the ultimate guide to Berlin, Germany: where to stay, what to do, + where to eat

After multiple trips and gathering heaps of insider tips + tricks, I finally think I have a good enough understanding of Berlin to write a proper guide to the German capital. I hit up plenty of local recommendations given to me on my most recent summertime visit to Berlin, which compounded with previous trips and my most recent winter visit has culminated in a guide full of history, art, beautiful outdoor spaces, delicious coffee, and affordable food! I’ve included all of it in this complete guide filled to the brim with quirk. Berlin is truly a city with something for everyone!


BUCKLE UP! here’s my ultimate guide to berlin


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ABOUT THE GERMAN CAPITAL

Germany is a country in Western Europe with nearly 83 million residents. Most of the people in Germany identify as Christians, and even more of them identify as adoring fans of their Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, who is a true lady boss. While German is the primary language spoken, there are a slew of minority languages that are recognized nationally. In Berlin, you’ll never have a hard time finding someone who speaks English, since the city has a major expat community.

The country has so much history it would take ages to learn it all, which is a point of massive pride for its people. There is plenty to learn about in regards to the Cold War, both World Wars, and the Soviet Union. What is maybe most important to understand before visiting Berlin, however, is that the city was once divided in two sectors, the East and the West, and that this recent history plays a role in the modern identity of Berlin and its people, as well as Germany as a whole.

Berlin is known throughout Germany as being a very progressive, liberal city with plenty of vegan food and art to keep you happy indefinitely. There is always something going on in the city, and while winters are harsh, the summers in Berlin are hard to beat!


LANGUAGE

German is the primary language of the nation, however, French, English, and Russian are all common in the diverse capital city and I’ve never come across a problem communicating with locals in English.

CURRENCY

Germany is currently in the European Union and uses the Euro. Credit and international debit cards are accepted, but most Christmas markets and some smaller cafes or boutique shops are cash only establishments. Berlin is not quite as “contactless card friendly” as other European cities, so having a bit of cash with you is helpful.

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HOW TO GET TO BERLIN

Germany is a larger country than most people think. This is probably because the phenomenal train system and inexpensive flights from city to city make it an easy country in Western Europe to get around.

Part of the joy of being in Europe is the access to affordable flight options! EasyJet and WizzAir are two of the airlines I’ve flown with to and from Berlin at inexpensive rates. Of course, like most budget airlines, you will have to pay for every little extra. Plan to bring only hand luggage and opt out of picking your seat to find stellar deals for pennies!

Alternatively, you can utilize the amazing European train system. This is an efficient way to get around most of Europe, not just Germany! It’s definitely worth a try at some point.


GETTING AROUND BERLIN

Once you’ve made it to the city, getting around Berlin is easy to navigate despite it not having a city center. I suggest avoiding the Tourist Transport Pass and opting for the day pass, which costs €7.70 for Zones A, B, and C. It’s likely that, unless you are heading to the airport, you’ll only need a day pass for Zones A and B, which will set you back even less {€7.00}. Week passes are also available for those staying in the city for longer {yay, elongated travels!}

You need to valid whatever ticket you purchase before boarding your train/metro. There are random ticket checks and the people who do the checking get commission for finding violators. They don’t care if you’re a naive tourist and you’ll be fined €60 on the spot. Don’t think you’re out-smarting the system by playing like you don’t have the cash or a way to pay either! If you are a visitor to Berlin, the ticket checkers will note your passport number and name down and a bill will be sent to your home address. The longer you avoid the fee, the more it will cost you and you won’t be allowed to enter Germany again until your bill is paid in full.

Most {80%} of U-Bahn and S-Bahn stops have handicap accessibility— another reason to applaud the city!

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WHERE TO STAY

I only recommend places where I have stayed personally or that come highly recommend by trusted friends. A majority of the time I’m in Berlin, I stay with my lovely German family. Thus, Hüttenpalast Caravan Hotel is the accommodation I suggest you book, and I can’t recommend it enough! It’s a quirky hotel made of caravans in an up-and-coming part of the city, located conveniently by the U-Bahn. It’s also surrounded by a multitude of eateries {including Holy Flat, a highly-rated vegan restaurant}.

Read more about my stay at The Hüttenpalast Caravan Hotel

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the coolest cafés + the best “berliner” foods

House of Small Wonder

House of Small Wonder is an Instagram favourite thanks to its reclaimed wood and hanging plant aesthetics. While it’s frequented by some of the top influencers on social media, it’s equally as popular with the Berlin locals. Get there early or during off-peak eating times, since the place is small and seating is limited. Make sure you bring cash, as it’s the only form of payment accepted. I fully recommend the tomato soup, especially if you’re visiting in colder weather. I can also highly recommend their soy hot chocolate. I know it sounds like a child’s meal, but when it’s freezing out you need comfort foods.

