Berlin potsdam brandenburg gate

Best daytrips from Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

There are more than enough activities and attractions to keep you busy in Berlin for years, but if you are visiting for more than a few days, you may want to take a short journey out of this bustling metropolis to see some of the surrounding areas. Here is a list of five suggestions for daytrips from Berlin!

1. Potsdam

A world class city in its own right, Potsdam is just thirty minutes from Berlin. Historically a hub for trade and immigration, the architecture and attitude of Potsdam reflects this past, with its parks and palaces officially listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their outstanding contribution to the world’s culture. With one day in this rich city, you will want to rent a bicycle, for around 11 Euros for the day. Stops at the stunning 18th century rococo Sanssouci (French for carefree) Palace and Park are a must, as is a visit to the 19th century Chinese Teahouse and a stroll through the Dutch Quarter’s picturesque redbrick houses.

Getting there:
The S-Bahn S7 train makes regular stops from central Berlin to the main Potsdam Hauptbahnhof station.  A regional train, while more expensive, is faster and can take you directly to Potsdam-Charlottenhof and Potsdam-Sanssouci

 

2. Szczecin, Poland

Let’s be honest – sometimes we just want to rack up a few extra stamps in the old passport with a short daytrip, and so if you want to visit not just a different city but also a completely different country, then Szczecin (known as Stettin in German) is for you. Located on the Oder River in the vicinity of the Baltic Sea, Szczecin is the seventh largest city in Poland and a popular daytrip from Berlin. At various times in its history, Szczecin has been under Dutch, Swedish and German rule, and its architecture and culture reflect this diversity. Visitors enjoy strolling through the medieval centre, visiting the white city castle and sampling Polish perogies – all in time to get back to Berlin by evening!
Getting there:

Regular regional trains depart from Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof. Blogger RJ at coolblueice has clear instructions on how to save loads of money and get your ticket for less than 20 Euros roundtrip!

 

3. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

While a visit to a former concentration camp may not top your list of enjoyable daytrips, it is impossible to deny the popularity of tourism to these sites of terror. A visit to Sachsenhausen, a Nazi concentration camp in Orienenberg, is a harrowing and sobering experience, but one that many people find important and meaningful as they try to reconcile the horrors of the Holocaust with the modern state of Germany. Guided tours of the site, audio guides and guidebooks are available, and come highly recommended to provide interpretation of the exhibits and grounds.

Getting there:

A combination of train, bus and walking is required, but total time should take less than 90 minutes. Check Google maps for the most convenient routing from your hotel.

 

4. Spreewald Forest

If you tire of Berlin’s urban jungle, a trip to the remarkable beauty of Spreewald Forest may be the perfect daytrip for you. Located 50 miles away, this UNESCO designated biosphere consists of alder forests, grasslands and a series of 200 small channels and waterways stretching over nearly 500 square kilometres.  Canoe rentals are possible, as are guided gondola tours (if you would like an English guide, alight a barge in the most touristed areas of Lübben or Lübbenau), but most of the forest area is accessible only on foot. This non-motorized transportation zone provides tranquil calm along with excellent exercise (perfect to work off all of that wurst and beer). If you decide to spend the night in the area, be sure to learn more about the area’s Sorbian culture, one of Germany’s two recognized ethnic minorities native to the country.

Getting There:
Take the hourly regional train RE2 from Zoologischer Garten, Hauptbahnhof, Friedrichstraße, Alexanderplatz, or Ostbahnhof to Lübben or Lübbenau

 

5. Best on a Budget – Kladow
If you are after a day of complete tranquility on a shoestring budget, a visit to Kladow might be what you are after. Swim in the lake, gaze at squirrels and explore popular walking trails across the Havel River. Despite the fact that Kladow is technically a part of metro Berlin, the ferry trip across the river makes it feel like much more of an intrepid journey, and the scenic natural setting will make you forget the urban centre mere minutes away.

Getting There:
Get the S-Bahn to Wannsee. At the ferry port catch the BVG-Fähre ferry to Kladow, which leaves on the hour (and is no additional charge, providing your S-Bahn ticket has not expired).

