Get your portrait done in a PhotoAutomat.There are numerous photoautomats around the city. They are old fashioned, analog portrait booths and as part of a project, these guys are working to keep the old film booths alive. The prints you get from them have a beautiful feel and we found 5 booths around the city. This one below is just near Mauer Park but you'll also find them in Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and central too.
Take a selfie at Brandenburg Gate.However trendy we think we are, everyone loves a bit of a tourist trap and Brandenburg gate is just that, probably one of the most famous German landmarks there is. Post WW2 when Berlin was split into East and West, the gate sat right on the edge of the border and from what I've read and seen, was very symbolic when the wall came down in 1989. Just around the corner you've also got the Reichstag - home of the German government but the queues are always massive so I'd say, have a look and move on!
Drink all the Glühwein.This is definitely a winter activity but if you find yourself strolling the streets of Berlin on a cold crisp day, you absolutely must stop at every chance for a cup of steaming glühwein. A great tip is to also ask for a shot of amaretto. Perhaps it's not the best advice to drink it before lunch but it's so warming and totally moreish, I have to admit we did have one boozy mid-morning!
Visit the wall.You can see parts of the wall all over the city but the main touristy bit can be found at Potsdamer Platz. Of course take your time to read the exhibits and view the sections of wall but I prefer to look down at the pavement and see the snaking path of the wall and where it once ran. Also look out for the little red and green men on the traffic lights - they are different in West and East Berlin to this day.
Eat crisps on a stick.We loved this - basically a man with a drill and a wooden skewer - he spiralled a potato using the drill before deep frying and covering liberally in salt. I'm sure you can find these stalls all over the more touristy bits of the city but we found this stall (next door to some great glühwein) in Mitte just near St. Nicholas' Church.
Go to Mauerpark flea market & eat Currywurst.
Situated in Prenzlauer Berg (where we were staying), Mauerpark is huge and every Sunday they have a big flea market, with live music and stalls elling everything from old cameras to vintage clothes. There are food stalls there too and of course, currywurst. You can get this all over the city as it's basically an institution but we enjoyed having it here because the atmosphere was just great.
Drink cocktails and eat Pork Knuckle in Kreuzberg.People bang on about Kreuzberg so special and trendy? We visited twice - in search of the trendy bars and supposedly, some of Germany’s best coffee. Seek and ye shall find - erm… nope. Not in our case. Prenzlauer Berg is definitely, for us, a better area. I would make the comparison of Kreuzberg being Shoreditch - full of wanky types loving their own hype and Prenzlauer Berg being Brixton (although this time, not south of the river). Foodie, fun, a little bit rough around the edges but with a real charm.
That said, we did visit a couple of cool places in Kreuzberg. Bateau Ivre with its boat theme and Chinese lanterns was fun for a couple of drinks, as was Bar 39 for excellent cocktails. Dave also enjoyed earwigging into Korean phone conversations outside Angry Chicken - a bizarre little Korean takeaway just down the road.
For food, we looked at Kreuzburger - featured on the Guardian’s guide to the area but we opted for Max und Moritz instead. An old fashioned 'Wirtshaus' on the edges of the district. On first attempt we couldn't get in, they had some kind of concert on and were fully booked despite it being a weekday. My advice - book ahead. Anyway, we returned later on and got a table.
There was one thing on both of our minds - pork knuckle. It looks (let's face it) - rank. but actually tasted pretty good. With a bratwurst sausage, gammon steak, mustard, sauerkraut, potatoes and gravy this was not a light meal but I'm glad I had it. Definitely one to tick off the list.
Walk around Prenzlauer Berg.This is where we were staying and we loved it as an area. Lots going on, plenty of bars and restaurants (including Spreegold and Blumencafe). Also lots of Asian and Korean restaurants which is great if you like that kind of food. If I moved to Berlin, this is where I would live. Just take time to walk along the streets and soak it all up. Walk for around 20 minutes and eventually you find yourself at Alexander Platz and in the centre of town. We also managed to find Jablonski Strasse, made famous by one of my favourite books Alone in Berlin.
My final thoughts:
This is a great city and one that I plan to go back and experience some more as soon as I can. We loved the cool but unpretentious feel of the bars there and of course, as someone who studied history at university, there is more than enough culture and history to keep you occupied. As a city, Berlin has a feel about it - it's alive in a way other cities haven't felt to me. Perhaps it's the U-bahn and S-bahn raised above and built below the streets - an extensive network providing the beating heart to the city.
Have you been to Berlin? Please share your top tips with me so I can learn even more about this great city on my return!