JOE’s easy guide to having a great weekend in… Berlin
The biggest city in the most populated country in Europe, Berlin really is a must-see.
As a tourist destination, Berlin hardly needs to sell itself.
First of all, there’s the history.
More things have happened in Berlin in the last 100 years than have happened in the entire lives of other major cities and the hallmarks of two World Wars are still everywhere to be seen.
While not letting go of its past, Berlin is also embracing the future and constantly reinventing itself.
There is such an amount of construction going on right now that it’ll be a completely different place in five years’ time.
It’s vibrant, energetic and cosmopolitan and, as you would hope and expect from a bustling city, it caters for every type of holiday-maker, even if it’s only for a brief visit.
Here’s how I (Conor Heneghan) fared on a four-day trip to the German capital just before Halloween.
Flights from Ireland: There are direct flights from Dublin to Berlin daily with both Ryanair and Aer Lingus and flights from Shannon are quite regular too. Like pretty much everything associated with Berlin, the price is quite reasonable as well.
Accommodation: I stayed with my girlfriend in an AirBnb apartment in Mitte, about ten minutes away from the city centre on the U-Bahn. The apartment cost just €53 a night, but a room in a fairly central hotel like the Holiday Inn Express, for example, will set you back around €80 a night.
Must-see: Kreuzberg. An area so hipster that it was done with fixie bikes before they were even seen in Dublin 8, it’s full of cool cafés, bars and restaurants and some of the finest street art in Europe.
Visit during the day to see the sights, come back when the sun goes down to experience the nightlife.
#streetart #berlin #germany #kreuzberg A photo posted by @conorheneghan on
Must-do: It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, but if I had to, it would be the Topography of Terror. Built on the old headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, there are indoor and outdoor exhibits which cover practically every aspect of the history of Nazi Germany.
It’s also within spitting distance of preserved sections of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie and is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Best pub: Nobody does communal drinking quite like the Germans and a visit to Hofbräu Berlin at Alexanderplatz at the right time is as close an experience to Oktoberfest as you're going to get.
Posted by Hofbräu Berlin on Tuesday, 3 November 2015
It can hold 4,000 people, has any amount of beers on tap, serves traditional Bavarian dishes and is a great place to watch live sport too.
Best Irish pub: Not surprisingly in a city as big as Berlin, you won’t have to travel far to find an Irish pub, but Bono and the U2 lads saw fit to stop by the Oscar Wilde pub to catch an Ireland game during the Rugby World Cup so it must be good.
Best club: Berlin is described as the techno capital of the world for good reason and even if it’s not your thing, it’s worth checking out what all the fuss is about.
A cousin of mine who’s lived in Berlin for the last couple of years took us to a club called Suicide Circus in Kreuzberg during our stay and while I think I can still see the strobe lights in front of my face two weeks’ on, I was glad I went for the experience.
Must taste: Currywurst.
A Berlin speciality, it’s basically a hot dog covered in a mixture of ketchup and curry paste. It is neither subtle nor complicated, but you certainly won’t forget the taste in a hurry.
Price of a pint of beer: Very reasonable, the only places likely to charge you more than €3 are the Irish pubs. It’s damn tasty too; no more than ourselves, the Germans like their beer.
Must-say: Bitte (Please). Danke (Thank You). Entschuldigung (pronounced ent-shool-dee-gung) (Excuse Me).
You’ll absolutely cope with no grasp of the native language in Berlin, but locals will appreciate if you at least try.
Not in the tour guide: Fassbender & Rausch chocolate shop, café and restaurant.
If you're a chocaholic then this is absolutely the spot for you.
The shop itself is filled with a wide variety of various chocolates, including scaled-down models of some of Berlin's most famous landmarks made entirely of chocolate.
Every single dish on the restaurant's menu includes some kind of chocolate - the current menu, for example, includes steak with chocolate sauce, lobster with chocolate sauce and cream soup of pea and mint garnished with fine dark chocolate.
If you are going you'd want to book in advance because, understandably, it's quite popular.