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Going to visit Berlin: the essential mini-guide!

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Joel Fulleda
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At the crossroads between a story heavy with memories and a bright future, Berlin never ceases to attract the traveler. At the heart of the geopolitical concerns of the last century, the city has known how to take the turn of history and now displays an unshakeable confidence in the future. This is evidenced by its strong taste for culture, its ecological town planning and a sense of celebration which serve as models for many cities today. Visiting Berlin is opening a door to our world, remember our history while calling for a better future. Presentation…





A dark past, but a glorious future

Berlin, before being the capital of Germany, was above all the center of the Prussian Empire. We can thus visit many monuments of this prestigious past: the Brandenburg Gate, the Siegessaüle, Charlottenburg Palace… A prominent figure of this Prussian period is undoubtedly Frederick II, old Fritz who reorganized the city. Enlightened despot, he often welcomed Voltaire at the Château Sans Souci, in Potsdam, in the suburbs of Berlin.

The Brandenburg Gate

However, the 20th century was almost fatal in Berlin. Hitler moved there once elected in 1933. We quickly witness the first persecutions against Jews, gypsies and homosexuals. The end of the Nazi regime could have enabled Berlin to recover from its wounds. It was without counting on international issues.



Who built the Berlin Wall and for what reasons?

Germany is occupied by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia. Berlin is located in the Russian sector, but as the capital, is also divided into four parts. The city becomes a ground of ideological confrontation between communism and capitalism. A wall is soon erected in the city, which separates the Berliners. This period is superbly evoked at Checkpoint Charlie.



Checkpoint Charlie

The Fall of the Wall in 1991 initially brought great moments of jubilation. However, everyone realizes the differences between East and West. The city is rediscovering itself with curiosity. East Berlin is the subject of numerous renovations. It is a veritable forest of cranes that invades the streets of the German capital!

Berlin, a culturally vibrant capital?

Berlin is undoubtedly one of the major European metropolises among the most attractive, both economically and socially and culturally. The proof: visiting the city is a dilemma! Which museums among the more than 170 existing ones will you enter? The Egyptian museum? That of Pergamon? Most are concentrated in Museum Island, in the center of Germany's capital.


The Bode museum

Which cafes and restaurants will you sit in since there are over 7000 of them? In which pubs to go out among the 300 that open their doors wide after dark? You would have understood it, to visit Berlin is to learn and to party, but above all take advantage of the present moment! In recent years, the city has opened up to tourism for something other than the ruins of the disastrous Berlin Wall.


When is the best time to go to Berlin?

To visit Berlin under the best auspices, it is rather advisable to avoid the heart of winter because the low temperatures and the fresh rain are then invited regularly in the German capital. January and February are generally the coldest months, with the mercury constantly hovering around zero degrees and regular snowfall. We will therefore prefer summer and its sweetness. In July and August, it sometimes goes up to over 30 ° C in full sun, ideal for strolling in the many green spaces of the city!



Sanssouci park

Be aware, however, that small budgets can make against bad luck, and take advantage of tempting offers during the harshest months. February is the month with the least crowds and the prices of flights to the capital are then exceptionally low, as are those for accommodation. For nightlife enthusiasts, however, this choice can be disappointing because it is in fine weather that Berlin puts on its festive clothes and that multiple clubs, festivals and events flourish in its streets.


What budget to plan on site?

With the democratization of low-cost air travel and its very varied accommodation offers, visiting Berlin is accessible to all budgets, provided that the high season is avoided. The hotels practice very different prices throughout the year. A room for two in a youth hostel could cost 45 euros in January and soar to almost 70 euros in September! For upscale hotels, the variation is even greater. We go from 100 euros in off-peak periods to more than double in the heart of summer.


Berlin

Leaving from Paris, the plane ticket will cost you around 100 euros in February and will also double in summer. Also note that the local transport budget can be significant. There is an average of 13 euros per person per day for a couple of backpackers, while tourists who like to travel in comfort will have to pay around 40 euros. As for food, the budget to be expected is more or less the same, but it all depends on what you will eat. Gourmet restaurants can be very expensive, while kebabs will keep you happy for less!



What are the airports in Berlin?

Berlin has two major international airports. The most used is that of Berlin Tegel TXL. Very convenient to reach the city center, this airport is the departure point for the TXL bus line which shuttles every six minutes to Alexanderplatz and Hauptbanhof. A taxi can also take you there for around 26 euros. From Berlin Tegel airport, you can also go directly to the city center West by taking the X9 bus line then the U6 metro line or opt for a taxi!

Berlin Schönefeld Airport is the former airport of East Berlin. Slightly further away, it is now mainly used by charter flights. The 18 kilometers that separate it from the city center can be covered in 20 minutes by regional “Airport Express” trains RE7 and RB14 from the airport station. You can also take the S-Bahn S9, S45 or choose the bus lines that leave from Terminal A and go to the metro. Prices differ depending on your route, but be aware that a one-way ticket on Berlin public transport costs around 3,30 euros for the ABC zone while a taxi to the city center from Schönefeld will cost you between 40 and 45 euros. depending on your destination.

How to get around Berlin?

In view of the area of ​​the city, more than 900 km2, it will be impossible for you to visit Berlin and discover all its corners on foot! We recommend, if the weather allows it, to opt for the joys of the bicycle because the capital is clearly bicycle-friendly. Cycle paths and bicycle rental companies in each district, landscaped green spaces and relatively moderate rental costs, between 8 and 12 euros per day, no doubt the little queen is at home in the German capital!

