How to spend 48 hours in Berlin – DAY ONE – #bestofBerlin

Glühwein or mulled wine to go - at the German Christmas Market

So last week, I took part in the Berlin campaign #bestofBerlin as part of a tourism initiative to discover new and old parts of Berlin.

Let me tell you, if you live in Berlin, you don’t know how lucky you are as Berlin is one of the most attractive cities in the world not only to live in, but to visit. And if you’ve never been here, I don’t even know what you’ve been thinking.

Why not, should be the question?

When, should be the answer!

Last week, I gave you A Short Introduction To Berlin so if you missed it, go ahead, read it and catch up! As promised, this week’s post is all about what you can do in a short period of time, so without further ado:

HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN BERLIN: #bestofBerlin

© visitBerlin - Philip Koschel
© visitBerlin – Philip Koschel

First of all, get yourself the Berlin Welcome Card for either 2015 or 2016. I wrote about it last week here.

If you decide to stay for a couple of days and need the Berlin Welcome Card for 48 hours only, then get yourself a Day Pass or a Day Return ticket too which you can use to supplement the extra day or two, as necessary. I explained how to buy BVG (Berlin public transport) tickets and what to do with them here. Note that they cannot be used to see tourists sights only to take you around the city.

Taking the shuttle bus. © Photo: Sergej Horovitz
Taking the shuttle bus.
© Photo: Sergej Horovitz

The Berlin WelcomeCard can be bought pretty much everywhere really, and not only does it include transport tickets for 48 hours including the city of Potsdam, but 200 discounts, inside tips, information on top attractions, a city map and a mini guide-book written in English, German, Italian and Spanish! I don’t know if you can get the guides in other world languages, but I guess you can always ask!

Please note that the VisitBerlin website is available in 14 languages – German, English, French, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Turkish, and Korean!

I was given a complimentary Berlin WelcomeCard and it also included a €5.00 discount for the TV Tower restaurant or bar and a free voucher for a glass of glühwein (mulled wine) at the Christmas Market on Alexanderplatz!

Now once you’re all sorted with the Berlin Welcome Card, you’re all good to go and we can now begin.

DAY ONE

© visitBerlin - Wolfgang Scholvien
© visitBerlin – Wolfgang Scholvien
  • Leave your hotel, hostel or apartment and take a bus, tram or train. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard transport ticket.
  • Start at Alexanderplatz and go to the World Clock. Take a couple of pictures. If it’s in the summer, take pictures at the fountain too.
  • From the World Clock, turn right. Follow the tram line. Watch the trams. You’re in East Berlin so most of the transportation you’ll see in this part of the city, will be trams. If you don’t see any trams at all, you’re in West Berlin!
The TV Tower or Fernsehturm in Berlin.
The TV Tower or Fernsehturm in Berlin.
  • Right in front of you is a huge block TK Maxx building. Walk in front of it and just around the corner you will see a very tall building. This building is called the TV Tower or Fernsehturm. Go inside. There are usually long queues so pre-book your ticket if you can. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard. You get a 25% discount and €5.00 off your bill in the restaurant or bar (with a minimum spend of €15.00). There are magnificent panoramic views. It really is brilliant to see and is the tallest building in Germany! Also if you’re in the gentrified district of Mitte or Prenzlauerberg (where I live), you can generally see the TV Tower from most parts of the region. If you can’t, you’re in West Berlin lol!
  • Leave the TV tower and there’s another fountain right in front of you (or in December, one of the Christmas Markets), turn left. Go straight down until you get to a huge red building. This building is called the Red Town Hall or Roten Rathaus. This is the seat of our Town Mayor. It’s usually free to go in and has an impressive fantastic ceiling, entrance and hall. Take a few photos.
The historical Nikolai Quarter or Nikolaiviertel in Berlin.
The historical Nikolai Quarter or Nikolaiviertel in Berlin.
  • There’s a lot of construction work going on at the moment so take the time to read what the buildings will look like in the future! Cross the road in front of you. You will soon find yourself in the oldest part of Berlin. It’s called the Nikolai Quarter or Nikolaiviertel and it’s one of my most favourite parts of Berlin to visit. Even if I say so myself!
  • Wander around and take photographs.
Not the Weeping Angels of Dr. Who! Thank goodness!
Not the Weeping Angels of Dr. Who. Thank goodness!
  • Visit the St. Nicholas Church or the Nikolaikirche. It’s not only a church but a museum too and an audio guide about Berlin’s history in different languages, is provided! The church is over 800 years old and has a hidden basement floor that is considered to be one of the oldest existing rooms in Berlin, interactive screens and lots of stone statues. It quite reminded me of the Weeping Angels in Dr. Who! Use the Berlin WelcomeCard. You get a 40% discount and children under 18 are free. There’s also free admission the first Wednesday of every month. Tickets are usually €5.00.
The Knoblauchhaus in Berlin. © Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Cornelius M. Braun
The Knoblauchhaus in Berlin.
© Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Cornelius M. Braun
  • Visit the Knoblauchaus. I didn’t have enough time this time around but I’ve written about it before. The Knoblauchhaus is a museum and the former residence of the Knoblauch family. It’s one of my favourite places to visit and also one of the few remaining 18th century town houses still standing, and gives visitors a glimpse of Berlin upper-middle class life in the Biedermeier German Romantic era! Entrance is completely free but donations are welcome.
  • Find your way out of the Quarter. Use your map and then walk back up to the Karl Liebknecht Straße.  You can then do four things:

