Originally Posted by ametz
Berlin fever has been in full swing in Chicago for a few years at least, especially among artsy types (fartsy types too- I’m heading there in a couple weeks). The visual arts and electronic music scenes, the idea that it’s a ‘kinetic’ city in flux and, not least, relatively affordable (and not overly polished and staid) are the reasons my friends are citing for their recent visits. I imagine the underground sex dungeons are all the rage, too.
In the popular (American) imagination, there may still be the residual notion that Germans are a dour, serious, people who eat gruel under grey skies while imagining ways to get an extra 1/32 mile per gallon out of the latest Mercedes Benz in between daydreams of invading Poland, but I think that’s greatly dissipated over the last decade. I feel like it’s been the darling of Europe for awhile now.
On to my upcoming trip….any little known ‘must sees’? Big stuff on the itinerary so far:
Nues, Bauhaus, & stasi museums
Brandenburg gate/Reichstag/Checkpoint Charlie
Dinner @ Dos Palillos in the Camper Hotel
We’re staying at the Michelberger. Oh, I’d like to check out that abandoned theme park posted earlier (featured in the movie “Hannah”, if I’m not mistaken). I’m also curious about the local fast food options….currywurst or the kebab places worth checking out? How about a place for a good, traditional, German meal?
Very much looking forward to the trip!
I don't know when or for how long you are going but here are some recommendations:
Fist off, book the Reichstag tour as soon as you know your travel dates. I had to wait 3 weeks after I arrived and that was in March! Fantastic tour and the Norman Foster dome is spectacular.
Buy a Berlin Welcome Card. This will give you 5 days unlimited transit and good discounts on over 150 attractions and museums. Cost is 30-35 euro (Zone AB will cover most of your needs, ABC for Potsdam, Sachsenhausen) Renew at will.
The first tour you should book is an Alternative Berlin tour. They take you to places that you would never think of going to and if you go on arrival, you can return to the places that interest you later. I did the twilight.
Absolute must: Berlin Unterwelten. There are about a half-dozen or so tours of bunkers and underground complex from both WW II and the Cold War. The guides are historians and the structures are absolutely amazing. I did 4 tours but if you can only do one, I suggest the flak tower.
The Neues is a fantastic museum as are all on Museum Island. Buy the 19 euro, 3-day pass (and another and another..) It's good for over 50 city museums including (that I went to) Bauhaus, Guggenhein, Luftwaffe, Technikmuseum, Pergamon, Alte and Neue Nationalgaleries, Bode, Altes, Jewish, Medizinhistorisches, Deutscher Dom and Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary. Depending upon your interests, any or all of these could be an all-day experience. I visited the Technikmuseum twice in order to take it all in.
Which leads me to the Deutsches Historiches Museum. WOW. Took me 3 visits before I saw it all. Phenomenal in content, architecture and layout, it will slaughter you if you're a fan of history. Right next to Museum Island.
Stasimuseum is well worth the trip even though it was under renovation when I went. Also, the Stasi prison will chill you. Saschenhausen concentration camp is a must see.
I found Checkpoint Charlie to be a bit of a touristy letdown but it's easy enough to see on your way to and fro. Other museums that are interesting and will only take an hour or two are DDR Museum, This Is Berlin, Aquadom, Zoo, Motorcycle Museum.
Check out Fat Tire Bikes for really fabulous bike tours with amazing guides.
Go to Olympic Stadium. A beautiful job of historic preservation with a fantastic modern upgrade for the 2006 World Cup. If Hertha is playing, catch a soccer game. For a less glamourous but more fun and down to earth soccer experience, catch FC Union Berlin at Alte Forsterei stadium. Hardest working fans in football!
Another point of interest is the ghost station exhibition at S Bahn Nordbanhof. Across the street is a preserved section of the wall with an interpretation centre across from that. On the fourth corner, there is a crazy urban beach (BeachMitte) with a five-storey climbing apparatus (MountMitte) and a park built along the former death strip. (Berliners tend to take all of this stuff for granted!)
Treptower Park is beautiful and has a massive Soviet war memorial. Gorlitzer Park is great to hang out in and there is a small community at the south end where people live completely off grid.
You MUST go to Mauerpark on Sunday, this is not negotiable!! A huge flea market where you can buy absolutely anything next to a park where everyone is doing their own thing while 1,000's of people line the hillside listening to people belt out karaoke tunes!
Nightlife is 24 hours and whatever you want it to be. Music venues are everywhere, every style and the clubs are legendary, Berghain being the most amazing club I've ever been to. The door policy is difficult to get a handle on (we got in on the 3rd attempt) but once you're in- anything goes, and I really do mean anything. You lose all connection to time and place until you emerge the next morning, afternoon or evening. Or 2 days later.. Watergate, Tresor and Matrix are good bets as well. Dressing casual, even down a bit, and not looking or acting like a douchebag seems to be the best bet for getting into clubs. Berlin is very anti-douchebag.
Keep in mind that public drinking is legal and alcohol is available practically everywhere and at any time. You can walk into a bar, buy a beer and leave with it. When you order, your first drink will cost you 1 euro extra and you will receive a plastic token. Return your bottle or glass each time you order another and you won't have to pay the 1 euro. You can cash in your chip(s) at the end of the night or do like I did and return home with 30 euro worth of souvenir chips! Smoking is allowed in most venues (but not restaurants). Prostitution is legal so you will see some killer attractive workers in tourist areas.
Currywurst and wurst are available everywhere and I never found a bad kebab place, they all claim to be 'The Best!'. I frequented one across from the TV Tower on Karl-Liebnecht as well as one near Hackescher Mrkt. My favourite street snacks were crepes with either Nutella or ham and cheese. They were ready in 3 minutes and only cost 2 or 3 euro. There are pastry and sausage places everywhere including just about every S bahn and U bahn station (where you can also buy beer, vodka, Jagermeister etc. and hop on your train with it). Stir fry and sushi places abound. And roast chicken! There is a takeout place by Gorlitzer park that is awesome but you'll find them all over.
You'll often be approached by Roma women and their children asking if you 'speak english?'. Say 'nein' or just ignore them, they're very annoying.
Transit is super efficient, frequent, 24 hours and goes everywhere.
Hope that helps. I've missed a bunch but you'll probably find 100 things that I didn't. You need a few years to get a grip on Berlin.