 

+++We’ll offer walking tours around Christmas time. Check out our Berlin pay-what-you-like walking tours!+++  

 

Written by Jessica O’Neill

How to get to Hitler’s Former Bunker

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

This post is a guide to finding the location of Hitler’s last bunker in Berlin with a brief history of the bunker, which today is a parking lot in the middle of unremarkable residential apartment buildings.  This location is a part of just about every walking tour that covers downtown Berlin. We also provide you with additional resources concerning World War 2 and Third Reich sights in Berlin and the surrounding area.  (en español)

Where Is Hitler’s Bunker?
Brief History
See Inside the Bunker
Third Reich Berlin Sights
Third Reich Tours
Berlin Bunker Tours 
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

 

 

HOW TO FIND THE BUNKER

We recommend using this Google map for exact directions to the bunker location.  The bunker was located between Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor.  Today, you will find some typical 1980’s East German concrete slab residential buildings. The more privileged citizens of the German Democratic Republic, particular members of the higher administration of the GDR, used to live in these buildings.  If you come during the day, you will likely find a walking tour group standing in the parking lot, all trying to get a glimpse of an information board. The board was installed by “Berliner Unterwelten”, an NGO that provides visits and information about NS architecture in Berlin, during the lead up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Under the parking lot was one entrance to Hitler’s former bunker, the so-called “Führerbunker” (“Leader’s bunker”). There are no signs or plaques installed because there is nothing worth commemorating. It’s just there, underneath the ground, inaccessible for good reason. There are, however, other bunkers throughout Berlin, which can be visited on a tour. Check out our post on Berlin Bunker tours.

 

 


BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BUNKER

The Hitler bunker was completed in two phases, 1936 and 1944. This air-raid shelter was the center of the Third Reich’s government from January 16, 1945,  when Hitler retreated into the bunker, until Mai 2nd 1945, when General Helmuth Weidling, commander of the Berlin Defense Area, surrendered to General Chuikov of the Soviet Army. Read more »

Berlin Bode Museum

Pergamon Museum

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Often listed as one of the most impressive collections of antiquities in the world, Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is well worth a visit – whether you are a seasoned archaeologist, a complete classical arts novice or any interest level in between. Filled with breathtaking monuments of massive scale, a trip to the Pergamon will humble you in the face of history.

Located on the UNESCO World Heritage designated “Museum Island,” the Pergamon Museum consists of three collections – the Antiquity Collection (also partially housed in the Altes Museum and the Neues Museum), the Middle East Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art – each impressive enough to warrant its own internationally renowned museum. Built in the turbulent years between 1910 and 1930, the building was designed specifically to house the plethora of archaeological treasures that German teams were excavating in the Middle and Far East. Construction continued even during the years of World War One and the period of massive instability and inflation of the 1920s, opening to a fascinated public in 1930.

This public adoration would be short lived – the massive Romanesque structure was badly damaged during World War Two air bombings, and was then looted by Russian soldiers in 1945 (many museums pieces are still housed in Russian museums). Thankfully, quick-thinking curators saved many antiquities before the bombings began, and the most famous monoliths were walled in and reinforced to protect them. The museum re-opened in the ‘50s, and has been a world-class institution ever since.

The Pergamon Museum, like so many museums of antiquities in Europe, faces ethical dilemmas owing to its nineteenth century history of imperialist plunder from poorer nations. Turkey has long called for the return of the Pergamon Altar, something that the namesake museum is reluctant to provide. It will be interesting to follow these debates over the coming years, and it is something every visitor should think about before their visit.

The main attractions of the Pergamon are its legendary reconstructions of monolithic archaeological antiquities. The eponymous Pergamon Altar, a forty metre wide 2nd century BCE structure excavated from what is now Turkey, features a detailed frieze depicting a battle between Gods and Giants. The Grecian 2nd century-era Market Gate of Miletus is another famous draw, having been destroyed in an 11th century earthquake but completely excavated, restored and reconstructed in 1901 in Berlin. The use of modern materials to construct missing components continues to be a controversial practice to this day.

The Mshatta Façade, located in the Museum of Muslim Art wing of the Pergamon, is from the eighth century Jordanian Palace of Umayyad, one of the country’s Desert Castles. The façade is decorated in fine, detailed carvings, depicting animals and filigree patterns, and was damaged badly in World War Two. It has since been repaired, and remains one of the most celebrated pieces in the collection.

For many, the most impressive site contained within the museum is the Ishtar Gate, a processional corridor and massive arch excavated from the ancient city of Babylon (in modern day Iraq, near Baghdad). It was constructed in 575 BCE to honor the goddess Ishtar, and features stunning glazed tile-reliefs of fantastical creatures such as dragons, as well aurochs and lions. The vivid colours of these 2600 year-old blue, yellow and green tiles leave a lasting impression on guests, and people travel the globe for a chance to walk through the gate. This is museum-going on a grand scale!

 

Tickets:
Adults 12 Euros/Concession 6 Euros (book online to save 1 Euro)

Also available as part of the Museum Island ticket: 18 Euros/9 Euros (book online to save 1 Euro)

Hours: 7 days a week 10am-6pm (except Thursdays 10am – 8pm)

U-Bahn/S-Bahn: Friedrichstaße, Hackescher Markt, or Oranienburger Strasse

 

 +++Don’t forget to check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Berlin!+++ 

Berlin new years

New Year’s Eve in Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

You’re in Berlin over the holidays and don’t know what to do at New Year’s Eve? Celebrate the new year with Berliners eating their name-sake donut cakes, melting metal for good luck, partying till dawn, with fireworks and a lot of fire crackers in the streets. New Year’s in Berlin’s city center can be pretty wild and noisy. Berliners will do their own fireworks and firecrackers all day on New Year’s Eve…. just letting you know in case you tell us we did not warn you.  There’s a lot to do in Berlin for New Year’s. And if you have not found your house party at a friend’s place where you can watch the fireworks from the rooftop, here are some other ideas.

