A winter weekend in Berlin

Although Berlin is only a few hours away from our home in Malmö, I realized I hadn’t been there since… well, since the year after the wall came down. And I wasn’t very old at the time so my memories of Berlin were kind of non-existent. Add the fact that Berlin is a perfect weekend destination, and we decided to spend the first weekend of December 2018 there. It turned out to be a great mini-vacation with lots of Christmas markets, glühwein, sightseeing and of course curry wurst.

Hackescher Markt

After a short flight on the Friday afternoon, we arrived at Schönefelt airport. We picked up 48 hour Berlin city tour cards from the tourist agency at the airport and then walked to the train station to get to Berlin-Mitte. The city tour card included all public transportation for 48 hours, including to and from the airport. Very convenient as Berlin is a pretty spread out city.

For our stay, we had decided on the Monbijou hotel in the Hackescher Markt station area which was easy to get to by train. The hotel was perfect for us – cozy, clean and close to everything.

By this time, we were hungry and longing for dinner so we just dumped our bags and went for our first curry wurst, the quintessential food of Berlin. Luckily (or well planned), one of the top currywurst restaurants was just around the corner from the hotel: Curry 61. We had a generous serving with french fries, mayo and their special sauce and a beer of course. Their wall art is worth the visit itself.

Since it was the beginning of the holiday season, the Christmas markets were in full swing. They all have pretty much the same setup: small shops with handicrafts, food and snacks. Some of the markets have an iceskating rink as well. Our first night in Berlin, we went to two markets: one near the Rathaus and one on Alexanderplatz. Our favorite was definitely the market near the Rathaus and St Mary’s church since it was smaller and cozier. We had glühwein to keep us warm in the rain, and also found some chili candied almonds that I actually went back for on Sunday before going home. So good.

Sightseeing tour

The next day (Saturday) was dedicated to sightseeing in Berlin. We had a quick breakfast in a coffee shop in the Hackescher markt station (love the German pastries!). Then we were off to our first stop of the day: the Bundestag building. We had booked free tickets to a specifik time slot and everything was right on time. After a check-in and security check, the guards will escort the group into the Bundestag building and then up to the dome. There you can walk around in and up the dome for as long as you please. Beautifully constructed dome and interesting to see the bundestag room below.

Inside the dome of the Bundestag

After an hour or so in the dome, we walked to the Holocaust memorial (the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europa) located very close to Brandenburger Tor. It truly is a place for remembrance and contemplation, so go there when you’re in Berlin and just wander around the stone pillars.

We then went to the Brandenburger Tor square to have a coffee and then go on a free tour. There are probably several tours to choose from but we had booked with Sandeman. It was very popular this sunny Saturday. Somehow we ended up in the group with the most popular tour guide so the group just kept expanding. He did the tour very well though, and we saw lots of things along the way. If you have a few hours to spare, a guided tour is a good way to get most of the sights done. You can always go back to places that interest you the most.

When the tour ended on Bebelplatz, we kept walking north towards the Berlin wall memorial. We had lunch at this retro, artsy café close to the golden synagogue, a very good borstj soup for me with – you guessed it – beer. The café was so retro it didn’t even have wifi… quite a rarity these days.

We arrived at the Berlin Wall memorial (Gedänkstätte Berliner Mauer) in the afternoon and walked around the indoor and outdoor exhibits. It is very well presented with different buildings showing different aspects of and life situations in the East German era. Definitely take your time and walk along the wall on both sides of the street. There are memorials and ruins as well as the exhibits.

We then took a tram/train combo to the Tiergarten park and made our way by foot to the Victory column. You can see this golden landmark from all over Berlin and it sits right in the middle of a giant roundabout. Don’t try to cross the street, instead use the underground walkways. We bought tickets and climbed up the tower. From the observation deck, 51 meters up, you can see most of Berlin. Since it got dark while we were there, all the lights around the city was twinkling which was very pretty.

With dark came the need for more Christmas markets, so we took a bus to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church. Around the two church buildings (one bombed ruin, one modern), there were lots of Christmas market booths at the Breitscheidplatz. We bought some glühwein and wandered around for a while. On a sad note, on the steps of the church there were flowers and candles to remember the victims of the 2016 truck attack that took place in the market. We could only imagine the horror that must have been that night in the very crowded marketplace.

The Breitscheidplatz Christmas market around the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church

After a while, we walked along the brightly decorated Kürfurstendamm street and then took the metro to Gendarmenmarkt.

The Christmas market on Gendarmenmarkt square is perhaps one of the most famous markets in Berlin. There was a line to get in since they charged an entry fee (1 € I think), but we bought glühwein and the line moved quickly. Inside the market area, there was a big stage where they had concerts, a Russian choir when we were there. We finally (because by then we needed food and not just glühwein!) had dinner at one of the market restaurants. I had a traditional plate of kale, mushrooms, sausage and sour cream, all washed down with a beer. And then we walked around some more and bought some gifts.

And then it was back to the hotel with a walk through a lit up museum island (museum insel). Lots of walking that day and lots of glühwein…

East side gallery

The next morning was grey and gloomy, but we were quickly on our way to the East side gallery in the Friedrichshain area. This open-air gallery is located near the river Spree and consists of a 1,3 kilometer stretch of the Berlin Wall, covered in murals by different artists. The murals were painted in 1990 and are in good shape. We walked along the wall along with a lot of other people and took pictures along the way.

When we had reached the end of the wall, we took the train back to central Berlin and went to the Topography of Terror Documentation Center. It’s located right by a remaining sector of the wall but focuses on the horrors and evils that took place during the Nazi era. The building stands where the SS had its main office which was destroyed after the war. The center houses an exhibit which contains a lot of information and photos.

Our final hours in Berlin were spent on Checkpoint Charlie, which is a reconstructed checkpoint where you can pay to get your photos taken with fake guards. We didn’t. And then we just had to go back to the first Christmas market by the Rathaus (city hall) to buy more chili almonds and also skate on the ice rink around the Neptun fountain. When dusk set in, we were back on the train to the airport.

To sum it up, we had a great weekend in Berlin. The city is so full of history that everywhere you go, there is something new to read and learn. We ate excellent curry wurst a couple of times and will remember the glühwein fondly. Also, Berlin is a perfect weekend city since the public transport system makes it easy to get around.

If you have any questions about Berlin, let me know!

1 thought on “A winter weekend in Berlin

  1. Pingback: Christmas market weekend in Basel, Switzerland – Helena eats the world

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