Follow these tips to have a great indie travel experience in Berlin.
- Stroll around the city and check out the architecture. Though much of the city was destroyed in WWII and the years following, they have done a tremendous job building the city back up.
- For some more off the beaten paths buildings to explore, check out the following
- The Chapel of Reconciliation
- Am Kupfergraben 10
- The Nordic Embassies
- There are a lot of great museums in Berlin, but they can be pricey. Look into the three day Museum Pass to save a few bucks.
- If you don’t fancy spending a lot of dough on museums, then check out all the private art galleries. You can see some more modern stuff, for free, and get the chance to interact with local artists.
- Instead of paying for one of those expensive walking tours, get out your guidebook and plan one of your own independently. It’s a great way to see the sites on your own pace, and there are plenty of book stores and resources you can use to learn about what you’re seeing.
- Check out one of the many parks Berlin has:
- Tiergarten is the largest park in the city, and if you want to hand out with the locals, come on the weekends as it will be packed with Germans having barbecues.
- Viktoriapark has some great views of south Berlin.
- If you want to check out Charlottenburg Palace but don’t want to pay, see it from Schlossgarten Charlottenburg inside the Palace walls.
Why you should add Berlin to your RTW travel list
- See where the Berlin Wall used to be
- Walk through the Brandenburg Gate
- Watch how East and West still mix and mingle and collide
- See wartime history in a modern, bustling city
- Easy to hit the rest of Germany from here
- Yep, beer still comes in big steins
- Berliners can teach you how to really live it up
- Checkpoint Charlie, Checkpoint Charlie!
- The public transportation system is excellent
- Eating out is much less expensive than most western European cities of the same size, so take advantage.
Why you should not add Berlin to your RTW travel list
- Berlin is a massive city, so getting around can be difficult and expensive.
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and the largest city in the country. It is in a near-constant state of reinvention and reconstruction since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and any guidebook you’ve got will be out of date by next year. Though much of Berlin’s buildings were damaged during the final years of World War II, it is still a city known for its interesting architecture which spans many different historic periods. Also, because the city was divided for so many years, it doesn’t have one true “city center.” There are many neighborhoods in Berlin, each with its own style and central area.
Read: Slow Way to Berlin.
What to do
No trip to Berlin would be complete without a look at what’s left of the Berlin Wall. The entire span of where the Wall once stood is marked by a row of bricks in the pavement, and makes for an interesting walk. You’ll see how haphazardly the city was divided. You can see a few remaining parts of the wall which still stand east of the city center along the River Spree (called the East Side Gallery). There is also the Berlin Wall Memorial to those who died in their attempts to escape from East Berlin and of course the Potsdamer Platz (once split it two by the Wall) and the Brandenburg Gate which has served as the backdrop for several important speeches (including Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall” speech).
If you can handle long lines (or if you get lucky and don’t find one), climb to the top of the glass dome atop the Reichstag (the German parliament building) for a wonderful city view. For other views from above, the Fernsehturm is the tallest tower in Germany and has a rotating cafe at the top; or get your exercise by climbing the 285 steps to the top of the Siegessule with its golden statue of Victoria on top.
Berlin has no shortage of historical sites and museums to see. Among the more important are the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie (a fascinating look at the years when the city was divided, including the many successful and unsuccessful attempts to escape from East Germany, in the same building since before the Wall came down), Story of Berlin (documents the city’s history), Jewish Museum (notable for its architecture as well as its contents), Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (relatively new, covering an entire city block with an underground museum), and Pergamonmuseum (extensive collection of ancient Greek, ancient Middle-Eastern and Islamic art and sculpture).
The fashionable KuDamm, once the heart of West Berlin, is still where you’ll find the city’s best and biggest shops. Even if you don’t buy anything, a trip through the multi-storey Kaufhaus des Westens (or KaDeWe, as it’s called locally), the largest department store on the European Continent, can be fun – be sure to check out the top floor and wonder what it would be like if every mall’s food court looked like that. The KuDamm is also home to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a constant reminder that this bustling and lively city was once at the center of a long and bloody war.
Read: Berlin Breakdown.
You can book a flight into Berlin-Tegel International Airport (code: TXL), which is the largest of the 3 airports serving Berlin. You might find lower airfare into Berlin-Schonefeld International Airport (code: SXF), which handles many cheap charter flights. It’s scheduled to become the main Berlin airport in 2011, after completion of a huge expansion currently underway.
Where to stay
There are hundreds of hotels in Berlin, and most of them are fairly expensive. Fortunately there are also loads of hostels in Berlin as well, which can really help keep costs down. This is a spread-out city so there is no ideal neighborhood. Things tend to be cheaper and more trendy in the former East, and nicer and more expensive in the former West, but it’s getting more mixed up these days.
For more cheap hotels in Berlin, visit our friends at EuroCheapo.