For those of you who haven’t seen on Instagram, this weekend I managed to sneak myself some time off and have a little pre-Christmas break in the wonderful city of Berlin. I have always wanted to visit Germany and decided to time my mini-break for when the Christmas Markets had opened to help get me into the festive spirit (not that I need any help!) The weekend consisted of plenty of sightseeing thrown in alongside lots of food, drink and laughter and I would highly recommend Berlin as a city break if anyone were looking for a Christmas getaway! So, here are a few notes about my favourite things to do and see in Berlin. We arrived at the Radisson Blu hotel, home to a 25m glass aquarium with over 1,500 tropical fish; the hotel was situated very close to the Christmas markets, and seeing that it was already early evening, we decided to jump straight into the festivities.
The entrance to my favourite of the markets, the Gendarmentmarkt.
Wow, the German Christmas Markets were everything I had imagined they’d be and more! As far as I could see were warm, twinkling lights with the most wonderful wooden huts filled to the brim with festive cheer. Stall holders selling the most unique handmade gifts; there were gorgeous leather bags, beautiful hand-painted baubles and stunning jewellery that made for a very special Christmas gift. It was fantastic to just wander through the markets, listening to Christmas carols with a warm glass of Gluhwein in tow, and it made for a very special experience that has certainly got me ready for Christmas. Of course, there were many stalls within the markets selling a wide array of different foods and the wonderful smells filled the air as you walked through; from German bratwurst to freshly made crepes there was certainly food for thought and I am not ashamed to say I sampled the majority of the foods… though I will be paying for it in the gym this week!
After spending Saturday evening surrounded by Christmas spirit at the markets, I was looking forward to a day of sightseeing on Sunday. One great thing about Berlin is that the majority of the sights are in walking distance from each other, meaning that although we were only there for a short period of time, we still managed to visit everything we had hoped to. Based on the location of our hotel, farthest from us was East Side Gallery which we decided to take the train to. East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery of murals painted on a stretch of remnants of the Berlin Wall, totalling up to over 1000m worth. From here, we decided to take the train back across the city to Checkpoint Charlie, one of the better-known crossing points of the Berlin Wall. Once we had reached Checkpoint Charlie, we were then able to walk to the next few sights on our list: Topography of Terror, Potsdamer Platz, (where I enjoyed some fantastic coffee), and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; something I have always wanted to have the opportunity to see – the memorial instills a feeling of uncertainty into those who visit it in order to represent how humanity had become fragmented; the memorial allows you to confront the topic in your own way and I found it to be very moving. Following the memorial, we headed to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building where we were lucky enough to have a tour to the top of the dome (these tours get fully booked very quickly so definitely something to plan in advance). It’s about 3km in total the walk between these sights so it is really do-able in one day – just make sure you wear comfy shoes!
East Side Gallery: a small section of the Berlin Wall
I made it my business to sample plenty of food and drink on my way round; I had a lovely coffee and cake in a cafe close to Potsdamer Platz, and on the Monday I had another delicious coffee in Father Carpenter – both were amazing and I would highly recommend them if you are ever in the area! I would also suggest searching out a typical German pub for evening meals – it really helps you to soak up the culture by dining in these places and the service is always fantastic. We had some time to spare on the Monday morning before our flight, so headed over to the Hackescher Markt which was just behind our hotel for a spot of shopping. There were loads of small independent shops and restaurants here, with many individual courtyards that were lovely to have a nosy around. I treated myself to a gorgeous leather handbag whilst shopping here… who said you couldn’t buy a Christmas gift for yourself?!
Fantastic coffee from Father Carpenter
Berlin is a fantastic city and I wouldn’t hesitate to return; I’ve attached some links throughout the articles where you can get some more information on all the fantastic places I was lucky enough to visit. There was more than enough to keep the whole family occupied and I can’t recommend the German Markets enough for getting even the Scrooges and Grinches amongst us feeling festive. What’s more, there is even a giant Lindt shop with more flavours than I can remember – I think HQ will be sampling some this week!
One of the wonderfully quaint courtyards of the Hackescher Markt