Waking up at 5:45 AM, we took the tube to Tottenham Hale and the Stanstead ‘Express’ from their to the airport. The Express was 11 pounds each way with the online discount. It wasn’t great, but it got us there! Our plane was at 9AM from Stanstead and 1.5 hours later we were in Berlin! It started lightly snowing as soon as we stepped off the plane.
Thanks to our great AirBNB host Louis, we were able to navigate on public transport from the airport to the heart of the city (6 euro per person). Once we made our way to the apartment, Louis and his girlfriend showed us around the flat and even left us a bottle of wine. It was a great place to stay – in the central Kreuzberg area, big kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, and even a porch (that we didn’t use because it was winter!). I would definitely recommend Kreuzberg for anyone who is looking for an authentic (and less expensive) way to see Berlin.
My first time in a new city I always like to drop my bags off wherever I’m styaing Our first night in Berlin was a cold one, but it was absolutely amazing (and eerie) to experience the city after dark, with freshly fallen snow.
We had a quick dinner at Maximilian’s that consisted of meatballs (Glen wouldn’t share), currywurst, and two steins of beer. Currywurst – cut up sausage with curry sauce – is a staple for tourists in Berlin, but I feel like it’s more of a drunk food for real Berliners. Don’t break the bank to get the ‘best’ currywurst – it’s all pretty much the same.
After dinner we walked from dinner to Potsdammer Platz, one of the main squares in Berlin, where we saw sections of the Berlin wall. We then walked up to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Brandenburg Gate. They were absolutely stunning in the snow, the Jewish Memorial in particular – it was abosultely silent when we were there and the light dusting of snow made it extremely moving.
(Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)
One of the greatest things we have found about renting AirBNBs is that you can save so much money by making your own food. Our whole time in Berlin we made our own breakfast at home (glens famous scrambled eggs).
After breakfast we walked about 30 min to the Topology of Terror Museum. This is one of our favourite historical stops in the city. It’s a free museum dedicated to getting into the minds of leaders of the NAZI party. For backpackers its especially good because they have big lockers that you can use for free to store your bags in while you’re in the museum.
In all, the Topology of Terror took us 6 hours to fully complete. It’s a lot of reading, some of which is extremely emotional. There’s also a long stretch of the Berlin wall just outside the museum that hasn’t been completely painted on like the East Side Gallery. We ended up splitting up the museum between Day 2 and Day 5, doing 3 hours each day. Highly recommend this museum.
Next, we quickly picked up warm socks, a scarf, and a new camera battery for Glen, before running to the meeting point for the free walking tour. New Berlin Tours did a pretty solid 2.5 hour walking tour of the city. It was so cold but we made it all the way through! We saw where Hitler’s Bunker once was (now a car park), learned about The Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, walked through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, one of the last murals from east Berlin, and Berlin State Opera House.
For dinner we went to the Brauhaus Georgbrau. It had decent food and the Berliner Pilsner was as good here as it is anywhere else. We ate warm soup to warm us up and ordered a sharing platter which came with raw minced pork (I was really not a fan of it). It should be noted: Berlin is not a beer drinkers holiday. If you’re looking for really good German beer, head to Bavaria.
(Food at Brauhaus)
We took the third day to travel north to Sachsenhausen Memorial Museum (free entry), an hour outside of Berlin. We took the train from the centre of Berlin to the nearest station and then walked about 15 minutes to the beginning of the grounds of the old work camp. This was a very hard but very powerful part of our trip. I fully recommend this to everyone. There are tours that will take you to Sachsenhausen and show you around, but we just enjoyed going on our own. It was a full day of walking around, reading and absorbing what people had to endure within the camp.
The snow was still on the ground and temperatures well below zero; it was so cold that we had to stop and warm up as we moved from building to building. It made the trip all the more eerie, making it hard to imagine how anyone could have endured such conditions.
The first three days of our Berlin trip were extremely heavy so we decided to see the lighter side of Berlin on Day 4. After breakfast at home in the morning, we walked through Kreuzberg all the way to the start of the East Side Gallery. The colours of Kreuzberg are absolutely stunning and definitely worth a stroll around. The East Side Gallery is the most famous stretch of the Berlin Wall, now covered with art and graffiti. I’m really happy we did the East Side Gallery after doing the walking tour of Berlin as it gave us a lot of context for what we were seeing.
For lunch we went to Miss Saigon and it was so delicious! In researching the trip before hand, I learned that Berlin has really good Vietnamese cuisine due to the influx in immigrants from Vietnam after the war. Miss Saigon was on a bunch of lists as one of the best places for food in Berlin and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
In the afternoon we went to the DDR Museum which was OK. It was really interesting to see how life was for people in communist Berlin but the museum itself wasn’t too great – plus it cost 6.50 euros. From there we walked past the Berlin Cathedral which was absolutely stunning and is very reminiscent of St Pauls in London. We grabbed a Doner Kabab from a place near Friedrichstrasse for dinner and took some photo booth pictures in the automatten across the street!
That evening we went up the Reichstag Dome – it’s the top of the parliament building that is open for tourists to walk around. Make sure to book this at least 2 days ahead of time and keep in mind that you have to go through security when you get there so arrive 15 min before your scheduled time. The dome is a free and amazing way to see a 360 degree view of Berlin.
(East Side Gallery)
On our last day we had breakfast in a cafe (some pastries and coffee) and walked to the Topography of Terror. We had our bags with us so it was absolutely great to be able to use the free lockers. It was a great way to round off our Berlin trip.
(Topography of Terror)