Today your worries in Berlin don’t lie under the fate of mass bombings, corrupt armed services, obliterated buildings and being caught in gunfire. Nothing like that at all. Since the conclusion of the World War in 1945, your worries have turned from hiding, to the opposite.. – being out there. Not in order to make a presence, but yet, in order to catch the S-bahn.
What is an ‘s-bahn’ you’re probably now thinking?.. The S-bahn is just another form of transport you can use in Berlin, from their confusing list of transport options.
Berlin, for those who have never been, is enormous. It is a behemoth of a city and there is a reason they have so many transport options. Great, it will be easy to navigate then!! (Hmm not so fast). Never have I been lost like I have been in Berlin. Unless all you plan on doing is using taxis, eating döner kebabs (big thumbs up) and walking around.. the German language, or atleast the basics and a map are definitely very handy tools to be equipped with.
Just like all places, your choice of location will be based around a number of factors relating to your trip; your budget, what you’re looking to do/see, nearby transport options, the type of trip you’re on/what you’re looking to achieve whilst away and also whether you’re wanting to stay in a peaceful neighbourhood or would prefer a busy location.
When we visited, we had a last-minute hiccup forcing us to slightly change the dates we were visiting and subsequently arrange new accommodation. Instead of staying in the Excelsior Hotel as planned, we stayed in a nice studio Airbnb (use this link for £30 off your next Airbnb stay) in a town called Charlottenburg. There we had a 5 minute walk to the nearest train station (S-bahn) aswell as a station for the underground subway (U-bahn) only 2 blocks away. Charlottenburg is located in West Berlin, so we would usually take the S-bahn East towards the centre of Berlin. We were only 10-15 minutes from here.
To give you an idea of how you may be getting around the city you have a few options. You may get:
- S-bahn (Speed train)
- U-bahn (Underground train)
- Public buses
- Tour buses
- Cycle hire
If you’re looking for an efficient, on-time service with good prices then I would recommend the S-bahn. Costing €6.90 for an all day ticket you have unlimited access around the city up until 3am. Which will cover your morning, day-time and all your evening transport as well as getting you home from a night out if you’re watching the clock! (This was our main choice of transport.)
Now for the East vs. West!
Let’s start with the West as this is where we stayed. Charlottenburg is a good choice for shoppers as it has a bit of life in the town centre, some bars , restaurants and supermarkets all within walking distance as well as the S-bahn and U-bahn right on your doorstep. We visited the zoo which was situated in Tiergarten- the next stop on the S-bahn, only 2/3 minutes away (right across the road from the zoo entrance). The zoo was incredible and is home to an amazing variety of animals. We spent about 2 hours in the zoo before the weather forced us to leave, therefore missing the majority of the animals. Definitely set aside the most part of a day to truly enjoy the zoo and to take lots of photos. The West is also home to the famous Olympiastadion, the home ground of football team, Hertha BSC. The stadium opened in August 1936 and has since held the Olympics. Tours are available here and have been recommended personally to us.
Only a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb in Charlottenburg we found a really intriguing bar, Das Klo, which translates directly into ‘The Toilet’ where you will have a quirky experience drinking your beers out of urine bottles or if you’re sharing, you’ll be drinking your beers from a large bed pan. Expect lots of moving decorations in this jokeshop-styled building with lots of illusions, hydraulic tables and plenty of throwback cheesy music.
In the West we found it very rare to hear the English language so brushing up on your basics of German could be handy. (Keeping a note of your address will be beneficial when using taxis as we found they could not understand us when directing). In terms of nightlife, we struggled quite a bit in our area. At no point did we walk past anywhere with a nightlife-vibe – no music playing, no lights and not many people. We always ventured more central into the city for these experiences.
Where do I begin? If you are staying in the East your main S-bahn stations will be Berlin’s central station – Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin HBF), Freidrichstraße or Alexanderplatz. We found that a lot of significant historical attractions were within walking distance from these stations. (Remember you always have the U-bahn, trams and taxis to cover the remainder of the distance). Close by, to name a few, you will find:
- Brandenburg Gate
- Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Topography of Terror
- The East side gallery
- Museum Island
- Berlin TV Tower
The East side generally is home to the more significant historical features in the city, it is more renowned for its nightlife and its influx of hipster communities. Probably the side of Berlin you have heard about. Weather depending you would be able to visit a lot of the above in a full day as some attractions are just short photo opportunities then it’s onto the next. However if you plan on visiting any of the museums or memorials, an hour to 2 hours would be enough time for each.