Cycling in Berlin

However, the changing weather sometimes makes it difficult to travel on two wheels. Then fall back on public transport. With the same ticket, you can access the urban metro (U-Bahn), suburban trains (S-Bahn) and the bus. Coverage of the city is near perfect, day and night, and transport operates all week and on weekends. The network is divided into three zones A, B and C. Most of your trips will only require AB accreditation which will be valid for 2 hours. Do not forget the day passes or the Welcome card, which combine access to transport with those of many tourist monuments. Finally, think of taxis to come back from the evenings, especially as most offer nice packages when the race does not exceed 2 km.

What to eat and drink in Berlin?

Visiting Berlin without tasting the local gastronomy would be an inexcusable mistake. Although some precious palates reproach it for its lack of finesse, the cuisine of the snack bars is a real institution here and nothing is more comforting than to enjoy an invigorating dish there to console themselves for the rain that sometimes accompanies the days. Currywurst, a white or red sausage drizzled with ketchup and sprinkled with curry, is surely the most emblematic dish of the capital, to the point that it has dedicated a museum to it! Bulette is the Germanic version of what we call the fricadelle among Belgian neighbors. Must be accompanied by a good local beer!

Berlin currywurst

You can also let yourself be tempted by a Kartoffel Puffer, a mashed potato sometimes associated with applesauce, during a gargantuan afternoon snack or orient yourself instead towards a dish from Berlin multiculturalism with the famous Döner Kebab.  As for drinks, beer is everywhere. Light Pilsner or Berliner Weiße, with its raspberry syrup, the varieties are endless!

What are the best neighborhoods in Berlin for accommodation?

To visit Berlin easily and reach the various tourist points of interest quickly, the Mitte district is ideal because it is very central. Nevertheless, the prices can be quite high there and the authenticity of the district suffers precisely from its tourist attractiveness. We recommend Kreuzberg, especially its western part. The one we nickname “little Istanbul” has become a trendy neighborhood where kebab stands sit side by side with bars and social mix workshops.

Kreuzberg

For party fans, Friedrichschain in former East Berlin is the ideal base. Between the murals of the East Side Gallery and the nightlife haunts where the most renowned DJs of the moment officiate, we find number of inexpensive bars and nice places to chill out on the banks of the Spree. In addition, there are many quite affordable accommodations in the area. Prenzlauer Berg is more suitable for families who wish to spend a quiet stay in an area with the air of a small village. Here, artists, bobos and young couples occupy the landscape and stroll in peace in the alleys of the Mauerpark on Sunday morning. Beware of rental prices which have greatly increased in recent years!

What are the best places to visit in Berlin?

The sprawling German capital offers a vast array of landmarks that tell us about the city's dramatic history, but also its creativity and exuberance. For memory, it is important to first visit the Wall as well as the Holocaust Museum. These first visits can be completed by the famous Checkpoint Charlie which marked the border between the two great ideologies of the twentieth century. To go back further in German history and identity, take a detour through the Brandenburg Gate and Charlottenburg Palace, you will feel all the power and pride of the Germanic people!

Charlottenburg

But visit Berlin, it is also to foresee what could become of the cities of tomorrow. The Mauerpark is the symbol of German resilience, which has rebuilt invigorating parks on the ruins of a tumultuous past. The Tiergarten garden or the Tempelhof park also help to ventilate the urban fabric and provide all the comfort of life specific to the capital. Culture is also in the spotlight in many neighborhoods. Antiquity and rebirth on Museum Island or street art near the East Side Gallery, there is something for everyone!

What are the major events in the German capital?

With its crazy dynamism, Berlin is a city on the move. Here, festivals follow cultural events and each month presents its own festive peculiarities. Here are a few not-to-be-missed examples:

Fashion and museums

The chilly month of January is particularly conducive to the flourishing of culture in all its forms. Fashion Week It then deploys all its inventiveness to warm the hearts of Berliners and tourists before starting again, for a second session, in July. It is also in January that is organized the Night of Museums. These then open their doors to culture enthusiasts and instigate a festive atmosphere that infects the entire capital. Note that a second Museum Night is also organized in August.

Cinema, sport and festivals

For lovers of dark rooms, visiting Berlin must imperatively be done in February because it is during its second week that it takes place. the famous Berlin International Festival. For 10 days, the city welcomes multiple cinema professionals from more than 80 different countries. More than 150 tickets are sold each year to fill the theaters of the temporary capital of world cinema. But Berlin is also music with sound JazzFest in November, the ClassicOpen Air in the month of July which delights classic fans and it even becomes the capital of sport during its marathon in August!

The Carnival of Cultures

During a whole weekend in May, Berlin culture is in the spotlight. You will then see parading through the streets an impressive set of brightly colored costumes, representing a large number of countries and ethnicities around the world. A very great moment to live intensely!

Christmas market: Gendarmenmarkt

It is without a doubt the most famous market in Berlin. One of those markets that bloom on December 25, handicrafts, gingerbread and chocolates. You understand, it's a Christmas market where you absolutely have to go if you are in Berlin at the end of the year.

Gendarmenmarkt

Useful information

Here is all the practical information you will need before visiting Berlin:

  • Formalities: A valid identity card is sufficient for members of the European Union.
  • Cash : The Euro since Germany is part of Europe.
  • Health : You can apply for a European health insurance card before your departure.
  • Museum visit: Note that in Berlin, the majority of museums are free for those under 16. Finally, you can get the Berlin Museum Pass, valid for 3 consecutive days. It gives right to 30 entries including the Museum Island!
  • Tourist Office : The official website will complete the information to prepare your stay.

What if you go on a City-Trip to Berlin?

Do you know the German capital? Feel free to share your best addresses in the comments!

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