Berlin is a city like no other. Blending an edgy, underground vibe with art, culture and a chilled out ambience, this city pulsates with an energy that you just have to experience to understand. If, like me, you’re passionate about travel (and when I say travel I mean the kind of travel that avoids the regular tourist trails), then Berlin is a fabulous place to explore. Are you forever searching for the hidden highlights that are less tourist-trodden than most? Do you want to go where the locals go and visit the places that the locals would really rather went unnoticed? If the answer is yes then let me offer you a few tips for when it comes to discovering the lesser-known gems Berlin has to offer.
You really should make this unique spot a priority on visit to Berlin. It’s a true treasure and one you would never usually find unless you had insider knowledge. This super cool venue today hosts a gallery and concert area, but was once a dental surgery! A modest and functional art space that shuns social media and instead thrives on word of mouth, West Germany attracts the hip, trendy local crowd, who often come to simply hang out. Events here include underground indie band gigs and alternative performance art. How do I find this place, I hear you say? Well, just look for a sticker-laden door and a sign that reads Schatz EV Schulaufgabenzirkel and then…follow your nose!
Head down to River Havel and you will be greeted with the romantic looking Peacock Island and its palace. On a sunny day when you just want to relax with a book, if you’re searching for a little tranquillity away from the buzz of the main city, head to this island with its lush grounds, fairy-tale castle and numerous charming peacocks. Brimming with history, the island has walks aplenty and lots of wildlife to keep you company along the way. To get here you need to take the S-Bahn to Wannsee and then take a bus and ferry. It’s worth it.
You have to get out of the city to enjoy this hidden natural gem, but if you really want to see another aspect of Berlin, then you must do it – and it’s only 19 miles away. Locals gather at this lake come rain, hail or shine and the quaint surrounding town is usually bustling with activity. The ideal place for walking, swimming and simply escaping from the busy-ness of life, Strausse is where the locals come to relax, unwind and get away for a few hours, or a few days. I just love the chilled out atmosphere, fresh air and the feeling that I’m a million miles from being a tourist.
Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände
It’s quite fascinating how this relic of what Berlin once was has become a cool, urban, open museum. Here, at the Tempelhof Railway yard, the exhibits are evidence of the bizarre relationship between nature and outdated technology. As natural elements both literally and metaphorically entwine their way around the abandoned relics and industrial remnants of World War II, you feel like you’ve entered a time warp. As you explore on foot you’ll encounter water towers, trains and railway ruins – all with their own secret history.
Wining, Dining and Snacking
Part and parcel of any city’s authentic soul is its food and drink, and Berlin has a host of fabulous restaurants and bars. Germany is famous for its beers and if you want to hang out with the locals and enjoy a brew or two, Eschenbräu is a local favourite. With incredible beer to suit every palate, as well as a great restaurant, this brewery has an open courtyard that makes whiling away summer evenings a very pleasant prospect.
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat but want to escape the throngs of ‘Tourist Menu’ followers, you really have to try La Soupe Poplaire. Exposed metal pipes and rough red brick walls create a chic, contemporary décor that befits the standard of fare from the kitchen. Chef Tim Raue (a famous name in the city) combines art and culinary innovation to create dishes that honour the real German comfort food.
Vegetarians will love Cookies Cream, a trendy vegetarian restaurant that’s tucked away but definitely well worth finding. Head to the Westin Hotel and along the service alley to discover this fabulous little spot.
If you’re looking for more of a café experience, the city has an abundance of options, but my favourite is Kranhaus Café. Housed in a nondescript brick building with a crane on its roof, this café blends in seamlessly with its surroundings – which some may describe as ‘underdeveloped’. Inside, though, it’s trendy, bright and welcoming and you can’t argue with the wonderful coffee and delectable cakes. This is a true off-the-beaten-track gem!
How to Get to Berlin
Berlin is a very popular destination for weekend city breakers and there are several flights leaving the UK for the city every day of the week. British Airways and Ryanair are the airlines of choice if you are looking to fly direct into Berlin Schönefeld, a flight that takes a little over an hour and a half.
I highly recommend booking your onward travel to your final destination with Shuttle Direct. Offering private or shared transfers that are reliable, comfortable and professional, Shuttle Direct are the go to service for the 40-minute transfer to the city centre. Pre-book in the UK and you can rest assured your onward travel is taken care of.
Where to Stay
Check in Hostel Berlin – This functional hostel in the buzzing Kreuzbery district of the city is clean, bright and non-smoking. The great location means that Check In Hostel Berlin attracts lots of travellers wanting to experience the city, and thanks to the common recreation room and kitchen area, you’ll have lots of opportunity to chat with them and share top tips.
You can choose between a dorm or private room and bedding is provided free of charge, which is real bonus if want to save packing space and leave your sleeping bag at home. Free Wi-Fi is a godsend for keeping in touch and regaling others with up-to-date tales of your travels.
Happy Go Lucky Hotel + Hostel – Located in Charlottenburg, this vibrant hostel has excellent transport links to all the major sights and even to some of the lesser-known sights detailed above. Rooms at the Happy Go Lucky Hotel + Hostel are bright and colourful and the staff are very friendly and informative. I think the buffet breakfast (at an additional charge) served between 7-11am every morning is a real bonus. You can then get straight off exploring without having to worry about where to eat first.
Ibis budget Berlin Kurfürstendamm – The fun rooms and funky lounge area at this hotel always make me smile. Colourful modern décor resonates throughout and the air-conditioned rooms are bright and spacious. This is the place to stay if you fancy a change from a hostel but still want to bump into like-minded travellers.
Free Wi-Fi is offered in all rooms and I love the fact that rooms have desks too; perfect if you like spreading out your travel journals, guidebooks and attraction leaflets you might pick up. Close to cafes, bars, excellent shops and good underground links, the ibis budget Berlin Kurfürstendamm offers a daily buffet breakfast and is high on my list of places to stay.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the go to transfer company when it comes to getting to and from any airport in Europe and North Africa. We’re proud of our reliable service and you can pre-book before you travel. Let us take care of your onward travel so you can concentrate on enjoying the start of your trip.