Berlin: the highlights

Why visit Berlin for your weekend away

Berlin is a thriving, vibrant and young city full of bohemian clubs, stylish bars and trendy restaurants. It’s food and drink are unrivalled and the nightlife is renowned all over the world. It’s also packed full of history, with the famous Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburg Gate all in this amazing city. In fact, the city has so much to offer that it can be hard to know where to start. But, with this expert guide, you’ll feel like shouting ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ in no time!

The weather in Berlin is not so different from the UK, though the summers are slightly warmer and the winters considerably colder than home - making it the perfect year-round destination. There really is no bad time to visit Berlin because the clubs, bars and restaurants are packed all year round. Plus, a pint of lager only costs £2.25 on average - you can’t go wrong!

Explore the city

Explore Kreuzberg

The district of Kreuzberg is now one of the city’s most vibrant destinations. Brimming with nightclubs, street food vendors and art galleries, it’s the place to be for Berlin’s young and trendy. Visit Flutgraben Canal, which has a collection of trendy bars, cafes and restaurants. Great for groups these effortlessly cool bars, like Bar Marqués, are definitely worth a visit.

An alternative art scene

The streets of Berlin have some of the best street art in the world. No trip to Berlin is complete without going to see the Berlin Wall and The East Side Gallery, the longest open-air gallery in the world. Discover the scene for yourself or take an alternative guided tour. You can even see the city's street art from the many public transport options.

Beer Bikes

Better than any walking tour, this is a properly unique way to take in the sights of Berlin. You’ll get to cycle past parts of the Berlin Wall and loads of other cultural sites together while enjoying a few ice-cold beers as you go. It’s great for a big group - you definitely wouldn’t want to try and cycle these machines on your own!

Riverboat Cruise

For those looking for a more relaxing and slightly less strenuous way of seeing the city, get yourself on a riverboat cruise. Far nicer than public transport, you’ll get to see the German capital from a whole new perspective as you go past all the cold war sites and the present day innovations that have made Berlin such a great place to visit. You might even get a chance to plug in your phone and get the tunes on as you go!

Potsdamer Platz

This shopping and entertainment hub was once a wasteland between East Berlin and West Berlin. Now, it’s the heart of the city and has everything from cinemas to restaurants, as well as the popular House of 100 Beers which, shouldn’t really need any explanation.

Museum Island

This island is in the heart of the city. It features 5 museums, which cover everything from World War II, to the Ancient Egyptians. With loads of stuff covering their dramatic 20th century history, it’s definitely worth a trip so you can leave Berlin knowing more about this amazing city than when you arrived. Never forget, everyday's a school day!

Nightlife Hotspots

Withmega-clubslike Berghain, Watergate and Sisyphos there’s no surprise that Berlin is renowned as the clubbing capital of Europe. Techno is big in Berlin but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something to suit any taste at any time of the night. It genuinely has something for all tastes, whether you prefer casual drinks in a bohemian bar or clubbing madness in one of the city’s uber cool mega-clubs. Also, a lot of the clubs have pretty strict door policies so it’s worth doing some research before you head out.

Berghain

No guide to Berlin could be complete without mentioning Berghain - it’s probably the most famous club in the world! Playing host to some of the best Techno Djs in the world, it’s super popular with the hippest young Berliners the city has to offer. Don’t get your hopes up too much though, it’s super hard to get into and there’s a very strict door policy.

Matrix Club

Occupying 10 basement vaults of the Warschauer Straße railway station, this buzzing mega-club has 5 dance floors and loads of bars. With the hottest DJs in town, playing everything from EDM to R’n’B, it’s popular with both tourists and locals. It’s more suitable for big groups than some of the other big clubs and definitely has a more varied music selection.

E4 Club

Spread over 3 floors, this electric club is located close to the buzzing Potsdamer Platz. Great for tourists, it has 2 bars, a massive dance floor and one of the best sound systems in the city blasting the hottest R’n’B and House classics. With stylish interiors and elegant decor, it’s definitely the place to be seen.