You can walk straight down into a street that will lead you to Hackescher Markt.

You can cross the road and turn slightly to the left and in warmer weather, take a cruise.

You can cross the road and turn left and walk down into the lovely boulevard called Unter den Linden.

The DDR - East German Museum in Berlin.

You can cross the road, turn slightly left, walk along the Liebknechtbrücke (bridge), go down the steps and right in front of you is the DDR Museum. If you can see the Cathedral in front of you and the river, you’re in the right place, if you can’t. Use your map!

  • Visit the DDR Museum. I was lucky to get a personal tour of the museum by the PR spokesperson before the museum opened, as it can get crowded quite quickly.
Die "Schwalbe" or East German moped at the DDR Museum © DDR Museum, Berlin 2015
Die “Schwalbe” or East German moped at the DDR Museum © DDR Museum, Berlin 2015

I loved it! It’s a lively, interactive museum with lots of cubicles with sounds, games, noises and things that you can touch, hold, smell and feel by pressing buttons and flicking or sliding pages with a single finger! The DDR Museum presents everyday life in the former East Germany or GDR experienced by ordinary people focusing on their homes, schools, jobs, politics and family life. It’s the 6th most visited museum in Berlin’s and very popular with teenagers and families with kids. In fact, I spent about 3 hours there myself!

