Berlin is a city which exudes history everywhere you look. Scattered with the scars of its past, you’ll find bullet holes in the architecture where old meets new seamlessly. I highly recommend you learn as much as you can before going, or make sure you get on a tour to really appreciate the stories this city has to tell. More on that if you read on!
I wanted to do a day-by-day, trip report style write-up on my holiday to Berlin – I’ve seen lots of others do this including the lovely Katy Gilroy @ The Lilac Scrapbook and always really enjoyed this format. I’ll do a little bonus post of my must-haves and travel tips at the end. Please let me know what you think and if this works for you as a reader!
We started our day super early in the morning at the Premier Inn Runger Lane North. It only worked out about £10 more to stay there the night before we flew than the quotes we were getting for airport parking/taxi, so we thought we’d treat ourselves to starting the holiday early! I love a Premier Inn – you always know what you’re getting and you’re almost always guaranteed decent quality for a reasonable price. Josh was quick to notice that the website stated every room was equipped with a Smart TV and ours was not all that Smart, almost a disaster as we might have had to *gasp* talk to each other, but we found some decent TV in the end so all was well. Staying here really did make the morning much less stressful and it allowed us a little more sleep too, highly recommend for those early flights.
Getting through Manchester Airport was tricky. We were flying from T1 and it was far busier getting through security than we expected – the queue was so long that our flight time ended up being called out and we got escorted to the front! Cue me being smug as I rolled past all the peasants waiting for their turn. After security took so long, our plane was already boarding so there was no time to eat or drink or shop, we had to leg it straight to the gate which took AGES. I don’t understand how the place is so big, it felt like we ran for miles. We flew with EasyJet – it’s nothing special but it’s fine isn’t it – and it was a short, smooth flight except for:
getting on the wrong end of the plane so by the time we got to our seat there were no spaces left for our luggage so we had to put a case under our seat (you might wonder why I’m telling you this, but it’s a key piece of information – you’ll see)
the air pressure somehow loosening something in my sinuses or wherever so my nose started running like a tap, I had no tissues and didn’t want to disturb the sleeping guy in the aisle seat so for a little while I had to use the sick bag (grim)
being almost a whole can of cider in at this point on an empty stomach and I suddenly needed the toilet so desperately that I thought I might wet myself if I waited any longer, so I got Josh (in the middle seat, I was in the window) to wake up the sleeping man so I could get out, but I tripped over the suitcase and dropped the remainder of my can of cider on the man in front of me, to which I burst out laughing out of sheer nervousness and not being 100% sober at this point, and the sudden laugh caused me to pass wind. So if any of my fellow passengers are reading this, I’m so sorry.
After a little delay in disembarking, the journey through Berlin Tegel Airport was seamless. We found the bus we needed really easily and it was about a 20 minute journey to Berlin Central station/Station Hauptbahnhof. As you approach the station it looks massive and imposing, and you can see the TV Tower in the distance (you can from almost anywhere in the city) and it was a really impressive sight. We always like to leave our cases or heavy bags in luggage lockers so we’re not tethered to them for the day if we do have an early flight; here they were well signposted and easy to use. We had a walking tour booked for the afternoon which set off from Brandenburg Gate, so after locking our cases away we decided to have a leisurely walk there from the station, taking in the sights on the way. We got to the Brandenburg Gate nice and early so we had time to finally stop for some food, obviously we made a beeline for the little street food hut with a big “WURST :-)” atop it for some Currywurst – my first of five and a fine place to start.
We then headed over to the Gate to take some pics and soak up the atmosphere of Pariser Platz. Josh embarrassingly tried to recreate the Spider-Man: Far From Home movie poster (who did it better? Answers on a postcard) and I was cold so we headed for Starbucks for a hot chocolate and handily, this is also where we joined our tour.
The SANDEMANs free walking tour was incredible. Our tour guide was Rochale, from Canada, who was enthusiastic, funny and so so knowledgeable. We found out so many interesting things which completely changed my perception of German history. She pointed out pieces of peaceful symbolism across the city, but as most of these were open to interpretation, I’ll keep schtum on them and let you find out for yourself (or feel free to ask me!). We learned about the history of the Bradenburg Gate, the Pariser Platz, Hotel Adlon, the Reischtag Building, she pointed out the line of bricks on the floor where the Berlin Wall once stood (which you can see right across the city), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which was haunting an thought-provoking, the site of Hitler’s bunker, the Luftwaffer HQ (which then became the Ministry of Ministries, soo Harry Potter, and is now the Tax Office), the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, the “Book Burning Square” (Bebelplatz), German history, Prussian history and everything in between, more than I could ever write in a blog post. It was SO interesting and I seriously recommend it. The tour takes about 3 hours with a break in the middle. It’s free, but the tour guides are freelancers so work on tips which they will ask for at the end. There’s no obligation if it’s not in your budget but if you can I know it’s appreciated. I’m not giving too much away on purpose as you really should experience it yourself and interpret the stories and the history in your own way. But if you can’t see Berlin in your future but are intrigued to know more, just ask me!
After the tour we were tired and eager to see where we were staying, so we thought we’d head back to Central Station to grab our bags and head over to our apartment. I had the bright idea that we could grab one of those electric scooters you see people whizzing about on. This wasn’t a bright idea. They were faster than I expected and you weren’t allowed to drive them on the pavements (an elderly local shouted at us) but taking them on the roads was scary AF and not all that cheap. I’m glad I did it for the experience and would I do it again? Maybe, but definitely somewhere much quieter. Also my particular scooter had built-in no-parking-zones (we travelled on different brands) and after taking it up and down the street a few times to no avail Josh had to take it to the other side of the bridge and walk back (I guess he didn’t have to and I could have done it, but what would be the point in bringing him otherwise?). We then got lost looking for the station, which if you have seen it you’ll know is ridiculous and it was staring us in the face the whole time, but after a quick turn-around grabbing our cases we took the S-Train to the station close to our apartment.
We were staying in a lovely little residential area on the outskirts of the city, close to Gustav Muller-Platz. On our street, there was the odd cafe/bar dotted up and down but as you turned a corner there was a mini-supermarket, both an underground and overground station and loads more cafes and bars. As you turned another corner, more of the same. You could easily spend a day here hopping around the different shops and bars; but having arrived in the evening we put our bags in our apartment, grabbed some bits from the supermarket and headed home with snacks and got in to bed. This was our Airbnb, it was perfect for us and the host family lived next door which was so handy. It made it really flexible for us as to when we could arrive and Oksana who greeted us was so friendly and helpful – she even popped round in her dressing gown later in the evening to set Netflix up on the TV for us!
Couldn’t have asked for a better first day in this fantastic city. I’ll be posting more in the next few days so be sure to keep an eye on my socials or subscribe below!