughly enjoyed. Both offered flavoursome meals of soups, noodle and rice dishes it was truly *chefs kiss*.

If you are looking for more of a middle ground, Shed Restaurant (Wine and Deli) serves a wide selection of wine with seasonal food to match. The modern interiors with natural materials and earthy palette oozes a serenity that you instantly feel calm within the space. Also the GF brownie for desert, yum! If you are in the mood for some cocktails we popped to Vater Bar which is a small and intimate bar with an edgy atmosphere. The vintage inspired decor, masses of candles and unique drinks menu invited us in.


I hope this post has provided some escapism for those of us who are back in Lockdown 2.0. The trip was a success and a place I would encourage you to add to your travel list once we get the chance again. This post sums up all we managed to do during our time. A few other things that were on our list that we didn't get round to were the Botanical Garden, Cross Oberbaum Bridge  and also very Tuesday at 1pm, the Berliner Philharmonie hosts a free concert (this was cancelled due to COVID).

Overall we loved the artsy, urban and cool vibe and I think my sister has pretty much convinced herself she is going to move there - which is surely a sign of a good trip. Berlin's rough and ready charm is something that is sure to win you over! If you've been and have any further additions be sure to add them in the comments or if you test out any of my recommendations I would love to know what you thought.

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