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When it comes to staying in Berlin, it can be hard to know which area to choose, if you’re not familiar with the city. Mitte, meaning literally middle is the centre of Berlin and where you’ll find most of Berlin’s famous tourist attractions. There are many hotels and places to stay here if you want to be close but just a short train west past the Tiergarten and you’ll end up in Breitscheidplatz, a major public square. Together with the Kurfurstendamn Boulevard, it actually marks the centre of former West Berlin and the present day modern city west.
I stayed in this part of the city on a previous trip to Berlin and was very happy to go back again. Those of you who like the hustle and bustle of a lively city but with a more relaxed, contemporary vibe, this is the place for you. Home to Germany’s first concept mall, Bikini Berlin, there’s loads of boutiques, flagship stores and restaurants.
This visit I stayed at the Steigenberger Hotel, just round the corner from Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church located in Breitscheidplatz. Super comfortable beds, great amenities and surprisingly quiet considering the central location, I had a fantastic stay. If you were worried about being far from your tourist hot spots, there’s no reason to be as you’re just a couple minutes walk from Zoologischer Garten station. When in Berlin, the U-Bahn and S-Bahn are the only way to travel. Trains to all the places you could want to visit, every few minutes, you can cross the whole city in no time at all. Plus for the duration of your stay, the Steigenberger Hotel provide a travel card free of charge, which is valid on all public transport.
What to do?
Staying in the west of Berlin places you in the perfect position to easily visit several must-see destinations. The beautiful Charlottenburg palace with it’s grand baroque and rococo design is the perfect way to spend a morning. The palace gardens are just as spectacular, where you can stroll through the woodlands and visit the mausoleum, belvedere and pavillion.
If parks are your thing, then pack a picnic and head over to Potsdam to see the Sanssouci Park. The summer home of the former King of Prussia, the whole park is straight out of a fairytale. Magnificent palaces and lavishly decorated pavillions, amongst the golden leaves of autumn it really is something quite magical.
Back over to Mitte and you must see the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), where you can go all the way to the top for a 360° panoramic view of the city. You also can’t visit Berlin without a trip to Museum Island. A short walk from Alexander Platz station in Mitte, there are five world-class museums and galleries filled with sculptures and paintings from the neoclassical period as well as modernist art.
If you still haven’t had your fix of museums make a visit to the Computerspielemuseum top of your to-do list. Interactive museums aren’t just for kids you know, although this one will take you back to your childhood. Hop off the U-Bahn at Weberwiese and let the games begin. Covering six decades of gaming history, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a museum. As well as an arcade and giant joystick to play Pac-Man, you can also bust some moves on the dance mat and try out games on a virtual reality headset.
Finish off with a photo by the Brandenburg Gate and a cheeky pitstop to Brammibal’s donuts two minutes away and you can watch the sunset over the Reichstag from the Tiergarten.
However, the main thing to do and possibly my favourite is to eat!
Where to eat?
I don’t know about you but I find locating decent restaurants a stressful activity when I go on holiday. A quick stroll round Mitte and apart from the usual Italian restaurants and burger joints, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t get at home. I want to be able to enjoy exciting food and something a little different. To make sure we spent our time seeing the sights and not storming round hangry, I sought out a selection of restaurants beforehand and let me tell you, they did not disappoint.
Who doesn’t love brunch? How about brunch that is served 24 hours, 7 days a week?! Sounds crazy I know but if you’re going to do brunch then you want it done properly and Benedict are brunch royalty. It may exude a fun, easy-going atmosphere but Benedict take brunch very seriously. Perfectly poached eggs, creamy avocados, fluffy pancakes and more all finished off with mimosa, it’s a great way to start your day, whenever that may be!
You can’t visit Berlin without getting a kebab. It’s like the law and I dare you to try one from Vöner and not enjoy it. Situated in the former East Berlin district of Friedrichshain, this little cafe sells the most incredible seitan kebabs with a choice of sauces (I definitely recommend the knoblauch, so much garlic goodness). Served with crunchy fresh salad all wrapped up in the fluffiest bread with a crisp crust, they are simply irresistible. We’d have visited every day if we had the time, although we did mange two stops out of the four day trip, they were that good. Huge portions too, enough to set you up for the afternoon, night or simply as an extra midnight snack. I would!
In fact, the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is the perfect place to dine. Don’t be fooled by the slightly dilapidated surroundings just outside Ostkreuz station, as it’s just a short walk until you’re met with an absolute foodie heaven. Contemporary wine bars, coffee and cocktail cafes and restaurants of all cuisines. My particular favourite was Glory Duck, fragrant dumpling soup and sizzling, crispy duck that’s making my mouth water just writing about it. They even do mock duck versions, so veggies and vegans don’t miss out on the glory.
If you’re after the ultimate meal then you must visit Kopps in east Mitte. A fine dining experience like no other, you really have to go big or go home and get the seven-course menu. Each dish is a combination of locally sourced vegetables that have been put together in ways you’ve never tasted before. Each dish was an incredible mix of textures and tastes that blew my mind. Somehow, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the next course would prove you wrong. It was a fantastic evening and one I will remember forever.
What to wear?
Comfortable shoes. That’s the most important thing in Berlin. When it comes to city breaks, this one certainly isn’t easy on the old tootsies. I made sure to only pack flats, with basic pumps and loafers carrying me round the whole city. Looser fabrics also work perfectly to keep you comfortable whilst you wander and my trusty Olympus Pen camera bag was ideal for me to carry everything I needed and keep my hands free to hold donuts.
I feel like Berlin has a very unique punk vibe when it comes to fashion. I’m usually a bit scared to wear anything out of my comfort zone at home but with an almost 80s vibe, Berlin is the perfect place to go bold with colours and patterns. Contrasting colours and opposing stripes, polka dot skirts and video game tops, it was nice to be daring but still me.
Berlin is the ideal city for a quick getaway. To me, it’s is the epitome of cool and a place that contains an exciting mix of old and new. Steeped in history, there’s so much to see and do you’ll always want to go back. It’s a city I feel safe in, day or night and the people are incredibly friendly. It’s not a cheap place to stay but you certainly get your money’s worth, especially when it comes to the food. What I would do for a kebab right now! Think I need to book my next flight already, see you there?! B x
p.s check out my IGTV video for behind the scenes footage of my trip to Berlin.