  • Use the Berlin WelcomeCard. You get a 25% discount and tickets are usually €7.00, online tickets are €5.00. Children pay €4.00.
  • Once you’ve had your fill, go to Hackescher Markt. Have lunch or go shopping. I’ve written about excellent German food in the past and most of the places I mentioned are not too far away. Use your map and the Berlin WelcomeCard or just wander around. There are lots of great little places to eat and boutique / independent vintage shops to rustle through.
©Victorgrigas
©Victorgrigas
  • Take tram M1 or 12 to Sbahnhof Friedrichstrasse or take the train (one stop). Take in the view along the way on a road called Oranienburger Straße. This road is extremely popular with tourists and locals for the nightlife. Bars are hidden on roads linking off Oranienburger Straße and in every corner you will find, brilliant restaurants and trendy hipster bars. This part of Mitte used to be a prominent Jewish area before WWII and only the New Synagogue and various small Jewish outlets remain as the area has been fully gentrified. Not far from here was the Kunsthaus Tacheles which you can see in the film The Fifth Estate played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Germany’s Daniel Brühl. In the old days, it used to be an open air exhibition of metal sculptures, artistic studios, an alternate cinema and a really banging club but it’s closed down and is now a car park!
  • Come back at night and take in the view along the way. Be polite and respectful as this street is known for being a highlight of the sex industry. And just like in Amsterdam. It’s legal.
Drag Queen at THE WYLD in Berlin!
Drag Queen at THE WYLD!
  • Once at the Friedrichstrasse train station, either walk backwards and take in a show at the Friedrichstadt-Palast to watch the glamour and suspense that is THE WYLD or walk backwards and take a river-side stroll and have a drink or two at the riverside bars or at one of Berlin’s political historical bars called Ständige Vertretung. It’s a popular place which we take our friends to, as it’s the only place in Berlin in which you can get top kölsch beer only brewed in the city of Cologne! Use your map and the Berlin WelcomeCard for the Friedrichstadt-Palast and most of the main theatres in Berlin. You get a 25% discount and ticket prices vary depending on seating.
  • From the Friedrichstrasse train station, you can of course, walk straight down. You will see the Dussmann KulturKaufhaus Bookshop. You can buy books and small gifts here and it’s opened until midnight, except on Sunday!
© visitBerlin - Günter Steffen
© visitBerlin – Günter Steffen
  • Continue on until you get to Unter den Linden. Cross the road and go straight down. This is Berlin’s most famous High Street and also the street where East Berlin meets West Berlin. You can either take the underground train for a few stops or keep walking down. If you’re interested in seeing more of Berlin, I recommend walking on. If you easily tire, take the train 3 more stops down.
  • If you’re walking, take in the various car showrooms on both Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden. There is the Opel Museum and showroom, and the Automobil Forum.
  • Go further down and nip into a shop or two for a snack, and a drink.
  • If you’re really into it, go to the delightful French Galeries Lafayette department store in Berlin, for oysters, champagne and a little light shopping!
The very famous Checkpoint Charlie border sign English, Russian, French & German, in Berlin!
The very famous Checkpoint Charlie border sign in English, Russian, French & German, in Berlin!
  • Take the underground train two stops down and stop at one of the most iconic stops in all of Berlin – Kochstrasse also known as Checkpoint Charlie!
  • Get your photo taken by the “soldiers” there and really get to grips with the history of Berlin before WWII and after it.
  • Turn right and go into the The Checkpoint Charlie Museum or Mauermuseum – Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. This museum is an exhibition that explores not only the history of the Berlin Wall but also examines infamous escapes from East Germany via hot air balloons, homemade mini-submarines to hidden flaps in cars and even inside a fake cow! Use the Berlin WelcomeCard. You get a 25% discount. Tickets are usually €12.50 and children pay €6.50.
Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.
Two sides and periods, of the Berlin Wall.
  • Once you’ve finished, go backwards again and follow the many large-format photos and info boards hung up showing photographs of this most famous border crossing point and the impact of the Berlin Wall on the history of Germany . The boards outside are free but you can also go into the Black Box at Checkpoint Charlie. I haven’t been personally, but if you use the Berlin WelcomeCard. You get a 30% discount. Tickets are usually €5.00. and children under 14 are free.
  • Walk on for about 2 minutes, and you will see the fantastic Currywurst Museum which I wrote about last year. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard and you can get a 25% discount. Tickets are usually €11.00 and children pay €7.00: Under 6’s are free. On #MuseumMonday all visitors get a 20 % discount if not discounted prior!
  • Tickets can also be combined with Yadegar Asisi’s Panorama DIE MAUER exhibition which shows the viewer the daily life of people in the vicinity of the Berlin Wall, on a fictitious autumn day in the 1980s. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard and you can get a 25% discount. Individual tickets usually cost €10.00 and children under 6 pay €4.00.
Outside the Trabi Museum in Berlin.
Outside the Trabi Museum in Berlin.
  • After this, turn right down Zimmerstraße and pop into the Trabi Museum which shows a large collection and varieties of trabis. For those of you who don’t know, a trabant also known fondly as a trabi, was a car produced in the former East Germany. It was a small car and very, very robust. It was meant to last a life-time and it did! You can also take photographs at this museum. Whilst there, I was the only visitor!
  • Use the Berlin WelcomeCard and you can get a 50% discount. Individual tickets usually cost €5.00 and children under 12 are free.
  • Walk further down and you reach Trabi World with a Trabi-Safari.
Trabi World with a Trabi-Safari, in Berlin.
Trabi World with a Trabi-Safari, in Berlin.