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a NEVER EVER ENDING LOVE STORY

The pink decor and friendly staff were cherries on top of very delicious food at A Never Ever Ending Love Story. The moment I read the menu of the place online, I was hooked. Try their pancake stack with organic maple syrup! Luke had chorizo and scrambled eggs on toast and I tried a bit of the eggs {something I don’t regularly eat}. Guys, they were outrageously good!

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SUNDAYs IN AUGUST

The black coffee at Sundays in August was some of the best drip coffee I’ve had anywhere, and you’ll feel extra cool sipping a cup of black joe in the very “Berlin” ambience of the cafe-restaurant. Uncharacteristically of Berlin, Sundays has no vegan options, it does have a bevy of vegetarian menu items that will leave you drooling.

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Döner kebab

Döner kebab might not be the most “German” of foods, but it just might be the most “Berliner” of foods. With kebab stands on every street corner, it can be hard to know which ones are best. In truth, I’ve never had bad kebabs in Berlin— and I’ve had a lot of kebabs in Berlin. Their affordability, convenience, and deliciousness make them an all-around win in my book and the book of locals. My German brother told me, “after a night in Berlin, you have to get döner or you haven’t had a real night in Berlin.”

CLUB MATE

Business men on the U-Bahn, university students studying in the park, and just about everyone else you’ll see in Berlin knows and loves Club Mate. One of the many local recommendations made to me during my most recent summer visit to Berlin was to try the caffeinated concoction all Berliners are addicted to— I loved it. I loved it so much that I had two every day I was in Berlin during my visit…and that was me showing restraint.

Kreuz BURGER

If you’re looking for a cheap eat that will fully fill you up, you have to get a burger at Kreuz Burger. Yes, it’s a chain restaurant, but the quality and price of the food will make you happy there are multiple locations around the city. You can also order online! I had a vegan burger, in true Berlin fashion, and was so full I didn’t eat until breakfast the next morning. The portions are heaping and the food is made fresh. There are burgers for meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, and celiacs all for less than €6.

YOU CAN CATCH A GLIMPSE OF MY BURGER MEAL IN MY BERLIN VIDEO HERE.

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WHAT TO SEE + DO

See the bicycle wall

Looking for something incredibly off-the-beaten-path? Hop on the bus to Altlandsberg just outside of Berlin and go see the obscure wall of bicycles that adorn a local bike shop. Instead of using the traditional methods of marketing, like a billboard, this bike shop choose to hang 120 bicycles from its exterior walls. I made the trek to Atlandsberg and, spoiler alert, the bike shop is the main and arguably the only attraction of the tiny Berlin suburb.

WALK FROM EAST TO WEST AT CHECKPOINT CHARLIE

Checkpoint Charlie is the name, as dubbed by the Western Allies, for the most famous crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War, which officially lasted from 1947-1991. It’s a bit underwhelming, if I’m honest, given the historic landmark is now surrounded by a Starbucks, a KFC, a McDonald’s, and a horribly overpriced souvenir shop. Regardless of its modern chintzy surroundings, it feels pretty neat to walk freely where, not so long ago, there would have be serious war-time tension.

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GET SPOOKED AT SPREE PARK

My German “mother” remembers when Spree Park was a functioning amusement park. Nowadays, it’s fully closed…except to daring rebel visitors who trespass {do NOT recommend}. Alina, Luke, and I walked around the perimeter of the park before chickening out. It’s a good thing we weren’t brave! Unlike other abandoned parks I’ve gone to where you bribe a security guard or pay an small entrance fee, Spree has full security and guard dogs according to one blog we read post-peek.

Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The memorial, which is free to visit, is made up of 2711 concrete slabs. The slabs all differ in height and are built on a slant The memorial is on a slight slope and its wave-like form is different wherever you stand. It was designed to give its visitors a moment of uncertainty while allowing them open space to confront the harrowing topic in their own way. It’s worth

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SPOT berlin’s MOLECULE MAN

Molecule Man is actually a series of aluminum sculptures created by Jonathan Borofsky, with one of these sculptures at home in Berlin! The Berlin installation is located in the Spree River and, don’t worry, you can’t miss it— Molecule Man towers at nearly 30 meters in height. In the words of the American artist:

“The sculpture is to remind us of the fact that both people and molecules exist in a world governed by probability, and that the objective of all creative and scientific traditions is finding wholeness and unity within the world.” – Jonathan Borofsky

SPEND YOUR MONEY AT GALERIES LAFAYETTE

For those visiting Berlin in the dead of winter, I highly recommend finding some activities that are indoor to help escape from the bitter temperatures. Galeries Lafayette is a shopping complex filled with boutiques and brand name designers.

