Berlin has to be one of the most unique and incredible cities I’ve ever been to.
With a turbulent history, the culture that exists in Berlin today is one that has risen from conflict, pain, and separation. The culture that exists today is one of love, unity, openness, compassion, and freedom. And while this is evident through the friendly people you encounter and the art you observe as you wander, one can’t help but notice that the scars of Germany’s past, course through the veins of the city. During my time in Berlin, I was moved deeply by the city and its people. I was touched by the way the past is remembered and more importantly, how it is used to educate, break down barriers, and remind us of the importance of hope, compassion and love.
Given that November 9th, 2019, was the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, it only seems appropriate to share this post in celebration of this remarkable city and what it offers travellers through education, experiences, and culture.
Things to see/do…
Experience the artistic side of the city
A museum located in an old residential building just outside the city centre, Urban Nation is a must for anyone interested in urban/street art. An engaging gallery, you’ll uncover a collection of unique and thought-provoking exhibition pieces along with historical context. It is open from 10am-6pm and entrance is FREE.
East Side Gallery
One of the most famous landmarks in Berlin, the East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery consisting of murals painted on the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The wall is approximately 1,316m in length, estimated to be the largest and longest-lasting open-air gallery in the world, and is a protected landmark. With many iconic images you’ll likely recognize from the media, the gallery is a touching monument to the Fall of the Berlin Wall. It also stands as a reminder of the peaceful negotiations of borders and conventions between societies and people.
Witness some of the most monumental symbols of Germany and European history
Probably the most recognized landmark of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate is a powerful symbol of the division that existed between east and west Berlin. Today it is a national symbol of peace and unity for Berlin and for Germany. The gate was historically used as a site for significant historical events. Today it is used as a meeting place, for celebrations, stage shows and more. An incredibly popular tourist site, if you’d like to take in this place without the crowds, I recommend heading to the square early in the morning, around 7am.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Located close to the Brandenburg Gate, you’ll find the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, a visit to this place of remembrance is a harrowing experience, but one which I think is very important to have when visiting the city. The site covers 19,000 square metres and is comprised of 2,711 concrete slabs of different heights. There are no opening or closing hours for the memorial.
Note: Please remember this is a memorial and place of remembrance. Have respect for this and do not climb on the concrete slabs or allow your children to play tag or other games through the site…
Not too far from this site, you’ll also find the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism. On the front side of the large cuboid, you will find a window through which visitors can watch a short looped video. This video is swapped out every few years.
Learn about the history of the city from an expert
One of my favourite things I did during my time in Berlin was take a bike tour. As the city of Berlin spans a large area with historical monuments and tourist sites located throughout its entirety, biking is a very convenient way to see it all! Not to mention, the city is also very bike friendly.
I joined a bike tour called “Berlin on Bike”. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. We explored Berlin’s history and discovered places like “No Man’s Land”. This place existed in East Germany, between the two walls which would separate the Soviet part of Berlin from the American, British and French side. In addition to, of course, having sites and locations historically explained to us, another highlight of the tour included seeing Check point Charlie – the only time in history US and Russian military tanks have faced each other (During the Berlin Crisis – border disputes – in October 1961 which led to a 16-hour standoff!).
The tour lasts approximately 3.5 hours.
TIP: If for whatever reason you are unable to join a bike tour, a tip for you as you walk around the city is to look down at the ground and see if you can find the outline of the Berlin Wall. It can be seen all throughout the city. If the writing is facing you, you know you are on what used to be the West Germany side.
In addition to the bike tip mentioned above, another great way to get around the city is with the Berlin Welcome Card. A real time-saver, given the spread-out nature of the city, the travel card is a no-hassle, all-in-one solution, providing transportation access on buses, trams, and the U-Bahn (underground). Plus, the Berlin Welcome Card also gets you up to 50% off at over 200 venues around Berlin.
Where to eat…
The BRLO Brwhouse is a brewery, restaurant, bar and beer garden all-in-one. It is also the home of the Berlin craft beer movement! The venue itself is of great interest, composed of 38 up-cycled shipping containers. It was a great place to try unique beers brewed in small batches alongside a fantastic menu filled with quality vegetarian and vegan options. The owners and brewmasters have built BRLO Brwhouse off a foundation of sustainability, regionality and quality. The build-your-own meal option was incredibly creative and I enjoyed the opportunity to try multiple recommended dishes (which paired perfectly with the diverse and delicious craft beers). Can’t recommend this place enough!
Tip: Reserve a spot in advance if you can. A popular location -- I struggled to find a place to sit, even as a solo traveler at the bar!
A historic market with numerous retail and food stalls, this hotspot in the city is a great place to grab lunch or an early dinner. Most days the market is only open from 12pm – 6pm with the exception of Thursdays when it is open until 10pm and Saturdays when it is open from 10am. The market is truly alive with people of all ages socializing, enjoying music, eating good food, and consuming tasty coffee, beer, and more. I recommend trying the curry sausage here — A meal countless locals told me I had to try while in Berlin!
Note: Markthalle is closed on Sundays.
House of Small Wonder
A beautiful café with Japanese influence, House of Small Wonder is a popular spot in the city to grab breakfast, lunch, all day brunch and pastries. With a warm atmosphere, plenty of greenery, and the use of organic, local ingredients, it makes for a cozy place to settle in and relax. It also has a very Instagrammable entrance, for those who are interested…
Where to stay…
During my time in Berlin, I stayed at the Lulu Guldsmeden Hotel. One of my favourite hotels I’ve had the pleasure of staying in. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm hospitality, the fresh and delectable breakfast buffet, and the cozy boutique atmosphere. The Lulu Guldsmeden is one of a family of Guldsmeden Hotels founded by an architect in Denmark. The hotels are all built and run around the core value of sustainability. I was blown away by the attention to detail and, upon speaking with the General Manager of the hotel in Berlin, discovered that the furniture pieces found in the hotel are responsibly sourced — with many pieces being purchased at auctions, giving them a new lease on life. The wood used throughout the hotel and much of the art and interior décor are also sourced from talented artists based in Bali, where the founder’s father lives and works as an artist himself.
All Lulu Guldsmeden Hotels are Green Globe Certified which is the highest standard for sustainability worldwide. The linens and towels are made from organic cotton and all food produced/made in the restaurant is organic. I was assured by the hotel’s lovely GM that cutting corners was not an option when it comes to sustainability in the hotel – it is simply what the hotel was founded on and remains a core value for all things in their business. Now this is something I can totally get behind!
After an amazing stay with Lulu Guldsmeden, I will 100% be on the lookout for other Guldsmeden hotels in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Oslo, Reykjavik, Cote-d’Azur and Bali.
And there we have it, the best of Berlin in 48 hours. I know I already cannot wait to return to this incredible city. How about you, have you been to Berlin? If so, I’d love to hear about your favourite places in the city or things to do!
Until next time,
All content provided on this blog is for informational purpose only. Although this blog was sponsored by the German National Tourism Office, all opinions are my own.