At the end of February I spent a long weekend in Berlin, and stayed with a friend who recently moved to Kreuzberg, Berlin. Here’s some of the activities we got up to, including some that you may not come across as a typical tourist in Berlin.
1. Visit the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg
I stayed in Kreuzberg, which was a quirky neighbourhood apparently well known for its punk rock and hip-hop scenes, and the centre of LGBTQ life in Berlin. It had a variety of bars, restaurants, shops and was well in reach from the city centre by the U-Bahn/S-Bahn or bus services.
2. Visit Tempelhof airport runway
The runway of abandoned Tempelhof Airport is Berlin’s largest park, and was filled with locals flying kites, practising windsurfing on skateboards and hanging out with groups of friends. The outdoor space had a inclusive, community vibe, which was emphasised by the allotment we walked through, and also the fact that since 2015 the abandoned airport has also been used as a refugee camp. Walking along the runway would best in the summer – it was so cold when we went (in February).
3. Eat some of the local delicacies
I tried goulash, bratwurst and schnitzel in various cafes/restaurants around the centre of Berlin (there’s so many places to choose from). I also ate some non-local food – the pho soup from Hamy Cafe in Kreuzberg was delicious.
4. Play underground 3d glow in the dark mini-golf
Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds. Schwarzlicht-Minigolf was a great quirky adventure, and something that you won’t find back in the UK. It cost EUR 6,50 for 1 round, and an extra EUR 1,50 for 3D glasses (definitely worth it!).
5. Go on a free walking tour
We got an overview of the history of the city and got to see a few things that we would never have known without the expertise of a local. We walked through a car park, which the tour guide informed us was actually the site of Hitler’s bunker. We also got a whistle-stop tour of all the typical tourist haunts like Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall.
The tour starts daily outside the Starbucks by the Brandenburg Gate (pictured below) and lasts around 2.5 hours.
6. Walk along the East side gallery
There’s a great selection of art to look at – it’s the longest open air gallery in the world! The East side gallery is situated in a picturesque location in front of a river and is an international memorial for freedom. Many of the paintings are covered in graffiti, however a restoration project was started in 2000 to begin to restore some of the artwork.
7. Visit the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum
A harrowing experience, but a must-do. Sachenhausen was a prisoners of war concentration camp, and is placed at the end of a residential street within a neighbourhood, which I found a rather disconcerting experience. It has an atmosphere you can only experience by visiting.
8. Visit the memorial for the murdered jews of Europe
Walk along the pillars of the memorial – an industrial set of mismatched concrete blocks which create a disorientating landscape. There is an underground museum that has a variety of artefacts, including a timeline of the holocaust, notes written from inside concentration camps and videos to watch. Again, a disconcerting experience, but an important one.
9. Go to one of the many bars
A more cheerful experience – soak in the buzzing atmosphere of the Berlin nightlife. A great thing about Berlin is that the night never ends – most bars were open until the early hours of the morning, meaning that there was never a rush to move on. We played table football in a few bars, and Berliners often joined in, which was a great way to get to know the locals. The drinks were cheap and the bars had a great atmosphere – one that we went to had a ‘treehouse’ that we sat in. My only complaint is that cider doesn’t seem to hardly exist in Berlin – most of the bars we went to didn’t sell cider, and one barman didn’t know what cider was!
10. See some jazz
The A-Trane jazz club boasts an impressive record of jazz musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and Brad Meldhau. One of the highlights of the trip was going to the late night jam session, which happens every Saturday beginning at midnight. The jazz club was packed with people huddled around tables surrounding a small stage. The breadth of talent was impressive – even Theo Croker turned up to play after his concert he’d played earlier that evening!