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Holidays to Berlin
Berlin - rebuilt, reinvigorated and reviving
If there's one word to describe Berlin, might we suggest... Alive. This cosmopolitan city is bursting with energy and the thrust of new ideas, new architecture, new food, new music and theatre is nothing short of extraordinary. Its people actively search out the untried and the experience for the visitor is one of continual open-mouthed wonder at the ability of the human spirit to reinvent itself.
Berlin is a bustling place of some 3.4 million people set in north eastern Germany and is a centre of politics, culture and education for Germany. The city itself is a magnet for the weekend breaks crowd - riotous nightclubs, quiet bars (and not so quiet ones), music clubs and cutting edge theatre draw people in from all over Europe. It is one of Europe's most liberal cities with a legendary nightlife. If sleep is your thing; Berlin is not going to work for you!
Exploring other parts of the city though is a rewarding experience, especially for romantic weekend breaks. The tumultuous 20th century has made Berlin an architectural grab-bag. From the historic Brandenburg Gate to the gleaming Reichstag; from the memorial sections of the Berlin Wall to the Soviet era apartment blocks in old East Berlin and the entirely-rebuilt Potsdamer Platz, Berlin is a contradiction in style and form.
Our suggestion? Hop on a bike (many hotels and guest houses have them or know where to hire them) and explore the old and new, cycle through the various parks and plazas. The city is a flat, bike-friendly place and you can cruise the Mitte (centre) through to trendy Prenzlauerberg and Friedrichshain in a day, stopping to enjoy a coffee and pastry here and there.
Who should go to Berlin? Weekend getaways, party people, history buffs, cutting edge enthusiasts and culture vultures.
Eating out in Berlin
Cheap, expensive and everything in between.
The best part though is that no matter where you're staying, you won't have to walk far to find an excellent neighbourhood eatery, and it will only be a short stroll to a more upmarket noshery!
The travellers' rescue are the huts dotted across the city called Imbiss. Little cabins with a few tables outside serving up quick and tasty delights such as Bratwurst on a bun, or the local delicacy - Currywurst, smoked and boiled bratwurst served in a spicy tomato sauce. (Mm mmm!)
Multi-cultural Berlin offers many surprisingly inexpensive dining options - Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine abounds and you'll find Indian and Pizza-style restaurants in most of the tourist areas. And as Berlin was the birthplace of the Donner Kebab, you won't have to go far to find that staple of the bar fly. If you've just stumbled out of a bar at a respectable hour for breakfast, then Berlin is used to you. You'll find breakfast/brunch places everywhere often set up in a buffet style.
Cheap but tasty - try the areas of Kreuzberg and Neukolln. Try around the Gorlitzer Bahnof station for good quality at a good price. Try also around the Prenzlauerberg area which caters to the buzzing student scene.
Better - City West area, has good quality restaurants in a more toney area.
Best - Mitte (the 'downtown' area) with quality restaurants and priced accordingly. Although you will find plenty of street cafes and so on. It's worth noting that Berlin is home to 12 Michelin starred restaurants - the most of any city in Germany.
Cool and funky - look towards Schoneberg which caters to the more moneyed younger crowd.
Things to look out for; many restaurants prefer cash rather than a card and VAT is generally included in the bill. Don't leave the tip on the table. Simply round up to the nearest euro or calculate between 5-10% and tell the waiter to keep the change.
What to wear, when to go
It all depends on the weather doesn't it! Berlin has typical continental Europe weather - officially called Temperate Climate by meteorological folk. What that means to you and I is warm summers of around 25C and cold winters of around 4C (during the day). Autumn and Spring go from chilly to mild, depending on the season you're heading in to or out of.
Essentially, you won't be baking hot during summer, so wear layers, but you will be well and truly chilly during winter. That said a winters day in Berlin with a bright blue sky and sunshine reflecting off the chrome and glass is something else!
The average rainfall is low at 570mm so chances are you won't need to pack brolly or coat. Berlin weather - warm coat yes, rain coat, not so much.
Berlin - are you culture buff, or bar fly?
Berlin's history has shaped the city that is Berlin today. Visually it's an eclectic mix of old (that survived the war), chunky (thank you Communist era) and brand new (thank you Potsdamer). Its reputation for tolerance is undoubtedly a reaction to the severe intolerance of its history. This really is a city of anything goes and as such the things you must see in Berlin comprise not only buildings, parks and museums, but the nightlife as well!
Let's start with historic Berlin. The big three are the Brandenburg Gate, built in 1791 and used as an entry point between old east and west Berlin, the Reichstag, Germany's old parliament vamped up considerably with the addition of Norman Foster's cupola and the Holocaust Memorial.
Parks - the Tiergarten is Berlin's largest park and full of families on weekends. Schlossgarten Charlottenburg is inside the Charlottenburg Palace (so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone) and the World's Garden is a delightful homage to the gardens of China, Korea, Japan and Bali.
Attractions - Culture vultures should start with Museumsinsel (Museums island) where you'll find a number of museums each dedicated to an interest. Pergamonmuseum, for example, is a rich feast of antiquities. You must see Potsdamer Platz, even if you're not into shopping (!), if only to experience what an architect can do with an city quarter. Climb the old East Berlin TV Tower, visit the Hackescher Markt for lively shopping and people watching and for something really different, check out the old Stasi headquarters. Full of photographs and displays, it's a nasty example of what happens when the state goes completely mad. Orwell, eat your heart out!
Nightlife - ahh, the Berlin nightlife. First up, no Cinderellas allowed! This place doesn't even start until after midnight. Clubs come and go, but start in the Kreuzberg area. Check out Berghain/Panoramabar for a techno-industrial feel and Kaffee Burger in Mitte for a more arty night. Should your tastes run to the extreme, check out the Kit Kat Club... the original and the best, so we're told.