When I think of my ideal winter city break, I think of Berlin. It took me too long to get around to visiting and now I can think of nowhere else I’d rather enjoy a long weekend this winter than in a cool AF bar, in cool AF Berlin. Stacks of engrossing history, amazing shopping and Currywurst, all within a two hour flight from the UK, what more could you want from a weekend city break? After doing some thorough research, I’ve put together my recommendations for how to spend a weekend in Berlin.
Berlin is a huge, sprawling city and the places to visit are all over, so you need to get your bearings quickly to make the most of a weekend. Luckily, the transport system is fantastic, with the U-Bahn (underground), R/S line (overland trains) and bus systems efficient, reliable (well, this is Germany), cheap and easy to navigate.
We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel in Hackescher Markt in the district of Mitte, which although not right in the city centre, is close enough to most of the attractions, but most importantly home to some of Berlin’s most beautiful shopping streets and neighbourhoods, such as Brunneviertel, Friedrichshein and Kollwitzkiez, all of which had lots of options for good restaurants and bars.
Even if you’re not the sightseeing type, Berlin is obviously brimming over with history. Speaking as someone who is prone to glazing over at the first sight of a museum, I found the tours we chose to be really engaging.
First up was the tour of the glass dome at the top of the Reichstag Building at the German parliament building, which we’d pre-booked (it’s pretty much impossible to visit without a reservation). It’s free to reserve a place, and it should definitely go on your must-do list if you are planning a trip to Berlin. Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the glass dome building was built to represent the reunification of Germany and it is visually and architecturally stunning. Once you are through the security gates, you put on your headset and are guided along a winding walkway to the top of the dome. With views over east and west at the summit, the guide points out places of interest in the distance. A great way to spend an hour.
Once we had an overview of the city, we decided on a free walking tour and chose Sandemans, joining our group at the meeting point by The Brandenburg Gate. Over a couple of hours, our very knowledgeable and hysterical guide led us through the city, stopping at points of interest such as Hitler’s Bunker, Berlin Cathedral, Check Point Charlie, Alexanderplatz and of course, the Berlin Wall, to tell us their history. It’s free to tag along, just leave a generous tip at the end for your guide.
Sightseeing on foot is hungry work, and by the end of it, I was more than ready to experience a full-on German breakfast I’d heard so much about. Zeit für Brot had been recommended to us by a friend and it didn’t disappoint. As well as a range of excellent German breakfasts with cheese, cold meats, salad and, of course – amazing bread, they also specialise in all kinds of cinnamon buns with fillings like hot cherries and white chocolate glaze. Not wanting to miss out, we had the lot, with a couple of excellent coffees. A delicious carb-loaded continental breakfast is exactly the fuel you need for a city break.
Shopping in Berlin
I highly recommend saving some space in your bag because the shopping is really good in Berlin. Wandering around the tree-lined suburbs, and dipping in and out of small independents, cafes and bars like a local, is always my most-enjoyed part of any trip. Areas to check out for uber cool clothing, homewares and furniture are the leafy streets of Mitte, on Prenzlauer Allee, Alte Schönhauser Straße and Torstraße in particular. You can easily while away a few hours browsing Das Goods Haus, Mykita and Weekday.
Another one for your shopping hit-list is the Kaufhaus des Westens, otherwise known as KaDeWe. It’s a huge department store, apparently only Harrods is larger in Europe, with loads of German and internationally sourced gadgets, fashion, furniture and an amazing food hall that we must have walked a mile around. A great place to enjoy a glass of champagne and toast your weekend adventure.
Best Places to Eat In Berlin
Although Germany is probably not as well renowned for its cuisine as much as some other European countries, we had some really delicious meals. I’ve since recommended these places to friends who’ve been and loved them also. We had delicious burgers and cakes from the food market at Markthalle Neun near Kreuzberg and the best Korean food at Seoul Kitchen just along the road from the East Side Gallery (also worth checking out). The standout meal of the trip was undoubtedly at the restaurant at the retro-chic Michelberger Hotel on Warschauer Strasse. The hotel lobby, bar and restaurant are super slick in design but very laid back. We spent a few hours in the bar area sipping cocktails, before moving into the restaurant for a delicious meal of small plates, served with fantastic wines and beers. Definitely a highlight and somewhere we’ll be revisiting next time.
Even if you’re staying elsewhere, go here for delicious food, beers and cocktails in a stylish, cool but very laid back setting. Rooms get mixed reviews and seem a bit on the small side but the Hideout room with its beds within a house within a hotel room does look great fun for families and groups of friends.
This beautiful building has been a market hall since 1891 and it’s now a super-hip international food market serving everything from delicious pizzas, cakes, burgers as well as local beers and wine.
On Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, 10997 Berlin
‘My lake house’ in English, this all day hangout on Brunnenstrasse describes itself as ‘Not a bar, not a club, something sexier in between’. Take a seat in the sloped staircase-come-seating-area and people watch to your hearts content. Service can be a bit gruff (especially if your German is a bit rusty) but the location is great and the drinks are cheap.
Not to be confused this with the dodgy ‘kebab at the end of the night’ places in the UK, the ingredients used here are fresh and tasty, with lots of delicious sauces. There are so many places described as ‘a Berlin institution’ but this seriously is. Busy round-the-clock, Mustafa’s is THE place to try a proper Turkish kebap. Kreuzberg and Neukolln are great for Berlin nights out and this is the place to go to get your takeaway at the end of the night. Try the chicken doner with everything.
On Mehringdamm 32, 10961 Berlin
There are some gorgeous homeware stores in Berlin and this was one of our faves. Too bad we only had hand luggage otherwise I’d have filled my suitcase with vases, throws and candles from this lovely shop on one of my favourite streets in Berlin, Kastinienalle.
Berlin, by dint of being a capital city, is vast and sprawling, and there is so much you’ll want to cram in to a weekend. If you’re planning a trip, I hope you’ve found this guide on how to spend a weekend in Berlin useful. If you’ve any tips and must-do’s, share them in the comments below and I’ll add them to my list for next time.