 

Enjoy Music and Theater

Check out the concert halls, opera houses, theaters and cabarets. Many of them have special shows on New Year’s Eve. You’re not likely to find the heavy stuff on that special evening, rather the pleasant, funny music and plays.

 

Visit the biggest Party in Germany: New Year’s Eve at the Brandenburg Gate

Every big city has its iconic place to spend New Year’s Eve. In Berlin, Germany’s biggest party is traditionally at the Brandenburg Gate. Where else could it be after all? Berlin is expecting around one million people to greet 2015 here. On the traditional “Party Mile”, the “Straße des 17. Juni”, between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column (Siegessäule), three stages for shows and music from Pop to Classic, party tents and a lot of food and drink stands are waiting for the party goers. At Midnight a spectacular firework will be in display – clink your Champaign glasses, it’s legal!  Admission is free, the entrances open at 10 am on December 31st, from 2 pm through 6 pm you can listen to the rehearsals, the program starts at 6:30 pm. There will be a security check at the gates, weapons and all objects that can be used as such (e.g. glass bottles) and fireworks are strictly prohibited. Check out more info on the program etc. here.

Check out the old warehouse: Universal Osthafen Spreeterrassen

The party near the beautiful Oberbaumbrücke is at a terrific location: a former cold store for eggs (yes!) made of yellow bricks, the headquarter of Universal Entertainment in Germany.  Dance on two floors to House, R’n’B, Disco Classics and the music of the 80s, 90s and today. At midnight, enjoy the fireworks at the Oberbaumbrücke.

 

Party in the transformer: Umspannwerk Alexanderplatz

The Umspannwerk (transformer) is an industrial building from the 1960s close to the TV tower.  Two dance floors, a live act and a lounge to chill are waiting for the guest. And at midnight, there are fireworks at Alexanderplatz.

 

Be a hero for one night: in the Monkey Bar

A David Bowie theme party in the 25hours hotel at the Bikini Berlin concept mall.        Enjoy music and drinks with a view over the City West near the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche.

 

Party as much as you can: Get the Silvester Ticket for 6 locations

You don’t know yet where you want to go, only that you want to party? You think it’s a pity to spend this special night in one location only? The, get the “Silvester Ticket”, it’s like a city pass for 6 different parties in town:

  •  “Alte Münze Berlin” (near the Nikolaiviertel) Am Molkenmarkt 2,
  • “Columbiahalle” Columbiadamm 13-21
  • “ewerk “(close to Checkpoint Charlie), Wilhelmstraße 43
  • “Postbahnhof” (close to the Ostbahnhof and the East Side Gallery) Straße der Pariser Kommune 8
  • “Umspannwerk” Alexanderplatz
  • “Spreegalerie” Alexanderplatz

 

Or you can always take it easy and go out only at Midnight to watch the fireworks and drink Champaign: “Prosit Neujahr!” as the Germans say.

HAPPY NEW YEAR’S!!!

Altervative christmas berlin

Alternative Christmas Markets in Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Germany has a reputation for celebrating Christmas with gusto. Traditional Christmas markets are popular throughout the country, and draw millions of visitors each year, but alternative markets are popping up all over Berlin. Though many tourists may associate the smells of sweet Glühwein (traditional mulled wine, literally translating to “glow wine” owing to the rosiness that will bloom on your cheeks), spicy gingerbread and tantalizing wurst (sausages) with Bavaria and the North, trendy Berlin transforms into a Winter Wonderland each December with over sixty Christmas markets to choose from.

A visit to traditional German Christmas Market feels like walking through a holiday greeting card: gorgeous twinkling lights, massive trees decorated with candles, seasonal handicrafts and costumed carolers – even Ebenezer Scrooge himself could not resist getting into the Christmas spirit. But what if you want something a little bit different this yuletime? Here is just a small sampling of the best Alternative Christmas Markets in Berlin – Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas)!

 

Weihnachtsrodeo

Don’t let the name fool you – cowboys in ten gallon hats will not be making an appearance at this uber-stylish ‘rodeo’, held inside of a historic department store building. Weihnachtsrodeo is famous for offerings from Berlin’s hottest designers, artists and luxury boutique brands, and so this Market is less about holiday cheer and more about spoiling your loved ones (and yourself) rotten – and looking good while at it. As the only indoor market, it’s also the only shopping experience on this list that you can enjoy without your winter coat!
Warenhaus Am Weinberg Brunnenstraße 19 – 21, 10119 Berlin, near U-train Rosenthaler Platz
December 13, 14, 20, 21. 

