Travel

Holiday Travels – Berlin

At the beginning of December I took a lovely post-birthday, four-day trip to Berlin, and it was amazing. Such a fascinating and vibrant city, with so much to see and do, and particularly lovely before Christmas.

Luke and I found a good flight + hotel deal on lastminute.com and stayed in the Park Inn by Radisson Alexanderplatz. It was okay – the location is excellent but it’s a massive hotel and we found that the reception desk was always extremely busy with big queues. It’s also a bit basic, but as we didn’t spend much time there, it was perfectly adequate. Plus the view of the TV Tower, or Berliner Fernsehturm, was pretty awesome.

We started off our mini-holiday with beers and lunch at Hofbräu München near Alexanderplatz, which is a beer house based on the famous Oktoberfest. We had currywurst with fries which was really tasty, and drank beer from steins the size of my head. I loved the décor – all high arches and wooden tables.

We then wondered around Alexanderplatz and the surrounding area, which is extremely trendy and left me wishing I was a millionaire so that I could afford to buy the beautiful clothes that I saw. We then had dinner at Restaurant Richard in Kreuzberg – it was definitely one of the best meals I have ever had – definitely in my top 2. You can have between 4 and 8 courses – I went for 7 – and they were all incredible. Fair-sized portions and very well-spaced so that we didn’t feel ridiculously full. We must have been in there for about 3.5 hours and it just felt so leisurely and luxurious. The staff were brilliant – really friendly and not too formal, but very attentive. The décor is a mixture of beautiful old wooden ceilings with modern lights and fixtures and some quite graphic artwork! All in all one of the best evenings I have had.

 

Our second day started off very well – at Spreegold, which is an all-day café near Akexanderplatz serving fresh, home-made food and drinks. We had pancakes every day which was just the best. They had several pancake options, all of which came with fruit and maple syrup in pretty hefty portion. The coffee was awesome. The ‘gold’ part of its name takes the form of a wall covered in gold tinsel-like strands which you can just about see in the picture below.

Spreegold 1.jpg

After breakfast/lunch, we headed off to do some sight-seeing and walked through Museum Island, which houses some pretty awesome museums and the Berlin Cathedral (or Berliner Dom) which we didn’t go into, but the outside of it is pretty spectacular.

We strolled past the famous Brandenburg Gate, which was a symbol of the Berlin and German division during the Cold War, but is now a symbol of peace and unity.

Brandenberg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

We made our way towards the historic Reichstag Building for lunch, which was the seat of the Imperial Diet of the German Empire from 1894 to 1933, but then suffered from a fire and fell into disuse. From 1999 it again became the meeting place of the German Parliament, and it has a really unique dome with panoramic views of the city and there’s an interesting exhibition about the history of the Reichstag Building and lots of pictures. There is also a roof terrace and restaurant.

You have to register online to visit the dome and give the names of everyone visiting with you. If you eat at the roof-top restaurant, you can automatically see the dome, but the same process of registering online applies. The views from the roof-top restaurant are brilliant, and the food is really good with massive portions. We definitely didn’t need both a starter and a main for lunch.

That evening, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Mitte called Hartweizen Cucina
(I think Hartweizen means durum wheat, so I think their food is organic). The food was really good and the restaurant had a really nice relaxed, neighbourhood feel to it. Luke was pretty happy with his starter below (burratta – which is scrumptious)!

Burrata at Hartweizen

 

After that we stumbled upon an unexpected gem of a cocktail bar right near our hotel in Alexanderplatz called The Grand. It was exactly what I was looking for – kind of glamorous but with a bit of a prohibition-era feel to it. The bar tenders all looked really smart in their shirts, braces and side-partings; and they clearly knew their mixology stuff. All of the cocktails were AMAZING and were based on films. The cocktail menus come in DVD sleeves with really good illustrations – some examples I can remember are the Jason Bourne and Trainmail (from Trainspotting). There are a couple of bars, one which has a small dancefloor and live music of the more popular, new stuff, which was pretty fun. The only negative for me is that in Berlin they still allow smoking indoors in some places, so it was pretty smoky which I didn’t like. Other than that it was perfect.


On the third day we made our way towards the Berlin Zoo  via the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, as I had made lunch reservations at a restaurant called Neni, which is at the top of a very trendy hotel called Hotel Bikini. Neni has great views of the city, particularly the Zoo which I was surprised to see was nearly completely empty.

After lunch we headed back towards Mitte and stopped in the DDR Museum, which is one of the best museums I have been to. It’s a very interactive museum showcasing what life was like for East Berliners under socialist rule. It’s just as interesting for children as it is for adults – there was so much to see and do, and it gave a really good feel of what life must have been like.

We then stopped off at Bandy Brooks, (which I think is a chain of cafés) serving ice cream, hot drinks and chocolates – my idea of heaven! The hot chocolate was yummy and the chocolates were delicious – it was a nice break from the cold as well!

Bandy Brooks Mitte

That evening we headed up the TV Tower, or the Berliner Fernsehturm, to see the panoramic views of the city from one of the tallest buildings in Europe. I decided to book our tickets in advance as I was worried it would be full, so I got a ticket which also entitled us to visit the bar. The views were great but the bar was disappointing. The cocktails weren’t great and the wine was pretty gross, which is a real shame as they could make so much of having a bar in such a huge attraction. It was still nice to while away an hour or so before dinner with some great views behind us.

That night we had dinner at another very trendy hotel, the Michelberger Hotel, which I found out about through someone’s blog about Berlin (apologies that I can’t remember what it was called!). Again, the food was awesome and it’s all organic – Luke had something that came with smoked mashed potato – it was utterly delicious and something that I’ve never come across before. The restaurant was buzzing and the wine was really good – all in all a really great evening. We attempted to have drinks in their bar, but disappointingly the service was very slow so we gave up and headed out.

On our last day *sigh* we wanted to go to a museum, so we headed back to Museum Island and went to the Pergamon Museum which was recommended by my brother. It houses some fascinating collections: Classical Antiquities (Greek and Roman art), Ancient Near East (Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia) and Islamic Art. I’ve never seen such astounding artefacts – from huge ancient walls constructed within the museum, to beautiful altars and statues. It took us a good few hours to get around it, but it was brilliant and I would highly recommend it.

We then headed to the Gendarmenmarkt, a really lovely square housing the German and French Cathedrals and Schinkel’s Konzerthaus. There was a lovely Christmas market with a choir singing festive songs and lots of cute christmassy-themed food and drink stalls. We had some yummy snacks including sausages and crepes, and the best mulled wine I have had in a long time, in the most adorable little mugs which we swiftly stowed in my bag to take home! It made me feel extremely festive (and probably a bit tipsy after a couple of mulled wines).

Our last stop before dinner, again at Hofbrau, was to Checkpoint Charlie – the extremely famous border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. We didn’t go to the exhibition as we were pretty exhausted from our long trip to the Pergamon Museum, but it was enough just to stand in that spot that marked such a political and territorial division of Berlin.

Our last stop before heading home was Hofbrau again where we met up with my friend and her family – this time there was a band playing in all their lederhosen glory. Then it was time to go to the airport and take our flight back to London. Berlin – it was an absolute pleasure and I definitely want to visit again soon.

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