A long weekend in Berlin

Apart from a stopover in Frankfurt airport en-route from London to South Africa, I’d never been to Germany. So, for my birthday in February I decided this was my destination of choice and my husband booked us a long weekend in Berlin for my birthday present.

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Potzdamer Platz, which was an ideal location to visit some of Berlin’s historical sites. It’s a short walk away from Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate and the very poignant Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The hotel itself is lovely and our room was quiet, large and luxurious.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Berlin is steeped in history. It was the capital of Nazi Germany and as such, was heavily bombed during World War II. Although many of the buildings that did survive were demolished in the 50s and 60s, this makes it a very interesting city (apart from the history, of course) in terms of architecture. My husband declared it, “The ugliest city I’ve ever seen”. The Brutalist architecture is, well, brutal on the eyes but amongst all the concrete slabs of buildings and tower blocks, there are still some beautiful buildings and even areas of the city not encased in concrete.

Nikolaiviertel is a very pretty area on the river Spree, which is worth exploring. It’s only five minutes away from Alexanderplatz and is also near Museum Island.

River Spree and the Museum Island in Mitte

River Spree and the Museum Island in Mitte

So, how to spend three days in Berlin?

Day 1: Visit all the historical sites, such as Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall memorial. Go for lunch at Masteca e Tasi – a great Italian in Friedrichshain then take a walk to Alexanderplatz in the afternoon and explore the surrounding area. You can even go up the Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) for a panoramic view of the city but it’s worth booking tickets well in advance.

Checkpoint Charlie soldiers

Checkpoint Charlie USA soldiers

Day 2: Head to Kreuzberg to check out Markthalle Markt, which is a food market selling organic and regional produce from cakes to meat from a butcher. The area is really interesting as it’s very multi-cultural, with lots of Turkish influence. If you’ve been to London’s Shoredicth area, it’s a bit like that – lots of cool, hip shops. For lunch, eat at the market or head to Hasir, which is famous for its kebabs. After lunch, head over to the East Side Gallery, which is where artists painted over the remaining Berlin Wall. If you love your steak, head to To Beef or not to Beef in Schoneberg for dinner. They do an amazing Fiorentina.

Markhalle Neun shops

Markhalle Neun shops

Day 3: Berlin is great for shopping and the Mall of Berlin in Potsdamer Platz has hundreds of shops and restaurants. For luxury shops, visit Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin. After a spot of shopping, visit Berlin’s prettiest square – Gendarmenmarkt – which houses the Concert Hall and has a French and German church. End your trip in Berlin by booking a table for dinner at Herz & Niere Restaurant – a fantastic, modern German restaurant.

Check out my travel tips for travelling on a budget.

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