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Berlin in 36 hours

Eastside Gallery in BerlinWhat can you see in Berlin in 36 hours?
A whole lot actually!!

When I returned to The Netherlands in October, the first thing one of my cousins said to me was that she had never been to Berlin and wanted to go together with me. We picked a date in December, booked the cheapest transport we could, tee’d up accommodation with one of my best friends who lives in Berlin and I told my cousin to make a list of everything she wanted to see.

At the end of trip she was absolutely thrilled that we had been able to tick everything off her list – she hadn’t anticipated how easy it would be to get around all the main sites of Berlin.

My walking-sightseeing route

I am a person who enjoys walking, so this is my recommended walking route for sightseeing Berlin. You could easily do things in a different order, take transport to connect sections and also split the adventure over multiple days. I will mention both things you could see as well as what we did see. Also your personal interests and budget will alter what things you consider worth visiting.

Alexanderplatz is a great spot to start your sightseeing, there is a big open square with loads of shops and cafe’s, not to mention a famous world clock. During December there are two enormous Christmas Markets in this area, one on each side of the station. They are well worth a visit for some tasty food and drink, not to mention shopping and ice skating.

Berliner DomA nice way to start is with a visit up the tv-tower, Fernsehturm. The tower was completely shrouded in fog, so we didn’t bother with this visit. However, if you have never been to Berlin and the skies are clear, it provides a reasonable view of the area, which can really help give perspective to the city’s layout.

From here you head up the Karl-Liebknecht Strasse in the direction of the Brandenburger Tor. Based on time and interest, you could make your first stop the St. Marienkirche; you could also zip across to visit the Rotes Rathaus and  Nikolaikirche both on/near Spandauer Strasse. The Nikolaikirche is the oldest church in Berlin.

We made our first tourist stop a visit to the Berliner Dom on Karl-Liebknecht Strasse. It is a beautiful old cathedral on Museum Island. While originally established in 1415, the cathedral underwent various changes in administration and construction over time. The current building was established in 1905. It is a domed beautiful cathedral that is worth a visit, be sure to climb the cupola and walk around the terrace outside. The entry fee is €7.

Neue WacheContinuing up Karl-Liebknecht Strasse you have a nice view of the Lustgarten and you could pay a visit to the Humboldt-Box. Once you cross the beautiful Schlossbrücke bridge, the street name changes to Under den Linden. A very well known street.

Our next stop was a visit to the monument Neue Wache. It is a memorial for the victims of war and tyranny. It is a sombre hall with a single sculpture lit by natural light funnelling into the room through a central portal in the ceiling. I find it a fascinating memorial to visit. Entry is free.

Across the road from the Neue Wache and little further up, turn left in front of the Humboldt University to find Bebelplatz and the underground library, memorial sit of the nazi book burnings.  These outdoor memorials are obviously free to visit.

Continuing in this direction at the end of the street and to the left is St Hedwigs Cathedral, a beautiful and strikingly modern cathedral.

Drinking FeuerzangenbowleFrom St-Hedwigs continue up Behrenstrasse to Charlottenstrasse, turn left to visit the Gendarmenmarkt. This is a stunning square with a French Cathedral on the right, German Cathedral (Deustcher Dom) on the left and Concert hall behind. At the time of our visit the square was filled with one of the most popular Christmas Markets of Berlin. Needless to say, we paid our entry fee and popped in to look around and enjoy a Feuerzangenbowle (a very alcoholic version of Glühwein). The Deutscher Dom is also worth a visit.

From the Gendarmenmarkt head up two blocks to Friedrichstrasse, turn left on this street. This is the super fancy part of town with all the expensive shops, I don’t recommend shopping, but I do however recommend walking along the street to visit Checkpoint Charlie and numerous other sites in the immediate area with information about the Berlin wall.

Checkpoint CharlieFrom Checkpoint Charlie walk along Mauerstrasse to Leipziger Strasse and up to Potsdamer Platz. Potsdamer Platz is the old heart of Berlin and still today is a central hub for the city. During December it is also a site of another very popular Christmas Market.

From Postdamer Platz head along Ebertstrasse in the direction of the Brandenburger Tor. After a few blocks you will come across the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; and if it interests you the site of Hitlers Bunker (on Gertrud-Komar Strasse).

Back on Ebertstrasse a block or so further is the Brandenburger Tor and Pariserplatz, the end point of the famous street Unter den Linden. The Brandenburger Tor, or Brandenburg Gate, used to serve as a gate separating East and West Berlin; it now symbolises Germany’s unity.

