It’s very rare that I get to experience the same destination twice, unless it’s Vegas (thank you, travel industry, and your endless trade shows for that). Even more rare is it that I get to experience a city twice from two completely different perspectives. Before we say goodbye for the long holiday weekend, let me leave you with the two sides of Berlin.
Berlin on a Budget
Where to Stay: If you’re opting for the budget route, you can’t go wrong with Helter Skelter Hostel. It’s clean, cheap and centrally located in the Berlin Mitte district (close to the Brandenburg Gate, National Gallery, Friedrichstrasse and more).
See the Sights: Berlin is a city to meander. It’s flat. Very flat. So walking (or biking) is a must. There are plenty of tours that cater to whatever your needs may be. Fat Tire Bike Tours is an awesome way to see the city by bike. Young tour guides lead you around to the city’s most notable attractions (and throw a beer garden or two in there). You will hit the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Tiergarten, Babelplatz, the Holocaust Memorial, numerous remnants of the Wall, and more. For those of you who aren’t avid bikers, trust me, you will love this. I’m bicycle-challenged and I did just fine (aside from biking into a brick wall…another story for another time).
Dining: Street food is ubiquitous across all cultures, so why should Berlin be any different? If you’re looking to go cheap without sacrificing taste, hit up one of the many currywurst stands that can be found across the city. Currywurst is a Berlin specialty made of some kind of sausage with ketchup and curry powder. (It tastes especially good at 3 a.m. with a belly full of the local brew.)
Nightlife: Berlin has a nightlife unlike almost any other destination. The locals love to party, and do so in some obscure ways. On my own budget journey to Berlin I asked my Fat Tire tour guide what she recommended, and it led to a very epic evening, so you may want to start there. Be sure to check out Dr. Pong bar. Note: Berlin has one of the fastest turn-over rates of any city, so what is hot one month may be completely gone the next.
High Society Berlin
Where to Stay: If it’s luxury you crave, then it must be the Ritz-Carlton, Berlin. Right on Potsdamer Platz, the hotel is within walking distance to much of Berlin’s best sights. And it’s the Ritz-Carlton. Is there really more that needs to be said?
See the Sights: For something a little more high-end and customizable, look into Culture Trip, a tailor-made program that specializes in all things culture (think architecture, museums, galleries, food and more). Be sure to ask for Virginia Giordano, who is a fountain of useful information and tips.
Dining: Berlin is an epicurean playground, especially for the most discerning tastes. Check out Pauly Saal, a former Jewish girls’ school-turned-restaurant, which has quickly become one of the trendiest scenes in Berlin.
Nightlife: You know how I feel about the club scene. Pass, please. But I’m not here to judge those that love it, and if you love clubbing Berlin is the city for you. I won’t even begin to call myself an expert on Berlin’s clubs, but I hear that Cookies and WaterGate are two firmly established venues that seem to please the “bottle service” crowd. But again, you may need to consult someone with deeper pockets than myself for where the Berlin elite go to imbibe.