This place was amazing. You get to walk and wander around the shop and premises where they not only have trabis but mustangs and special E-cars too.

This is the place where tours start and then, you get to go on a trabi safari.

Yep!

You get to take over the wheels of a trabi!

As most of you know.

I don’t drive!

And I didn’t really think about it when I booked my ticket. Luckily, I was able to sit in with the trabi travelguide – Martin and his young driver – Zauri!

Our convoy of trabis in single file! In Berlin!
Our convoy of trabis in single file! In Berlin!

I arrived about 10 minutes before the safari tour was to actually start. Before the tour takes place there is an introduction of people present and a briefing as to the rules and regulations of driving in Germany, driving a trabi and following the exact instructions of our guide as he speaks through a microphone which can be heard in each and every car. A valid driving licence is necessary.

Our group was the English-speaking combination of people from England and Holland. There was also a German-speaking group.

Our convoy was a single file of 8 cars and our car was an E-car rather than the traditional manual car.

I sat in the back and even though I’m petite, it’s a little small so I’d say about two – three people in the car should be sufficient. We started on the border-corner of Kreuzberg and thus, West Berlin, and then drove to the main tourists sights of Berlin. We drove near the river, we went to Alexanderplatz and the Town Hall, Unter den Linden, Potsdammer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, the Denkmal / Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the War Memorials, Tiergarten, the Reichstag (parliament building), past the oldest hotel in Berlin (the Adlon Hotel), on the Oberbaumbrücke or Oberbaum Bridge over the lovely River Spree  and touching through both Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Both suburbs were extremely important as they were divided by the Berlin Wall otherwise known as East Side Gallery.

In driving a trabi, we even became tourist attractions ourselves!
In driving a trabi, we even became tourist attractions ourselves!

The trabi safari tour was great. And let me just say that Martin – our guide – was a hoot! We got to take photographs and little rest stops. We even became tourist attractions ourselves as a convoy of eight (8) little trabi cars is not something you see everyday.

Highly recommended!

I went on the Berlin Wild East tour but there are a variety of four (4) different tours to choose from.

The tours take 1 hour and 10 minutes and take place on a regular basis, throughout the day. Definitely use the Berlin WelcomeCard and you can get a 25% discount. Tickets are usually from €34 – €60.00 per person, depending on how many passengers are in a single car. Children under 15 are free!

That’s all for now.

You can see all the places that I went to previously by following me via #bestofBerlin on Twitter & Facebook.

See ya next week!

This post is not sponsored and even though I received a complimentary Berlin WelcomeCard to try out, the experience travelling by an East-German Trabi is all my very own!

I have so much to share with you so next week I’ll be writing about how to explore Berlin in just 48 hours – DAY TWO!

Yo Ha!

Myself actually being driven in a real Trabi, in Berlin!
Myself actually being driven in a real Trabi, in Berlin!

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you have any questions about Berlin, don’t be shy, I’m an expert! Go ahead and ask me!

It’ll be Xmas soon!

Watch this space!

How to spend 48 hours in Berlin - DAY ONE - #bestofBerlin

Have you ever spent 48 hours in Berlin? Do you think it’s enough time to see aspects of #bestofBerlin in two days, or would you stay longer?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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The astonishing rivers and lakes of Berlin and Brandenburg: 10 reasons why you should!

"The Tall Young Gentleman" being very pleased with himself!
“The Tall Young Gentleman” being very pleased with himself!

I can’t shout it loud it enough, but Berlin is such a lovely city to live in. It’s so green that you would hardly know that you’re in the capital city of Europe’s strongest economy, and one of the largest countries in the European Union. In fact, I would liken it to be a collection of suburbs with the advantage of city living, and boy, do we live!

As you might know, Berlin is a river city. As you might not, I’ve always lived in places where water is nearby. River-living is great and soothes the soul. As far as Berlin is concerned the river called the River Spree, is the heart of the city.