 

Kreuzberger Winter Market

Hipsters rejoice: at the Kreuzberger Winter Market you will be able to purchase artisanal mustard, fairtrade honey, locally distilled spirits and unique gifts – all produced by Berlin artists and craftspeople. While the other mainstream markets may bank on Noel nostalgia and childhood memories, Kreuzberger will entice you with food trucks, bespoke cocktails and craft beer. The soundtrack often features modern updates of classic carols – irony optional.
Bergmannhof, Bergmannstr. 5-7, 10961 Berlin, near U-train station Mehringdamm and Platz der Luftbrücke
Nov 24- Dec 30, 1pm-9pm (closed Dec 24+25), FREE entry

 

Christmas Market For Dogs (Weihnachtsmarkt für Hunde)

Looking for something unique for your four-legged friend? The world’s only Christmas Market dedicated to man’s best friend is the Third Annual Christmas Market For Dogs.  Dogs – and their owners – will be treated to a canine friendly atmosphere, special pet foods and gifts for pups of all shapes and sizes, and of course, humans can enjoy a glass of gluhwein in the company of other dog-lovers. A barking good time!
Hüttenweg 90, 14193, Berlin
Dec 6-7, 10am-6pm

 

Voodoo Christmas Market

In the market for a market that won’t leave you feeling bored? Head to the Voodoo Christmas Market, where DJs will be spinning all evening and artists will be gathered selling their wares and allowing the public to peek into their workshops and studios. On hand is beauty parlour to twist your locks into a perfect pompadour, a tattoo studio for some holiday ink and dozens of local trendsetters selling vintage fashion, unique housewares, independently designed clothing, offbeat gifts – and of course, delectable treats (and maybe some beer)!
Urban Spree, Revaler Straße 99, 10245 Berlin
Dec 6, 12-8pm


Nowkoelln Flowmarkt

This year round fleamarket is known by locals for its relaxed atmosphere and as one of the coolest places to buy vintage goods and collector’s items in Berlin, so thank Santa that Nowkoelln Flowmarkt has decided to host a series of festive Christmas-themed sales. Think of this as the perfect place to buy the ‘eco-conscious yet achingly stylish’ person on your list the perfect retro gift – 1950’s highball glasses, taxidermied birds or a framed photo of someone else’s grandparents. Throughout December they will be featuring tables of gift ideas, bargains galore and the fun of perusing tables of well-curated collectables – as well as seasonal food and drink.
Maybachufer, Berlin

 

Holy Heimat

Think of Holy Heimat as the ideal Christmas Market for a cool couple with young children, or those out there who want to have a good time but have left the days of bangin’ parties behind them. Housed in a former railway station, Neue Heimat is an event space that has since been transformed into a music venue, street food hub and cultural gathering place. Their much-anticipated Christmas event (daily until December 21) features a design market, live independent musicians, performers, children’s activities, street food (of course) – and best of all, an ice skating rink! At only 2 Euro entry for adults ( kiddies are FREE) this is the best Holiday market for young families!
RAW, Revaler Str/Dirschauer Str. near U+S station Warschauer Strasse
Nov 27-Dec 21, Thu/Fri 3pm-12am, Sat/Sun 12pm-12am, 2 eur entry fee 

+++We’ll offer walking tours around Christmas time. Check out our schedule for our Berlin pay-what-you-like walking tours!+++ 

Written by Jessica O’Neill

Berlin Walking Tours

The City Palace (Berliner Schloss)

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Berliner Schloss constructionIn the very center of Berlin, at the bank of the river Spree and right across the huge Berlin Cathedral or “Berliner Dom” is a very busy construction site. It’s the reconstruction of the City Palace as the so called “Humboldt-Forum”. The new name indicates that the exterior of the old baroque City Palace will be (almost) reconstructed, but not the interior. The 21st century Berlin doesn’t need another palace, but a cultural space with museums and cultural institutions. “Humboldt” is the family name of two brothers who helped shape Berlin’s, Prussia’s and Germany’s educational and academic system: Alexander von Humboldt who travelled extensively and was a scholar in many fields and Wilhelm von Humboldt who was a diplomat and a reformer of schools and universities.  Berlin’s (not Prussia’s!) first university was founded in 1810 according to his ideas and is today named after the Humboldt brothers.

