Written by Matt Hosgood and Robin Wells.
I’m an avid lover of city breaks and, following a recent stay in the German capital Berlin, I was reminded just why.
Firstly let’s break down the basic costs of travel. Flights to Berlin vary greatly depending on where you fly to and from, but based on flights out of London Southend into Berlin Schönefeld, prices come to about £55 pp if you book in advance.
For accommodation, by far the best tool for any modern money-savvy traveller is Expedia. I found the Berlin art’otel incredibly reasonable, and at a mere £50 per night (based on double occupancy in one room).
The hotel itself is certainly unique, and a far cry from the more traditional, corporate identikit rooms of, say, Holiday Inn or Radisson.
Instead, each art’otel (dotted in cities around Europe) has a unique personality and, branding itself as a live-in art gallery, selecting a resident iconic artist and designing the rooms and common areas around the style of that artist. In the case of the Berlin City Centre West art’otel, this was Andy Warhol, with lithographs of his artwork freely on display all around the hotel.
The room size was more than adequate and simply decorated in light, bright and airy colours. A particular favourite feature of mine was the point-and-click Android television, which enabled you to watch YouTube on your TV – a welcome relief from BBC World News.
In terms of eating out in Berlin, you really are spoilt for choice. From traditional German cuisine at the “Altberliner Biersalon” on Kurfürstendamm, to the American Diner style “Hamburger Mary’s” in Schöneberg, there is very little chance of you eating the same type of food twice, unless you specifically choose to.
If you want to experience something slightly more unusual for dinner, the Hofbräuhaus München is definitely the place to go. An enormous salon houses true Bavarian cuisine, washed down with a litre tankard of in-house pilsner. Brewing-your-own-beer (BYOB) is quite common in Germany, but one of the best examples in Berlin has got to be the Brauhaus Lemke near Hackescher Markt – although a little expensive, definitely worth a visit.
On average for dinner in Berlin, allow about 25€ per person for two courses and a drink. Also bear in mind that you will need to put aside at least 6.70€ per day for travel costs (something which we forgot!).
For the sociable gay man in Berlin, there is an abundance of clubs and bars of varying size, style, music and purpose.
A favourite of mine is SchwuZ, which up until now has been located at Mehringdamm (but will soon be moving to Neukölln), where you can find a variety of evenings throughout the week, such as Populärmusik, London Calling, Dænzgedøns (bad taste party) and I <3 MadonnaMania. For electro lovers there is the famous Berghain club near the Ostbahnhof which has a gay section downstairs., and for those seeking a more intimate location (or a very “intimate” location) there are a variety of bars in the old gay ghetto around Motzstraße and Fuggerstraße in Schöneberg.
By day, the city offers an abundance of museums, parks and other attractions. Always worth a look are the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag government building (free, but need to register in advance) and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. Those particularly interested in German history should definitely check out the Story of Berlin exhibit on Kurfürstendamm (12€ pp), as well as the Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie (12.50€ pp), the fantastic Berlin Wall memorial at Bernauer Straße (free, get off at Nordbahnhof) and the East Side Gallery between Ostbahnhof and Warschauer Straße (free) – a 1200m section of the Berlin Wall which was adorned with murals from various artists during the 90s. Hurry, though, there are apparently proposals to tear the Gallery down to make way for housing.
If you’ve had enough reading for one day, but fancy taking in the sights from a different angle, you can take a trip up the TV tower (12.50€ pp), which offers breathtaking views of the city from Berlin’s tallest structure. Standing at 368m, the tower’s view from the viewing platform at 203m spans up to 70km on a clear day. Be sure to get there early in the day, though, as waiting times can get up to several hours in peak season. Don’t worry though, you can go away and have a mooch around the Alexa supermall, located near Alexanderplatz, while you wait.
Alternatively, for a little lighthearted fun and some thrills, you can pay a visit to the newly constructed Berlin Dungeons (19€ pp). The tour through the depths of underground Berlin will teach you where Berlin came from and some of the horrific historical events that happened in its medieval history. Well worth a visit!
A variety of markets/fairs often adorn the streets in and around Alexanderplatz and other squares across the city, particularly during the middle of the summer as well as at Christmas time.
For those worrying about the language barrier, I urge you to not let it deter you from coming. As loathed as I am to promote apathy in terms of learning a language, the truth is that a lot of the employees at the tourist attractions do indeed speak English to a fair standard, and if you do choose to make the effort, they are exceedingly patient with you. Heck, if Matt can understand a conversation between myself and my friend after only a few days immersed there, there’s hope for everyone!
Okay, he’s taking the laptop away from me now…
Ultimately, Berlin has something for everyone. And for an extended city break, it’s definitely worth a look. Besides, if the men are anything to go by, you’re sure for a good time! 😉