If you haven’t been to Berlin, I highly recommend adding it to your destination list! Recently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin wall, the city, which was once separated into East and West is now unified and a place of amazing culture, art, and innovation. Although the city still holds some immense heaviness from the destruction of both World Wars, but there are also uplifting surprises around every corner. I’ve travelled to Berlin during a couple of different seasons and it’s always so magical. The winters are really cold but the architecture and scenery make it amazing year round!
This trip was a whirlwind! Only 48-hour with my husband was such a whirlwind, but fortunately it’s very walkable so you can take in a lot in a short time. Below are a few of my favorite spots, both top tourist stops and some more ‘local’ attractions as well.
I may have mentioned it before but I love breakfast, like a lot, especially on vacation! Wyatt and I were thrilled to find one of the most amazing and vast buffets we’ve ever seen at the Intercontinental Hotel in Charlottenburg Berlin, I could’ve spent an entire day there eating not only German and American cuisine, but also a full spread of traditional Japanese goodies (my obsession with Japanese breakfast food is a post for another day)!
Literally translated, “Animal Garden,” the 520 acre park is a great place to begin your walking tour. The park has been around since the 1830’s and was originally an electoral hunting reserve, hence the name. Today the park is home to multiple governmental and parliamentary institutions. As you stroll you’ll notice many statues and monuments, but the most visible is the Victory Column, a 70-meter-tall structure built on a roundabout with a gold statue of Victoria, the ancient goddess of Victory, now dubbed ‘Golden Lizzy’ by locals. Completed in 1873, it’s well worth climbing the 285 steps to the top of this magnificent monument for the sweeping views. Also, the leaves match my hair so that was an added bonus 🙂
Continuing the walk from the Victory Column you’ll get a great view of the approaching Brandenburg gate and Potsdamer Platz beyond it. The gate is a strong symbol of the immense change that Berlin has undergone over the years and is an important symbol of what the city has overcome. The gate is the monumental entry to “Unter den Linden”, the renowned boulevard of linden trees, which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. Today the gate is a symbol of unity and peace and a meeting point for residents of the city to celebrate anniversaries such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
After walking through the Brandenburg gate you’ll find yourself on a lovely tree lined pedestrian mall (if the season is right, that is), great for taking your first rest stop, having coffee or tea, and taking in the busy city around you. The trees, like the rest of the city, have had a long history of being cut down and then regrown, the current trees were replanted in the 1950’s.
Located one block south of the Brandenburg gate is the memorial to the victims of the holocaust. The site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stele“, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field, creating an eerie but amazing visual impression. There is also an underground museum in the information center which pays further tribute to the victims, listing every known victims name and displaying important historical timelines of more personal artifacts like letters and family stories.
All three of these sites are amazing to see, but if you can’t make them all, try to at least check out the memorial gallery for a great look into the immense history of division between East and West Berlin from 1961-1989. The East Side Gallery, established in 1990 and located in central Berlin, pays tribute to the freedom of Berliners after the collapse of the wall in 1989. The gallery is located on the so-called “hinterland mauer”, which closed the border to East Berlin. The gallery consists of 105 paintings from International artists and is the largest open air museum in the World. Checkpoint Charlie is the name given by the Western Allies to the most well known crossing point between East and West Berlin, and is now home to an open- air exhibit with information on the history of the wall, escape attempts and the importance of the checkpoint to military personnel.
We’re lucky to have an amazing friend, (and DJ) Mike as our guide for an evening on the town in Friedrichshain, a great neighborhood with a lot character. He picked a Russian restaurant, Cafe Datscha for us and the food was amazing. We skipped the Russian vodka selection but still enjoyed the atmosphere and authentic decor including huge piles of Russian newspapers, very authentic!
The second stop of the night was a tour of this awesome food and flea market. Neue Heimat generally opens it’s doors on Friday evenings and lures locals in with food trucks, drinks and live music and local owned craft shopping, all of my favorite things! I was amazed by the design of the space, shipping containers and what Finding Berlin calls, ‘a gloomy but romantic industrial setting that was decorated lovingly,’ I couldn’t agree more! This market definitely rivaled our favorite Brooklyn holiday markets!
If you’re lucky enough to visit Berlin during the holidays you’ll get a special treat, Christmas markets that pop-up all over the city! Warm up and stroll around the little shopping villages with Gluhwein, similar to mulled wine, but even better! We had pretzels and bought a giant ‘Berlin’ inscribed cookie to bring home. The market near our hotel also happened to be on the site of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which appears to be two churches in one, both the ruins of the original and a super modern new version right next to it. The site is now a famous landmark and war memorial in West Berlin.
Although 48 hours in Berlin is definitely not enough time to enjoy everything the city has to offer, you can still get in an amazing tour and a ton of steps, if you’re counting. Seeing the city by foot is definitely the way to go!
Photo credit Wyatt Jenkins (unless captioned)