+++The Berliner Schloss (City palace) is in walking distance from the beautiful square Gendarmenmarkt, the site of the Nazi book burning on Bebelplatz, and the TV tower. You might also be interested in our self-guided Berlin Mitte tour.++

 

A Castle in the Late Middle Ages

The first castle on the site was built in the middle of the 15th century, when the monarchs moved their capital from Brandenburg (now the name of a small town but also the state of Brandenburg that surrounds Berlin which is also a state) to Berlin. There are no records of the medieval castle, other that it served not only as the residence of the ruling family but as a fortress to protect the city as well. Berlin had become important for the trade. In the 16th century, the castle was demolished and replaced by a Renaissance palace that every following monarch would upgrade.

 

A Palace for a King

The baroque building that is currently under reconstruction is from the early 1700s. Frederick III, elector of Prussia, wanted the crown of a king (in Germany’s many states were several kings, e.g. the king of Bavaria). He managed to be called Frederick I King of Prussia in 1701 and he needed a representative palace. Andreas Schlüter, one of the best master builders of his time, built the large palace. The king commissioned a tall tower, built on the medieval basis of the castle, to house an expensive carillon, bought in the Netherlands. Andreas Schlüter did his best, he even used iron to fortify the 308-feet-tower (94 meters), but he failed and was fired. His rival, Eosander von Göthe who was the builder of Charlottenburg Palace (now in Berlin, then in the countryside) delivered plans for another enlargement.

When Frederick I died in 1713, his son Frederick William I checked the state of the treasury and he didn’t like what he saw. So he fired a lot of his father’s architects and artists and had the palace finished by one of Andreas Schlüters student’s. The characteristic dome that catches the viewer’s eye on old pictures was added only in the years 1845 – 1853. The City palace was the main residence of many kings of Prussia and the Emperors of Germany.

Damage and Demolition

In the last year of World War II, 1945, the City palace was heavily damaged. The socialist administration in the Soviet Sector failed to secure the building and in 1950, the German Democratic Republic (GDR, founded in 1949) had the whole building demolished. Only one piece of the wall was spared and later added to the State Council Building (seat of the collective head of state in the GDR). It includes the balcony, where the German communist leader Karl Liebknecht declared the Communist Republic of Germany on November 9th 1918, after World War I. This communist republic never happened, but for the GDR this balcony was an important historic site. The empty space where the palace had been was named “Marx-Engels-Square” and was left empty until in 1973, the “Palace of the Republic” was finished. The Palace of the Republic was the seat of the “People’s Chamber” (Volkskammer) the parliament of the GDR and housed a concert hall and some restaurants.

 

Reconstruction

After the reunification of Germany, some people called for the reconstruction of the City Palace and founded an association to raise funds and lobby. Others didn’t see the point, sometimes those who had liked the Palace of the Republic and had positive memories of time spent in a concert or a restaurant there. The pro-faction argued with the gap that the missing palace had left in the ensemble of the historic buildings in the center of Berlin and the historic importance of the palace itself. The naysayers didn’t want to spend the money and didn’t like the idea to eliminate the most recent history: the GDR. The fact, that the Palace of the Republic was full of asbestos, helped foster the idea or a reconstruction of the City Palace. In 2002, the German parliament voted it with a two third majority. Construction started in 2012, the architect is the Italian Francesco Stella. The building is to be finished in 2019. The builder-owner is a foundation; about 10% of the money shall be from donations.

The “Humboldt-Forum” will be a unique cooperation of several institutions: the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation with parts of its collection, the Humboldt University and the Central and Regional Library of Berlin. They will exhibit their treasures together, organized along different topics, not along the boundaries of the different institutions. The overall theme will be the “dialogue with the cultures of the world”, namely the ones beyond Europe. To show that the Humboldt-Forum is not the old imperial palace, one side, the one at the bank of the river Spree, will not be reconstructed in baroque, but in a simple modernist style.

 

++On our Berlin-in-a-in a day-Walking Tour we’ll stop by the City Palace.++

 

Written by Gundula Schmidt-Graute

 

Best Hostels in New York

Top Five Trendy, Offbeat Hotels in Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

If you are looking for accommodation that is as memorable as the city itself, here are some offbeat hotels that you might want to check out.

 

The Dude

The Dude fancies itself a hotel with “Character and Attitude” – and it has both in spades. Located in one of the oldest houses in the historical centre of Berlin, The Dude places a high emphasis on keeping things small, intimate and luxurious. High concept, modern industrial design meets warm, heritage details from the building’s two hundred years history, and no detail has been left spared to welcome you into the space. The owners proclaim that they want guests to feel “like they are staying with a good friend”- that is, if your good friend has an exquisite eye for art and interior design! It is an absolute pleasure to stay at The Dude, and with only thirty rooms, you know you will be treated as an individual, not a face in the crowd. Be sure to snag a reservation for their wildly popular American steakhouse, “The Brooklyn” – featuring 160 whiskies and the best steaks in Berlin.
Rooms start at 99 Euros per night
Located at Köpenicker Str. 92 near U train station Märkisches Museum

