Forget the guidebook – you don’t need it with
my Omi’s seven pearls of wisdom on the best things to do and see in Berlin. My lickle, ickle, put-her-in-your-pocket Omi is a wise owl. I’m so lucky to have a German nan/nana/grandma/granny…my Omi. There are many, many reasons why I love her, and I’m pretty sure you will love her too for this post.
♥ Alexanderplatz (Address: 10178 Berlin)
It’s an iconic space full of shops, cafés and my favourite, a 365 metre high 360° viewing deck (at the top of a TV tower, referred to as Fernsehturm). It overlooks the whole city and the views are lovely (buy tickets here). It’s iconic because even in the nineteenth century it was a popular, bustling hub. However, in Omi’s eyes, it’s iconic because it is deemed a central point following the reunification of East and West Berlin. You can also find two photo worthy monuments in this square; Weltzeituhr (World Time Clock) by Erich John and the Fountain of International Friendship.
♥ Tiergarten (Address: Strasse des 17. Juni 100, 10557 Berlin)
Tiergarten is over five kilometres of relaxing green landscape; an escapist’s park. It is a warren of touching tribute fountains and monuments (in memory of concentration camp victims, dedicated soldiers and many others). It’s a wooded area taking one hour to walk the whole length. It’s perfect for a stroll regardless of whether you want to put your learning hat on, or simply just to relax. With no entry costs, it’s a great spot for all types of travellers and I can see why Omi loves it so much.
♥ Unter Den Linden (Address: Mitte district of Berlin)
Translating as ‘under the linden trees’, it is a boulevard fringed by lime trees. It’s right in the centre of the city and is frequently used as a pathway to many of Berlin’s landmarks, including the State Opera House. Due to its convenient location it is a great stop for a coffee break either on a bench under the trees or in one of the many cafés. Omi recalls it as an ideal backdrop for people watching. However, at the time of writing (October 2013), I understand building work is taking place on this street and on the State Opera House.
♥ Reichstag Building (Address: Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin)
Specifically, the dome in the roof of this building is what you want to check out (designed by a British Architect). There’s a light sculpture that’s pretty impressive, as well as a rooftop terrace with views to rival those from the Fernsehturm. You’ll have to climb 230 metres to get to the top (or you could just take the lift). Again, my little Omi has recommended another free one for you, so you have no excuses (just make sure you register your attendance in advance). If you fancy splashing some cash, try out the rooftop restaurant, Kafer, for some German cuisine (you’ll need to book).
♥ Kurfürstendamm (Address: Kurfürstendamm 1, 10707 Berlin)
Affectionately known to the locals as Kudamm, it is a famous avenue in the city that Omi highly recommends for the younger crowd (though she could probably be persuaded to join the party). It’s full of theatre shows (you can see what’s on here), pubs and bars, as well as designer shops and clubs. It’s an option for a fun evening in Berlin.
♥ Underground Tours (Address: Gesundbrunnen, Berlin)
This captured my attention. Omi told me about the underground cellars, bunkers and streets that you can explore. She tells me it is like a creepy underground world that will make you feel like you’ve entered a time machine – history bought to life. You can find tours here.
♥ Brandenberg Gate (Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin)
Given Omi’s upbringing, I’m not surprised this one made the list. This monument is steeped in over two hundred years of history and is often seen as the landmark of Berlin. When the Berlin Wall was around visitors used to climb to the top to glimpse the other side of the wall. The building is an orb of historian significance; on 12 June 1987, Ronald Regan stood on the steps and ordered the Berlin Wall to be demolished. I’m not one for boring history lessons, but the story of this building is fascinating.
I hope you enjoy visiting the city. Flights from the UK with EasyJet are dirt cheap (returns from £40) and if you use Omi’s seven pearls of wisdom on things to do and see in Berlin, you’ll have a great time (without hardly spending a penny).
My Omi is now 83 years old and is one of my biggest inspirations.
She moved from her home town, Berlin, to England in her teens. She didn’t have an easy life. Her father was in the army, fighting in World War II, and was sadly reported as missing in action.
During the war, Omi was forced from her home when the bombing in Berlin started. She and her sisters (apart from one who risked the city for her job), brothers and mum abandoned everything, escaping to their grandparents’ farm. Things weren’t great there; it was dangerous and the bombing was still very real. Russian soldiers soon descended on the area, with rumours of killings and other wrongdoings. My family fled (luckily unhurt), becoming refugees. I’m sure their souls must have been scarred from what they had to witness.
They eventually returned to the city and later in time it became divided with the erection of the Berlin Wall. Omi’s family was split; some of them ended up living East of the Berlin Wall, whilst the others the West. They led very different lives, obviously with the economy (work opportunities, quality of housing, availability of food etc) being worlds apart. Despite all of this, my beautiful Omi still has a massive soft spot for Berlin. We’ve visited the city together, and up until a year or two ago, she’d visit her German family at least once a year.
Omi has plenty more recommendations and I have been quite a few times, so if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know please feel free to drop me a comment. X