Berlin, Germany’s capital city, has become very popular over the last 12 months for a short City Break option from Northern Ireland. Berlin can look back on a chequered history, even in the recent past. Yet today it has reinvented itself, and is now a world city with an imitable feeling for life.
With famous museums and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a lively international art scene and trendy shopping districts, Berlin is a place to stroll and explore. Berlin’s nightlife is also a living legend: clubs, bars and discos with no official closing time (really!). Berlin had been described to the #NInja as a “diverse, exciting metropolis in the heart of Europe where you can always expect the unexpected” – so it was about time the #NInja found out what all the fuss was about!
It is now VERY easy and affordable to take a quick City Break to Berlin – there is a direct route from Belfast International Airport with Ryanair. And being Ryanair the fares can be extremely good value – the #NInja managed to pick up a return fare for only £39.99 during one of their many sale periods. The timings of the flights were actually very accommodating as well with an early flight on a Sunday coming back on Tuesday morning meaning a 48 hour jaunt across to Germany is very do-able. Of course, longer stays are available also, and this #NInja would love to have been able to stay another couple of nights.
Germany is the same as the majority of mainland European countries – during the summer months, temperatures in some parts can reach 35 degrees, however in the winter months it can be bitterly cold. Whilst the skies were clear and the sun was out during the #Ninja’s visit (mid January), it was very cold with temperatures under freezing zero degrees – and the day we were flying home snow fell (and lay!). Pack your thermals for these months, be prepared!
Being one of the major cities in Germany, Berlin has plenty to offer for your overnight stay options. Major hotel groups are everywhere, as well as the more quirky, individual, boutique hotels that perhaps give that more authentic feel. As with all parts of the world, vacation rentals are becoming more popular as well with apartments and homes kitted out for a stay (can be better suited for larger travelling groups). On this occasion, the #NInja stayed at the Novum Select Hotel (The Wall), a modern hotel that was only 150m from “Check Point Charlie”. The hotel is actually built over the top of where the Berlin Wall stood so you almost feel like you are staying on “history”. As a base for exploring the city, it is perfectly situated and has all the amenities that you need within very close walking distance.
Things To Do
As with most citybreak options – the #NInja always feels a good bus tour gives you the perfect opportunity to get the “lay of the land” and your bearings for where everything is. The particular tour the #NInja took advantage of was one of the hop-on/hop-off varieties – but a tip is to stay on the bus and let it take in a full lap of everything, that way you can then work out sand prioritise which stops you want to disembark at.
Landmarks & Museums
Berlin is full of popular landmarks that are categorised as “must-see” – at the top of this list would be the Berlin Wall of course, or perhaps more accurately, what is left of the Berlin Wall. This is the famous wall that separated East and West Germany across Berlin before it was taken down (or destroyed by all!) on the 9th November 1989. There are several areas where you can view it but the best one (in this #Ninja’s opinion) is at East Side Gallery – the world’s longest open air gallery! Another famous area is at “Check Point Charlie” – the border crossing point, where there are several museums and exhibitions dedicated to the Wall. And when you are at these Wall exhibitions why not take a bit home with you, most shops and souvenir stores sell them – kinda cool to have a tiny piece of the Berlin Wall on your coffee table! There’s also a very impressive Berlin Wall Memorial located at Bernauer Straße with an open air exhibition, parts of the Wall as well as a documentation center.
The Brandenburg Gate would maybe be the most recognisable of the Berlin landmarks – after the fall of the Wall, this would become a symbol of German reunification … and this will probably be your BEST photo opportunity for the City! If you want to experience the history of that famous spot don’t miss the Brandenburg Gate Museum – a 20 minutes multimedia film showing 300 years of history.
The German Parliament building (or Reichstag) has housed the German Parliament since 1990 and this amazing old building has a modern publicly accessible modern glass dome that offers a stunning 360 degree panorama of the city!
At 368 metres high, Berlin’s TV Tower (Fernsehturm) is Germany’s highest building. Ultra modern elevators whizz you up to the observation floor where you can take a seat in the Sphere Restaurant, relax and enjoy spotting the city sights – while the restaurant slowly revolves for the perfect “all round” view. If you dont want to eat, you can still purchase a ticket for the observation deck only.
Berlin Zoo is Germany’s oldest zoo and is fairly central to the city. With over 1500 species and 20,000 animals it is ranked among the zoos with the most species in the world. However, on this occasion the #NInja decided to take in an alternative and visit the TierPark Zoo further out east in the city. This is more of a Safari Park style with a vast amount of species and animals. You get seriously up close and personal to a lot of animals and the chance to see elephants, tigers, lions and polar bears within only 10 metres away was a great thrill.
Berlin would be a shopping fan’s heaven – whether it be designer shops, cheap and cheerful, high street, antique, or quirky, Berlin has something for everyone – just make sure you dont max out the credit card!
Food & Drink
Are you a foodie? Well you will be in your element in Berlin with so much choice and flavours to tantalise your tastebuds. You will find so many quality local eateries as well as some of the international restaurants that are in most major cities.
Steak lover? Then the German chain of Block House should be a port of call for you – there are several scattered throughout Berlin and you will not be disappointed if you visit one … this #NInja certainly wasnt!
And of course, no visit to Berlin would be complete without sampling the famous Bratwurst sausage. And in Berlin they are very proud of their currywurst sausage – outside crispy, inside firm, served with a tasty curry-style sauce. Why not watch Berlin life go by as you treat yourself at Konnopke’s Imbiss snack bar under the elevated railway in the heart of the cool Prenzlauer Berg – a “people watching” dream spot!
Berlin is the perfect Euro City Break option for all #NInjas but perhaps couples would be best suited for it – especially in November / December when there are more than 60 of the Christmas Markets that everyone goes mad for and are so popular (yes thats right, OVER 60 … compared to Belfast’s one and only at the City Hall ha!). It is full of art and an abundance of history makes it ideal for those interested in such things – however it could also be perfect for the likes of a lads/girls weekend away with so much vibrant nightlife on offer. And although not as cheap as other European cities, the cost of dining out isnt too bad and your Euro will go further than you think!
As noted above, a recommended activity that costs absolutely nothing is a tour of the German Parliament buildings – the Bundestag dome and terrace that offers fantastic views of the city and access to this is FREE via booking online. You MUST book online though and you will have to bring proof of ID to be allowed access.
Would be advisable to prebook tickets for the TV Tower – similar to other such landmarks around the world, these can be very popular and wait times can stretch out to over 90 mins.
When you arrive into the airport, head for the tourist information point and consider purchasing a Berlin Welcome Card. This allows you to utilise the (quite frankly brilliantly efficient) public transport throughout the city. It also gives you up to 50% off entry to over 200 attractions and sights throughout Berlin. As well as the necessary maps and pocket guides which are nice to reference when exploring. For more information on this, you can check out the Visit Berlin website – vistberlin.de/en
As with all #NInja holidays and short breaks, the best way to sort it all out is to contact your local travel agent who can arrange flights, hotels, transfers and activities (taking the stress away) #belikeaNInja