 

Propeller Island City Lodge
If you have always wanted to be a part of an art installation, a stay at the Propeller Island City Lodge is for you. Designed by German artist Lars Stroschen as “a work of art you can live in,” this hotel features thirty completely unique rooms, with floating beds, upside down furniture, padded walls, bold works of art emblazoned on every surface and plumbing that defies logic. Every movement you make will change the hotel’s design – paint smears, furniture bends and your daily actions become an indelible piece of the artist’s work. The hotel’s lease has been renewed for one more year, and its future is uncertain – so hurry and book a room at one of the most surreal hotels in Europe.
Rooms start at 99 Euros per night
Located at Albrecht-Achilles-Straße 58 near U train station Adenauerplatz

 

The Nhow Hotel Berlin

“Where Music finds itself at home – and you can, too.” Billed as a Music and Lifestyle Hotel, the Nhow Hotel Berlin is a music lovers dream – and quite possibly the only hotel in the world with a dedicated “music manager” onsite to ensure that a perfectly curated selection of tunes is always playing for guests to enjoy. Located on the banks of the River Spree, the Nhow is home to a luxurious rooftop party palace, two recording studios and rehearsal rooms available for both aspiring and professional musicians. This hotel is completely modern and decorated by cutting edge designers who regularly rotate the selection of art on display – even the staff’s uniforms are haute couture! If you tire of standard room service fare and don’t fancy a continental breakfast, fear not – The Nhow’s menu features guitars, keyboards and drums delivered straight to your room.
Rooms start at 79 Euros per night (if booked 30 days in advance)
Located at Stralauer Allee 3 near S+U train station Warschauer Str.

 

25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin

Ultra cool, ultra stylish and ultra Berlin, 25Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin is at the cutting edge of style in the capital. For its fifth location in Germany, many expected the 25Hours group to choose a site in the trendy East, but instead they have bucked the trend and located themselves far from the bustle of hipster Kreuzberg: near the Zoo in the centre of old West Berlin. As a result, looking out your room’s window you can be forgiven for thinking you are in rural surrounds – the greenery and relaxing foliage is a balm for the soul in busy Berlin. The hotel boasts 149 rooms and an onsite sauna, foodtrucks, neon signage and 360 degree rooftop terrace. Featuring legendary club nights, a highly reviewed restaurant and a woodfire bakery, 25Hours is one of the coolest places to rest your head while you’re in Berlin.
From 136 Euros per night
Located at Budapester Straße 40 near S+U train station Zoologischer Garten

 

 

Soho House Berlin

For directors, actors and other entertainment industry types, Soho House Berlin is the obvious choice. Taking its name and attitude from the legendary Central London members-only club, the ambience at SHB is chic but edgy, and filled with fashionistas and influential entertainment industry creatives. Located in Mitte, the Soho House Berlin is set in an eight-story Bauhaus era building once the headquarters of the Communist Party, and has been lovingly restored and upgraded to give it a modern atmosphere with retro touches. The forty rooms and twenty apartments are spacious and feature period details such as typewriters, record players (with a selection of LPs to choose from) and other vintage accessories, with modern conveniences tucked out of sight – wifi, flat screen televisions and iPod docks. While the rooms are quaint and stylish (and surprisingly affordable), it is the club and rooftop pool that are undoubtedly the main attractions. While the Damien Hirst art, luxury heated pool and trendy bar are usually only open to members and friends, guests of the hotel have a free pass into the action – and in a city as achingly cool as Berlin, that kind of access is truly priceless.
Rooms start at 104 Euros per night
Located at Torstr. 1 near U train station Rosa-Luxemburg Platz


 +++Don’t forget to check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Berlin!+++

 

Written by Jessica O’Neill

berlin christmas

Christmas Markets in Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

 From Nostalgic to Organic: Christmas Markets in Berlin

Looking for Christmas markets in Berlin? Glühwein (mulled wine – yes drinking in public is legal in Germany!), Bratwurst and roasted almonds – that’s the typical smell of a German Christmas market. The more Northern in Germany you are, the earlier dusk comes and a German Christmas Market is most beautiful in the evening.  As Germany is the country of Christmas markets, Berlin is the capital. VisitBerlin, the tourism marketing company, lists 60 markets, from the small one in the neighborhood to prominent fairs in the city center or in one of the many beautiful palaces. There’s one for everyone. In general, Berlin Christmas markets are open until 8pm, and many close on December 23rd. As Christmas Eve, December 24, is the main holiday of the season in Germany, some of the markets will be closed that day, some open after the Christmas holidays for a few more days. You might also like to visit the more alternative Christmas markets. Here is some helpful overview of Berlin Christmas markets.

