How can I explain what Berlin means to me? I first visited in April 2014 for Virtuoso's Symposium, returned for the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, in the summer of 2015 when I rented an apartment with all of my siblings, and again in summer 2018 when I was pregnant with Sophie. Somehow, Berlin helped me find myself when I was so lost, so alone, so confused. I fell hard, not in the romantic, beautiful way of many European capitals (though Berlin is much more beautiful and green than I expected), but for an energy that I have not felt anywhere else - Berlin is always in motion. For me, it almost felt like home right away. Plus, it's relatively cheap compared to other major European cities. I will always want to spend time in Berlin.
Berlin can be a little confusing to navigate at first. The best advice someone gave me was “Think of the neighborhoods as boroughs.” They are HUGE. There is a good public transportation system, but I end up taking a lot of cars. I also love bike riding through the Tiergarten (the city’s Central Park). Start your exploration in Mitte, with the Tiergarten, and the museums, and don’t miss areas like Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, and Charlottenburg.
My favorite hotel in Berlin is the Hotel am Steinplatz. It’s in the best location in Charlottenburg, a classic neighborhood in old West Berlin. I do like the Hotel Adlon Kempinski (where Michael Jackson dangled Blanket out of a window) and have stayed there. It’s probably the most iconic hotel in Berlin, but I’ve had issues with their obnoxious security guards - you can’t just wander in for a drink without intense questioning. I also really like Louisa’s Place on Kurfürstendamm (Berlin’s long main shopping street). We stayed in an enormous multi-room suite with a kitchen for several days, at around $150 a night.
Eat: Renger-Patzsch, Malafemmena for pizza, Koshary Lux
Bakeries & Coffee: Hutzelmann, Konditorei Buchwald, Weichardt-Brot, Zeit für Brot, Chapter One Coffee
Cafes: Cafe Liebling, Cafe Literaturhaus, Manstein, Cafe am Neuen See, Cafe Einstein Stammhaus, Cafe Anna Blume, Caffe Windback
See & Shop: Bikini Berlin, Rogacki Deli, KaDeWe food hall, Markthalle 9, Goldhahn & Sampson
Parks: Tiergarten, Tempelhofer Field, Gorlitzer Park in Kreuzberg
Zum Durnbrau - You have to stop at the Hofbrauhaus on a first visit to Munich, but this traditional beer hall and restaurant - just two minutes away - has all of the Bavarian charm without the elbow-to-elbow madness.
Brenner Grill - The classic spot I want to return to every time I'm in Munich. For the BEST minestrone soup, homemade pasta, and cheery ambiance - the space is housed in former stables and feels equally modern and historic.
Viktualienmarkt - Honighaus'l
Eisbach at the Englischer Garten
Seehaus im Englischer Garten
Kreutzkamm - Originally from Dresden, this classic coffee-cake spot has delicious treats. It's warm and nice, but not overly decorated.
Manufactum + Brot & Butter
Christmas Markets - Residenz, Middle Ages, Marienplatz
I have been lucky to spend quite a bit of time in Germany at Christmas. Nuremburg has one of the more famous Christmas markets and it's also just a charming German town.
Here are some tips:
Nuremburg (and Germany) is famous for Lebkuchen. I don't love it as it often tastes like cardboard. But if you're going to get it, get it from the supermarket on the main square - Norma-Rodi - all the lebkuchen is made from the same factories here, and you don't want to overpay in the market.
I think its important in Nuremburg to spend time with a guide, to understand the history and WWII sites. Almost all of the city was rebuilt after the bombings in the war. You can see Hitler's colosseum (creepy) and where the famous trails were held.
Here is the guide I used - he is fantastic:
Geschichte Fur Alle e. V.
Institut fur Regionalgeschichte
Cafe Lucas - great salads in Nuremburg
Barfusser Beer Cellar - a typical, huge German beer hall.
Bratwursthausle - We shared sausages and pretzels (they are hard, not soft - but good dipped in mustard) here with a random German biker named Klaus. If you don't want to stop here, you can get a "Little Mac" sandwich with sausages to go - you can't get this if you sit down.
There is an awesome outpost of Käthe Wohlfahrt in Nuremburg - the best Christmas shop in Germany, if not all of Europe. I always come back with a few ornaments and more from this shop!! Some guides will have a 10% code. It's touristy but really worth it and everything is really authentic and local.
In Passau, don't miss Cafe Simon in Passau!!!! Apple strudel=delicious. I didn't love the gingerbread though they're known for it.