On the river bank of Club der Visionäre, a really lovely river bar on the border of Kreuzberg and Treptow. Highly recommended! Landwehr Canal, Berlin-Kreuzberg © visitBerlin, Foto: Philip Koschel.
On the river bank of Club der Visionäre, a really lovely river bar on the border of Kreuzberg and Treptow. Highly recommended!
Landwehr Canal, Berlin-Kreuzberg © visitBerlin, Foto: Philip Koschel.

How lucky we are then, that 44% of Berlin is covered with parks, forests, fields, rivers, lakes and canals, and that Berlin has about 30 beaches and about 960 bridges, which is far more than the ever romantic city of Venice!

Wow!

Berlin is the capital city of Berlin and the number one (1) travel destination in Germany and by virtue of this, in 2013 saw 11.32 million visitors with 57% coming from other parts of Germany, 31% coming from Europe, and 12% coming from overseas. A significant percentage of the international tourist population came from Great Britain and the USA, with a large number also came from Italy, Holland and Denmark, and a reasonable increase from the Gulf States of the MIddle East, China, and Russia. As a result, there are a huge number of tours and guided walks that cater for our tourists.

The Teufelsberg or "Devil's Mountain" is a really cool hill in Berlin over-looking the Teufelssee or "Devil's Lake." Teufelsberg,  © visitBerlin, Foto: Sarah Lindemann
The Teufelsberg or “Devil’s Mountain” is a really cool hill in Berlin over-looking the Teufelssee or “Devil’s Lake.”
Teufelsberg,
© visitBerlin, Foto: Sarah Lindemann

Most of the tours are pretty reasonably priced and an absolute bargain in terms of creativity, like the alternative walking tour that I went on a few months ago. Of course, if you’re broke or want to meet the locals, then the best way of doing that is not to go on the tourist trail but to use public transport.

Gasp!

Yes, public transport.

Germany has one of the most efficient and certainly, the safest mode of transport (outside of Switzerland) in Europe, and Berlin is no exception. In my opinion, Berlin has one of the cleanest, safest, most efficient, cheapest, and easily accessible, forms of public transportation in Western Europe! There is absolutely no where in Berlin that doesn’t have some sort of public transport within walking distance. I repeat, no where!

A romantic form of transport: A horse and trap at Brandenburger Tor or Gate, and bicycles!
A romantic form of transport: A horse and carriage at Brandenburger Tor or Gate, and bicycles!

We have:

  • The underground train known as the Ubahn.
  • The mainline train or urban train known as Sbahn.
  • We have the RE trains known as the Regional Trains.
  • We have the trams.
  • We have the buses.
  • We have bicycles which can be used as public transport, and picked up in one destination and returned, to another.
  • We have city tuk-tuks as part of the green economy, in the tourist district.
  • We have taxis or cabs.
  • And we have boats and ferries.

I’d like to talk about the ferries. Not as a city or regional cruise of which they are many, and enormously fantastic, but as a means of public transport and getting from A to B.

Rent a boat at Treptower Park, Berlin. Go on, you know you want to!
Rent a boat at Treptower Park, Berlin. Go on, you know you want to!

Here are the 10 reasons why you should definitely check out the river and lakes of Berlin and Brandenburg!