Berlin Christmas markets

The overview at Central Station

The Berlin visitor arriving by train can start his or her Christmas market rally right away: The square in front of Berlin Central Station is a cross-section of all Berlin markets: design, organic, traditional etc. And choir music on Sundays. Start you Berlin visit with a Glühwein and some sweets before you even reach your accommodation.

 

In the Center of Old Berlin: Weihnachtsmarkt am Opernpalais

Not too big and very beautiful: the nostalgic market on the “Schlossplatz”, next to the site of the reconstruction of the City Palace (another construction site blocks the traditional site at the “Opernpalais” nearby). Watch the craftsmen at work and buy their products.  Or check out the storytellers and fortunetellers. Not to mention all the traditional German winter food and drinks.

The most central one: “Weihnachtsmarkt am Alex”

At Alexanderplatz you find the regular, traditional Christmas market with many stands where you can buy Christmas gifts, Glühwein, snacks like Bratwurst or potato dumplings and sweets. Admire the XXL Ore Mountain carvings like a huge pyramid (a nativity scene in many tapered floors that turns like a carousel). And party with Nikolaus (Santa)in his Party Hut.

 

For the Nostalgic:  “Berliner Weihnachtszeit”

This market with traditional arts & crafts stands, and ice rink and a huge Ferris wheel is situated between the TV tower and the Medieval Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church).  For the nostalgic they offer historic fun rides, some about 100 years old. And listen to the iconic Berlin organ grinder.

 

The Big Fairground: “Wintertraum am Alexa”

Between Alexanderplatz and the S-Bahn station Jannowitzbrücke is the huge market for kids of all ages. Enjoy the fun rides, but do it before you indulge in roasted almonds, German Bratwurst, mulled wine (“Glühwein”) and sweets.

 

Upscale: Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt

On Berlin’s most beautiful square, historic Gendarmenmarkt, you find “Christmas Magic”, an exclusive selection of arts and crafts, drinks and food from the fine restaurants nearby. The stands are in white tents decorated with Moravian stars and there is classical music for entertainment. The market charges EUR 1.00 admission. The New Year’s Eve event is EUR 12.00.

 

For the environmental sensitive: “Umwelt- und Weihnachtsmark in der Sophienstraße”

Behind the famous Hackesche Höfe is the Sophienstraße. Here you find a Christmas market about ecologic products and environmental activism. Get informed and enjoy ethical products but also music, circus and Santa Claus.

 

Let it snow: Winterwonderland at Potsdamer Platz

At Potsdamer Platz, the motto isn’t Christmas but winter: a snow-tubing mountain and an ice rink where coaches help little kids to skate and look for posssible olympic athletes are in the center of the market. What else? Glühwein, Bratwurst, roasted almonds.

 

 In the Sony Center: “Fabelhafte Weihnachten”

A contrast to the more sportive Winterwonderland offers the Sony Center nearby: Get lost in the magic of elves and high tech light shows under the tent-like roof. And of course, food and drinks – magic potion?

 

In the City West: “Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt an der Gedächtniskirche”

Go to the center of the old West Berlin, near S-Bahn Bahnhof Zoo and you find a large traditional Christmas market. The organizers claim they have the biggest lighting in Berlin and they don’t take any chances: The lighting and decorations are done by a professional artist. Children can pet live animals , grown-ups  have the choice among 10 varieties of Glühwein. As the market lasts until 01/04/2015, there will be a New Year’s Eve fireworks. The market is accessible.

 

 International and Baroque: “Weihnachtsmarkt vor dem Schloss Charlottenburg”

Not exactly in Berlin’s center, but with the most beautiful scenery possible: the Christmas market at Charlottenburg Palace. The vendors come from all over Germany and some European countries like Hungary or the Netherlands.  Enjoy the international food and music. A special highlight: musicians from Belarus and Ukraine. On Saturdays after 4:30 pm there is an admission of EUR 3.00.

+++Check out our self-guided tours of Berlin, so you can walk off the many sweets and treats. +++

Berlin Spreepark banner

Spreepark Berlin

Posted by & filed under Berlin.

Every now and then, a bizarre and wonderful attraction lies just off the beaten track, seemingly existing only to beckon to the traveler who has seen it all. Berlin’s Spreepark is just that attraction – a massive, surreal amusement park opened in 1969 and abandoned in 2002. Famous amongst urban exploration aficionados and purveyors of so-called ‘ruin porn,’ Spreepark may not be open to the public, but that doesn’t stop thousands of visitors per year from illegally burrowing under or climbing over fences.

Built over three decades and looking like the hallucinogenic hodgepodge of the weirder elements of each, Spreepark was once a wonderland for East German children keen on whimsical topiary, English-themed gardens and crazy amusement park rides. Now it only attracts adults (perhaps all kids at heart?) who want to experience the surreal sights of crumbling rollercoasters, disheveled carnival games and a massive disintegrating Ferris Wheel (that still works!).

