Posted on May 30, 2016
48 hours in Berlin
I visited Berlin on the beginning of a trip around the south of Germany – which you can read more about on my post Romantic Germany. I thought 48 hours would be enough to see Germany’s capital but I quickly realised it’s not nearly enough time. When I arrived, even thou I planned, I worried that 2 days wouldn’t be enough time and I would leave frustrated at merely scraping the surface of the city.
Berlin is a BIG city. All of its touristic attraction are scattered all over and I felt that it’s the kind of place where you have to plan before you go. I would advise you to explore Google maps and pin point your points of interest, this will save you lots of time when walking around the city and it will give you a good idea of how far from each other the points are.
You wouldn’t need to plan minute by minute of your days but do a bit of research and choose a few things you absolutely want to do and see and also a couple of “if I have time” options. On a weekend trip you wouldn’t have time to wander around the city and find where everything is. Actually, Berlin is just not that kind of city, everything is happening everywhere.
I visited the best of the beaten track: Reichstag, Alexanderplatz and the TV tower, the Brandenburg Gate, along with the Berlin Wall and through to Checkpoint Charlie – all the big landmarks were all pin pointed on my map. Making use of the public transport options that are plenty in the city. We used mostly the S-Bahn network and the underground U-Bahn – I would advise you to familiarise yourself with the map before arriving too, you can download the map here.
The city’s main sights are located in central Mitte. But the surrounding neighbourhoods of Berlin are also worth exploring, like the Charlottenburg district where Schloss Charlottenburg is located. Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and its picturesque yellow facade features on many postcards, and the palace along with its large and astonishingly beautiful gardens were definitely my favourite sight in the whole city.
Germany’s capital contrasts between historical buildings and modern architecture and is where all major government buildings are located. The most notable is the Reichstag, home of the German parliament.
Just before we went to Germany, my mum sitting at a pub in London “make friends” with a German lady from Berlin who gave us an inside tip of having lunch on top of the Reichstag Building at the Käfer Restaurant. The super nice German lady said that if we go for a meal there we don’t need to pay to visit the building! But it’s good to book in advance. You will need your passport details to book the restaurant and also your passport to go inside the building. We ended up all around the same table with a few pints and the lady speaking in German over the phone booking our table. In my opinion that is a definitely “must have” when in Berlin, the views from the restaurant are quite nice too.
To work out a pleasant lunch we climbed up its glass-and-steel dome which was cleverly redesigned to symbolise transparency in the German government, after the original stone dome been bombed. The Reichstag is bustling with tourists almost year round and looking from below you can see tourists “ants” going up and down the shiny structure.
The Nazi regime headquarters were located in Berlin but the city certainly doesn’t exploit the horrible things that happened there. Most of the memorials such as the Holocaust Memorial, the East Side Gallery and the Topography of Terror, this last one I regret not having enough time to visit, are all free. Which for me is a way of admitting the facts that happened there but they are not making any profit from it.
A nice little walk will take you from Reichstag through the Brandenburg Gate.
While strolling around Tiergarten, stop a few minutes to appreciate the Siegessäule or Victory Column, with its golden angel on the top of its granite column.
Berlin’s Zoo is the oldest zoo in Germany and is located at Tiergarten. A highlight is the exotic main entrance, The Elephant Gate, which worth a stop for some pictures.
We walked through the most famous boulevard in Berlin: Unter den Linden until we reached the world famous collections at Muzeumsinsel (Museum Island), which has so many museums that you wouldn’t be able to see all of them in a month! Berlin is a city that exhales museums and art, with more than 170 museums including the ones on Muzeumsinsel; I think it’s hard to compete with such a huge variety of art galleries and museums. If you are a museum lover you could spend weeks visiting Berlin’s enormous collection.
We didn’t have time to visit them, but I would advise you to pick the one that interest you most. Instead of going indoors, as it was a beaming hot day, we choose to observe the life outdoors in front of us. Berliners (and tourists!) were all sunbathing on the grass and playing on the fountain! Of course I joined in and this time mum and auntie couldn’t resist and came to play.
Do you still remember my mum’s Berliner friend from a couple of paragraphs above? So, she strongly advised us to try the currywurst, one of Berlin’s official foods. She even gave us lots of places where we could go to try but as soon as you hit the streets of Berlin you are bombarded with signs pointing towards it. My mum is not a big fan of sausages or hot dogs and in her words currywurst was “just a hot dog with ketchup and curry powder on top”. Well… me and dad loved it!
While in Germany, for my dad as long as it was involving sausages and German beer he was happy. I was also into trying as many different types of sausages as I could, so I guess super healthy mum and auntie had to play along. But if you are not into sausage tasting; Berlin has a huge amount to choose from classical restaurants to fast foods and hotdog stands.
Berlin also has lots of recent history to offer. My grandparents were alive during the city’s darkest days during WWII. My parents and auntie remember the construction and fall of the wall and were telling me stories they read and describing images they had seen on TV while we wandered around the Wall Memorial.
The Berlin Wall itself is all over the city; wherever you walk you can find marks on the floor or plaques where escape tunnel have been dug. During those 48 hours I felt like if I was at somewhere where something important in the world’s history happened. Somewhere that really matters.
Did I mention Berlin is a big city? We found the Wall memorial totally by mistake, actually by getting lost while we were looking for “The Berlin Wall”. That’s where my research took us. We came out of the station and we were not sure exactly where we were or what we were doing.
While me, my mum and dad were wandering all scattered around the area trying to understand what we were visiting, the crazy auntie joined a group and was listening to some explanations. We look and she was waving at us to come closer, I thought it should be interesting and we just followed the crowd.
Totally confused and not knowing where we were being led, we decided to stop trying to understand and listen. We then finally found ourselves in some of the tunnels that were dug back in the days when the wall was still up a few steps away where today is the Berlin Wall Memorial. It was one of those free walking tours and you give them tips in the end, it was great and we ended up seen something that we would have never found if my auntie wasn’t so curious.
A visit to Berlin would not be complete without a walk along the Eastside Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, near Ostbahnhof station. This is an open air concrete canvas art gallery used to express messages related not only to the wall but also hope, freedom, respect for one another or simply colourful graffiti art.
I don’t really like to criticise any place I go visit, simply because I feel really grateful for being able to be there and see it. Many people are not as lucky as I am. But I don’t think I understand why people keep raving about how amazing Berlin is. I didn’t hate it, that’s a strong word, but I didn’t fully enjoy it; I don’t think I would ever go back.
Berlin is not a beautiful city, it’s very big, it’s not easy to walk around and it’s a bit gloomy, grey. You walk and walk and walk some more nonstop and the scenery does not change from the same grey and tall buildings. For me Berlin meant urban culture and street art but where were they?
I understand that 2 days are not near enough time to see everything Berlin has to offer and we just scratched the surface. But I also think Berlin is the type of city that might take a little longer for you to fall in love with. Every visitor has their own experiences and places come alive to people in different ways and unfortunately, I don’t think Berlin caught my heart.
I must have missed something… was that really the Berlin everyone raves about? How were your experiences in Berlin?