Tutti Frutti Tabledance Club

This hugely popular table dancing club has an elegant and stylish interior. With a massive drinks selection and range of special events on offer, it’s definitely a great place to go and enjoy a few drinks in style. It’s located just off the lively Yorckstraße road in the trendy Kreuzberg district.

Prater Garten

This seasonal beer garden is one of the hottests spots in the city during the summer months. Its bar is filled with local beers, great lager and cocktails and it’s decked out with comfortable seating, chilled-out tunes and picturesque chestnut trees. With 600 seats and loads of locally brewed beers on offer, it’s a great place for big groups who want to enjoy a drink in the sun.

Eat like a local

Bratwurst, beer and burgers - Berlin’s got everything you could ever want! There’s thousands of restaurants dotted around the city, from relaxed hang-outs to high-end michelin star restaurants. With cuisines from around the world on offer, you’ll easily find something to your taste.

Currywurst

Invented in 1949, this is a Berlin fast-food staple. It basically involves a fried sausage, covered in curry ketchup. It’s the perfect thing to grab on the way home after a big drinking session or in the morning to help those hangover headaches.

Pretzels

Known as breze or brezel in German, these treats are available throughout the capital. You’ll find them being sold by street food vendors, bakeries and cafes all over the city. They’re the perfect thing to eat at almost anytime of the day and are a great way to soak up any amount of booze you may have had!

Schnitzel

Who doesn’t love juicy pork covered in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried!? Although founded in neighbouring Austria, Wiener Schnitzels are a great meal for any occasion and can be found on the menus of many of the finest restaurants in the city. We recommend heading to Schnitzelei, it’s a bit out of the way but any meat lover will definitely agree that it’s worth the journey.

Villa Rodizio

This Brazilian, Mexican and Argentinian-themed restaurant may not serve traditional German cuisine, but it is definitely the place to go if you want to try something new. It boasts warm décor with wooden panelling and it also features a large terrace, classic lounge area and a cocktail bar. It’s located next to the super trendy Helmholtzkiez district.

Accomodation

As Berlin is an all year round destination, accommodation is always busy. But never fear, there’s loads of reasonably priced hotels and hostels on offer. If you’re travelling in a large group, it’s always worth getting a dorm to save cash. Or, if you prefer something a little more private there’s loads of trendy hotels dotted around the city. If your on a tight budget, your best bet is to stay a little bit out of the city centre; you’ll still be able to travel to the main attractions but won’t have to pay such a high price.

Your inside guide to the German capital

A quarter of a century after The Wall came down and Berlin is a truly buzzing hotspot, overflowing with cool clubs and cultural highs. Berlin is a thriving, vibrant, cosmopolitan international capital. It’s a city with an open-minded attitude, reflected in its bohemian atmosphere and decadent nightlife.

For a city that was levelled in the 40s and then cut in half by communism, Berlin, with its dozen boroughs and 96 Ortsteile (districts), is divided no longer, it’s now a thriving, vibrant, cosmopolitan international capital. There has clearly been a lot of rebuilding, physically and metaphorically, which perhaps explains why Berliners know how to party. There are also loads of festivals – from parades and outdoor events, to music and culture festivals.

Berlin at a glance:

  • Though the Berlin Wall tore the capital in half, the city has since rebuilt itself spectacularly
  • An unrivalled club scene with an emphasis on techno and dance music
  • Berliners like their beer, with traditional beer halls, specialist bars and festivals at various times throughout the year
  • A city of contrasts, with architecture encompassing historical gems, stoical communist blocks and ultra modern buildings

Local Knowledge:

Mitte – Berlin’s centre
As the name suggests (mitte is German for middle), Mitte is bang smack in the centre of the city along the Spree River. It’s estimated that there’s around 400 art galleries in Mitte, plus you’ll also find some of the city’s best and most exclusive bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as plenty of department stores, arcades and shopping centres.

