When one of your best friends invites you to stay with her in Berlin and explore the city together, what do you say? Hell yes! Becky was staying in Berlin for four days, with me joining her for two. This way, we could spend time together exploring new areas of the city & going to some tourist attractions that I hadn’t seen before on my two previous trips. She also had lots of time to enjoy the city alone and visit all the other sights she wanted to see before heading home.
I caught the train from Hamburg to Berlin, which only takes 1.5 hours. The journey was convenient, punctual & comfortable, with free WiFi and no one else sitting at my table. Result! Upon arrival, I bought a daily travel pass for zones A & B, which cost just over €7 and is totally worth it as zones A and B cover an enormous area of the city. However the airport is not included as it is in zone C, so you need an ABC daily pass if travelling from there. I found a local bus which took me to Becky’s hotel. During the short ten-minute walk from the bus stop to the hotel, I was pelted with hail stones and soaked by a brief downpour. I arrived looking rather bedraggled to find Becky looking as flawless as ever, despite waking up at 3.30am that morning. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we stopped off at a bakery for sweet rolls, dotted with chocolate chips. What? I was “on holiday” (1.5 hours from my house) and therefore, calories were non-existent!
Becky’s hotel was close to Checkpoint Charlie, a particularly crowded, touristy area of the city. The checkpoint is famous for being the border crossing point between West & East Berlin during the Cold War. We squeezed through the crowds, stopping by Konzerthaus Berlin to take photos of the interesting statues and enjoying the architecture of the Deutscher Dom. Then the sun came out and we promptly retook all our photos to make the most of the (patchy) blue sky!
We snaked our way towards Bebelplatz, a public square known for the infamous book burning on May 10th, 1933, when approximately 20,000 books were burned by the Nazis. We also passed Neue Wache and the Jewish synagogue, which are both beautiful buildings.
On Museum Island, we took obligatory selfies in front of Berlin’s cathedral Berliner Dom and stumbled upon a street market selling fantastic, original artwork and photographs.
Soon, our bellies started to rumble and we grabbed a €2.50 curry wurst. If you haven’t had one before, it’s a grilled sausage, served with a spicy (yet sweet) sauce. Usually accompanied by French fries or a small bread roll. Then we discovered Hackesche Höfe, a complex network of courtyards, with cafes, arts & craft shops and boutiques. It felt like we had been transported from Berlin to a much quieter, more secluded place!
We stopped by Zeit für Brot, a bakery/cafe chain I’ve visited in Hamburg & Cologne (I wonder if they offer loyalty cards…..). Usually I go for their amazing schnecken cakes but this time we had thick salami, cheese and pickle sandwiches before heading for dessert at Princess Cheesecake. I’d heard about these cheesecake cafe through Nam at Laugh, Travel, Eat. She posted about Berlin cafes & brunch spots here. There was a bit of a wait, but my cheesecake was creamy, yet light and they had a wide variety of cakes: classic, chocolate-y, fruity and some unusual flavours like matcha tea.
We headed west to the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district to visit Charlottenburg Palace, arriving only a few hours before closing time. Turns out there is a lot to see in the palace grounds and we didn’t manage it all. The entry price is €12 – including an audio guide – and then you need to pay an extra €3 (per person) if you want to take any photographs. Which we obviously did! So I was the designated palace photographer and Becky did that old-fashioned thing where you appreciate how something looks without photographing it. The palace was built in the 17th century and developed throughout the 18th century, as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III and the first Queen of Prussia. Throughout the enormous state rooms and various ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ rooms, you can clearly see a variety of different architectural and decorative styles, including baroque and rococo. Some of the rooms are subtly decorated, whereas others are extravagant and garish, with bold splashes of gold and bright colours. On the grounds, there is a theatre, pavilion, mausoleum and large gardens, so really a lot to see!
After a few hours, our feet were really throbbing so we headed back to the hotel to relax. We weren’t particularly hungry so skipped dinner and headed straight for drinks (like the responsible adults that we are!). Following another friend’s recommendation, we headed to Scotch & Sofa, in the Kollwitzkiez/Mitte district. It had a really cool, relaxed vibe, with friendly staff and a good variety of cocktails. We sipped espresso martinis and nibbled complimentary bar snacks, before wandering down the street to try another suggested bar. Even from the outside of Bar 2, we could tell it wouldn’t be as good as the first bar so we did a U-Turn and went back to Scotch & Sofa, much to the bemusement of the staff who had just wished us “Guten Abend!”
We stayed there until late, then took the U-Bahn to Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap. My boyfriend and I visited Mustafa’s in 2014 and I remember us standing on the street, at Stupid O’Clock, mouths half-full, declaring “This is the best kebab ever!”. So I knew I HAD to go back and see if it was as good as I remembered. And it was. Juicy strips of chicken, tossed together with crumbled feta, lightly fried peppers, sliced potatoes, carrots and courgettes, with garlic sauce & freshly sliced cucumber, tomato, lettuce and mint, all bundled into some fantastic Turkish bread. Mustafa’s is open until 5am Fridays & Saturdays, and 2am the other nights so you have no excuse not to go!
Sunday was a shorter, calmer day as I had to catch my coach back to Hamburg mid-afternoon. We woke up late, grabbed a pastry for breakfast then headed to Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs, on sloping, uneven ground in a grid pattern. If you visit the underground “Place of Information” on-site museum, you can see the names of the 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. It is a really evocative memorial, when you stop and think about who the slabs represent and how many people were killed.
After the memorial, the sun peaked out and we stopped by Brandenburg Gate, an 18th-century, classical monument and one of the most visited landmarks in the city. We then hopped on the S-Bahn to the East Side Gallery. It is an iconic wall of street art & murals, stretching along a 1316 metre section of the Berlin Wall. I loved the gallery when I was last there, but this time there were barriers most of the way along, slightly blocking our views (and photographic opportunities!). From what I could see, the barriers were sent up to stop people from vandalising the walls and doodling over the street art. Ugh, some people!
We had lunch at Fleamarket at Mauerpark, an enormous open-aired market selling all kinds of things; artwork, jewellery, clothes, accessories, records, bric-a-brac and food from all around the world. Becky had an aptly-named ‘Berlin hot dog’, while I had a halloumi and hummus roll, then a Korean dumpling with Korean hot sauce.
We had a rushed goodbye as I foolishly assumed the Berlin bus station would be near the central train station. Turns out it’s not! Next time, I will take the train both ways, much quicker and more convenient!
Thanks Becky for inviting me along on your Berlin adventure! I had such a great time xx
The Curious Sparrow