Apart from a stopover in Frankfurt airport en-route from London to South Africa many years ago (which doesn’t count, does it?), 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 just 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.
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 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. This was one of those areas that didn’t feel encased in grey concrete!
So, how to spend three days in Berlin?
Day 1 – visit the historical sites
It goes without saying that you should visit all the historical sites, such as Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Berlin Wall memorial. They are all close to each other so easy enough to move from one to the other in a morning.
The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th century neoclassical monument that was built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has two thousand, seven hundred and eleven gray concrete slabs that look a lot like coffins – although they’re at different angles. It’s quite sobering to walk among these slabs.
After visiting the historical sites, we went for lunch at Masteca e Tasi – a great Italian in Friedrichshain. We then took a walk to Alexanderplatz in the afternoon and explored 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.
Day 2 – visit the markets
On day 2 we headed to Kreuzberg to check out Markthalle Markt, which is a food market selling organic and regional produce. The area is really interesting as it’s very multicultural, with lots of Turkish influence. If you’ve been to London’s Shoreditch 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, we headed over to the East Side Gallery, which is where artists painted over the remaining Berlin Wall.
A friend of ours had lived in Berlin for a few years and he knows we love our steak so he recommended To Beef or not to Beef in Schoneberg for dinner. They do an amazing Fiorentina!
Day 3 – do some shopping
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.
We really enjoyed our three days in Berlin. It’s a fascinating city but also a fun one!