Cool Things to do in Berlin

A round-up of cool things to do in Berlin

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: amira_a

Berlin is one of the most dynamic and cool cities in Europe (at least says I). Thanks to a burgeoning street art scene, embracing of the vegan lifestyle and funky spots to explore, it’s easy to see why it is one of my favorite places in the world.

It’s packed with a fascinating history, friendly locals, and so many things to do that no trip ever seems long enough. So, after checking into your Berlin hotel, I suggest you get out and experience all of the cool things to do in Berlin:

Featured

Hipmunk City Love: Planning an Artsy Trip to Berlin

Planning an artsy trip to Berlin, Germany

Berlin is no stranger to art.

From the ever-growing street art scene to the more traditional art enclaves, Germany’s capital is one of the best places in Europe to go to become immersed in the creative – and unique – art scene.

It’s hard to miss art in Berlin – it can be found pretty much everywhere.

The key to planning an art-focused trip to Berlin is to know where to look for the ultimate art-lover experience.

Travel Tips

Daily Wanderlust: Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial

There are few places which resonate with me more than memorials to those who have been killed due to simply being who they are. In my travels, I’ve always sought out places like this to pay my respects for the atrocities the human race has befallen onto others. In Rwanda, I visited the Kigali Memorial Centre. In Bosnia, I spent time exploring the skeleton of a bank where snipers had taken the lives of people in Mostar. And of course, there was Auschwitz.

In Berlin, the Holocaust Memorial  was on my list. Stark columns fill nearly three acres of city space to honor Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Ironically, one of the same chemicals used in the gas chambers was used on the more than 2,700 columns to prevent graffiti on the memorial.
Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany

There is a lot of history in Berlin, Germany. Without a doubt. The Wall. The old artist squats and street art. The stark Holocaust memorial. The reminders of a recent dark past can be found throughout this gorgeous an historic city.

During my time in Berlin, I took two tours — one that dealt with the history of the city, and another that took me around to see the street art.

The first tour took us to the typical haunts of history, where Michael Jackson dangled Blanket from Hotel Adlon’s balcony, the public square in Mitte, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral and Bebelplatz (located in the square).

Bebelplatz, created by Micha Ullman, marks the day in May 1933 when the SS, Hitler youth groups and more held a very public book burning, torching approximately 20,000 books. The memorial, which is inset into the square, reminds visitors of this day by showing empty bookcases and one simple sentence which translates in English to:

“Where they burn books, they burn people.”

A look at the haunting Bebelplatz monument in Berlin, Germany

 

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Berlin’s Hotel Adlon

The palatial Hotel Adlon, originally built in the early 1900s, was resurrected in the heart of Berlin following WWII (the main portion of the building was damaged in a fire caused by a Soviet soldier during the war).

In history, it is known as one of the most famous hotels in Europe between the two World Wars. It’s welcomed politicians, celebs, and has even been used as a set for movies. However, you may know it for something entirely different …

Look closely.

That balcony? It’s where Michael Jackson dangled his baby son, Blanket, in November 2002.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin

My first night in Berlin was … interesting, due in large part to my couchsurfing experience. Fortunately, along the first of many walks (I spent two days basically walking the city, exploring the underground Berlin art and more), I came across the historic church,  Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

It stood before me, against the Berlin night sky, bruised and battered, but alive. Originally built in the 1890s, it was damaged during a bombing raid in 1943. Today, the splintered spire still stands, while the ground floor is now a memorial hall. I’m pretty sure this photo is the moment I fell in love with Berlin.

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Berlin Art

Love. Berlin.

It’s no secret I love Berlin. This is the second post I’ve done that features Underground Berlin, and with good reason: there is just so much awesome to be shared. Even if I had a terrible couchsurfing experience, the city wrapped its way around my heart.

The art scene in Berlin fascinates me. From the graffiti to the sculptures to the colorful buildings adorned with twisted takes on pop culture, there is art everywhere.

Covered walls in Tacheles.

Kunsthaus Tacheles, an old department store turned artist enclave in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin, features both a colorful interior and exterior, along with artist studios.

Even outside of the giant building, there is art to be explored.

But, the art goes beyond Mitte and into every facet of this dynamic city. Neighborhoods all over town echo the culture of the past and present day together.

This is one of my favorites … this work is found in the area where Hitler committed suicide.