Brandenburger Tor

ReichstagNorth of the Brandenburger Tor is the German Parliament building, the Reichstag. This is one of my architecturally favourite buildings in the world. The lower part is constructed of stone, while the cupola at the top is glass, steel and mirrors. I find it an interesting contrast and simply beautiful to visit, both during the day and after dark. Visits to the Reichstag are free, but you really need to book online in advance, but during the month of your visit. If you don’t book online, it is still possible to visit, but you need to stand in line for up to a few hours to make an appointment. If you have a short visit I would strongly advise booking in advance.

These are the main sites in central Berlin, all within a simple walking route. Outside of this area I highly recommend a visit to the East Side Gallery, though I recommend using transport to get there. By train the nearest station is Ost-Bahnhof, by U-Bahn or S-Bahn head to Warschauer Strasse. From here you can see the iconic Oberbaumbrücke and walk the length of the East Side Gallery, which consists of painted sections of the Berlin Wall.

For more detailed information and some additional ideas on things to see and do on a longer stay, check out my other post on Berlin.

Tourist Tickets

Many cities have a city pass which you can buy that includes entry fees to certain sites, and also sometimes includes your public transport. Many cities have just one tourist card, Berlin however has five on offer: Berlin Pass,  Berlin CityTour Card, Berlin WelcomeCard, EasyCityPass Berlin and QueerCityPass Berlin.

While this is something we didn’t make use of, I would highly recommend investigating if one of these passes covers the things you want to see and do, and evaluate if it is a more cost effective option for you.

Transport

Around Berlin

Staying at a friend’s place outside the city centre, we bought daily A,B,C tickets which cost €7,70 and allowed us unlimited public transport in zones A, B and C; using regional trains, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Bus and Tram. For central Berlin an A ticket should be plenty.

Getting there and Back

To get the cheapest transport between Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Berlin, Germany we did quite a bit of googling. The three main options are bus, train and plane. If you are lucky then you can get a flight for €25 with Transavia, though in looking for flights I would still always check Kiwi.com first.

Unfortunately we couldn’t find cheap flights as we were travelling at peak season for Christmas Markets. The cheapest we found was on overnight bus with FlixBus and a return train trip; which cost €29 and €49,90 respectively.

Berlin In 36 Hours

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Berlin, Germany

22860400824_fb00778aba_zAfter spending a few weeks with my family in The Netherlands, I decided to head off again, this time for a week in Berlin with a friend from University.

Berlin is a fantastic city, there is so much to see and do, it’s really easy to get around and it has such a lively buzz with people. For getting around I would recommend a multi-day public transport card. I had a 7 day card for about €37 but I was staying in an outer suburb of the city, inner-city options are cheaper (and I might add are sooooo much cheaper than in The Netherlands!!). Once you buy a card you need to make sure to validate it, and then you just need to make sure you carry it with you all the time. It is valid for use on the S-bahn, U-bahn, trams, buses and the regional trains (make sure to stay within the zone you paid for though).

22862026353_2c92a180cf_zI managed to make my way to all the major sights and a few lesser known ones too. The places I visited included: The Fernsehturm (TV tower), the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, site of Hitlers Bunker, Potsdamer Platz, Berliner Cathedral, German Cathedral, Berlin Wall East Side Gallery, Bebelplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, Sea Life & Aqua Dom, Humboldt Box, Bernauer Straße, Kreuzberg and Kurfürstendamm. I hear that the city also has numerous amazing museums, but I am not a big fan of museums myself.

23121149629_647320d8c2_zI mostly enjoyed just wandering from place to place, and I used the app Triposo to see what was nearby. When I downloaded the Berlin city guide, all this info was available offline, so I didn’t have to worry about data roaming. The app was fantastic at showing what sights were nearby that I could visit and it also had a map that was really helpful for me to figure out which direction to walk. Looking at the sights listed on the app, it also provided directions to get there and gave an indication as to the public transport options available to get you there. The only frustration was that the map within the app was really bad at showing where stations were, eg. train and bus stations. To look up station locations I reverted back to using Galileo Offline Maps.

Visiting Berlin in late November is an awfully cold, but beautiful, time to visit. I experienced the first snow of the winter. In fact it snowed on more than half the days I was in Berlin.

23380621812_a6f06e15e7_zI was also there for the opening of all the Christmas Markets, and certainly enjoyed a Gluhwein or three!! If you are heading to a Christmas market I have a few recommendations:

  • Gluhwein
  • Egg Nog
  • Feuerzangenbowle (it’s a hot drink, the base is gluhwein, then they light a very high-proof rum and pour it over solid block of sugar into the boiling gluhwein – it’s delicious!)
  • Pretzels
  • Bratwurst (Go on I dare you…get the half metre!!)
  • Currywurst

I’m sure there’s loads you can read about the history of Berlin and all the important sights, so rather than bore you with that, I figured I would mention the sights/activities that I enjoyed most.