  1. With an area of 892 square kilometres, Berlin is nine (9) times bigger than Paris, and has 180 kilometres of navigable waterways within the city limits!
  2. You can take the ferryboat as part of the public transport system all around the city. The symbol of the public ferry is distinguished by the letter “F.”
  3. The shortest ferry service in Berlin is between the suburb of Rahnsdorf and Müggelheim which crosses the very large and lovely Müggelspree or Müggel River and is 10 metres wide, and consists of a small rowing boat that takes people across, to the other side of the river, during the summer.
  4. The ferry service isn’t fancy but you can buy refreshments, take your bike, and take a picnic with you. Don’t forget the beers, and if you do. You can buy them on the ferry!
  5. The largest lake in Berlin is the Müggelsee in the Treptow-Köpenick suburbs of East Berlin, also known as the Großer Müggelsee or Bigger Müggel Lake and has a total surface of 7.4 square kilometres. The smallest lake which covers just 0.3 square metres, is Pechsee or Pech Lake and is in a marshy nature reserve in the leafy suburb of Grunewald in West Berlin. 
  6. You don’t have to buy an extra ticket to use the ferry but can use either, a reduced fare, “a normal” single, a return, a day ticket, or even a short trip ticket (but short-trip tickets are only accepted on the F11, F12, F21, F23, and F24 lines), and if you don’t have one, you can buy it on the ferry!
  7. You can use your Berliner Verkehrs Aktiengesellschaft (Berlin Transport Corporation) or BVG ticket on six (6) ferry lines which are operated daily on 6.9 kilometres of water routes in the city. The lines are F10, F11, and F12 throughout the year and F21, F23, and F24 through the summer peak and mid-peak seasons.
  8. Bicycles can be taken on all ferries.
  9. It’s a lovely way to see the suburbs and beaches of Berlin.
  10. Er. More beer, wine, and ice-cream!
June Fathers' Day on the lakes and rivers of Berlin. They came well prepared!
June Fathers’ Day on the lakes and rivers of Berlin. They came well prepared!

HOW MUCH ARE THE BVG (PUBLIC TRANSPORT) TICKETS?

  • Single tickets: Single Tickets entitle you to travel with any number of changes towards your destination via a direct travel route. They are valid for a maximum of two hours. Within the two-hour validity of the single ticket you may change trains/buses, etc. or interrupt your journey as often as you wish, but you cannot return or do a round trip. You can use the buses, trams, underground and mainline or urban rail network transport within the Berlin fare zones of A, B and C, including regional rails and the ferries. Single tickets cost €2.60. Children under 6 years old are free. Single tickets for children aged 6 to 14 cost €1.60.
  • Short-Trip tickets: If you do not want to travel any further than three mainline or urban rail or underground stations, or no more than six bus or tram stops, then it pays to buy a Short Trip ticket. With the short trip fare, you can also use the ferries, the only exception is the F10 (Wannsee-Kladow) route as it’s a bit of a journey albeit, a lovely one. In fact, it’s my favourite ferry route! The Short-Trip ticket is not valid on regional rail transport and you can only change between underground and mainline / urban rail trains. You cannot interrupt or break your journey, and return trips are not permitted. Short-Trip tickets cost €1.50. Children under 6 years old are free. Short-Trip tickets for children aged 6 to 14 cost €1.20.
  • Day Pass or Day Return tickets: With a Day Pass, you can travel as often as you want on the day printed on the ticket, or from validation of the ticket. The ticket is valid up to   3.00 a.m. on the following day! SECRET TIP: You can also take another person with you on your ticket for free from 20:00, all day weekends, and on public holidays! Day Pass tickets cost €6.70. Children under 6 years old are free. Day Pass tickets for children aged 6 to 14 cost €4.70.
  • Bicycle Tickets: You will need an extra bicycle ticket to travel with a bicycle. A single bicycle ticket is €1.70, a short trip ticket with your bicycle is €1.10, and a day pass is €4.70. Don’t try to “forget” this, as the BVG inspectors take it seriously and will fine you.

P.S. Please validate and click your ticket in the red validating ticket machine that you will find on every platform. Before you take the train!

The days of the dumb tourist are over and ticket inspectors are now wiser. Berlin public transport have no automatic barriers, or any barriers at all. You wouldn’t want to spoil the good times would you?

I thought not!

The waterways, canals, rivers and lakes in Berlin; are wonderful. See for yourself!

At my favourite waterway in Kladow, Berlin.
At my favourite waterway in Kladow, Berlin.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my very own!

Next week, I will be writing about the fantastic blog award that I received from Waegook Tom. Thank you Tom!

Watch this space!

Relaxing on the river bank in Berlin with good old German beer!
Relaxing on the river bank in Berlin with good old German beer!

Have you been on a yacht, boat, or cruise? Would you visit our many lakes and rivers? Do you like German beer?!

See you in Berlin.

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