Potsdamer Platz – a shopping and entertainment focal point
Once a wasteland between a divided Berlin, it's now the post-modern centre of the city, with a 19-screen cinema, sculptures by such artists as Keith Haring, Jeff Koons and Robert Rauschenberg, and such eateries as Mom's Favourite (where you'll find traditional dishes from around the world), and also The House of 100 Beers (which shouldn't need any explanation).

Charlottenburg – right royal
Affluent area within the locality of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and home to Charlottenburg Palace, the largest palace and the only surviving royal residence in Berlin. This area expands out to include the Wannsee and Tegel lakes as well as Grunwald park.

Alexanderplatz – a tall landmark
Large public square in the Mitte district, often referred to by locals as simply 'Alex'. The square contains the iconic Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm), the tallest structure in the country, and the World Clock, handy if you need to be reminded of what time it is back home.

Best bars in Berlin:

Die Weinrei
One of the more unusual places to drink, in the evenings, for a small fee, you can rent a glass and drink as much wine as you want/need. When you’re finished, you leave as much or as little money as you’d like. There are three bars in the family run business.

Bar Tausend
Hidden beneath the train tracks of Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse (Schiffbauerdamm 11), to enter you have to knock on an unsigned iron door. Inside is a modern bar of shiny steel walls and sculpture. The appeal of this place is its secretive nature, making for an exciting atmosphere within.

Prater Garten
A great place for a casual drink (Kastanienallee 7-9) and open from April through to September, weather permitting, this buzzing garden offers 600 seats amongst the green trees. The venue also brews its own tipple, Prater Pils, while the restaurant specialises in homemade Berlin cuisine, such as Königsberger Klopse (meatballs in caper sauce), Wiener Schnitzel (veal cutlet) and Senfeier mit Quetschkartoffeln (mustard eggs and mash).

Bar 203
It's the highest bar in the city – 203 metres above the city streets at the upper reaches of the Berlin TV Tower. There's wine. cocktails, snacks, and some of the best views of the city, including over the Reichstag and River Spree.

The Harp
If you fancy something that feels a little closer to home, The Harp (Giesebrechtstraße 15) is one of Berlin's oldest Irish pubs, just a short walk from Kurfürstendamm boulevard. Other similar 'boozers' in the city include The Kilkenny, situated directly in the train station Hackescher Markt in the Mitte district, and the Oscar Wilde Irish Pub (Friedrichstraße 112A).

Best clubs in Berlin:

A trip into Berlin's famed nightlife wouldn't be complete without a night of hard clubbing.

Berghain (Am Wriezner Bahnhof) was previously a power station, and has now found a new lease of life with a booming soundtrack of electronic techno, house and dubstep – be warned though, it’s notoriously hard to get in so you have to be willing to queue for a couple of hours with the risk of being turned away by the picky bouncers for no apparent reason.

Right in the heart of trendy Kreuzberg, Watergate offers two floors of the highest quality techno, spread across two floors. The stunning river views from the terrace are an added bonus.

Continuing the waterside clubbing theme in Kreuzberg, Club de Visionaire (Am Flutgraben 2) specialises in the latest of the late after-parties, with clubbing continuing well into the daylight hours to a throbbing minimal tech soundtrack.

No club sums up Berlin’s post-industrial shabby chic clubbing ethos more than long-established favourite Tresor (Köpenickerstrasse). Now housed in a former power station, it’s a big name on the circuit, attracting techno heavyweights and keeping the hardcore fan base happy across its three rooms.

Smack bang in the middle of the city, in Mitte, Weekend Club (Alexanderstrasse 7) is a big draw, not only for its impressive lineups of house music innovators, but the in-demand roof terraces offers stunning views of some of Berlin’s icons. Being based at the top of a communist-era tower block merely adds to the experience.

The irritatingly named and formerly illegal ://about blank behind Ostkreuz station, is perfect for open air partying, complete with wooded area, chill-out caravan and bonfires in winter.

Ritter Butzke, Sisyphos (with playground animals to sit on), and SO36 are other unique clubbing spots worth checking out.

