16 May 2012

Berlin Travel Guide


Travel from Airport:

By the time you read this, they may have completed the Willy Brandt airport, so you will be able to take an S-Bahn train to the city centre. But probably not, which means you’ve arrived at Tegel. So take the TXL bus to Hauptbahnhof and Alexanderplatz, or if you want somewhere in the West of the city, use the X9 to Zoo Station, or change onto the S-Bahn at Jungfernheide from the X9 or 109.

Accommodation:

Three great hotels to choose from:

Holiday Inn Alexanderplatz
only 1 block east of Alexanderplatz, with modern rooms and some good views

Park Inn Alexanderplatz
unmissable as it is in the centre of Alexanderplatz, with over 30 floors, and great views from many of them

Radisson Blu Berlin
on the main road between West and East, next to Berliner Dom, with good bus links and a U/S-Bahn station minutes away, has a fantastic lobby and every room has a view of a fishtank reaching to the top of the atrium

Travel Card:

Buy a 7 Day Card for 36 Euro, either from one of the ticket machines (which are often broken) or the German-speaking ticket office at the Airport. Don't forget to validate it at the start of your first journey.
You can also get tourist tickets which are only for up to 5 days, and include some vaguely useful discounts if you like that sort of thing.

Food:

Freischwimmer, Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 2, Kreuzberg
a fish restaurant on the bank of a branch of the Spree. Take the U-bahn to Schlesisches Tor, and then walk parallel to the river over two bridges, and you'll see it signposted down a track to the left. 

Nordsee, Spandauerstrasse 4
another fish restaurant, one of a chain, which delivers fast but restaurant-quality food, soups, fish fillets, and also salad and takeaways. An easy lunch for all the family

Currywurst is a Berlin speciality, a sausage chopped up and coated in curry-ish sauce. If you happen to be around Alexanderplatz, you'll see Grillwalkers. These are chaps (usually men, anyway) dressed in orange, with an orange umbrella over their heads and some odd tray thing attached to them where they grill bratwurst. He'll ask you if you want "ketchup oder senf"; That's ketchup or mustard.

Ho Lin Wah, 218 Kurfurstendamm
One of our regular haunts, this Chinese restaurant is a few minutes walk from Zoo Station
If you feel that Chinese people eating in a restaurant is a recommendation, this certainly fits the bill

TOP TIP: if you’re staying in Alexanderplatz, want a quick and easy evening eat, and aren’t too snobby about McDonald’s, there’s a hidden restaurant upstairs at Karl Liebknecht Strasse 13. The shopping centre looks closed for the night, but you can join Berliners in the know by heading up the main escalators

Asteria Greek Restaurant, Schonhauser Allee 143
hard to get good Greek food in Berlin, so we went out of town for this one – take the U-Bahn Eberswalder Strasse on the U2 line, come out of the South entrance, and it’s right there on the West side of the street

Shopping:

There are lots of big department stores, including Ka De We, Karstadt and Galeries Lafayette in the West, and Kaufhof in the East. The main shopping streets are Friedrichstrasse and Tauentzienstrasse. Shops are closed on Sundays.

WMF, Karl Liebknecht Strasse 11, just by Alexanderplatz
innovative kitchenware

Dussmann, Friedrichstrasse 90, Mitte
books and DVDs

Saturn, Alexanderplatz 8, Mitte
DVDs and electronics

Ritter Sport ChocoWorld, Französische Strasse 24 near Gendarmenmarkt
If you’re a fan of square chocolate bars, this is your must-visit Berlin attraction!
A shop with bargain chocolate bars, a café, and even a short history of the Ritter Sport brand, you will need to buy another suitcase for everything you stock up on here

Supermarkets: almost impossible to find, and of very variable quality. Some appear to be like pound shops, with nasty brands, and others have everything apart from what you want. If in the East, try Alexa, a shopping complex just off Alexanderplatz.

Boat Trips:

Three boat companies with embarkation points all along the river:
most tours have commentary in English, though they may be out of date, and the websites are abysmal at making routes and timings clear

Sightseeing:

The 100 and 200 buses run from Zoo station to Alexanderplatz and beyond, round either side of the Tiergarten. Get an early bus or fight past the queues of French schoolchildren, and sit at the front of the top deck.

Deutscher Bank Kunsthalle, Unter den Linden 13/15
The art is usually a bit mad! It has a good shop, free on Mondays

Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhofer Strasse 14, closed Tuesday
bus 100 U-bahn Nollendorfplatz. Find out more about Germany's design movement of the 20s and 30s, in a Gropius-designed building

Hamburger Bahnhof, Invalidenstrasse 50-51, Mitte
a train station converted into a gallery of very modern art, very nice café, walk from S-Bahn Hauptbahnhof, closed Monday

Reichstag, Platz der Republik
Built in 1884, ablaze 1933, renovated 1994 with a big glass dome with mirrored cone. Register for free tickets in advance. Any of the buses TXL, 100 or 200 will get you there - nice and early - and then you can watch from the top as all the tour groups arrive.