Berliner Mauer East Side Gallery

23463103176_22e58959f7_zThe East Side Gallery is basically an open air street art gallery where the art works are displayed on 1.3km of the Berlin Wall. I think the sections of wall were all moved to this location and that they aren’t on their original place, but I could be wrong. I also believe that most of the art works are new.

I really enjoyed looking at all the colours and patterns. I found that the side of the wall facing the river was more ‘standard’ street art, where the road side was more specific art works, generally portraying a message.

With so many unique works on display, and with such crazy cold weather, I went back to the East Side Gallery twice. I think it’s such a fascinating place to visit. I didn’t stay very long either time because it was snowing and I genuinely feared I might lose fingers and toes!

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Reichstag

22861919863_e3a9750881_zIf you want to visit the Reichstag, which I HIGHLY recommend, you need to register the week prior to your visit. Visits are free but you have to register with photo ID, and bring photo ID on the visit. If you don’t manage to book the week prior, you haven’t necessarily missed out, but you will need to stand in line for probably an hour or more to register in the office across the street. I waited 1.5hours in the freezing cold (literally, it snowed!) and managed to reserve myself two tickets to see the Reichstag dome, one during the day and one at night.

23121051499_af12e435da_zI really enjoyed my night visit to the dome, there weren’t many people around and the light wasn’t too crazy for reflections. It actually made for fantastic shadows around the place.

My day time visit was much more hectic, as there were loads more tourists. It was a cloudy, rainy day so there wasn’t a great view and there was no real benefit to seeing it a second time because of the poor weather.

I’m not a crazy architecture nut, but I do really appreciate architecture that is unique. The Reichstag dome is a crazy modern glass, metal and mirrored dome, atop a really old looking sandstone building. It’s a fascinating combination that actually works and looks good. Within the dome I just love the winding ramps that take you to the top, I love all the glass, exposed steel and in particular I simply LOVE the inverted cone through the centre made of layered mirrors. It’s such an amazing place to visit, I love it and I took squillllllions of photos!!)

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Alternative Berlin Walking Tour

23462791426_893e9f7049_zI did the free walking tour with the guide called Liam (sorry it was his last ever tour, so you won’t get the opportunity to have the same awesome guide) and it was FANTASTIC! It was predominantly about the street art of Berlin and the subculture that goes with it.

22861748783_dbf067871a_zLiam was very knowledgable about where to find cool street art; the various styles of street art around, what was popular and why, which styles were legal, illegal or in a grey area of the law; and he also knew a great deal about the artists themselves.

The tour followed the train line near Alexanderplatz, headed into Hackesche Höfe and then we caught a train to Kreuzberg.

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Berliner Unterwelten

The Berlin Underworld tours are quite fascinating and there are a few different themes to choose from. I did Tour 1 and Tour M.

Tour 1 was about the bomb/air raid shelters that were created during war-time. We went into the subway tunnels and from there followed passageways into the shelters to see how they were designed, what technologies were used and how the shelters were used during attacks. It was quite interesting to see and you can imagine just how scary it would have been to have to hide out in one of these shelters. Thankfully people were rarely in a shelter for more than an hour or two at a time!

23380239802_c3dee7e2f2_zTour M was all about escape attempts under the Berlin wall. There were three main ways in which people attempted to escape. The first way was through the subway tunnels, until these were too heavily guarded and became inaccessible. The second way was via the sewers until this also became too heavily guarded and passage was blocked by heavy metal grates within the sewer tunnels. The third method was to dig tunnels in strategic locations. Just near the Bernauer Straße U-Bahn stop is a wall memorial site, here you are able to see marked out where some of the escape tunnels had been. Each method had some success stories, and sadly many failures. It was most definitely very interesting to hear about.

Unfortunately I do not have photos to share as photography is not permitted on the tours. Throughout the tours there are displays of relevant items and photographs, many of these are from private collections and for this reason photography is not permitted.

Abandoned Berlin

23380305242_078f92706d_zSomething I was really interested in seeing, but didn’t really get around to, is Abandoned Berlin. The city suffered a great deal in war-time and after and as a result, there are numerous abandoned buildings to be found. Some of these places charge an entry fee, and some others are illegal to enter, nonetheless they sound thoroughly fascinating to me.  Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, I was unable to find a tour of abandoned places and as a result, made a small attempt at visiting these places by myself.

I got as far as the Iraqi Embassy in Pankow, which is in the process of being gutted ready for demolition or renovation and due to the workmen on site I wasn’t able to go in.

The Pankow Schwimmhalle had big steel gate surrounding it, but strangely they weren’t up and I was able to go in and explore. There is loads of street art and graffiti in the old swimming hall and I thought it was quite cool to see.

I didn’t get to any other abandoned buildings, but for those interested, theres’ a website of suggested sites and public google map which shows you where all the sites are.

Check out all my Berlin pics on Flickr.

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