I was staying in Mitte, which is the pick, I reckon, so got the cheap bus from the airport to the big fancy train station, Hauptbahnhof, and from there jumped on a suburban train into the CBD. A day pass for all Berlin’s fantastic public transport costs only seven euros, although I did find it tricky to navigate, hence my second purchase after my travel card was a local SIM so I could use my phone maps and walk wherever possible. Someone as navigationally challenged as me needs all the help she can get and these days, most airports sell SIM cards in the arrivals hall.
As I was only in town for three days to catch up with my little brother Tom, I didn’t get a chance to go shopping, except to buy the cutest summer dress at a shop literally around the corner from our hotel. But let me tell you this: Berlin is a shopper’s paradise. There’s all the usual big brands but the boutiques in Mitte, just as you are walking from A to B, are full of wonderful clothes, shoes, bags and trinkets that are hard to resist. Beware, though – the whole city shuts down on Sundays.
An absolute must is the historic Henne for its famous fried chicken. The Berlin Wall used to come right to the front door, so don’t miss the photos on your way to the loo. We never made it to a beer garden (Prater Garten is the one to go to), but had fantastic local fare, including giant schnitzel at a random place near our hotel, the Weinmeister. Apotheke bar after Henne was great for cocktails and an Aperol spritz on the rooftop at Amano Hotel also did the trick. But the crème de la crème was lunch at Kafe, the rooftop restaurant at the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament buildings. The food was sublime, the service wonderful, the view extraordinary and you get to walk up the modern glass dome of the building for free.
Obviously, Germany has a lot of it and Berlin in particular. The Ginger and I did the Fat Tire Cold War and Berlin Wall Tour, which takes you around the city, showing you where the wall used to be. There’s not much of it left, so if you’re interested, this is a really good way to get a sense of what the divided city was like. I also spent a couple of hours at Topography of Terror, a very modern, matter-of-fact museum tracing Hitler’s rise and fall. It’s built on the site of the former SS headquarters. Some people are turned off, but for me, it helps to make sense of history.
Museum Island, with its UNESCO-recognised collection is a must. Still, I went to the amazing Babylon gate at the Pergamon and also to Hamburger Bahnhof, a former railway station now a museum full of “arty nonsense” according to my little bro, but we still both quite liked it. Another exhibition we saw was at MeMu at the base of Berlin’s famous TV Tower. Body Worlds looks at humans using actual specially-treated skinned human corpses and was a real eye-opener. If everyone went to see it, there’d be way fewer cigarette smokers. Those real-life blackened lungs are not a pretty sight.