Ride your bike around an abandoned airport

Tempelhof airport has been turned into a recreation area where visitors can skateboard and bike around the runway, taking advantage of beautiful Berlin summers. I was lucky enough to fly a kite on the runway {unsuccessfully thanks to zero wind}, and can say for a fact that being on the tarmac made me feel insanely small. There are also picnic areas if you fancy an alternative to the many parks that fill the city.

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be a total tourist at brandenburg gate

You and everyone else will be there, but Brandenburg Gate is a landmark of Berlin that can’t be missed on principle. It’s just a landmark, sure, but seeing it will give you that “I’m really in Berlin” moment.

FEEL LIKE A ROYAL AT CHARLOTTENBURG PALACE

The Baroque-style architecture of Charlottenburg Palace surrounded its sweeping lawns and green gardens makes it a beautiful spot to spend a sunny afternoon. It’s the largest palace in Berlin and once you see the inside your jaw WILL drop, I promise. The palace is closed on Mondays, but is open the other six days of the week from 10AM - 6 PM.

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SEE THE WeiRD + WONDERFUL WORLD OF TEUFELSBERG

Teufelsberg is an abandoned spy station from the Cold War that’s morphed into a hippie commune/living art installation. There is an €8 admission fee {or you can sneak in over the fence…which I do NOT recommend…}. Teufelsberg is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that, if you’re anything like me, will leave you a bit confused but with a fun anecdote from your visit.

YOU CAN READ ABOUT MY FIRST VISIT TO THE TEUFELSBERG HERE.

GET CULTURED AT MUSEUM ISLAND

Museum Island is exactly what it sounds like: a museum of five art and history museums. The five museums charge admission, but a walk around the island is free. There is also a more affordable pass option for those who dig art and history. All the museums are closed on Mondays, so plan accordingly!

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explore URBAN SPREE

Urban Spree is a complex of industrial warehouses that are now the home of exhibitions, clubs, cafés, and concert spaces. You’ll find Urban Spree along Revaler Strasse in trendy Friederichschain. The night life at Urban Spree has a reputation for being wilder than most, but its the art exhibits and lively atmosphere that makes it worth exploring.

See the carpark where Hitler’s bunker used to be

Where the bunker that Hitler took his own life in once stood is now a subtle plaque explaining the history and the city’s decision to make it a car park with hope that it never became a place of Neo-Nazi pilgrimage.

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CATCH FREE VIEWS OF THE CITY FROM THE REICHSTAG

A visit to the Reichstag is free and comes with breathtaking aerial views of Berlin from every angle. Make sure to book your visit ahead of time online, or you won’t be allowed in. Every visitor gets a headset with a free audio guide that explains the layout and architecture of the city, and gives insight into how history shaped Berlin.

VISIT THE EAST SIDE GALLERY

The East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery that consists of murals painted directly on a remnant of the Berlin Wall. East Side is a heritage-protected landmark and an important symbol for the freedom of human expression. You’ll often find buskers playing music and men playing mahjong along the 1316 meter wall, especially in the summer months.

Grab photos in a Photoautomat

Photoautomats are another Berlin quirk that add to my overall adoration of the city! These old time film photo-booths create great souvenirs for only a few euros and can be found in nearly every neighbourhood. I snapped some pics with Alina in the pink booth below in the Kulturbrauerei area near my favourite Berlin Christmas market.

YOU CAN FIND ALL THE BEST BERLIN PHOTO SPOTS IN MY INSTAGRAM GUIDE HERE.

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CHECK OUT A CHRISTMAS MARKET {WINTER ONLY}

If you happen to be stopping by Berlin during the winter months, your visit would be incomplete without stopping by at least one of the many Christmas markets throughout the city.

YOU CAN FIND MY FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GERMAN CHRISTMAS MARKETS HERE.

KARAOKE IN MAUERPARK {WARMER MONTHS ONLY}

In the warmer months, Mauerpark {which also has a fabulous Saturday flea market} is filled with karaoke. Yeah. Karaoke live in a public park. It’s a great place to have some laughs, enjoy summer nights, and practice you go-to song!

 

WATCH THE fun FROM MY most recent trip to BERLIN


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The Ultimate Guide to Berlin, Germany: where to eat, where to stay, how to get around, and what to do in Berlin, Germany #berlin #berlinthingstodo #berlintravel #germanytravel
The Ultimate Guide to Berlin, Germany: where to eat, where to stay, how to get around, and what to do in Berlin, Germany #berlin #berlinthingstodo #berlintravel #germanytravel