Where to stay and what to see in Berlin?
September 13, 2009 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Where should I stay and what should I do in Berlin for a 4 day trip? (Single, clean, safe, cheap, easy to get to the major sights.)

Heading to Germany to see a friend who recently moved there, but going to spend some time in Berlin first, never been there. Single, late 20s gay traveler, see the museums, shop a bit, maybe grab a drink. Neighborhoods/sights/attractions to avoid or not to miss? Thanks!
posted by gramcracker to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I was there a couple years ago they had a guided tour of Berlin that was only tip based which was nice. One thing to remember is that, though they can't tell you this, they have to pay around 2-3 euro for each person they take.
posted by Groovytimes at 10:29 AM on September 13, 2009

It's a copy (of a copy) of a previous post, but my advice for a nice time in Berlin :

(I'm not posting a lot of information about the various museums, but the Pergamon, the Technical Museum, (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin), and Reichstag/Bundestag tours are pretty interesting, if you're looking for sightseeing, drive by the Kaiser Wilhelm's Gedaechtniskirche (the big bombed out church near the Zoo), but there's not terribly much to see, and it's a pretty big tourist trap).

If you enjoy being outdoors, take the S-Bahn (or the regional trains) the half hour to Wannsee. The beaches are delightful-- a huge lake, beautiful place to spend a relaxing afternoon, and you can get off at either the Schlachtensee or Krumme Lanke if you want a smaller lake with more forests around you.

I cannot recommend the Liquidrome Berlin highly enough: it's a sauna/massage/swimming/relaxation center. In addition to a full service sauna (with hourly Aufguss), they have a steambath, an outdoor hottub, indoor hottub, and a pool (I can't describe the architecture of the pool except this picture) In addition, they provide facilities for tanningbeds, massages, and offer drinks (and I think, fingerfood. Don't remember). Easy (five min, max) walk from UBahn Moeckernstrasse, or just a hair longer (six min, max) from S Bahn Anhalter Bahnhof.

Olivin Sauna/Lounge (Schönhauser Allee 177, 10119 Berlin ) is a low-key, relaxing just-a-sauna and garden (with massages, juices offered) in Prenzlauer Berg, and it's next to a biergarten. Friendly staff, nice cozy atmosphere.
(During the month of the World Cup or EM football championships, it was amusing to be completely relaxed in their bamboo garden... and still hear a tremendous cheer for good plays/what have you)

If football/soccer interests you, see a BSC Hertha game at the 1936 Olympic Stadium-- the stadium's a pretty interesting example of monolithic architecture. The Bundesliga season just kicked off a coupla' weeks ago.

Savignyplatz is a great place to enjoy a relaxing evening meal- if the weather isn't too bad, just wander around and find a place for dinner/drinks. If you're looking for more raucous fun, head up into Prenzlauer Berg, and enjoy the clubs/nightlife. (Prenzlauer Berg is, I think, where you will find a lot of the more gay populated nightclubs/bars/etc.)

If you're on a budget, or just want to have a quick city tour, use bus route 100-- it goes from the Zoologischer Garten to Alexanderplatz, passing all the monuments in Mitte-- the Siegessäule, the Reichstag, the Brandenburger Tor, and up Under den Linden (so you see the Museuminsel, State Opera, and the Dom as well).
Feel free to me-fi mail me if you have specific questions/requests.
posted by Seeba at 10:35 AM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

if you are on a budget and / or enjoy the slightly more rugged way of living, going to one of the numerous hostels will be fine. They have single/double rooms as well. Trying to stay near the "mitte" neighborhood or "Alexanderplatz" will place you well for the two most interesting areas, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, as well as for the bulk of Museums.
In Kreuzberg, mixed-culture street life is to be found around "Schlesisches Tor" metro station, in Görlitzer Park, on Oranienstrasse, Bergmannstrasse.
Prenzlauer Berg became more homogeneous and "gentrified" lately. Still a nice place to go can be Helmholtzplatz, maybe "Wohnzimmer" as a café.
As to clubbing, if interesting (not my thing, but you hear where to go), google for "Berghain", visitors are mixed but high gay percentage. Considered one of the most interesting clubs at all.
To be avoided in my opinion and not only mine is the main street of west Berlin, Kurfürstendamm, as it is just boring stores and tourist stuff.
Shopping can be fun on Oranienstrasse and Bergmannstrasse, both in Kreuzberg (you name it), for the more individualistic shops.
oh, there should be loads of info in the internet as well... ; ) but anyway, the city will porpose it's own itineraries, once you found a starting point. enjoy.
posted by megob at 10:35 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

In the times I've been to Berlin, I've loved just walking around, frankly. I would suggest that first you take an open top bus tour of the city. Berlin is fairly sprawling, so taking it all in can require help. Then I would make sure to take a river cruise of the Spee--you'll see even more. Here are the "touristy" bits you should be sure to see:

Walk along Unter Ben Linden, see the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag (go in the dome!), Federal Chancellery, Berliner Dom (the green-domed cathedral by the water), Museum Island (especially the Pergamon, where you'll see the Ishtar Gates from Babylon and the Pergamon alter). Everyone loves the Berlin Zoo (its better than your local zoo, so try it). Visit the Siegessaule (the huge tower with the Golden goddess Victory on top) at the center of the Tiergarten near the zoo. Potsdamer Platz was the no-man's land when the wall was up, so now its the heart of the revitalized city. Visit the Sony Center--a glass Mt. Fuji. Go up in the Fernsehturm--the east German TV tower. The Rotes Rathaus is cool. Spend time in Charlottenburg at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church--it looks like a ruin in the middle of town. The Castle there and museums are nice. Go to Checkpoint Charlie. Go to the wall remnants. Visit KaDeWe on the Ku'damm.