Topography of Terror is a walk in museum which delivers a detailed timeframe of Nazi activity during the war. Built on the grounds of the Gestapo Headquarters where the planning of the mass murders were organised, it definitely sends shivers down your spine at the thought. Given it’s location, remains of the Berlin Wall is still standing around the perimeter of the site also providing a display of some of the Gestapo HQ’s basement cellblocks. All the displays are multi-lingual and there are also spoken tours available.
The Museum of the Murdered Jews of Europe is the famous mass of grey stone pillars, all varying heights, which presents an eye-catching yet eery landscape. (Famous photo spot). Underground beneath this memorial is a fascinating museum giving a timeline lesson on the history of Jews during the war. There are tonnes of photographs, videos and countless amounts of documents and last-letters from the Jewish victims of the war. I loved this experience and would definitely recommend visiting.
As soon as you walk out of the S-bahn stations you are faced with choices of restaurants, bars and cafes. Our 2 recommendations for a more unique experience would be a restaurant called Dudu and one of Berlin’s hidden bars, Bar Tausend.
Dudu is a modern chic sushi spot in Mitte with a cool hipster vibe. With trendy chilled music playing and a magnificent selection of sushi and drinks we got our night off to a good start. With a fairly overpriced drinks selection it definitely isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a party.. but for a nice elegant meal before heading out, it’ll definitely set you up on the right foot.
Bar Tausend, for those who manage to find it, is an intimate bar setting built under a railway bridge leading into Freidrichstraße. After uncovering the steel door entrance with no advertisements whatsoever and pressing the buzzer, we were faced with a man wearing a suit and a top hat. We paid €10 entry each to find ourselves in a famous hotspot for live jazz bands or house music. The cocktails were creative and went down very well, as well as their briefcase of cigars which of course I tried, to take in the full Tausend experience. (when in Berlin eh..). A live jazz band played and we sat for several hours of our last night enjoying this wonderful experience, ending our trip on a high.
If you’re looking for nightlife, the East is your port of call. Home to the world’s most exclusive nightclub Berghain, dubbed as the “Church of Techno”, you are at the right place if you’re looking to party. Although their very strict door policy sets you up with a high chance of being knocked back, you are still not short of other party hotspots to dance your night into the early hours of tomorrow. Other famous clubs in the surrounding area include Tresor, Watergate, about blank, KitKat club and many many more. We found that given our location, lack of understanding of the transport system (until leaving) and time restraints we never truly managed to experience Berlin’s clubbing scene.
Kreuzberg, Neukoelln and Friedrichshain are the hip neighbourhoods of Berlin with a large community of English-speaking individuals and in fact a lot of British nationals living there. In and around these communities is a large music and art scene which is expressed all over the city in the form of street art.
A few things to remember:
- Berlin has a brilliant transport network with various transport methods
- Keep a note of your address, to help taxi drivers understand
- There are SO many free things to do/see
- In the East you can walk to many attractions (weather permitting)
- From the West you’ll need more transport to get to the these attractions
- Always ask someone about directions if you’re unsure (funny story coming up..)
After the zoo, drenched in rain we were heading into the city to see the sights. (Brandenburg Gate and so on.) According to Google Maps we were 3km walk away so decided to get the next S-bahn assuming it would be up to 5 minutes to get there. On our ‘Brandenburg’ train after waiting and waiting, 20 minutes had went past with no sign of the city centre. Trying to scrape a conversation with our minimal German and the ticket attendant’s minimal English we asked if we were going to the Brandenburg Gate. Yes she says. (Great!) Followed by “Brandenburg Gate in Brandenburg, or Berlin?…”
So off we come at the next stop; after a 45 minute wait, a 30 minute train journey back towards the city and a 5 minute taxi ride later, we finally made it to the Brandburg Gate.. of Berlin!
(We learned our lesson the long way, so you don’t have to)
See what else the city has in store for you in our other posts about Berlin:
Don’t miss out on any updates, check out our other social platforms..
Like this? Pin it..