We’ve been back from our vacation to Berlin and Prague for three weeks now, and I am just now getting around to sharing pictures! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long, but I am so excited to tell you about our trip to Berlin (I’ll share about Prague, later)
Berlin was our first stop on our two part vacation and it was wonderful! I have been to Germany before (Munich), and absolutely loved it! So I had high hops for Berlin, and it did not disappoint.
My history-loving husband was in heaven walking the streets that had so much history. We were eating lunch on the top of the Riechstag building and he would casually recall how many people died there when the Soviet Union seized it at the end of World War II. It made for some great lunch conversation.
I could go on and on about all the things we enjoyed while we are there, but I thought instead I would give you our 5 favorite things to see, do, and eat. A mini Berlin travel guide, if you will. We’ll start with 5 things to see…
5 Things to See
- The Berlin Wall/East Side Gallery – Yeah yeah…this is pretty obvious. Of course you are going to see the Berlin Wall while you are in Berlin! While there isn’t much left of the actual wall, they have laid cobblestones across town to mark where the wall once stood. While you are there, you will cross the invisible border dozens of times without even realizing it. I encourage you to pay attention to the stones because it will force you to acknowledge how different life in Berlin was just 27 years ago. The East Side Gallery is a section of the Wall that is still erect on the East side of the River Spree. Instead of tearing it down, the city has allowed artists to use the remaining Wall as a canvas. Each section is covered in colorful, and somewhat controversial, artwork.
- The Brandenburg Gate – Like the Wall, you aren’t going to miss this one. It’s right in the heart of Berlin. But the Brandenburg gate is iconic to Berlin and has been around for over 200 years. It will be surrounded by tourists, so if you want to get a good shot of it, I recommend getting up early and heading out as soon as the sun is up (and the tourists are still asleep).
- The bust of Nefertiti – Berlin is home to lots and lots of wonderful museums. While we only had time to visit a few, one of our favorites was the Neues (New) Museum which is home to the bust of Nefertiti. While I am not a history junkie like my husband, even I could appreciate the beauty and history of this piece, which is over 3,000 years old.
- View from the Top Reichstag– You can either buy a ticket to go to the top or make a reservation at the restaurant on top of Reichstag. I would recommend the later because you get a nice meal along with the great view. I would also recommend brushing up on your WWII history before you head up there. It was a pretty sobering to be up at the top of the that was central at the end of the war.
- The KaDeWe – Imagine a shoe section almost as long as a football field and an entire building floor dedicated to gourmet foods. No….it’s not heaven, its the department store KaDeWe. You will walk in and you eyes will practially pop out of their sockets at the sight of all the designer bags, elegant clothes, and beautiful housewares. But my favorite part of this store is Floor 6: the food floor. The entire top floor of this department store is filled with stalls selling everything from fresh fish to macarons. You can get chocolate, beer, spices, meat, ramen….for a food lover like me, it was awesome.
5 Things to Do
- A Guided Walking Tour – One of the best things we did while we were in Berlin was a walking tour we booked through Trip Advisor. Our tour guide was PhD student studying German history, with an emphasis in the periods before and after the cold war. So yeah, he knew his stuff. We learned so much more about this city by having a knowledgeable person take us around. My history-loving husband was eating up every single word.
- Tour of the Berlin Dome – Like a lot of the buildings in Berlin, this one also has a lot of history and has been rebuilt since World War II. We purchased an inexpensive ticket and walked through the interior and roof of the building. That roof-top view is what you pay for. It’s a little bit of a hike to get to the top, but once you are there, you can practically walk all the way around the dome and see every part of Berlin.
- Grab a Beer at a Beer Garden – You can’t go to Germany and not stop at a beer garden! There are plenty of them around the city, but I think the ones outside of the city are even better. Our favorite beer garden was at Neuer See, a lake on the west end of the Tiergarten. There is a cafe there where you can grab a beer and a bite, but there is also this little cafeteria right next door, and that’s where you want to go. They have picnic tables all along this small lake and you can go right up and grab a beer then watch families take rowboats out on the lake.
- Visit the National Museum – Like I mentioned above, there are lots of museums in Berlin. We didn’t get the chance to visit them all, but our favorite of the ones we did visit was the German National Museum. Not only was it facinating to learn about German history prior to WWI (I feel like people are pretty familiar with German history after that point in time), but it was also interesting to learn about WWI and WWII history from the German perspective. Credit to them, they do not shy away from it, no matter how bad it makes them look. Although the museum is separated into Gothic period to 1929, then 1930 to present. The latter section was a bit hard to find (downstairs in the back corner), but it was the best part of the museum.
- Walk through the Tiergarten – Similar to central park in New York, the Tiergarten offers quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. One minute you are walking along a very busy street. The next you can duck into the Tiergarten and see people picnicking, rabbits running around, and lots and lots of trees.
5 Things to Eat
- Currywurst – The first thing we ate while we were in Berlin was currywurst! It probably doesn’t sound very appetizing, but I promise you, it’s delish! My husband didn’t know what to think about it at first, “Bratwurst with ketchup and curry powder?” But even he was converted. There are so many spots to get currywurst, even nice restaurants (in the touristy sections) serve it. But I would recommend going with the fast food options like Curry 36, Konnopke’s Imbiss, or Wittys (which is Organic).
- Doner Kabab – You might be noticing a international trend with these first two dishes, and that’s for good reason. Berlin is such an international city so there are so many influences when it comes to food. Doner kabab might be the food that was most recommended to us while we were there. Doner is just hands down amazing, but it’s extra special here. Like currywurst, the best places to find it are at the fast food joints, which are everywhere. I suggest Mustafa’s Gemuse Kabap, but be prepared to wait in line.
- Berliner (jelly donut) – I’m not sure you can leave Berlin without having a berliner. One thing I learned while we were there is that German’s love donuts! There was a Dunkin Donuts EVERYWHERE. And people eat them at all hours of the day. It’s crazy. But if you want a real German donut, you have to find a berliner, which is a jam filled donut (typically plum). The donut isn’t as soft and sweet as our American donuts, but they are great. I made my husband trek out to find a berliner with me one day, and we ended up walking over 5 miles. He will never let me live it down.
- Strudel – While the donuts are good, you know what is better? Strudel! In my search for donuts, I walked into many bakeries leaving with the strudel instead of the donut because they just looked soooo good. My favorite: the apfelstrudel. But they have lots of different kinds. I know we have lots of strudel here in the states, but it’s just a little bit different over in the homeland. Some are more tart-like, with a distinct bottom layer topped with fruit and another layer of crust. Some are traditional, with a flavorful fruit filling inside a flakey buttery crust.
- Traditional German Food – Sure, the Germans aren’t totally known for their cuisine, but I would recommend at least having one authentic German meal to get the full experience. There are some really great dishes, but maybe pass on the schnitzel. I promise there are better options. We had a couple authentic German meals while we were there and they were actually some of our favorites from the trip. Our first stop was to Dicke Wirtin. I originally ordered the schnitzel and the waiter basically told me it was too big for me and ordered something else for me off the menu. I still have no idea what it was (I think it was pork tenderloin), but it was wonderful! The other restaurant we loved was Ottenthal. The waitress we had was AMAZING (so helpful and kind to us ignorant Americans) and the food was just as good as the service.