Berlin is awesome.
When I was 17, my friends jetted off for a long weekend in Berlin as part of our graduating class trip. I, unfortunately, had just failed two of my classes so I had to stay home and study. Boo hiss.
Well it’s taken 9 years, a university degree (yeah, I passed those two classes in the end!), and trips to several other European cities, but I finally made it to the German capital.
And as previously mentioned: it. was. awesome.
There’s just something about the vibe of this city that really resonated with me. The architecture, the history, the food, the energy, the blend of old and new… I just find it all fascinating.
Two days is definitely not long enough to become an expert in Berlin, but I reckon I’ve made a solid start. So here’s my mini travel guide to enjoying the city on a working girl’s budget. I hope you find it helpful!
HOW TO GET TO BERLIN
You can fly to Berlin from most major airports in the UK. Flights from London are frequent, and you’re currently looking at around £60 to £80 for a Friday-Sunday trip.
Keep in mind that there are TWO airports in Berlin, so make sure you don’t make transfer plans without double checking where you’re flying into.
Once you land in the city, my number one tip for anyone visiting Berlin is to pick up a Berlin WelcomeCard.
This fab travel card costs less than €25 for a 48 hour ABC ticket, but it includes your travel to and from the airport, ALL travel within the city (buses, trams, trains), and major discounts on most of the popular museums and tourist attractions.
You can buy the Berlin WelcomeCard at the city information booths at both airports, in most train stations, and most hotels will also have it available.
You can also pre-buy the card online, and then pick up your ticket at the airport. Make sure that you physically print off your receipt to exchange at the airport info booth, as for some bizarre reason, they don’t accept mobile confirmations.
TRAVEL TIP: Make sure you buy the correct Berlin WelcomeCard! The AB card only includes travel within the city, while the ABC will also get you to the airport and back.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in two different hotels, in two very different areas of Berlin.
Our first night was spent at Hampton by Hilton Berlin Alexanderplatz. It’s a basic, mid-budget hotel with not much else to say about it. The rooms are nice, and it was very clean, but it lacked any personality.
We loved the breakfast (DIY waffles!) and weren’t particularly impressed by the staff, but the high point of the Hampton by Hilton is the location. It’s just two minutes down the road from Alexanderplatz, a central square with excellent transport links and a pretty cool German market. The TV Tower, cathedral and Museum Island are all within easy walking distance.
On our second night, Erica and I stayed at the 25h Bikini Berlin Hotel. It’s slightly more expensive than the Hampton, but it’s AWESOME. Overlooking Berlin Zoo, we had an upgraded Jungle Room, which meant that as well as a giant king-size bed, we had a hammock! In our bedroom! Green tiles, matte black bathroom fittings, and huge floor-to-ceiling windows provided plenty of color and character, and we just loved it.
I’ve got a full review of the hotel coming next week, but you should also know that it has an excellent rooftop bar (Monkey Bar), and if you’re a hotel guest you can skip the queue and head straight up.
TRAVEL TIP: Berlin has a City Tax in place, so make sure you check with your reception before you check out, as this may not be automatically included in your room price.
WHAT TO DO IN BERLIN
There is SO much to do in Berlin. Two days was definitely not enough time to fit everything in. Even though we ticked off quite a few things off our lists, there’s still so much left to do, so I guess I’ll just have to go back!
For excellent views of the city, start with a visit to the TV Tower. This is best done as soon as it opens at 9am, as the queues are longgg. You can pre-book tickets online, but then you’ll miss out on your Berlin WelcomeCard discount.
Mauerpark flea market was busy on Sunday, but brilliant. The stalls sell everything from antiques to to clothes, books and ceramics, and it also has some great food stalls. Once summer arrives, make sure you check out the daytime karaoke in the Bear Pit!
Looking for more greenery? The Berlin Tiergarten is a huge and lovely park in the city centre. It’s very peaceful, and I particularly liked the lake area in the middle, as well as the famous Victory Tower.
Berlin is famous for its cabaret nightlife, and I recommend Chamaleon Theatre for a night of big laughs and death-defying acrobatics. Their current show is called Finale! and it’s a mix of contemporary circus tricks, mixed with original music, dance, confetti, and vodka shots. The audience are sat at cabaret tables, so you can order food and drink as the performers fly above you. The whole thing feels like you’re just hanging out with a group of mates who are showing off and having a good time, and it’s BRILLIANT.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN BERLIN:
WHAT TO EAT: BERLIN SPECIALTIES
CURRYWURST. Did you even go to Berlin if you don’t try a currywurst? Chopped sausage, topped with spicy curry ketchup, and an extra sprinkling of curry powder. You don’t even have the excuse of being vegetarian or vegan, as there are plenty of places that offer options for both! My favourites were the glorious vegan currywurst at Fries in Mauerpark flea market, and the regular (meat) currywurst at Curry 36 (though they do also do a vegan wurst).
PRETZELS. New York may have made them famous, but these chewy dough knots are originally from Germany. They call them “brezels” and you’ll find them on every other street stall (though that doesn’t mean they’re all good!). We got ours at a place called Pretzel Berlin cafe, not far from the 25h Bikini Berlin hotel. Great coffee and a lovely big and salty pretzel. Yum.
DONUTS. Ich bin ein Berliner! Berliner donuts are pretty much the same as English donuts: no hole, dusted with sugar, and filled with jam or custard. There are donuts everywhere, but we bought ours at Brammibal’s, a vegan donut shop in far south-east Berlin. Which leads me to…
VEGAN! I don’t mean eat A vegan (obviously), but definitely eat aaaall the vegan food. Berlin is one of the top vegan-friendly cities in the west, and there are SO MANY options available. Burgers, sausages, donuts, coffee… it’s literally got everything for plant-based eaters. I’m not vegan at all, but I easily slipped into eating like one, just because the dishes were there and were just as delicious as the non-vegan dishes.
MORE FOOD IN BERLIN:
Read Erica’s post: 4 Vegan Spots to Try in Berlin
Read Amanda’s post: A Vegan Guide to Berlin
*I was a guest of Chamaleon Theatre for this visit to Berlin.
Our stay with 25h hotels was complimentary in exchange for a review.