Happy holidays everyone! I’m writing this from 30,000 feet up in the air as I return back to Italy from Chicago. Most of the time on long trips, I’ve taken the easy way out and knock myself out for anywhere from eight to 13 hours at a time. However, on this trip, the excitement of being home and seeing friends and family for Christmas has kept me from getting any sleep! Thinking back on my brief trip home got me thinking about a recent trip I took to Berlin, Germany – home to a wonderful Christmas market. I fell so in love with this city that I’m already working on my next opportunity to go back! Summer or winter, young or old, Berlin has something for everyone.
9am: Flight from Venice to Berlin. We took an EasyJet flight that got us to Berlin in about 90 minutes.
11am: To save time, we grabbed a cab into the city. However, Berlin offers some great transportation options such as bus, subway, train or even Uber! The hotel we chose for our stay was the Holiday Inn, which was located right across the street from the Berlin Wall East Gallery and cost us 60 euro a night.
*Also, if you are looking for something cheaper and more flexible, you can rent an Airbnb starting at 35 euros, depending on when you book. Just be sure to do your homework to make sure you’re in a good area of the city.
Our first stop in Berlin? Starbucks. Italy doesn’t have Starbucks so you better BELIEVE I was going to have a giant latte.
On our days off, I usually like to relax. But one of the best ways to see Berlin is by bike and I was up for the challenge!
We spent the entire day biking around Berlin and taking in the sites. For about 15 euros, you can rent bikes from your hotel (hostels usually offer them as well) or you can simply rent them on the streets. This was perfect for everything we wanted to do, and we were able to avoid taking taxis or Ubers.
Our trip began at the East Side Gallery Berlin. The wall was really breathtaking. Of course, that could have been because it was freezing out, but the murals/art displayed all over the wall contain decades of history. Each section and painting has it’s own story to tell. As you walk along, you’ll pass hundreds of other foreigners admiring the paintings. We spent an hour walking up and down the wall, taking in the history and discussing our favorites.
1:15pm: We hopped back on our bikes and went to Checkpoint Charlie – a 15-minute ride. The ride allows for a scenic tour of Berlin! Checkpoint Charlie – the most famous checkpoint area between East and West Berlin – has been upgraded quite a bit in the last few years. Recently, they’ve added displays and a museum that share the history and significance of the Berlin Wall. The checkpoint also includes the original checkpoint booth, and you can take your picture with (actor) policemen standing outside the booth. Admission is free to get in.
2pm: At this point we were starving. We walked along the streets from Checkpoint Charlie and came across a cute Spanish-tapas restaurant, BarceLona. Just steps from the Kochstraße station, this restaurant offers food with a LOT of flavor. We ordered a couple rounds of tapas (we biked it off later), and we were not disappointed. I can’t wait to return and get more of the bacon-wrapped dates and meatballs!
3:30pm: After lunch, we picked up our bikes and rode to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, about a seven-minute bike ride from Checkpoint Charlie. It is free to walk around but to go down to the museum (where the names of the deceased are located) the charge is…(put prices). This was an experience I won’t forget. The 2,711 slabs are displayed as to not give order in an ordered society, a symbol for the Jews that were murdered so mercilessly and without sense. You can walk through the columns or sit and just take in the site. We did both.
4pm: Next, we rode to the Brandenburg Gate, about 500 feet away, which was absolutely beautiful at sunset. The square was lit up with Christmas decorations and a giant tree in front of the gate. The holiday festivities and decorations made the area a fun place to walk around, take pictures, grab some hot chocolate and people watch.
4:45pm: After our hot chocolate, we hopped on our bikes and headed Berlin Cathedral. It’s about 8 euro to get in. You might find that odd since most cathedrals are free, but they use to money to maintain the church. It’s an outstanding structure with details on every corner, including a massive dome that shines green at night.
Quick tip: If you route your trip from the gate to the Fernsehturum, you will bike past an array of historical parliamentary buildings. Feel free to stop and explore! It wasn’t in our itinerary but make your trip your own!!
5:30pm: We ended our trip at what quickly became my favorite spot of the trip. Right in front of the Fernsehturum was a giant, authentic, German Christmas market. Germany is known for their Christmas markets (in fact, Chicago has their own Christkindlmarket modeled after the German markets.) The one in Berlin is named Berliner Weihnachtsmärkte and it’s located in Roten Rathaus. If you’ve never been to one of these markets, you are bound to be impressed! There are ice skating rinks, Ferris wheels, Christmas lights, food vendors lined up as far as the eye can see, local handmade crafts, and of course Glühwein – a mulled, hot wine typically served during the winter in Europe. We spent about two hours here walking around, skating, eating traditional German cuisine and enjoying the Christmastime festivities.
Other points of interest:
Fernsehturm de Berlin: Our plan was to stop here, but after the Ferris wheel we opted out. You can go all the way to the top, get a drink and snack and enjoy the panoramic views of beautiful Berlin. Open from 10am-midnight most days, it’s 13 euros to the top.
Have you been to Berlin? Share your tips below!