The Park, the only one of its kind in East Germany, was built as the Kulturpark Planterwald in 1969, sold to a private investor after the fall of communism in 1989 and renamed after the adjacent River Spree. However, it seems that no one checked new owner Norbert Witte’s background too carefully. In addition to running an alleged cocaine-smuggling ring out of the park, he drove Spreepark into financial insolvency and decamped to Lima with six of the park’s best-loved rides (his son still remains in prison for his involvement in the crimes). Spreepark has remained out of operation ever since, a rusting monument to eccentricity on the fringes of the city.

Of course, it is precisely this abandonment that has made it a top-rated tourist attraction for those interested in strange places. Some of the most-photographed sites inside include the rollercoaster (its mouth an iconic angry cat-like creature), dozens of toppled dinosaurs and a log flume ride overgrown with branches and leaves. A popular photo opportunity is to seat oneself in an old bumper car, the brightly coloured mid-century auto looking out of place in the overgrown grass of the grounds.

But alas, it seems that an unauthorized visit to this delightfully weird amusement park has recently gotten a lot harder. As of March 2014, the city of Berlin purchased the ramshackle site, and they have increased security and erected a taller fence. This has not stopped brave souls from continuing to enter illegally, and many report that the guards are tolerant of this so long as trespassers are discreet whilst inside the park. A fire in September 2014 caused minor damage, and regularly scheduled tours have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

If you love strange, offbeat places that only the most daring tourists visit, a visit to Spreepark might be for you. While we can’t recommend that you should scale the fence and enter the site, some of the rides are visible from outside of the fence and a walk along the river nearby is nearly as magical as entering the grounds. Spreepark is a weird and wonderful part of Berlin’s communist past, and a must (or a must-try) for any fan of urban decay and abandoned architecture.

Don’t worry, we don’t want you to climb fences – you can find more information and photos of the Spreepark on this blog. If you are looking for a little bit of thrill, check out our blog on Berlin bunker tours.

 Written by Jessica O’Neill

How to Get from Newark Airport to Manhattan

How to Avoid Jet Lag

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City, Berlin, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, London, Miami, New Orleans, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC.

Many of our tour guests who travel from afar or from overseas have trouble to adjust to the new time difference in their destination city. Here are some tips on how to avoid jet lag.

When you travel to another time zone, your internal clock is off – that’s what you call jet lag. Usually getting over jet lag should take 3-4 days depending on how far you have traveled from. Flying eastwards will make it a bit harder to adjust to the new time zone, then when you are flying westwards. That is because our body accepts it better if you are staying up a little later, then having to go to bed much earlier than usual. In addition, if you are used to getting up rather early, flying eastwards is a little bit easier than for people who generally stay up late. And vice versa, if you are a night owl, you will have less trouble adjusting, if you were traveling westwards.

How can I avoid  jet lag or at least minimize it?

  • Start to adjust your internal clock several days before you fly, by staying up later (if traveling westwards) or getting to bed earlier (if travelling eastwards).
  • Once you are in the plane, act like you are in your destination time zone already e.g. change your clock, take a nap, eat moderately or skip a meal and avoid alcohol.
  • Be healthy and well rested. The more you rest before your big travel, the easier it will be to adjust to your new time zone.
  • If you are travelling overseas, on the day of your flight, try to sleep in or sleep as long as you can. This goes for either direction, as you will likely skip a night travelling eastwards, or you will have to stay up much longer when you arrive travelling westwards.
  • Bring a neck pillow and nap on the plane. Even if you don’t fall asleep into a deep slumber, your body will thank you later for each little 20 minute nap you do on the plane.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s best to purchase a bottle of water at the airport (after you are through security), so you don’t have to get the stewardess attention every time.
  • Once you arrive, don’t nap more than 30 minutes or go to bed immediately if it’s not bedtime yet. Stay up till at least 9 pm. This discipline on your first day of arrival, will get you over jetlag much faster.

Other things to consider when travelling to different time zones and jet lag:

When flying westwards, e.g. from Europe to New York, or from Washington DC to San Francisco: Don’t make any late evening plans the first couple of nights.  You might think you are up to it, but your body will tell you otherwise. If you are booking our walking tours, stick to the morning and daytime tours, and avoid the evening tours.

When flying eastwards, e.g. from California to New York, or from Boston to London: Don’t make any morning plans the first couple of days.  Instead plan more things to do in the afternoon and evenings. If you are booking our walking tours, avoid the early 10 am tours, and go for the afternoon or evening tours.

+++We hope you have safe and enjoyable travels without much jet lag and we look forward to having you on our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours soon.+++