Within the first few hours of arriving in Berlin, I had a mini panic attack that fed into an already rocky start to the trip which included standing in the security queue in Bordeaux for way longer than normal and nearly missing my flight and realising that the extra money I paid for Easy Jet flexi was a waste as I did not enjoy many of the benefits on this flight and a flight delay. I arrived in Berlin several hours after I hoped which ruined my “perfectly planned” itinerary; then my connections failed; my phone for some reason would not pick up an network in Berlin (and I could go one)….it was a rough start and given that, I did not expect to have as great a time as I did. I since visited Berlin again and it is a city I quite enjoy visiting. It is relaxed and laid back.
VISA REQUIREMENT. Germany is a Schengen member Country which means you can gain access with a valid Schengen visa. Pro tip - when applying for Schengen visa, make sure to request multiple entry - not two entries. Certain Schengen countries have the option for “two entries” on the application so make sure you select “multiple entry” on your application. Also make sure to apply in the Country you will be spending the most time - I cannot stress that point enough.
GETTING THERE. Flight time from London to Berlin is under two hours (about an hour forty-five minutes) direct flight are available from all London area airports via most major airlines - British airways and Luftansa or a low budget airline like Easy Jet and Ryan Air. There are also direct flights from most major cities in Europe - my flight was direct from Bordeaux (READ: Guide to 48 hours in Bordeaux)
GETTING AROUND. The city has a great transport system, you can take the train from the airport to city center and once you are in the city center; the trains are a great way to get around. Even if you choose to walk everywhere - visit the train stations - the Berlin train stations are a work of tiling art.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED. I spent (almost) exactly forty hours in the city and I packed in a lot in that time. I did not realize how much until I started putting the post together. For context, I arrived at my hotel about 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and I was on the 7:30 p.m. flight on Friday evening back to London. There were a handful of things I did not get to; but all in all I enjoyed my time in the city and did not leave with major fomo. I did not take my usual day trips while in Berlin - if that is something you want to add to your itinerary, then make it three days / a long weekend.
WHERE TO STAY. Unbeknowst to me, I had booked a hotel that was right in the center of the city - the train arrived in city cen ter and I was in my hotel less than 5 minutes later. I highly recommend the Park Inn by Radission Alexanderplatz - it was ann excellent base camp for my Berlin excursion. On a subsequent trip, I stayed at the Soho House Berlin which is located 7 mins from Alexanderplatz, if they have availability and you are looking for somewhere really lush - that is a great option as well.
WHAT TO SEE / DO. You are in Berlin, so you should highly consider visiting the various memorials of world war II. I recommend it but I also want to say visit with caution - I was not alive at the time; but visiting some of the sites and reading through the events (especially in Germany) affected me very deeply. At one spot, I broke down in sobs which is not something I do (in public ever). I visited the topography of terror monument/museum build around a section of intact Berlin wall on the site of the former Gestapo HQ; About a 10 minute walk from here, you will find checkpoint Charlie - the US army checkpoint between the former west and east berlin (you can even get your passport stamped as those who were living in that time would have needed to going back/forth from west to east. Across the street from Checkpoint charlie is a monument with some remnants of the Berlin wall. If you want to see more of the Berlin wall - you can visit the Berlin wall memorial and/or the East side gallery. I did not visit the latter but I am told it is best to go early as it gets incredibly crowded. On a lighter note, Trabi World safari is mid way between the topgraphy of terror and Checkpoint charlie and presents a unique way to experience Berlin’s History. For more on the history of the Berlin Wall and its fall - there is a great exhibition at Potsdamer Platz just outside the train station - this wall monument is not the best kept (as many is covered in chewed up gum), but the information and exhibit is excellent.
The museum Island is a must visit - the UNESCO world heritage center is located in the heart of Berlin and home to five museums - Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum) ; Bode-Museum; Neues Museum (New Museum); Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery); Altes Museum (Old Museum). If you only have time to visit one - I personally enjoyed my time at the Bode-museum. he Island is also home to the Berlin Cathedral with interior and exterior that is an architectural spectacle. If you visit the interior of the cathedral - I recommend visiting the dome as it has excellent view of the city. Lustgarden is the park in front of the Pergamonmuseum and Berlin Cathedral - the park/fountain in front of the cathedral is great place to picnic and rest in between exploring or just to read a book if the weather is nice out.
Whether arriving by air or train - you will most likely be arriving to the city center at the evry busy Alexanplatz - the largest square in the city lined with shops ; restaurants and hotels. It is also a major stops for trams; trains and buses (so at some point during your visit, you will find your self here). It is also where you will find some must see attractions including the world clock ; fountain of international friendship and the Berlin TV tower.
The Brandenburg gate is one of the city’s best known landmark - the gate once represented division but is now seen as the symbol of unity. If you are visiting in summer - part of the gate may be covered up as it is often used a stage for summer concerts and events. A short distance from here is the Reichstag Building (aka the Parliament) and the glass dome - the dome and roof terrace is offers great views of the home of Government. Reservations are required to access the dome. The Memorial of Murdered Jews of Europe (aka Holocaust memorial) is located in the same area. This is another one I recommend making a decision on for yourself.
Gendarmenmarkt square is home to the French Church and German Church as well as the Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin Concert hall). If you cannot attend a concert, you should still visit the hall; you can get a glimpse of the beautiful concert hall and the interactive exhibit in the lobby when I visited was a personal favorite. The book burning memorial in Bebelplatz is another chilling site - it is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. Look for the glass plate on the spot of the book burning - the memorial is about what is missing. There a few other spots in Bebelplatz so walk around and visit those that peek your interest. Looking for something not on the tourist book, go in search of the house that used to stand in two countries - it is not an easy one to find. Here is a picture of it so you know what to look for (if you are interested)
For a bit of shopping - the Hackescher markt was my favorite spot. Although I did not buy anything (carry on luggage struggles); I enjoyed exploring the unique shops here. The shipping center is also quite unique as it spans multiple courtyards in the Mitte area of Berlin. You cannot go wrong with Galeries Lafayette if you are looking to shop during your time in the city.
(“HALF”) DAY TRIP. While I did not plan a day trip, I did escape the city center for a few hours to visit Charlottenburg Palace. The lavishly designed baroque style palace is one of my favorite ones in Europe. To get your monies worth and to fully explore the palace and grounds; I recommend planning three to four hours to explore the new wing; old palace; tea house; Belvedere and the the Mausoleum.
WHERE TO EAT. I could do a standalone blog posts with all the place I shortlisted to try while in the city; but there is only so many place I could try in 48 hours (even wearing stretchy pants). If you only try one place - make sure it is Benedict. It is a bit outside city center but it is worth the journey. It is open 24 hours and they serve breakfast ALL day. The blueberry pancakes are EVERYTHING. If you are close to the plaza - may I recommend Burgeri - a Asian burger spot for lunch and/or dinner - all the burgers are under 10 euros. Lokal is a Michelin Inspector/Guide pick and they sever up excellent dishes - any place that can make me crave Cauliflower soup is a winner in my book (reservations are recommended). The bakery chain zeit fur brot bakery is a great spot for quick and delicious. It is one of my favorite bakeries, anywhere. Depending on what time you arrive, you may experience long queues but it is worth any wait. On my last day in the city, I stumbled on Kantine and I regretted not finding it sooner. It is located on architect David Chipperfield’s Berlin campus so it is great food and great ambience. The lunch menu changes frequently, but if the offer a fish soup and you have no qualms with seafood - get it and I will await my thank you note.