I have a confession to make: I wasn’t very interested in going to Berlin. When I booked us a weekend trip, it was more out of a desire to check a box rather than to see the city. In my mind, Germany’s capital was just made of concrete and sadness.
You guys. I couldn’t have been more wrong! While Germany’s sometimes incredibly bleak history is definitely prominent in the city, Berlin is a CRAZY vibrant city with a culture unlike anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, it seems like many people perceive Berlin like I did before our visit. Nobody we met was in Berlin intentionally. Mostly, everyone was there on their way somewhere else.
Luckily, I found that one day is enough to fall in love with Berlin! If you find yourself with a day in Germany’s capital, follow this itinerary and maybe you’ll start thinking about a return visit!
1. Start with a Scenic Breakfast
Get a running start and sight-see while you eat! We ate at Quchnia, directly across from the Gendarmenmarkt. Widely regarded as Berlin’s “most beautiful square”, the Gendarmenmarkt is home to two cathedrals and Schinkel’s concert hall. It’s worth noting that the food was as good as the views! Everything on Quchnia’s breakfast menu is tempting. So tempting, in fact, that Peter and I pancakes to share in addition to our own plates!
2. See Art Outside of Traditional Museums
If you know me, you know I love a good museum. That being said, if you only have a day in Berlin, stay out of the museums! After the fall of the wall, Berlin became a haven for artists and the city became a canvas. The highlight of our trip to Berlin was a street art tour we found through Airbnb’s experiences. Our host was very personable, and he used his knowledge and passion to encourage thought provoking discussions while helping us learn about the city.
Don’t skip this! Even if graffiti and street art isn’t your thing, TAKE THIS TOUR!! Also, after the tour finished, we were right next to the East Side Gallery, so we were able to keep the open air art theme going.
3. Lunch on the Go
Full disclosure: we ended up at Pirates Berlin for lunch after the tour. It’s certainly a tourist trap, but it had a nice patio and good cocktails *shrugs*.
For a more authentic experience, skip the restaurants all together and grab Currywurst from one of the many snack stalls! Invented in Berlin in 1949, this is as close to a regional specialty Berlin gets. We only had Currywurst once on our trip so I can’t recommend the “best” place to get it, but check out this list if you’re too nervous to try the first stall you come to.
4. Shop ‘n’ See
After lunch, head to Checkpoint Charlie (we took an Uber from Pirates). At Checkpoint Charlie, you’ll find the “best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War” and a small, open air museum. From there, walk north along Friedrichstraße. Along with the Ku’ Damm, this is one of the best known shopping destinations in Berlin. Cute local shops are mixed with bigger, international retailers and Peter and I would have had a problem if we hadn’t been sharing a carry-on. We walked until we hit Unter den Linden, hung a left and ended up at the Brandenberg Gate!
Constructed between 1788 and 1791, the Brandenberg Gate has a history of its own and now acts a symbol of unified Germany. For us, the gate was almost secondary to the people gathered in front. Sprinkled in among the other tourists, students protested against a proposed bill in Hong Kong and a naked man protested… something.
I’ll be honest, there is a lot of walking in this one day Berlin itinerary. Efficient sight seeing isn’t for sissies! After the Brandenberg Gate, stop for a refreshment. Numerous cafes line Unter den Linden, however we decided to treat ourselves and stopped for a drink at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
After enjoying the excellent service (and AC!), it was about 5:00 and time to make our way back to our Airbnb to get ready for dinner. The apartment was just off the Ku Damm and made an excellent base for our weekend in Berlin!
6. Dinner Time!
I am very passionate about eating. This fact made it nearly impossible to choose a restaurant for our only night formal dinner in Berlin! Topping the list of recommendations we received were Lokal and any of the many Vietnamese restaurants, but we decided on Katz Orange.
Set back off the street in a VERY charming courtyard, Katz Orange is a gem. Considerate service and 12 hour slow cooked pork wins me over every time.
7. Berlin’s Famous Nightlife
After dinner, indulge in Berlin’s nightlife! For us, this meant a quiet cocktail bar. Trust me though, whatever it means to you to “go out”, Berlin can accommodate
Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagineDavid Bowie
That wraps up one day in Berlin! While we couldn’t have hoped to see every the city has to offer in only 36 hours, we did pretty well! If you’re going, I hope this list helps you plan your Berlin adventure, and if you’ve been, what do you think?! What were your must-dos in Berlin?
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