Berlin is the city where our Interrail journey began. Once separated by a wall and shared among a few world powers, today it welcomes people from different nationalities and backgrounds. Being in central Europe, it’s very handy if you’re considering travelling to other countries from here.
We flew to Berlin-Tegel airport, the closest to the city centre (around 11km away). One would think that it would be a big airport, taking into account that it’s considered the main one (there’s another airport under construction at the moment). However, we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Just after leaving the aircraft, you’re already queueing to have your passport checked. After this, you find yourself in a tiny room where people wait for their luggage. If you need to go to the toilet, there’s only one for each gender in this room. There are more outside, but you won’t leave without your luggage, will you? After waiting for a full hour, we finally got our suitcases (yay…about time). German efficiency, where are you?
We got a bus to go into town. It takes around half an hour and goes all the way to Alexanderplatz. You can buy your ticket at the information office or in machines outside the airport. It runs quite often, so don’t worry if you miss one. Once in Alexanderplatz, you can get other forms of public transport to go virtually anywhere.
There are plenty of things to do and visit in this historical city. Don’t forget to plan your visit well or you won’t have enough time for everything. Here are a few recommendations:
Things you should do in Berlin
1) Join a free walking tour
As we mentioned on our previous post, these tours are the perfect way to learn a lot about the city and its history within a few hours. The guides take you to the most important areas of the city and they provide plenty of information. An ugly and ordinary building might happen to be one of the Nazi headquarters back then, and you wouldn’t know that by just walking past it.
2) Visit the Reichstag Building
It is one of the most visited sights in Berlin, and it is seat of the German parliament (Bundestag). The access to the roof terrace and the glass dome is free, but you need to register in advance. You can book your visit here. Try not to miss this, the views of the city from the top are fantastic.
3) Spend some time walking around the Holocaust Memorial
This is something that our tour guide recommended to us. Explore this space on your own, and try to connect with the meaning of all those concrete slabs (2,711 to be exact!). It is quite shocking that such an appalling thing happened not so long ago. Please remember that it is completely forbidden to stand on the slabs. Be respectful and don’t go for that selfie you were planning to take from the top of one of them.
4) Walk along the East Side Gallery
Visiting this hipster part of Berlin is like teleporting back in time to the communist era. The buildings are very colourful and look all the same, like big blocks of concrete with windows, and you can spot industrial chimneys here and there. The street art on the famous Berlin wall is just as impressive, so we recommend taking your time to have a look at all of it. At the end of the walk there’s a square by the riverbank where some buskers play music. There’s also a bar with a terrace, perfect for sunny days.
If you feel adventurous, continue straight towards the famous Oberbaum Bridge (Oberbaumbrücke). The views of the city from the other side of the bridge are simply fantastic. If you’re a fan of Sense8, there’s a surprise for you here. There are also some pretty cool bars in the area, and even a swimming pool on the river. The perfect place to relax and unwind with a view after a long day. This was one of our favourite areas in Berlin. It’s not your typical tourist haunt, and you could perfectly spend a full day here.
5) Wander along the Rhine river
The views from its bank are not to be missed. The museum buildings on the Museum Island mix themselves with the cute cafés, from where both tourists and locals enjoy the views and wave at the passing river cruises.
We loved the Hackescher Markt area, where you can get takeaway from one of the restaurants and eat it on a sunbed facing the Berlin cathedral. Enjoy your food while some buskers play the latest hits to make the moment even more special. You’ll miss the good vibes this place has after your trip!
If you’re looking for traditional German food or yummy pizzas, go to the Ampelmann restaurant. Just order, relax, and grab your food when your buzzer rings.
6) Go on a day trip to Potsdam
This historical city, once the residence of the Prussian royal family, is only 40 minutes away from Berlin by train, and is part of the Unesco World Heritage. It features some stunning palaces and gardens where some distinguished personalities like Voltaire lived for a while. We highly recommend making an advanced reservation if you are considering visiting the indoors of the rococo palaces. If you’re more of an adventurer, why not rent a bike and discover every single part of this gorgeous site?
Apart from these attractions, you could also spend days visiting some of the numerous museums present in Berlin, or partying in some of its clubs, considered to be among the best in Europe.
Is there anything we wouldn’t recommend visiting? Yes, the TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm). We considered ascending to the view point on the top, but after reading opinions on the Internet and talking to locals, we decided not to. The food in the restaurant is said to be just fine, and the views are nothing special. After all, the TV tower is what makes Berlin’s skyline special.
How to go from Berlin to Krakow?
If you are on Interrail and your next destination is Krakow, you need to know that there isn’t any direct train from Berlin. According to the Interrail Planner app, the best route is: Berlin (Lichtenberg) – Angermünde – Szczecin – Kraków.
If you read our previous post, you’ll already know that our train from Angermünde to Szczecin arrived +30 minutes late and we missed our night train to Kraków. We were lucky that Szczecin is a big city and the station is fine, but I don’t recommend spending the night there to anyone.
Last but not least, Berlin is said to be like an island in Germany, quite different from the rest of the country. Do not judge the whole country by just visiting its eclectic capital city. Also, try to learn some basic German, we got the impression they don’t like being addressed in English at all (nor didn’t they like our intermediate German either). Despite all this, Berlin is a must if you’re travelling around Europe so, what are you waiting for?