The thing about business trips is that although it sounds pretty fabulous to be whisked off on an all expenses paid trip, the reality is that you won’t actually get to see much of the place you’re visiting. So on a work trip to Berlin this week, I made sure I got a super early flight so I could spend the good part of a day seeing the sights before work duties took over.
When you’re low on time it’s always best to plan your route out first so that you can fit in everything you want to do. And this is the route I opted for! So if you’ve got a quick pit stop or flight layover in Berlin and want to cram in as much as possible without spending too much money, here’s the way to go.
START: BRANDENBURGER TOR
I didn’t know a whole lot about Berlin before my arrival, but the Brandenburger Tor with its majestic chariot perched on top is pretty iconic, and I wanted to check it out. It’s quite a touristy area in Alexanderplatz but a nice place to start the day with pretty architecture and the Tiergarten park nearby.
STOP: HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
Heading South, you’ll arrive at the Holocaust Memorial on your left. This consists of rectangular concrete blocks of varying heights, which as you walk through and the blocks get taller, make you feel extremely uneasy and confined. A really moving exhibition.
STOP: POTSDAMER PLATZ
The next stop is Potzdamer Platz, another touristy spot much like Piccadilly Circus in London. It has portions of the Berlin Wall here and is a great place to people watch. From here the plan is to follow the path of the Berlin Wall across the city. This is marked on the pavement along the route so is easy to follow!
STOP: TOPOGRAPHIE DES TERRORS
This leads on to the Topographie Des Terrors, a free outside exhibition which shows a large portion of the Berlin Wall alongside display boards about WWII and the Wall’s history. This is the site of the Gestapo HQ so a really fascinating area, although quite unnerving when you realise the extent of the horrors that were planned here.
STOP: CHECKPOINT CHARLIE
A 5 minute walk on to Checkpoint Charlie, the infamous gateway where residents attempted to escape to the other side of the Berlin Wall. I visited the museum on the corner and read some fascinating escape stories. However, I would point out that this museum is more about reading plaques rather than looking at actual objects so you definitely have to be in the right frame of mind for it. It is interesting just to see the checkpoint, if you don’t fancy the museum.
STOP: CHECKPOINT CURRY 207
Here’s a great place to stop for lunch for Berlin’s famous Currywurst! This is chopped up sausage with a combination of ketchup and curry powder. Sounds gross, tastes delicious! Checkpoint Curry 207 is also dead cheap at €2.50 a pop! Your tastebuds will love you for it, and so will your purse.
STOP: A WALK ACROSS TOWN
Next up is quite a long walk over to the east side of the city, following the former path of the Berlin Wall. This is a great opportunity to see some of the street art and sculptures that are infamous in this city. It also leads to some lovely parks and spots to chill out.
STOP: EAST SIDE GALLERY
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ve arrived at the East Side Gallery – a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall along the river, completely covered in graffiti. This classes it as the largest open-air gallery in the world. It really is a sight to behold, so much outstanding street art and the longest stretch of the wall I managed to see on this route. Some of the artwork is political, some documents the sad history of the wall and some of it is just beautiful artwork in its own right. Whatever your taste, it is definitely worth seeing.
At the end of the gallery you can cross back over to the Kreuzberg area for lots of low-budget options for dinner and drinks. Kreuzberg seems a bit rough and ready but has so much character with cafes and bars spilling out on to the street. If you fancy Turkish food, Bagdad Restaurant serves amazing food, the grilled lamb in particular is gorgeous. For lower budget options you can get a big plate of pasta for about €5 at Nudel cafe, or if you’re still thinking about that currywurst you had for lunch, you can grab some more from Curry 7!
So that was my day in Berlin! I tried to keep it quite varied with a mixture of landmarks, museums, parks and galleries so it was a lovely day. I didn’t get to cover a lot of the tourist attractions but I prefer to spend my time soaking up the culture in a new city anyway. I’d love to explore a bit more of Berlin though and if I had the chance would want to go up the Fernsehturm (space-needle-looking edifice!) in Alexanderplatz, visit some more of the museums and scout out their vintage shops (I have a feeling they’d be amazing). But alas, another trip.
Have you been to Berlin? Anything you’d recommend?