It seems every week someone new is visiting and asking for some ideas on what to do / see / eat / drink when they visit Berlin. Rather than re-hashing the same email I’m just going to ‘dump’ some common responses here.
I’m in no way an expert on the city and really only know my neighbourhood (Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg). The best times to visit are definitely during the summer months from May to Oct. Berlin is not the prettiest city – but when it comes to quality of life & fun it is right up there. If you are interested in technology too then the city is brimming with startups and people working on interesting creative projects – a trend that I sense is only accelerating.
Where to stay
Anywhere around Rosenthaler Platz. Most startups and people I know (including myself – hence the bias) live, work and hang out within walking distance of here. There are loads of hotels around it and it has good transportation links. It is close to the city center and the surrounding area is very lively, safe and full of restaurants and coffee places. I would opt for an AirBnB – and I’ve heard good things about the Circus, Amano and Ibis hotels which are all located on Rosenthaler Platz.
Food / Drinks
Foursquare is pretty good in the city. You can’t go wrong with anything in the 9/10 review category. Overall for the size of the city I must say I’m surprised at the lack of great food options here. However here are my favourites that are all located within walking distance of Rosenthaler Platz
- Pappa E Ciccia – Our favourite local Italian dinner place, great food with a chilled atmosphere.
- Katz Orange – Modern German style. Hidden away from the street, cool old-looking church with tonnes of ambience. Good option for a date night or relaxed business dinner
- Papà Pane di Sorrento – I’m not a pizza person but this place is exceptional. Delicious pizzas and wine that won’t dent the bank balance. Bustling most evenings and great with kids too in early afternoon
- Buck & Breck – Great after dinner cocktail bar around corner from Katz Orange. Literally a hidden gem as the bar is accessible via a buzzer via a fake front. Only seats 14 (+ now an extra 14 in back) and drinks are like rocket fuel. 2 will be more than enough.
- Winerai Forum – Really chilled out wine bar / cafe. This place would go bankrupt in Ireland. After 8pm they put all the wine bottles on the counter and you can drink as much as you want. You then pay what you think you owe them when you leave.
- Shiso Burger or Tommis if you are in the mood for a great burger
- Salt N Bone is a great new Gastro Pub in a fun and lively area. Loads of bars nearby.
- Prater Garten is the local Beer Garden. Well worth a visit on a sunny afternoon and the area is surrounded by bars and restaurants on Kastanienalle
- If you are down by the Brandenburg Gate and fancy Sushi then try Ishin – it’s in no way fancy but best Sushi in town and very affordable.
- Favourite sit down Schwarma places are probably Dada or Babel – great vegatarien options too – especially the Falafel plate at Dada.
- Breakfast/Brunch with decent coffee – Go to District or Antipodes (not open Mon/Tues)
The Berlin Experience
- Sunday morning and Sunny? – check out the Bear Pit Karoke in Mauer Park. It is basically thousands of Berliners just sitting around drinking beers watching randomers try to entertain them – a real Berlin experience, free, fun and outdoors. Usually starts around 3PM and check the website link to see if it’s on that day. You could walk up Kastanienalle from Rosenthaller and grab lunch / brunch at several great spots along the way.
- Before/After Mauer Park(Mauer is German for Wall) you can visit the nearby Berlin Wall museum which has the only fully preserved section. It is also interesting as this area had all the escape tunnels and several stories and exhibts from the time. If you are a tech nerd – you will enjoy seeing ‘The Factory’ building along the way which houses Soundcloud and hosts several Berlin Startup events and co-working spaces.
- Favourite wander – walk from Rosenthaler down to Museum Insel via Hackersher Hoff – cool old section of the city full of bars, cafes…
- Favourite place to chill on a sunny day – Wineberg Park – Grab a beer in the local store and sit out in the park. There is a really cool ‘shack’ hidden in the Rose Garten that is open in the summer. It sells beers, wine and hosts open air movie nights in the summer.
- Berlin is surrounded by loads of great lakes -several have beaches and are a fun day out in the summer.
- The 2 hr free walking tour is great. Go early on Sat/Sun and it starts at Brandenburg Gate
- If raining/cold – the Red Bus Tour is good to see more of the city as it covers the West and the East. Gives you a good sense of the differences between East and West
- If sunny – the Canal tours are great. Sit out on deck with a beer and watch the city float by
- The Museums are great – Go to the Pergamon if open
- The Reichstag Tour is nice – book in advance
- Apart from the tours – Avoid the city center area down by the Gate / Checkpoint Charlie / Adlon hotel / Museum Insel / Alexander Platz as its is very touristy and commercial. Not the real Berlin that you will love. Check out Hackescher Markt, Fredrichshain, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg areas and you can’t really go too far wrong.
I’ve a baby and a toddler so I’ve no clue :) Although the most accurate quote I’ve heard is that there really is so few shit bars or clubs in Berlin. They are all pretty cool and the only downside is that smoking is allowed in several places. The holy grail of nightclubs is Berghain and there are several cool areas around the city. Ask someone cooler like Chris Murphy or Enda Crowley about Nightlife :)
English – You can get by with English very comfortably in the areas I mention. Most will all be fluent and even the menus will be in English. English is so well understood that it’s only downside is that it is hard to learn German.
CASH – Most places will not accept cards. Trust me it is ridiculous – even places like IKEA and LIDL will not take Credit OR Debit cards. They mostly only take the local German EC card. It is a serious pain in the arse…
Sundays – All shops are closed. Cafes/Bars/Restaurants are open
If possible fly to Tegel. Avoid Schonefeld which is further out and beyond crap. Trains from Schonefeld are good though and cost on $3.20 for an ABC ticket.
The local Taxi app is ‘My Taxi’ as Uber is usually pretty slow / thin on the ground.
If here for a week+ then look into signing up for BMW’s Drive Now car sharing program in advance. You will need to visit a Sixt Car Rental to verify your docs but they are centrally located. You can pick up cars everywhere and most importantly drop them anywhere within the city for €0.30 per minute. Cars are usally a range of Mini’s and BMWs – great service and means most people don’t bother with a car.
The local ‘City Bikes’ program is ‘Call a Bike’ – Berlin is a flat city so cycling in the summer is the preferred option for getting around. There is relatively no traffic and very safe.