Germany is a fantastic place to visit with so many fascinating cities, enchanting castles and breathtaking scenery.
I've not visited much of the country - so far Berlin, Hamburg and a small dip into Bavaria. I'll definitely be back.
Plug Sockets: Type C and F
Ease of travel: 5/5
Ease of communication: 5/5
Ease of meeting others: 5/5
General costs: £££
I visited Berlin in March 2017 with one of my friends, Rebekah (although a few photos from my previous overnight trip in August 2014 have slipped in too - can you guess which photo is from which trip?
Edgy, hipster, quirky - these are words that immediately sprung to mind when I started writing this. It's crazy to think how different Berlin must be compared to 30 years ago - but there's plenty of sights around to discover how the turbulent history has shaped this city. Berlin.
Things to do:
Berlin Cathedral was the most obvious starting point. It's absolutely beautiful and has a very different feel to it, compared with other European Cathedrals. It's seven euros to enter and this also allows entry to the the beautiful dome, the crypt and the cathedral museum.
I challenged my acrophobia and climbed the 270 steps to the viewing platform (there was no elevator option!). The views were incredible.
Also fun fact - singing aloud as I walked up each step stopped me from being thrown into a panic attack (thankfully there was no one else around or I would have had a lot of odd looks!).
Berlin is packed with museums, notably those in Museum Island; Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Old National Gallery, Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. We spent a good part of the day strolling around the exhibitions. There are lots of other interesting msueums around too - the Jewish museum, DDR museum and Topography of Terror.
3. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This is a huge memorial to the Jewish Holocaust victims built in 2004. It's made up of 2,711 concrete stelaes varying in height and direction. The Information Centre is attached to the memorial and is worth a visit.
It was sobering to walk around, although we did see the odd tourist in the distance taking selfies stood on the concrete slabs - I can only hope they didn't realise what the slabs represented.
4. Brandenburg Gate
One of the most recognisable landmarks of Berlin! The gate is beautiful both in the day and at night - although used for different political symbols in the past, it now mainly represents unity and peace.
5. Checkpoint Charlie
This marked the old border between the American Sector of West Berlin and East Berlin, and is one of the most famous checkpoints.
Here you will find a replica of the guard house and famous signpost along with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.
If you want, you can pay a small fee to get the old border stamps stamped in your passport. Yes it's a bit of a tourist gimmick, but I thought it was pretty cool, so I got them stamped anyway.
6. Berlin Wall Memorial
Near Bernauer Strasse you will find the Berlin Wall Memorial. It's mainly dedicated to information about the fortifications developments, remembering the families tore apart by the wall, those living in border houses, the border police and those killed or injured trying to flee over the border from East to West.
7. The Reichstag
The Reichstag is the home of the Bundestag (parliament). It's a dramatic building with a huge glass dome. In order to enter (and to go up the dome), you have to book online in advance - it's free - www.bundestag.de/en/visitthebundestag/dome/registration/245686
Thankfully this dome had a lift! We hired audio guide, which was pretty interesting - not only detailing information about the Reichstag, but also about the buildings in Berlin visible from the windows.
Reichstag building and dome
8. East Side Gallery
This is a 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall, now covered in murals as part of an open air gallery - it stands as a symbol of joy, whilst reminding visitors of the cities cruel past.
East Side Gallery, Berlin
Berlin is home to some fantastic flea markets - although these are mostly only open at weekends.
Top markets include:
Markheinekeplatz flea market (Sat and Sun) - second-hand clothes,books, CDs, art, antiques
Arkonaplatz (Sunday) - books, recording items, lamps, furniture, clothes
Mayer park (Sunday) - handmade crafts, clothes, furniture
Charlottenburg Palace is the biggest palace in Berlin, originally built in 1713 for Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrichshain III. It has been remodelled several times over the years, and so has some fascinating architectural and design styles. The grounds are also beautiful!
11. Eat a bratwurst!
Delicious German sausage.
Berlin has some fantastic shops - from vintage clothes shops, to art shops to tourist shops - if you need some retail therapy then you will be content here.
I didn't have time to do much shopping whilst I was here, but I did pop into 'Altermann'- a shop that sells memorabilia of the East Berlin traffic light people! It's a strange shop, and I'm not entirely sure why you'd want a t-shirt with the traffic light man on it, but oh well! It's a good place to buy gifts for friends!
If you're a fan of Ritter Sport - then make sure you head to the Ritter Sport Shop, where you can buy any of their delicious bars of chocolate, or if none of them take your fancy, or you think you can do better - then you can even make your own bar! (It turns out that the flavours Ritter Sport picked out, were in fact, much tastier than the combination I produced).
13. Berliner Fernsehturm
This tall, spiking structure can be seen from most parts of the city. The building is a TV tower - with excellent views over the city.
We opted for a fancy evening meal in the tower's revolving restaurant!
14. Have brunch.
Berlin does amazing brunches!
15. Drink in the world famous bars and (in)famous nightlife.
We definitely spent a lot researching the best places to eat and drink, and were not disappointed. Some of our favourites:
Brunch - Silo Coffee, Factory Girl, Cafe Dritter Raum
Dinner - Hummus and Friends, Max und Moritz
Bars - Fairytale, Madame Claude, Weinerei Forum, Gin Chilla
Where to stay:
Berlin is huge and so it was pretty daunting trying to decide where to stay.
After a lot of googling, we decided narrowed it down to Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg.
Mitte is the most central area, and therefore provides easy access to the majority of main sights.
Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are quirky neighbourhoods with vibrant markets, boutiques, some excellent brunch spots and the famous Berlin nightlife.
Prenzlauer Berg is another great area - full of boutique shops, parks, cafes, restaurants and bars but a more tame nightlife compared to Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
We decided to stay in Friedrichshain - but the public transport system is excellent, and so even if you end up staying elsewhere, as long as you are near a metro, tram or bus station (which given how good the transport is, would be difficult not to be!), you can easily get to these areas quickly and cheaply.
Getting around is easy - you can buy tickets at metro, bus or tram stations. A single trip ticket is valid for 2 hours and you can use multiple transport methods during this period. It costs between 2.40-3.40 depending on the zone.
A day ticket is 7 - 7.70 EUR and is valid until 3am the next day.
Don't forget to validate your ticket (push it into the machines at the station and the ticket will be stamped with the date and time'. If you don't validate your ticket and you get caught, you face a hefty fine.
Getting elsewhere in Germany/Beyond:
Trains in Germany are super-quick and easy to navigate. You can get local trains or trains to other countries easily from Berlin.
HAMBURG - coming soon!