Berlin is one of those cities which you can never get enough. It will be impossible to see all of it in a whole year, but you can get a fair overview of its vibrant cultural atmosphere and history in three days. At least, that was my experience. A couple of months ago, I went to Germany capital city on a work trip and decided to set my arrival 72 hours before my duties start. I must say it was a great choice and gave me a fair amount of time to see all I wanted in my first time. So, here are my recommendations to get to know this amazing place in a short but intense stay:
Make an appointment to visit the Bundestag
As soon as I knew I will travel to Berlin for a conference, I got into the Bundestag website (also known as Reischtag) and make my appointment to a guided visit. It is a perfect option to get to know German history and it is for free! I chose to go to the lecture, which allowed me to sit on the gallery of the plenary chamber and learn about their political system. If you don’t speak any German (like me), Tuesday is the best day to go, because they offer lectures in English and French. You can continue your visit climbing into the dome, a modern and magnificent architectural work with breathless views of the city. It also has a permanent exhibition with information about all the historical moments this amazing building witnessed.
Take a walking tour I know it is possible to make your own wander following indications found online on your phone or laptop, but having guidance from a local is always the best option for me. Most of the tours depart in front of Brandenburger Tor, in the heart of the city, and will show you some of the most representative buildings in Berlin and their history. Don’t buy everything they offer, but try to get as many recommendations from your guide as you can, according to your interests. Make sure you tip them fairly if you choose a free tour.
Run (or at least walk) in the Tiergarten My visit to Berlin was at the end of Fall, so the weather was nice enough to go out for a run and the Tiergarten was the best option to do it. I bet is even better if you’re there in Summer or Spring. I departed from my hostel, located a couple of blocks from there, an took the path next to the Spree River, which gave me lovely views in the early morning. It is an amazing park to breath fresh air and to clear your mind, just be careful with all the cyclist who crosses the paths to go to from one side of the city to the other! On my way back, I discovered the memorial to the gypsies murdered in Europe under the Nazi regime and was shocked by this part of the history that I didn’t know.
Do not miss the museums Writing about museums in Berlin can take a whole article (or even an entire book). There is so much to see! I will only say that even if you’re not into art, you should walk around Museumsinsel to experience its unique atmosphere. You can stay a whole day getting lost among the masterpieces hosted in those buildings. My favorite was the Pergamonmuseum, where is displayed one of Babylonia gates, but all of them have a lot to offer. Besides the island, there are other must-see museums and art-related places to go in the city. Here are my chosen:
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Close to Pariser Platz and the Tiergarten, a site to remember and learn about the tragic history of the Holocaust. Admission is free of charge.
East Side Gallery Go and check how the wall of Berlin, which was the symbol of division and fear for more than two decades, became the longest open art gallery in the world.
Dead Chicken Alley This is your place if you’re into alternative arts. Make time to have a drink in one of the bars around.
Stay in Mitte Neighborhood Everything is happening there and you will be close to all the main places. There are many options for accommodation in the area, which is the favorite for young families, students, and tourists, of course. I chose Generator Hostel Berlin Mitte and I must say it was one of the best hostels I’ve ever been. Well located, clean and with a great atmosphere. If you don’t like to share your room and want something fancier but still affordable, Motel One Hackescher Markt is another great option, right next to Alexanderplatz (I stayed there during my work days). Their offer an amazing breakfast. Both have easy access from the airport.
Eat all the bread that you can
The variety of products available in bakeries is overwhelming. From pretzels to multigrain bread and all kind of flavored varieties. According to this article published by CNN, there are
more than 3K types of German bread registered (and I wish I could be lucky enough to try them all someday!). Seriously, even if you’re trying to go light on carbs, DO NOT MISS BREAD when you go to Berlin. Of course, you should also try other types of foods, like sausages, especially the one they prepare with curry and is easy to find in every street. Beer is a must too and you should try to make time to check the new local breweries. And last, but not least, don’t forget to get lost. Go around the city with no plans and, at least once, get lost on the streets. It will be easy to find your way back to your hostel with Google maps and you can have the opportunity to discover something cool to recommend me for my next trip to Berlin, which I hope will be very soon.