Berlin is known for its currywurst, its wealth of green spaces and its 24-hour techno clubs. The city is steeped in history and culture as well, and it would take years to see everything. So, how are you going to fit in all the main historical sites and some of the 180 museums into one long weekend?
By Kayleigh Hodkin
This is where divento.com’s itinerary planner can help you. Using this, I managed to create an itinerary focusing on Berlin under the Third Reich during the Second World War and throughout the Cold War, when the city was divided in two. You can add or delete places on your own itinerary. The planner will suggest the best day and time to visit the places you have added, and it will recalculate the best times for your visits if you delete places. You can do all of this on the go.
Begin your day with an all you can eat breakfast at Cafe Extrablatt which is open seven days a week in the historic district of Charlottenburg. Once you have re-fuelled your body, Divento’s historical tour of Berlin will begin at the Berlin Story Bunker in the Mitte district. This museum, which is inside an air raid shelter built during the First World War, will take you on a chronological tour through 800 years of Berlin’s history, a great place to begin your historical tour.
Once you have finished there, take a 15-minute walk to the famous checkpoint that connected the east and the west, the site of many escape attempts. It is called Checkpoint Charlie. You can visit this memorial site to see the replica guardhouse in the middle of the street and the large picture of a real American soldier. Get a souvenir photograph with the two ‘soldiers’ that guard the replica crossing and make sure to stop for a coffee and a cake at Einstein Kaffee.
To see more of Berlin’s divided past, Divento suggests that you go to the East Side Gallery. This was once a segment of the Berlin Wall that divided the city from 1961 but is now the longest open-air gallery in the world (1.3 kilometres). The wall is covered in artwork by 118 artists from 21 countries who began to embellish it as soon as the wall came down.
Begin your second day at the immersive DDR Museum which shows you what life was like for Berliners living in the Soviet occupied GDR (east Germany). The museum has life size installations of houses and schools in the GDR and you can even sit in a model Trabant car. Divento’s itinerary planner suggests you stay here for two hours, but I think you could spend an entire afternoon exploring here.
Once you have finished in the museum, don’t forget to wander around the surrounding area including the Berlin Cathedral, Museum Island and the Lust Garten before heading off for a well-deserved bite to eat. Divento would suggest walking 10-minutes to Alexanderplatz to enjoy some food. On the walk there, you can probably already see the famous Fernsehturm (TV tower). You should stop for dinner at Spargos Restaurant on the ground floor of the Park Inn hotel before heading up to its panoramic terrace for a drink. This is Divento’s top tip because you not only get a panoramic view of Berlin, but also a close up view of the Fernsehturm which is directly opposite.
Divento’s itinerary planner suggests an early start so that you can travel to the outskirts of the city and visit the Stasi Museum. Here, you will learn more about the Soviet Union’s secret police (formed in 1950) which arguably repressed the public and maintained control. The museum building is the original Stasi headquarters which includes exhibitions about spying technology, communist propaganda, resistance movements and repression.
Divento recommends that you then take the bus or tram for 30 minutes to the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Now a museum, this site was originally a prison in which the Stasi detained political opponents and people who tried to escape to the west.
From the museum, take a walk down the famous Unter den Linden street. If you are feeling peckish, take a detour down Friedrichstraße to the Peter Pane burger restaurant which is very popular with Berliners. Then, continue to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which is a maze of 2,711 great concrete columns built over 17-years. You can weave in and out of these stone blocks which cover an area of 19,000 square meters before heading underground into the information centre. Whilst walking around Berlin, keep your eyes locked to the floor to try and spot some of the 75,000 inscribed brass squares called Stolpersteine (stumbling stones.) You’ll find them outside former homes or places of work of Nazi victims.
Using Divento’s map, it’s an easy walk to the Brandenburg Gate from the Jewish memorial. The gate is a well-known symbol of the once divided Germany and is now one of the most famous landmarks in the city. From there, you can’t miss a visit to the Reichstag building, Germany’s parliament, just five minutes away. Book a free tour in advance and walk inside the Reichstag’s glass dome for a panoramic view of Berlin, the perfect place to see the sunset.
On route back to your hotel, stop at Capital Beach to sip a cocktail on a deckchair beside the River Spree. It is just a 10-minute walk from Berlin main station, so it is a convenient place to end your day. Stop off at the Curry 36 takeaway by the main station, this is the best place in Berlin to try currywurst.
If you find yourself with a morning to spare, hop on the U-Bahn out of the city centre to Wannsee and wander through the forest or take a dip in the lake, but not before visiting the House of the Wannsee Conference. It is a must-see memorial and museum equipped with original documents and photographs.
Make sure that you’re back in the city by three o’clock so you can experience the live outdoor karaoke complete with 5000 song choices, cocktails prepared by locals and a wonderful atmosphere every Sunday in Mauerpark. The park is lined by original parts of the Berlin wall and is popular for its flea market where you can pick up all kinds of souvenirs and street food, giving you a chance to try a traditional German Döner kebap.
To end your time in Berlin in style, Divento recommends a visit to Monkey Bar to watch the sunset and enjoy a cocktail whilst overlooking Tiergarten and Berlin Zoo.