Berlin is the capital of Germany and largest city in the country with a population of 3.6m people.
It’s jam packed with history, culture, amazing beers and if you go at Christmas, lots of local markets.
If like me, you only have a weekend there and want to do the tourist stuff, I suggest you spend a day and a half in Mitte and half a day in Charlottenburg. There is a lot to see in Mitte so try not to spend too long at each place – max an hour at each.
Day one and a half – Mitte
Top tourist attractions
The Reichstag building
Completed in 1895, the Reichstag building was used to house Parliament meetings up until 1933 when it was badly damaged by fire. It was partially refurbished in the 1960s but wasn’t fully restored until 1999.
Today, it is home to Parliament meetings once more and is fitted with a glass dome that is open to the public, for free. Slots book up quickly so make sure you book early to avoid disappointment.
Once through security, you will come out at the base of the dome and can walk up the spiral walkway which leads to the roof of the building and offers stunning views of the city.
If you have time, pop into the Beetle Dachgarten restaurant (make sure you book) for champagne – it’s on the roof terrace and is a great place to take in the city.
Located on the west hand-side of Mitte, the Brandenburg Gate is a Neoclassical structure, just one block away from the Reichstag building.
It is a signal of European unity and peace, especially with the chariot and four horses on top, representing Eirene – the goddess of peace.
In World War II the gate was heavily damaged but it was fully restored between 2000 and 2010 and is today, one of Berlin’s biggest tourist attractions and one of the world’s most-famous structures.
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall stood between 1961 and 1989 and acted as a barrier to divide east and west Germany due to a belief that west Germany was fascist after the war. Political views aside, the wall divided families, friends and jobs over night and stood up for 28 years.
Arguably distasteful, the remaining bricks of the wall stand as a major tourist attraction but on the flip side, they stand as a reminder of the love and pride of people who helped pull it down.
Take a walk along the wall and try to keep a balanced view of why it is still there. Every so often you will see a sign love and union amongst the graffiti – like this gem that I spotted.
The Holocaust Memorial
The Holocaust Memorial is a structure opened in 2005 to pay respect to the murdered Jewish people of Europe in World War II.
It was designed by Peter Eisenman and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged over a sloping field in a grid layout.
The concrete slabs span 87 rows east to west and 54 north to south and are open to interpretation as to what they represent. Some say they look like grave stones in a cemetery and some say they are there to make you feel confused.
For me, the sloping floors and growing concrete slabs as you go deeper into the flied made me feel very intimidated and inferior – how I imagine many Jewish people felt facing German solders taking them away from their homes and life against their will.
It’s a very sombre memorial but one most definitely worth visiting.
Food and drink
As with most towns and cities, some of the best food places are ones you find slightly off the beaten track.
The best example of this that I found in Berlin was a burger restaurant named Burgermeister. Built in an old public toilet, it certainly had a quirky/ intriguing appeal to it. It’s quite far out of the centre of Mitte so jump on the bus to get there but the food and chilli cheese fries were amazing!
Secondly and possibly most surprising, was a cafe/ restaurant called Berlin Pavilion right next to the Reichstag building. It was nothing fancy – it felt a little like a canteen but the food was awesome and really cheap!
I’d always wanted to try a proper German currywurst and this one was £6 with fries, was a big portion and tasted great.
Again, quite touristy but if you want to go for a stein, listen to some traditional Bavarian music and see people in lederhosen, try the Hofbrauhaus. It is based on the original in Munich and is quite expensive so just go for one – but the atmosphere is great.
Afternoon two – Charlottenburg
Top tourist attractions
Built in the 17th Century, Charlottenburg Palace is Berlin’s biggest palace and has many baroque features inside.
It was lived in by royalty until 1888 and was servery damaged in World War II, to the point where it was almost demolished. Instead, it was fully restored and today, is a major tourist attraction.
If you visit Berlin over Christmas make sure you visit the palace as there is an amazing light show projected on to the building and a beautiful Christmas market just outside of it.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church
Built in the 1890’s, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (known also as Gedächtniskirche) is a protestant church built near the boarder of Mitte. It was badly damaged in the Second World War but was restored and re=opened in 1963.
Today, it is a famous landmark of Berlin and is nicknamed ‘the hollow tooth’.
Food and drink
When in Germany, you have to try strudel. I stumbled across Staendige Vertretung which was a lovely restaurant for an evening meal and also had a great selection of beers. I tried the meatballs and bratwurst – heavy on the meat but but the flavours were lovely.
To finish, I shared a classic apple strudel and custard, which didn’t disappoint.