Even Knut, the infamous polar bear who captured everyone’s hearts when he was a baby, is included in the telling of stories. This piece shows how he went from adorable baby to bear. Sadly, the beloved animal passed away recently.

Artists took over an entire building in one area, painting murals of people from all over the world. I love the whimsical look of this painting.

Even the buildings tell stories …

The gorgeous art in Berlin goes beyond the paintings though and into structures, too. One of my favorites place when I travel to Berlin is the Holocaust Memorial, which actually has a chemical on it that makes it impossible for would-be graffiti artists to tag these larger than life pillars.

I also love this building, with this half-bust hanging over the entry.

And, who doesn’t love these little guys? They may not be considered art, but to this girl, they are!

Where have you been with amazing art?

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Underground Berlin

When I was in Berlin, I enjoyed two free tours. One that took me to the historical sites (which, to my surprise, was not a snooze fest), and one that took me to the underground art scene.

In the cold and rain, our guide escorted us through squatter residences, enlightened us on the history of the street art, and educated us on the artists whose work we were enjoying.

I loved the tour. Like, really, really loved it. During that afternoon, despite the rain that was spitting down on us … in May … I quickly became enamored with the sub-culture I was just getting the tiniest peak at.

This photo is of an alley that leads to artist haunts somewhere deep in one of my favorite cities in the world.

Destinations Germany

Berlin – the other love

I may love Madrid, but Berlin … man, it comes in a close second.

Seriously.

It may have been really cold … and windy … and rainy in Berlin, but after escaping Borris‘, I was hit smack in the face with all of its awesomeness.

First, it was Hostel Aloha. It didn’t even bother me I had to climb countless flights of stairs each time (it’s all about building endurance, right?). The hostel was awesome. The people there were awesome. The breakfast was … you guessed it … awesome. (I’m talking fresh bread, Nutella, bananas, PEANUT BUTTER!!!!)

Then, it was the New Europe free tours. I took the East Berlin tour with Paul (an Israeli I had met in Prague) my first day in the city and it was fascinating. I am not one for countless churches or museums, but the minute you start talking about World War II and Hitler, I get really into it. At one point, we stood where Hitler’s bunker was, the place where he killed himself. Now, it is a parking lot surrounded by some nicer Communist apartment buildings. (Quite fitting cars now park where Hitler took his last breath, if you ask me.)

Later on the tour, we stood where a vicious gun battle had broken out once Communism had taken hold. I looked from a mural depicting everyone smiling because of living a Communist lifestyle to the reality — columns and walls riddled with bullet holes only recently covered up. And then, the Wall. Well, the remnants. And then … Checkpoint Charlie. Reconstructed, but still Checkpoint Charlie.

The next day, I fell deeper in love with the city. Armed with my 48-hour train pass and my iPod, I took the Sbahn to the Zoo (home of Knut, the once adorable baby polar bear who morphed into a moody grownup) and walked back to Alexanderplaz. A hefty walk. But, beautiful. The sun  had come out for the day (!!!) and the weather was mild, so walking through Tiergarten was perfect.

That evening, Berlin got even better with Chris (@TheAussieNomad) arriving from Amsterdam and joining me for a pub crawl. The pub crawl, not so great, but Chris’ company was.

The next morning, he checked into Aloha and we headed to another walking tour — this time of the colorful graffiti and squatter haunts of Berlin. Even in the pouring rain and cold, it was fascinating. We walked around “beach” bars, went to a warehouse riddled with colorful graffiti and artists’ studios, and learned about the sub-culture that makes Berlin really interesting and different from … oh, most places.

We even went to an indoor skate park near an old train depot that was bombed during the war.

And then, there was Chris’ and my search for the perfect kebab. We found it at Mustafa’s. A delicious combo of chicken, fried veggies and potatoes topped with spicy goodness. Loved it.

Even that night, just making pasta and hanging out with everyone in the hostel was a good time.

Sadly, the only day with sun was my first real day in the city. It was hard for me to leave — I wanted to experience more of the sub-culture of Berlin — the graffiti laden beach bars, the markets — but the sun never came out enough to make it possible.

My first day in the city, I had met two Aussies who were planning to be there for a week.

“That’s a long time,” I had said.

“This city is absolutely amazing,” they replied.

At the time, I hadn’t felt it. But, by the time my train to Amsterdam was pulling up at the station, I knew precisely what they meant.

Berlin, I will be back. Promise.

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