A dark history has shaped the culture and attitudes of Berlin. The intertwining of the U.S., French, English and Soviet occupation is palpable. Most people I met spoke at least French and English and likely Polish or Serbian.
Where to Stay:
I would recommend staying the the Mitte area – near Alexanderplatz. It is close to the Berlin Wall Memorial and has quick access to all the other attractions via the underground. Public transport is pretty easy in Berlin. Plus, Mitte is filled with great little shops, coffee houses, restaurants, and lounges. Of course, if you’re looking an epic night scene, then East Berlin is the best place to stay – raves and dance clubs galore.
Things to Do:
The Berlin Wall Memorial: Berlin history is heavily swayed towards the Cold War. The museum is worth the tour to better educate yourself on post WWII Germany and the complications of occupying a war torn country.
East Side Gallery: The highlight of our time in Berlin. Grab some beers and spend an hour or two walking the wall to view all the amazing street art.
Checkpoint Charlie: The famous checkpoint between East and West Berlin. If you already went to the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum, then you can skip the Check Point Charlie Museum. But don’t miss the free outside historical display just beyond the checkpoint.
Tiergarden: This is a beautiful garden to stroll through. If you really have time to spare, an interesting thing to do would be to compare a few sites in this area to what they looked like in 1945 (http://interaktiv.morgenpost.de/berlin-1945-2015/).
Sammlung Boros Museum in Mitte : This museum is located in an old bunker and the contemporary art is dynamic.
Ravensbrück Concentration Camp (or any Concentration Camp): As somber as this visit is, it should be done. Ravensbrück is about an hour north of Berlin via public transportation and is unique as it was built to be exclusively for women. Make the time for this visit, it should take about half a day or a little more. Then go back to Berlin, grab a beer at a local biergarten and engage in the discussion of pulling parallels from recent history such as the Bosnian war and the current Syrian conflict and refugee crisis.
Where to Eat:
Just a heads up, the food in southern Germany was much more traditional German and delicious! Berlin, like any other major city, has a lot of variety. The only place worth noting is Brauhaus Lemke.Try the Currywurst; it’s quite popular in Berlin.
Warning – Berliners know how to party and the party doesn’t usually start until 1am. So grab a late dinner, a cocktail afterwards and maybe an energy drink.
- Rivabar in Mitte: This was a cool little lounge with delicious custom drinks.
- Felix in Mitte: This was a fun disco bar with a cool lounge area. The drinks were pricey, but you’ll know the music and everyone is out dancing. Don’t arrive until midnight or 1am – they are open until 6am.
- There are a bunch of other great dive bars all around Mitte – only downer is that some of them allow smoking.
- As mentioned before, the hard core, very German, club scene with house music is mostly on the East side and I just couldn’t muster the energy to go out two nights in a row. But ask any young German on the street where to go for that scene and they’ll tell you.