I’m really excited to be finally writing my Berlin Travel Guide. It’s only been a year since my trip (yes, that was sarcasm – I’m totally judging myself for how late this post is). So… whoops.
While I was only in Berlin for 4 days, I really loved my time in the German capital city. Everybody I met was so kind, the food was delicious, and the museums were incredible. Plus, I was visiting right before Christmas, and the Christmas markets were amazinggggg. Total highlight of the trip.
If you’re planning to visit Berlin around Christmastime, the Christmas markets are a definite must. We went every day, at least once (if not twice!) per day. But more on that later!
– Berlin Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Berlin –
In terms of major cities, I found Berlin to be very affordable (from a hotel room perspective as well as from a food/activities perspective).
With that being said, the hotel I stayed at in Berlin is now closed. Super closed. Forever. Definitely saw that coming, between you and me. Instead, here are a handful of hotels I was recommended by friends who either live in Berlin or have been multiple times:
- Titanic Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – more budget-friendly
- Regent Berlin – very close to a Christmas market!
- The Mandala Hotel – around the corner from Museum Island and Philharmonic
- Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin – great location, right next to Brandenburg Gate
- The Westin Grand, Berlin – only a few blocks from Christmas markets, the Brandenburg Gate, and Museum Island
– Berlin Travel Guide: Where to Eat in Berlin –
Something to note: tipping is recommended in Berlin (but not required). Don’t feel like you need to leave a 20% tip like you do in the United States. In Berlin, a tip of 5-10% (or even as little as €1-€3) on a meal is totally normal.
Now for the recommendations. When I travel, I write down the name of every restaurant/bar/coffee shop/whatever I visit. I give it a rating of either “good” or “bad” (very binary here), and then I write down what dishes I liked or what was memorable about the meal/experience. Please keep that in mind as you read these Berlin restaurant recommendations, along with the fact that it has been over a year since I ate at these restaurants.
My Favorite Restaurants in Berlin
- Einstein Kaffee
These coffee shops are located throughout Berlin. The coffee was so good that I thought about taking a bag of coffee beans home!
- Barist Restaurant
Brunch isn’t really a “thing” in most of Europe (at least not the way it is in the states!), so I was pleasantly surprised by Barist’s brunch menu. This local spot, which sports a mixed menu for most meals (pizza, pasta, etc), had a brunch that was both delicious and affordable. I got the Scandinavian breakfast, though I’d likely get the “brunch for 2” if I were to go again.
- Rausch Deli
When you want an out-of-this-world latte macchiato, stop by Rausch Deli. That’s all my notes said: out-of-this-world latte macchiato. That means it must’ve been good, right? PS they also have amazing chocolates if you have a sweet tooth!
- Lutter & Wegner
Every time I asked friends for recommendations, they said I had to go to Lutter & Wegner for traditional German food. And for good reason: our dinner was fantastic. The restaurant was totally decked out for the holidays, the staff was so kind, and the food was delicious. I recommend getting the beef carpaccio as an appetizer and then the sauerbraten and the wiener schnitzel for your main course. The portions are decently-sized, so come with an appetite!
I know: Thai? In Berlin? But trust me: this meal was super solid. We popped into GOODTIME for a late-ish dinner on my friend’s first night in Berlin. I’m kicking myself for not writing down every single thing we ordered, because we ordered a ton of dishes (like… an alarming amount of food), and everything was really really good.
– Berlin Travel Guide: Things to Do in Berlin –
Just as a reminder, please keep in mind I was only in Berlin for 4 days… 2 of which were travel days. So I really only had 2 full days in Berlin. I packed a lot into those 2 days, but at the end of the day it was only 2 days. And now I’m exhausted just thinking about everything we did in those 2 days.
Berlin has some of the best sightseeing I’ve ever encountered. It’s one of those rare cities in which you could spend days just walking around the city, without spending money on museums (but the museums are fantastic so I’d definitely recommend checking them out!).
One experience I loved was visiting the Panoramapunkt at Potsdamer Platz. As one of the tallest buildings in the area, visitors can see a 360° view of Berlin. My friend and I grabbed mugs of mulled wine, and enjoyed the sights. If heights aren’t your thing, I also recommend wandering around the Gendarmenmarkt and checking out the cathedrals on either side of the square.
As the capital of Germany during both WWII and the Cold War, Berlin has tons of modern history. While I didn’t tour the Reichstag Building, I made a point to visit Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie (unfortunately missed the museum), and the East Side Gallery.
PS if you’re a fan of parks, make sure you visit the Tiergarten. It’s sprawling and I’ve heard it’s stunning anytime other than wintertime!
Museums in Berlin
In sections above, you’ve likely seen mention of Museum Island. In case it’s not obvious, the island is so named because there’s a heck of a lot of museums on it. My friend and I could’ve spent days exploring Museum Island. Sadly we only had time for two museums during our time in Berlin, so we opted to check out the Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum. As somebody who loves ancient history (particularly ancient Egypt), I was in heaven… particularly in the Neues Museum as it houses the bust of Nefertiti as well as countless other ancient Egyptian artifacts.
One museum that was on my list but I did not have a chance to visit was the Topography of Terror. This museum focuses on the many war crimes committed by the Third Reich during WWII. The museum was built on the ruins of what was once the headquarters for the SS.
One last museum I believe every person must visit during a trip to Berlin is the Jewish Museum. The architectural design of the museum creates a truly emotional experience – same goes for the design of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The Best Christmas Markets in Berlin
In case you’re new around here, you should know that I absolutely love Christmas. I love Christmas markets, I love Christmas music, I love Christmas foods, I love Christmas smells. I just love Christmas. Yes, I’m Jewish and I’ve never actually celebrated Christmas, but I still love all of the associated festivities.
So now you’re probably thinking “oh you really lucked out – you happened to be in Germany for Christmas markets!” GIRL. PLEASE. I booked this trip for the express purpose of hitting every Christmas market known to mankind (just wait till I release my Munich travel guide – I’m not altogether sure I did anything else while visiting that city!). It was even more Christmasy than Edinburgh! As a result, no Berlin travel guide would be in any way complete without a mention of Christmas markets (even if I went in the summer!).
During the warmer months, Schloss Charlottenburg is a palace you can tour with stunning baroque architecture. In December, however, the grounds become an absolutely magical Christmas market. I went to this Weihnachtsmarkt my very first night in Berlin (and went back the next day with my friend!). From what I understand, this Christmas market attracts more locals than the others… plus it makes you feel like you stepped into a fairy tale!
The other large Christmas market is the WeihnachtsZauber Gendarmenmarkt, located at the aforementioned Gendarmenmarkt. This market was only a few blocks from our hotel, so we made a point to go every. single. night. Worth it, y’all! While this Christmas market does charge an entrance fee, it was so worth it. The atmosphere was amazing and the mulled wine was A+. For the official record, I consider myself quite the connoisseur of mulled wine, so that rating should carry some weight.