Whenever we do a longer/extended trip to somewhere new I will try and try and do two separate posts, one detailing out what we did and the second detailing out things I recommend and tips that we learned. You can read about our long weekend in Berlin HERE. If you are interested in what I actually recommend you do and my tips if you decide to travel there keep reading.
Recommendations are easy and hard to do as each person is interested in different things and there are different factors that can play into decisions on where you go/what you do. For example, we have two very active and loud toddlers. As much as we would like to go to museums and read everything, we also don’t want to ruin the ruin anyone elses’ experience either. So, while we go to museums, we don’t go to all of them and we don’t necessarily read every single word, rather perusing them all and picking and choosing which ones to fully focus on. So, my recommendations come from a bit of a bias for what we were interested in, found interesting, and worked for our family.
Berlin is a city full of history revolving the Berlin Wall. As we are very much interested in history and artifacts/locations specific to history we stuck with the big items. I highly recommend going to the Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Center. They are right across the street from each other and you can get a really comprehensive look at the pre cursers to the Berlin Wall, life during the wall, and the wall coming down. There is also information on how the Documentation Center came to be and how they fought to save portions of the wall. I also highly recommend going to the East Side Gallery. This highlights the wall in a different way, showcasing beautiful works of art on a mile long piece of the mall. It is a monument in its own way and sits right along the water so after you walk along the Gallery side, you can walk back along the river. The last history spot I would say to go to is Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint itself isn’t very big and usually has quite the crowd prior to the picture actors coming out, but the museum that goes along with it is a wealth of knowledge of the escape attempts, the people on both sides, and the different tactics of the governments.
Another sight I would recommend going to is The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe/The Holocaust Memorial. This is one of the most sobering visual memorial I have seen as of yet to the victims of the Holocaust. It is cold and eye opening in its own way. I would only advise you to be respectful when visiting this memorial. You can walk among the slabs and while pictures are ok, don’t do anything beyond stand and smile (or walk through if you want that IG pic). Climbing, posing, being goofy, anything beyond that is beyond disrespectful and I did see a couple people doing that.
If you are interested in animals/zoo’s (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then I would recommend Tier Park. This is the animal park that we chose to visit rather than the Berlin Zoo. I go into our reasoning in the What We Did post, but I absolutely LOVED this place. It is so spread apart, and has more of a park feel to it than a zoo. Almost all of the exhibits are open air (save for the few that the animals may need to come in frequently) and they have some of the widest variety of animals that I’ve seen at a “zoo”.
The last three spots I will briefly touch on are Brandenburg Gate, Fernsehturm, and the Victory Column. The Brandenburg Gate is the biggest tourist spot that we visited, aside from the East Side Gallery, and it was packed both with tourists, the odd street performers, and some folks petitioning. I would recommend going just to see the massive gate, but not staying too long. The Fernsehturm is the tallest structure in Germany and it is quite impressive. You can see it all throughout the city and you are able to go up to the viewing platform (although be sure to read my tips if you want to do this). I would also highly recommend going to the top of The Victory Column. This is an open air viewing platform that you climb a lot of stairs to get to, but the view is incredible-opposite the view from Fernsehturm.
Finally, I am going to recommend one food spot as it was one we found on Trip Advisor as a “must-go” and after having gone (twice) to it, I highly recommend it. I spoke about it in our what we did post, but it is the Zeit Fur Brot café. They make some of the best cinnamon rolls right in front of your face. It does get crowded on the weekends and the later in the morning it gets, but the wait is never long (seriously- they in and out), the staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is completely worth it.
I’ve got a few tips to share with you about visiting Berlin in a tourist to tourist way. Some of these may be rather obvious and common sense, and can be applied to just regular travel, and some are specific to Berlin.
Tip #1: List your 3-5
A rather obvious tip that you can apply to any trip, but one that has been essential for us on these short whirlwind trips. We are going to be doing a lot of 4 day weekend traveling and listing out 3-5 spots that we HAVE TO see, do not want to miss, helps us stay semi on track. For us for Berlin this was Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial, Fernsehturm, and The Berlin Wall and/or East Side Gallery. Once we arrived in Berlin, we looked at how everything was laid out and figured our days out around that making sure that we hit those spots.
Tip #2: Public Transportation (the most important tip of them all!)
Berlin has an amazing network of underground metro, streetcars, and buses that work really well for tourists. In fact, we parked our car at the hotel on Friday and didn’t touch it again until we were leaving on Monday. We relied solely on walking and public transportation and it was really easy to navigate. Depending on how long your stay is, Berlin has transport cards that you can use across all three public transport options, but if you are going for up to a week, they have a Welcome ticket that also will give you discounted tickets to some of the attractions in Berlin. It is a great option and I think this might be one of my most important tips in all of my Berlin tips.
Tip #3: Fernseturhm
If you want to go to the Fernseturhm/TV Tower then this tip is for you. First off, an obvious part, verify that you are going to have good weather for the platform. You don’t necessarily want rain (although you will still be able to see most everything) and you definitely DO NOT want fog. When we went up the fog had started to set in at the end of a very rainy day and we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to. My other tip would be to be prepared to wait. There are some shopping centers nearby as well as the Berlin Cathedral, but if you get there at any other time than early/first thing in the morning, you will have a wait time of around 2 hours before you can go up. This is to help control the numbers of people at the top at any given time. They have a service that will text you 30 minutes prior to your number being called to go up, although we didn’t know about this until after the fact (our lack of knowledge= your gain!).
Tip #4: Off The Beaten Path
I usually suggest this with any trip, but when you are looking for food find the little hole in the wall restaurants. Yes, sometimes the bigger restaurants will speak your language, be more palatable for youngsters, and be more tourist friendly, but you’ll get a more authentic feel at the little hole in the wall spots. The bakery that we went to one morning was tiny, one table inside, two outside and had some really tasty food. The barbecue place we went to the first night was the same. Of course you can stick with the bigger options, but then you won’t be getting that full experience and that is part of the fun of travelling.
I think that pretty much sums up everything I wanted to recommend and the tips that I wanted to share! Please let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them AND, if you have been to Berlin, please chime in below with any tips or recommendations you may have J