My first trip report! I’m going to attempt to organize these points into a consistent format. First I will list how I got to the destination, where I stayed, how I got around, things I did, and food I ate. I will then comment on these different aspects of my trip and turn it into one cohesive summary. Let me preface this by saying that Berlin is one of my favorite cities and hopefully this will come across in my writing.
- How I got to Berlin:
- Brussels to Berlin via Ryanair ($12 OW/person)
- Where I stayed in Berlin:
- Hotel Indigo Alexanderplatz for 2 nights (20,000 IHG pts/night)
- How I got around Berlin:
- Unlimited U-bahn and S-bahn system rides via 48 hr Berlin Welcome Card ($23/person)
- Things I did in Berlin:
- Walking tour via Insider Tour Berlin ($11/person)
- Reichstag Dome (Free)
- Shopping (Not Free)
- Food I ate in Berlin:
Let’s start from the beginning. We began our trip by taking the metro system to Brussels International Airport Zaventem. I would recommend doing this as it is affordable (~$10 one way/person) and it allows you to bypass the crazy traffic on the way to the airport. We had already flown Ryanair before this flight, so it was nothing we hadn’t already seen before. We waited on the lower floors of the airport, walked out onto the tarmac when it was time to board, stowed our carry-ons, and sat down beverageless and snackless for our 1.5 hr flight.
We arrived at Berlin Schönefeld Airport and headed straight to the Tourist Information office where we got our Berlin Welcome Cards. These cards allow each person to have unlimited travel on the U-bahn and S-bahn metro/tram/bus systems for a period of 48 hours or 72 hours, AND comes with hundreds of discounts to different attractions, restaurants, and events. Also note that there are several types of Welcome Cards. As I mentioned before, there is a 48/72 hour option but there is also an option for AB or ABC. Berlin’s public transportation is separated in three zones (A,B,C) with A being the city center. If you get an AB Welcome Card then you won’t be able to use it to travel to/from Potsdam or Schönefeld airport. However, if you arrive at Tegel Airport instead of Schönefeld and don’t plan on going to Potsdam, then the AB Welcome Card is the perfect choice for you! It doesn’t always make sense to get the Welcome Card, it’s just something you’ll have to calculate yourself to see if it will actually save you money.
Once we had bought our 48-hr ABC Welcome Cards, we headed to the subway which was a short 5-10 minute walk from the airport. We spent some time looking at the system maps and decided to take an express train to Alexanderplatz. I HIGHLY recommend taking an express or “RE” train when coming from the airport, as it can cut your travel time in half! I also recommend getting the Berlin Subway App which allows you to determine the best way to get from point A to point B using the subway system. Upon exiting our metro stop, we literally just stopped and stared for 30 seconds. I think it was a feeling of both relief (that we made it to Berlin safely) and independence (it was our first time in Europe away from my family). As we looked around, we saw street performers, a large shopping center, and buildings that almost touched the clouds. We were here!!
Our choice of lodging in Berlin was the Hotel Indigo in Alexanderplatz. This is a nice property that is well kept and boasted excellent service. Our check-in process was a breeze with Eddie, who spoke perfect English, as we were recognized as IHG Platinum and offered a welcome amenity of points. The one “unfortunate” thing was this was the only property in Europe that did not offer me a room upgrade. Oh well, you can’t win them all. Our standard room was listed as 215 sq. feet but felt a little smaller. The room came with a king-sized bed, a 40’+ TV with many channel options, a desk, and a lounge chair. The bathroom came with fair-trade bath amenities, a low pressure waterfall showerhead (as well as a normal showerhead), bath robes and slippers, and heated towel racks. Even though the room felt small, I think the amenities, service, and cleanliness made up for it.
We were STARVED after checking in and looked to Yelp and TripAdvisor for some help finding a restaurant. Berlin is known for being a melting pot of cultures and FOOD! So we were in the mood for some Thai and found a place called Thai Window Asia. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel in a charming little area across from some beautiful apartments. Our food was delicious and cheap ($7/dish), but beware of the cost of water which we paid $6 for! My brother later told us that we could ask for tap water because in Europe they automatically assume you want bottled water… Lesson learned… Other places we ate at mostly consisted of fast food. Currywurst can be found ANYWHERE and is essentially German sausage with curry powder and some sort of tomato-ey sauce. Doners can also be found EVERYWHERE and are basically sandwiches filled with Turkish/Middle Eastern-cooked meats, vegetables, and sauce. The great thing about Berlin is that you can just be strolling aimlessly and out of nowhere a Doner cart will appear! These dishes are also cheap (~$3-5) so they would make a great meal for the traveler on the go.
Finally, onto what we actually DID in our time in Berlin. Prior to arriving here, I had done a lot of research on what to do. Some things stood out: walking tours, a Reichstag tour, and Museum Island. Unfortunately, we only had about 1.5 days in Berlin to explore so we decided to go shopping on the day we arrived and saved the touristy stuff for the next day. For shopping, we went to the Mall of Berlin, the shopping area around Alexanderplatz, and Kaufhaus des Westens (aka KaDeWe). The shopping scene in Berlin is fantastic as there were about 3 or 4 other shopping areas that we didn’t even get to check out. All were close to subway stops, HUGE, and offered options for the frugal or those looking to spend. If you have time, I would definitely recommend doing some shopping while you’re here. We started our next day with a 4-hour walking tour with Insider Tour Berlin. There are free walking tours available but this particular company had great reviews on TripAdvisor so we decided to spend the $10/person (after our Welcome Card discount). Our tour guide was Mike and he was informative and engaging, making the tour very enjoyable. He had a degree in history from Humboldt University right there in Berlin and could answer almost any question thrown his way. We visited the Berlin Cathedral, the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, and many more. I would highly recommend a walking tour with this company because you will walk away with a deeper appreciation of Berlin’s history. Lastly, we got an opportunity to go to the rooftop of the Reichstag building. This is free but you have to MAKE AN APPOINTMENT before you go, and I would recommend making that appointment well ahead of when you’re actually going to be there. It was an amazing experience! The architecture of the Dome on the roof is an incredible sight AND you’ll have a great view of the rest of Berlin.
Although we didn’t get to spend much time in Berlin, we quickly fell in love with it. The public transportation, the shopping, the history, and the food are just a few of the amazing things this city has to offer. Also note that most people here speak English and are patient with us tourists. Berlin may not have the allure of Paris or London but it has personality and strength that is exemplified in its architecture, its culture, and its people. Thanks for reading and please share your Berlin stories with me!