In my honest opinion, I don’t think I’m cool enough for Berlin. I’m not sure why but I’ve never been drawn to Berlin compared to the other cities in Germany. I think with all the hype and high influx of tourists entering Berlin, I’m quite put off by it all. Which is ironic because those are usually the reasons why I like visiting big cities. I went to Berlin because everyone I know has been to Berlin and I had major FOMO (fear of missing out) by not experiencing it.
Nonetheless, there are still great things I did enjoy about Berlin! Let’s start with their public transport system. Everything runs on time, affordable, and is well connected, I now understand why the Germans have such a good reputation for transportation. My first impression of Berlin was it’s a very livable city, easy to get around, something on every weekend, trendy hipster areas, great food culture and of course lots of history.
As you already know, Berlin was heavily bombed during World War II, majority of the city was destroyed and it wasn’t restored as a capital city up until the 90s. You’ll still be able to find some buildings with the artillery markings, and of course parts of the Berlin Wall still exists, and some parts are now part of the ‘East Side Gallery’. I think part of my disappointment with Berlin was that I expected more old historical buildings but instead I found that it was an architecture haven. Almost too modern for my liking. And I think that’s the problem with when I travel, I tend to have these images and expectations of a city and when they don’t deliver I’m left with disappointment and an unenthusiastic attitude. While really it was a pretty great city, I mean look at these photos for proof!
Could not get enough of the Berlin Dom (aka Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island), it’s a different shot at every angle. One of the oldest buildings in Berlin which kept to its originality. I didn’t have time to go inside, but there is a viewing deck from the top of the building!
Or you can view the Dom from the top of the Samsung Building which is across the road, for free.
A short walk down the road you will also find the Fernsehturm, which is another viewing deck – the highest in Berlin.
Or you can do something free, like go to the Radisson Hotel and see the world’s largest indoor fish tank! And you can even ride the lift which is in the center of the round fish tank! Pretty cool!
Once you start exploring Berlin, you will start to notice there are a lot of memorials around the city. This was my favourite aspect of Berlin is that they didn’t want to conceal the pain and suffering that their city has endured. Memorials are visible and also marks as a constant reminder how resilience and strong Germans are.
From old architecture to the modern tech savvy look of the new age Berlin.
And of course you can’t go to Berlin without a visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I completely fell in love with everything that this memorial stood for, from the meaning behind the artwork, to the brutalism structure which has so much hidden messaging. However, I did find it disrespectful watching other people climb all over it, and posing on top of it as if it was a good photoshoot spot?
Not far from this was the Topography of Terror, another freebie museum/gallery about the Nazi War.
Another 5 mins walk from this is the famous check point Charlie. This was my least favourite spot in Berlin. Not only was it not the real checkpoint for East and West Berlin during the Cold War, but it is so desensitised by tourism that they had people dressed up as an American and British soliders for tourists to take photos with. Not to mention the McDonald, Starbucks and Pizza Hut stores surrounding this area.
I had to see the iconic Brandenburg Gate in both daylight and at night! It was just as beautiful as people say it is.
Berlin was the first city in Europe where for the first time I can hear spoken Vietnamese (my background). It’s kinda nice to be able to understand another language in a foreign country besides English. An interesting fact – Germany has a large population of Vietnamese people, also a great place to get Vietnamese food! Which I’ve been craving for since I’ve been missing my mum’s cooking.
If you get on a train for 20mins outside the main city area you can get to East Side Gallery which is almost like an exhibition of public art on The Wall.
There was a food truck selling vegan ice cream – it was surprisingly really good and creamy!
I tried vegan dumplings. I’m not vegan, but I do enjoy a lot of vegan and vegetarian food, and Berlin has so much to offer for people with food restrictions.
Sunset in Berlin.
To end my time in Berlin (before heading to Dresden) my friend recommended I check out Monkey Bar, a funky rooftop bar in the 25Hours Hotel. It overlooks the Berlin Zoo, and quite literally the monkey enclosures, so you can watch the monkeys swing on the monkey bars.
As my expectations are now low from Berlin, seeing Dresden blew me away!
I caught the bus to Dresden, 2 hours from Berlin. Dresden, like Berlin, was also badly affected by the war and 90% of the city actually burnt down. However, unlike Berlin, they managed to restore it back to its original moldings and design. This was the kind of city I had expected for Berlin.
Completely fell in love with everything about this city. It’s small, but it has such a nice feel to it. Plus it was sunny and the locals were out and about, whereas in Berlin it was grey and cold. Weather makes a big difference in your mood and perception on a city!
After a short tea break, I went to check out the Zwinger which holds a beautiful courtyard and galleries.
The famous Dresden Cathedral.
You can’t go to Germany without trying a street hot dog, they are everywhere, tasty and cheap!
Dresden definitely made this trip a lot more enjoyable than I had anticipated! I would highly recommend you add it as a short stopover, I stayed overnight, but you can easily do this as a day trip from Berlin!