berlin: a few travel tips


By guest blogger Fabien Reynaud.

Thinking about a trip to Berlin? Perhaps a few of these personal travel tips will come in handy. Berlin is home to 153 museums. The ensemble on the Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As early as 1841 it was designated a “district dedicated to art and antiquities” by a royal decree. Apart from the Museum Island, there are many other museums in the city. The Gemäldegalerie [Painting Gallery] focuses on the paintings of the “old masters” from the 13th to the 18th centuries, while the Neue Nationalgalerie [New National Gallery, built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe] specializes in 20th century European painting. The Hamburger Bahnhof, located in Moabit, exhibits a major collection of modern and contemporary art. In spring 2006, the expanded Deutsches Historisches Museum re-opened in the Zeughaus with an overview of German history through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The Bauhaus Archive is an architecture museum.

In Dahlem, there are several museums of world art and culture, such as the Museum of Asian Art, the Ethnological Museum, the Museum of European Cultures, as well as the Allied Museum (a museum of the Cold War) and the Brücke Museum [an art museum]. In Lichtenberg, on the grounds of the former East German Ministry for State Security [Stasi], is the Stasi Museum. The site of Checkpoint Charlie, one of the most renowned crossing points of the Berlin Wall, is still preserved and also has a museum, a private venture which exhibits comprehensive documentation of detailed plans and strategies devised by people who tried to flee from the East. The Beate Uhse Erotic Museum near Zoo Station claims to be the world’s largest erotic museum [Editors note: must see this]. I’m generally not a big museum buff, but somehow Berlin forced me to see three museums in three days – unheard of for me, but I happily took the cue from the Berlin cultural scene. I visited the Deutsches Historishes Museum, the  CheckPoint Charlie Museum, and the DDR Museum – all must-sees.

Berlin has more than seven hundred hotels making it the third place among the most-visited city destinations in the European Union. While there are many, I highly recommend the TRYP Berlin Mitte Hotel for its warm welcoming and the professionalism and the friendliness of its staff [not to mention it’s great location].

In terms of food, the city is home to a diverse gastronomy scene reflecting the various immigrant populations represented in Berlin. Many local foods originated from north-German culinary traditions and include rustic and hearty dishes with pork, goose, fish, peas, beans, cucumbers or potatoes. Turkish and Arab immigrant workers brought their culinary traditions to the city; for example, the döner kebab, falafel and lahmacun, which have become common fast-food staples. The modern fast-food version of the döner was invented in Berlin in 1971.

For a traditional German meal, pay a visit to Gambrinus Restaurant. Fantastic atmosphere, great food and value for money compare to other European capital cities. I would definitely go back on my next visit.

Berlin is beautiful city and with a multicultural texture. It is a city full of history and energy, with many places to go and visit and thousands of things to do. Berlin’s nightlife is one of the most diverse and vibrant of its kind in Europe.

So hop a plane right now. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the Berlin Bears that can be found all over the city, originally from the coat of arms of Berlin. If you don’t want to do anything else, you can just have a latte and watch the world go by. With or without a bear!

Fabien is a French expat currently living in the United Kingdom.