There are many things that make Berlin a fascinating travel destination: vibrant modern culture, a sometimes brutal history, a drool-worthy variety of cuisine. Whether you like to spend your stay in luxury hotels or are more accustomed to roughing it (or something in between), Berlin has an option for you. Of course, while we could take weeks, months, a lifetime to get to know a city like Berlin, we don’t always get the extended-stay full-immersion experience we’d like in the places we visit — but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of it. Book your ticket, set your travel intention, and get ready: Here’s how to get the maximum from one whirlwind weekend in Berlin.
Kurfürstendamm is a main shopping area on the west side of Berlin that makes a good place for your launching pad. The Sofitel Berlin Kurfurstendamm is a five-star hotel right in the heart of the area, which offers a delicious breakfast spread that goes way beyond “continental,” featuring made-to-order eggs, sausages, salmon, fresh German and French breads, and smoothies. Want to keep your stay cheap? Minihostel 12 Monkeys is a small hostel nearby with 12 beds available. If you’d rather be close to some of the best restaurants in the city, Arte Luise in the Mitte borough is an art-lover’s dream hotel furnished with sculptures, stylish rooms, and unique furniture, all within a neoclassical historical monument from 1825.
How to Get Around
Like other major metropolitan areas, Berlin has an excellent public transportation system of buses and trains for a fair price, as well as taxis and car-share programs like Lyft. While some areas are walkable, it’s a big city, and getting from West Berlin to East Berlin would take you hours by foot. To give yourself the lay of the city and familiarize yourself with its history on your first day, a hop-on-hop-off tour like the BEX Sightseeing bus is worth the money. It has a route that includes all major pitstops runs under 30 euros a person, and the buses arrive at stops every 10 minutes, so you don’t have to sweat understanding a bus schedule. Plus, they stop around 4pm, so you’ll still have the evening to explore on your own.
Where to Eat
For authentic Austrian food, try out Ottenthal. The restaurant’s cheesy dumplings are delicious, the Wiener Schnitzel is tender, and their potato salad will make you swear off the mayo-laden version forever. Vegetarians will appreciate Die Stulle, which is just a few blocks from Kurfürstendamm, takes credit cards, and has options like haloumi salads and towering quinoa burgers. For an entire street full of drool-worthy options, Oranienstraße (in Kreuzberg) and Torstraße (in Mitte) are a couple of places where the locals head to enjoy traditional cuisines like Arabian and Turkish meals.
What to Do
If you’re wandering Kurfürstendamm anyway, you’ll likely be drawn to the old Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is striking in a skyline of otherwise new buildings. It’s worth a trip inside to read about the church’s history and see the inner mosaics up close. A 20-minute bus ride away is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a haunting 200,000-square-foot sculpture exhibit that must be seen in person. The memorial is also right next to Tiergarten, a 520-acre park that’s the most popular in the city.
For a blend of the old and the new, go to Mauerpark, where an 800-meter stretch of the Berlin Wall that divided the city for nearly 30 years still stands. It’s covered in ever-renewing designs by local graffiti artists and serves as background to musicians, jugglers, and even a flea market. For a more traditionally decorated view of the wall, head to the East Side Gallery.
Finally, if you’d like to spend your last afternoon a little outside the city, there’s only one place to go: About an hour away by bus, Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin; its first buildings went up in the 17th century. Both the inside of the palace, like its Silver Vault tableware and Golden Galerie ballroom, and the outside of the palace, with its park and the Belvedere Tea House, are completely Instagram-worthy and a good high note to end your trip on.
What capital city would you most like to spend a weekend visiting? Tag us in your travel pics @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)