- 25 Sep 18
Boasting endless cultural and historical attractions, Berlin is a destination beloved by tourists the world over.
Where is it exactly?
Located in north-east Germany, Berlin is an explosion of colour and style in the midst of lush forests and fresh-water lakes. The political, cultural and historic heart of Germany, it’s a kinetic city that’s endlessly exciting and surprising. In the recent past, Berlin has also become a home for artists and free thinkers, making it a mosaic of culture and style.
How do I get there?
There are numerous direct daily flights from Dublin to both of Berlin’s airports, Schönefeld and Tegel. Construction for the newest Berlin airport is set to finish in 2020.
What language do they speak?
While German is the native language, everyone speaks English and most seem excited to practice. In my experience, even if you speak German, they’ll switch to English as soon as they realise you’re not native.
Where should I stay?
I want you to imagine the strangest, funkiest hotel you can; Berlin either already has it or has it beat. Whether it’s the urban jungle-themed Hotel Bikini (Budapester Str. 40, 10787 Berlin, Germany) or the DDR-themed Ostel (Wriezener Karree 5, 10243), if you can dream it, you can stay there overnight. If you want to stay in a place that was formerly a factory (Die Fabrik - Schlesische Str. 18, 10997 Berlin) or a place that was formerly a public swimming bath (Hotel Oderberger - Oderberger Str. 57, 10435 Berlin), those are options available to you. I recommend looking online, because your dream hotel is somewhere in Berlin, I promise. If you prefer to rent apartments or AirBnbs, make sure to choose by neighbourhood. Berlin is split into 12 boroughs, and those boroughs split into smaller neighbourhoods, each with their own style and flavour. If you want a quiet family vibe, go for Prenzlauer Berg in Pankow. If you are looking for the party atmosphere, look more towards Fredichshain-Kreuzberg (around WarschauerStrasse).
What’s the transport like?
In a word? Fantastic. There is a bus system that is extremely reliable, but most people get around on rail in Berlin. The S-Bahn and U-Bahn (street tram and underground respectively) are the main modes of transport. They sprawl through every inch of the city and the longest you’re likely to wait for one is about 10 minutes. If you were impressed when we connected the Luas lines, this will blow your mind.
Where can I get a drink?
Like most students, I subsist on coffee and beer. Thankfully, Berlin has those in abundance. In terms of coffeehouses, I can recommend AtopiaKaffeehaus (Prenzlauer Allee 187, 10405 Berlin). It boasts an eclectic mix of granny-style armchairs and couches, good coffee and seemingly random community events (such as a swing night when I was there). If you want the classic “Kaffee und Kuchen”, Suicide Sue (Dunckerstrasse 2, 10437 Berlin) is a cute café with cakes baked daily. In terms of beer, just throw a stone and you’ll find a place. In particular, I’d single out Badfish, a small bar on StargarderStrasse (Stargarder Str. 14, 10437 Berlin). Run by Irishmen, the music usually includes the likes of The Pogues and Thin Lizzy. If you’re after a classic Biergarten experience, Zollpackhof (Elisabeth-Abegg-Strasse 1, 10557 Berlin) is the place to go. With a lovely view, it offers German food with Mediterranean twists.
What’s the food like?
Over the last number of years, Berlin has adopted more veggie food and foreign cuisine. So if it’s good Indian you’re after, Swaad (Erich-Weinert-Strasse 55, 10439 Berlin) is a must. Of course, you’ve got to eat at least once from a fast food stall as they are an icon of Berlin. They don’t just stock currywurst anymore though. Falafel and kebabs are also popular options. If you’re looking at splashing out a little, Frau Mittenmang (Rodenbergstrasse 37, 10439 Berlin) is a cosy restaurant with absolutely amazing food and their own beer. However, I would advise booking beforehand since it is always packed!
What are the touristy things to do?
The most interesting touristy attraction is the East Side Gallery (Mühlenstrasse 3-100, 10243 Berlin). It is a stretch of the Berlin Wall that still remains, but has been painted with over 100 murals by street artists from all over the globe. Running at just over a kilometre, it is definitely worth walking on a sunny morning. Brandenburg Gate (Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin), originally built by Prussian King Fredrick William II at the end of the 18th century, it has served as a site for almost every historical event in the city for over 200 years. Also, cycling tours in Berlin are superb in the summer. Free Berlin-Authentic Bike Tours have a variety options, whether you want to hit the tourist hotspots or explore the city’s famous street art!
When should I go?
That depends slightly on what you’re after. In general, either winter or summer. Both have their benefits. In winter, you’ve got the Christmas Markets, though it does get bitterly cold and snowy. In summer, there’s always heaps going on (in terms of concerts, markets, just random happenings) and the average temperature is a lovely 25 degrees.
Just a few little things. Firstly, if you’re ever at a loss for what to do on a quiet night, go to the Kulturbrauerei (Schönhauser Allee 36, 10435 Berlin). The renovated brewery is now a bustling hub for cultural happenings in the city. You won’t always know what you’re in for when you walk through the gate, but you’ll always leave with a story. Secondly, explore. Berlin is a city that is bursting at the seams with individuality. Follow the little alleys to find the quirky shops and unexpected parks. If you need somewhere to start, try Winterfeldtplatz (10781 Berlin), a square that regularly hosts markets and is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Why should I go?
Berlin is a city grappling with a recent dark past and how it does this is what makes the city worth visiting. It doesn’t deny history. It seems to have learned from it and is ready to move on. Places of horror have become refuges for artists and beauty. Mauerpark (Gleimstrasse 55, 10437 Berlin) is probably the best example of this. For over 25 years, the park lay in the ‘death strip‘ between the two walls that cut through the city. It was desolate, a place of fear and hopelessness. Yet, now, every Sunday it hosts a massive flea market, where everything from 1950s denim jackets to new paintings and phone covers by young artists are bought and sold. It took something terrible and created beauty and joy. In simple words, that is Berlin.