Mitte's Backpacker Hotel is nice and not far from everything.

You may not leave Berlin without sampling Currywurst. If you've never been to Germany, you also must try a Donar (you'll see the little kiosks for both). Currywurst is served standard. I like my Donar "mit Scharf" (with hot spices) and yogurt.

I haven't been to Berlin in years so some new stuff is clearly there now. Find out if your friend has enough Levi's jeans--they are imported there and cost a fortune.
posted by jefficator at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

oh yes and if you like this kind of stuff, do go and take a photo in one of the vintage photobooths indicated here http://www.photoautomat.de/standorte.html !!
(no, I am not affiliated to them, just love these machines.)
posted by megob at 10:43 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, now that I think about it, I'll plug the Museumsinsel;

Two places jump out at me-- the Berliner Dom and the Pergamonmuseum.

The Cathedral is gorgeous inside, and worth a visit to explore the crypt (it's not quite a catacomb-- basically the basement of the building is a museum with all the tombs/caskets of the Hohenzollerns.

The Pergamonmuseum is divided into the Islamic art section, Ancient (antiquity? Not sure about the term), and the Middle East-- they have an (almost?) unrivaled collection of ancient art/artifacts. (I think the largest collection is now at the Hermitage-- most of the works were "borrowed" for a period starting in 1945, and returned slowly over a period of years...)

The whole museum campus is undergoing renovation, but it should be mostly completed by now; one Sunday a month, admission's free (and I think also on Thursday afternoons? )-- on those days, the lines for tickets are quite long, so plan to get there in advance.
posted by Seeba at 10:46 AM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

We stayed in an area that I swear was called the Haymarket district of old East Berlin (in German of course, although I cannot for the life of me remember the German word now, nor find it on a map). Night life, close to Humboldt U, easy walking distance to the Pergamum and others on the museum isle, farther but doable to the Fernsehturm; Brandenburg Gate farther, but hike-able, big transpo hub right there. Very artsy, lots of students and young people, narrow streets and old buildings. Anyway, if anyone here can identify the area, it was really great-- central, hotel was clean and friendly, streets were safe and busy, and it was much cheaper than comparable places in old West Berlin.
posted by nax at 10:55 AM on September 13, 2009

If Tacheles is still around, it's worth getting a drink in one of the bars in the upper floors.
posted by cmonkey at 10:55 AM on September 13, 2009

We rented an apartment for a week within walking distance of Hackescher Markt and loved it. The neighborhoods were nice, we had tons of public transport nearby (and it was simple to figure out), and we were strolling distance to Museum Island. I would recommend that neighborhood.
posted by ersatzkat at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2009

was just going to throw in, nax:
this is Hackescher Markt ("... market") in a district called Scheunenviertel ("barn district"), so this was a brave fusion of hay, barn and market. Not a bad place to be, particularly in the smaller streets of Scheunenviertel.
posted by megob at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2009

I was there for a week in August and I can heartily recommend Hotel Transit in Kreuzberg for being clean, pleasant, reasonably priced and unpretentious.
posted by Chairboy at 12:25 PM on September 13, 2009

Second the Kunsthaus Tacheles, if you're into anarchic art spaces. I'm glad to see they're still kicking around - when I was there, the city was giving them trouble, which happens a lot to spaces like it. You might be able to pick up some neat art or catch a film there as well.
posted by ubersturm at 12:51 PM on September 13, 2009

I was in Berlin in august, Tacheles is definitely worth going to. I'd also nth the pergamon but the dom wasn't that worthwhile.

Kreuzburg is a great area to explore with some nice bars on the river. The hefeweizen is really good there btw. Alexanderplatz is a cool area too. there is a bar there that is really dingy, in an alley, with amazing outlandish metalworked statues behind glass (looks like a tool music video) which was really really really cool. I forget the name, but maybe someone here knows of it. Ask around, it's worth going to. Also you can see the hookers all decked out there (they're unionized!).

Charlottenburg schloss was cool, but make sure you make it to Potsdam Schloss and Sanssouci, and the palace grounds are incredible, esp. at night (plan for a few hours here). Sanssouci is spectacular.

There's a big section of the wall by the ostbahnhof which is cool to see.

If you really like whisky, Cadenhead has a shop in Berlin and the guy who runs it, Klaus, is really nice and fun to talk to.
posted by Large Marge at 1:08 PM on September 13, 2009

These people do good walking tours that don't cost a lot.

If you're not averse to hostels I've stayed here a couple of times and it's excellent.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:12 PM on September 13, 2009

Hit up craigslist (or I think rentalo) and rent an apartment or a room — we rented a huge room in Kreuzberg and it was great as our awesome lesbian hosts helped us figure out what to do and what to skip. If the weather's nice, biking is a great way to get around.

We saw a hilarious ad in one of the fag rags for a warehouse store called Dildo King and decided to go see it; it's well out in the east and it was hilarious and amazing — imagine a sex-toy Costco in an squat-warehouse. Great prices, super-cute and friendly staff, and a great half-day trip. They filled a bag of swag for us so we gave lighters with their motto to all our friends ("Dildo King: We Will Fuck You").

Kinzo is a dance club that was amazing. Most of the gay bars also have backrooms, so depending on where you're coming from it might be an adjustment!

Have fun - it was the best time I've had abroad.

(on preview: "fag rag" is a slang term for the gay weeklies or biweeklies that every major city seems to have)
posted by sixswitch at 8:42 PM on September 13, 2009

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