The first time I visited Berlin I didn’t fancy it so much. It was cold (January) and it looked like a lot of concrete. It felt as busy and culturally diverse as London, except it was more like Shoreditch/East London magnified. It was hipster central! I saw a lot of grey, which wasn’t so much fun.
I gave the city another chance on my way back to Porto from Vilnius recently – as the flight worked out cheaper and more convenient that way. It was September. The better weather helped a lot by illuminating more parts of the colour spectrum! The presence of leaves on trees also contributed to a better experience.
MOXY BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF
I spent the first two nights staying at The Moxy hotel, an affordable chic in the Friedrichshain area. Although the name makes me think of fried chicken, it’s supposedly a very cool and hip part of Berlin, in the south-east.
I LOVED THIS HOTEL. It was SO ME!
I love this hotel because they think that Berlin is funnier with me in it. Such fun vibes in the lobby/bar too!
I found the location fantastic – it seemed to be close to a lot of things I wanted to see and do.
The hotel must also be popular with the party crowd – as it’s close to the popular superclub Berghain. A friend did invite me to go to a day rave there, but I couldn’t think of anything more unsavoury than trying to dress a certain way or create a certain impression in the hopes that some lame dude at the door will like me and grant me entry.
Rooms at The Moxy start from €80 – I totally recommend it if you’re after something modern and trendy but don’t wanna break the bank!
BITE BERLIN FOOD TOUR
I started my first full day with a food tour by Bite Berlin, as it’s generally recommended that food tours are booked to occur at the beginning of your trip, so that you can collect useful tips and recommendations from your guide for the rest of your time.
Bite Berlin is run by three women who have collectively spent almost 25 years in the city. The tour included typical ‘German food’, such as pretzels and.. currywurst!
Did you know that the currywurst was invented by a woman who obtained ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers in Germany? Well I didn’t anyway.
I was a few minutes late – German trains are NOT always on time – so everyone was waiting for me by the time I got to the meeting point at Hackescher Markt. There were six other people: an Australian couple with a baby, a Dutch couple, and two Iraeli girls who were travelling together for Lollapalooza Festival, which coincided that weekend.
My favourite stop on the tour was District Mot, a Vietnamese street food concept restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere. The decor was very appealing and carefully thought of.
This included colourful animal-shaped Chinese lanterns commonly seen during the mid-autumn festival – the ones with colourful sheets of plastic spread over metal wires that have been shaped into animals (like these). It reminded me of my childhood – I’m now making a note to ask my mom to find me one next time I’m home!
The food was delicious and I saw that the menu boasted frogs’ legs, which I love, but sadly I didn’t quite get the chance to go back to try them. Got carried away with other things.
BERLIN WELCOME CARD
Getting around Berlin was pretty easy, as you can imagine. I used a Berlin Welcome Card that covered the whole duration of my trip. What was most convenient was being able to pick it up at the airport and use the free public transport benefit immediately.
Yet, I missed my bus stop coming into town from Tegel Airport. It was a frustrating reminder that bus culture (is that even a thing?) can be different everywhere!
I pressed the button when my stop was coming up. However, when the bus stopped, no doors opened and so I assumed it was simply a traffic-light stop. WRONG. It then zoomed off and I saw on the screen that it had progressed to the next location after mine. Apparently, I had to go closer to the door to indicate that yes, I am getting off here.
Anyway, the best part of the Welcome Card for me was definitely the free public transport. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take advantage of the discounts to attractions/museums. I did find the map helpful though!
You can buy the Berlin Welcome Card online.
BERLIN CITY SNAPS
These gold (actually brass) tiles are called ‘Stolpersteine’, which mean tripping or stumbling stones. They’re made to stick out of the ground slightly.. so you could actually, stumble upon one.
They’re inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution – at exactly their last place of residency or work that was freely chosen by them.
My friends Eulanda and Omo dropped in for half a day and we went on a hunt for street art one afternoon. I’m not a huge fan of street art – not enough to actively look for it anyway – so I didn’t quite enjoy this excursion.
I also felt that a lot of the street art in Berlin seemed to be located in places that didn’t make sense. Some of them were difficult to see completely and some were occluded by things like a flyover or ugly signposts or lampposts.
I guess I like effortless and convenient street art.. or street art the lazy way!
First: What a name.
Second: What a terrible photo of me; where are my eyes?
Luckily, the street art excursion was saved by accidentally discovering this gem of a market in Kreuzberg. It was huge! It used to be a wasteland for over half a century that’s now been turned into a green space where organic food production and climate protection are taught and encouraged.
There was a bustling flea market happening when we were there. It was a Sunday. I didn’t buy anything as my suitcase was already bursting but I loved wandering around under all those green leafy trees.
It also reminded me of my first few years of living in London, when I would spend my weekends rummaging for vintage treasures (often hidden in smelly piles of things) at various markets, mostly in the east.
MOVENPICK HOTEL BERLIN
My final two nights in Berlin were a real treat, as I got to spend them at the Movenpick Hotel, which is closer to the city centre.. it’s not in a particularly hip location and it’s more of a business type hotel, but I really enjoyed the traditional hotel vibes.
Also, my room (deluxe room) had yellow walls. This played a major role in my appreciation of the decor, I mean, the walls were yellow!
I specifically came home early one night just so I could spend more time surrounded by these yellow walls, in the comfy bed, and wearing no underwear. It was fantastic! I even lied to Ricardo when he tried to call – I said I was busy.
If you’re looking for a higher level of comfort and want to be more central, stay at the Movenpick Berlin 🙂
My most amazing rainbow headpiece is by Ciara Monahan!
THE BEST THING I DID IN BERLIN
This actually deserves a whole post on its own.
Thanks to Adam – my favourite person to pester for Berlin recs – I found a MAGICAL REALM OF LIGHTS and mirrors and colours hidden away in a sort of warehouse space (former power station) in what seemed like a pretty blah area of town (Köpenicker Straße).
It was an art and photography exhibition hosted by Olympus, called Perspective Playground. It takes place a few times a year in various European cities. Unfortunately, by the time you read this, the Berlin playground will be over. But you can watch the website to see where it goes next!
I spent HOURS in there by myself. This was seriously the biggest highlight of my little Berlin break.
Ok I’m gonna have to write a separate post about this to share the rest of the photos!
The rest of my time in Berlin I spent meeting strangers, drinking/bar hopping, and eating. I didn’t really take any photos of those.