Food: eat like a local:

Currywurst is a must. There are numerous stalls dotted across Berlin selling the famed fast food, made up simply of steamed then fried pork sausage seasoned with a (slightly sickly) curry sauce. It's usually served with bread rolls or fries. Invented in the late 1940s, the Germans love it so much they've even opened a museum in the dish’s honour – Deutsches Currywurst Museum Berlin, close to Checkpoint Charlie.

Other local delicacies include sauerkraut (finely-cut ‘sour’ fermented cabbage, usually served with sausage), pretzels (a cheap snack), eintopf (a German ‘one pot’ stew that can consist of any number of ingredients) and käsespätzle, the German equivalent of mac’n’cheese.

Markthalle Neun (Eisenbahnstraße 42) is a food court where local producers come together. Open on a Thursday, it’s a great place to hang out and try a variety of international street foods, from tapas and BBQ, to smoked fish, veggie, Thai, Italian and German. Popular with locals and visitors alike.

If you'd prefer something a little more posh to nosh, Hotel Adlon (Unter den Linden 77) is a well-known hotel with a gourmet menu (with seafood a speciality) while Hugos (Budapester Straße 2/14) boasts a panoramic view of Berlin and a Michelin-starred French menu.

Elsewhere, Café Sieben (Fritz-Erler-Allee 57) is a near unbeatable cheap-price buffet, Corroboree (in the Sony Centre, Potsdamer Platz) mixes Australian with German flavours, and includes kangaroo on the menu, while Unsicht-Bar (Gormannstraße 14) is a German take on the food-in-the-dark concept, forcing you to concentrate on the tastes, away from the visual distractions.

Best view of the city:

This has to be the glassed dome of the Reichstag (home of the German Parliament). When you enter the dome you follow a gradual slope circling the dome, giving a great panoramic view of Berlin. You can literally see all of the city. Best yet, you can view this for free, although you must pre-book in advance here and have proof of ID to get through security.

Getting about:

The U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (overground) trains run at 5-10 minute intervals and are pretty easy to navigate. For areas outside of the main network, there are buses and trams, though the Strassenbahn (tram) lines are restricted to the eastern parts of the city.

The city is divided into three tariff zones – AB, BC and ABC – with single and short distance tickets available, though better value are one-day and seven-day tickets (for one person) and Group Day Tickets, which are valid on all public transport until 3am, for up to five people).

Make sure tickets are validated before your journey starts (in yellow or red boxes) as plain-clothed ticket inspectors are not known for being lenient to tourists. Taxis can be hailed in the street with fares metered. There are surcharges for bulky luggage, groups in larger taxis, and card payments.

When to visit:

The summer months are almost certainly the best time to travel to Berlin with temperatures hitting up to 25°C. As autumn appears the temperature drops to an average of 12°C-9°C, but Berlin can still be enjoyed in these months.

Berlin in winter is cold, experiencing temperatures of around 2°C to -3°C and fewer hours of sunlight. However, if you don’t mind the cold, the festive cheer is great to see. Spring enjoys more sunlight and better weather, making it a popular time for tourists.

Staying safe:

Berlin is generally regarded as a safe city but, as you should anywhere, take sensible precautions, such as avoiding dimly lit areas, flashing technology and carrying wedges of cash. Be vigilant around parts of Neukölln, Wedding, the remote parts of East Berlin, Zoo Station, Breitscheidplatz and the eastern end of Kantstrasse. Görlitzer Park is known for its drug dealers and remember that cannabis possession is illegal.

Basic phrases:

Hello - Guten Tag
Goodbye - Auf Wiedersehen
Do you take credit cards? - Nehmen Sie Kreditkarten?
A large beer - ein großes Bier
Please can I have the bill? - Die Rechnung, bitte
Where's the loo, please? - Wo ist die Toilette, bitte?
I love you - Ich liebe dich
Cash machine - der Geldautomat
Do you speak English? - Sprechen Sie Englisch?