Olympic Stadium
built for the 1936 Olympic Games, now the home of Hertha BSC, as well as the venue for the 2006 World Cup Final. It has fantastic architecture and well worth a visit. Nearest station is on line U2

Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz.
great for breakfast or dinner, and views in the revolving restaurant

Deutsches Historiches Museum, Unter den Linden 2
A gigantic museum with a wide variety of exhibits covering all aspects of German and European history, plus special exhibitions, plus a new extension designed by I.M.Pei

Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstrasse 7, Mitte
Contemporary art and photography, with some big-ticket names, closed Tuesdays

Historic churches to visit, from East to West:
Berlin Dom & Marien Church, near Alexanderplatz
Nikolai Church (a modern reconstruction of oldest church)
German Dom & French Dom, both in the Gendarmenmarkt
Kaiser Wilhelm Church, a bombed church with a modern addition

Potsdamer Platz
Built on what was first a social centre up to the 1920s, bombed in WW2, and then part of the route of the Berlin Wall, this giant entertainment complex also has a high-end shopping mall. The crossroads near the U- and S-Bahn station has the first ever set of traffic lights in Europe.

Siegessaule, Grosser Stern
historical Victory Column, with stairs to the top and views of the Tiergarten, on the 100 bus route

Tempelhof, U-bahn Platz der Luftbrucke
now decommissioned as an airport, and opening as a public park, it is well worth going on a tour of the architecture of the buildings

Stasi Museum, Ruschestrasse 103
between S+U Frankfurter Allee and U Magdalenstrasse
self-guided tour of Stasi Headquarters, including Mielke’s office, lots of displays, and East German spy equipment (including a camera in a whiteboard pen!)

Stasi Records Agency, Zimmerstrasse 90, Mitte
next to Checkpoint Charlie, exhibition "Stasi. The Exhibition on the GDR's State Security"

Stasi Prison aka Hohenschönhausen, Genslerstrasse 66, Lichtenberg
a prison for those detained by the Stasi, now a memorial to those who died, tours led by former inmates

Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstrasse 43-45
an expanded version of the museum showing the history of the Berlin Wall, the many escapes over and under it, and artefacts from that period of Germany’s history

Jewish Museum, Lindenstrasse 9-14
designed by Daniel Liebeskind, this moving museum presents the history of Jews in Germany

Jewish Memorial, Cora-Berliner-Straße 1
ruined by the tour groups, it is impossible to find a sombre frame of mind amongst running, screaming and kissing teenagers

DDR Museum Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1, next to Berlin Dom
narrowly avoiding a kitschy presentation of plastic kitchenware, this museum treads on the right side of remembering the privations and persecution in the GDR, with shop and café

Sowjetisches Ehrenmal, Treptower Park, Strasse des 17. Juni
war memorial with stone carvings of Communist type stuff. Over 300,000 Soviets died in the Battle of Berlin in 1945, 5,000 of them are buried here.

Topography of Terror, Niederkirchnerstraße 8
an exhaustive exhibition about the Nazi era, the security services were based in nearby buildings, some still standing, and the persecutions of different groups in Europe; a long section of the Berlin Wall is in position outside

Tranenpalast, Friedrichstrasse U+S Station
During the GDR era, this was the only station where West Germans could visit the East, and East Germans could only hope of being allowed to leave. A moving exhibition with stories, artefacts and the original transit corridors

WANNSEE and POTSDAM

To the southwest of Berlin, these two towns show a different side of Berlin, and have their own historical resonances. The quickest way to get there is on DB services from any of the big city stations, but the S-Bahn lines 1 and 7 stop off at other picturesque places along the way.

Haus Der Wannsee Konferenz
bus 114 from Wannsee station, get return bus at --04, --24, --44 from the stop opposite the villa
it’s also a nice walk if the weather is fine
this is the villa where the Nazis planned the practical arrangements for the Final Solution, and we would recommend the Branagh film “Conspiracy” as a dramatisation of those events
just North of the villa is a lake-side café and excellent views

Liebermann Villa, Wannsee
11-17 closed Tuesdays €6
bus 114 from Wannsee station
another villa on the banks of the Wannsee, belonging to the painter Liebermann

Instead of taking the train, bus 316 runs from Wannsee to Potsdam and over the Glienicker Bridge, an old crossing point between West Berlin and East Germany, which is interesting and significant.

Sanssouci, Potsdam
the palace and gardens of Frederick The Great

Schloss Cecilienhof, Potsdam
This is where the Postdam Conference took place in 1945, confirming the stuff agreed at Yalta about the postwar European order.

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