Berlin East Side Gallery

48 hours in Berlin

Our mission (and we chose to accept it), to see as much of Berlin as humanly possible within 48 hours.

From Friday to Sunday morning, we soaked up history, art, sights, sausages and beer in Germany’s famous capital city. And while two days certainly isn’t enough time to see it all, we managed to experience a good slice of Berlin life.

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Getting Around

Berlin is fairly spread out, so if you’re a traveller on a short trip you’ll want to use the transport system as much as possible to save time getting from place to place.

The cheapest, and easiest, way to get around is with a Berlin WelcomeCard.

The WelcomeCard gives you access to all public transport within the A and B fare zones and is valid for 48 hours to five days. You can also add on zone C if you plan to travel further afield.

If you’re used to catching public transport in other major cities, the first thing you’ll notice in Berlin is that there are no ticket barriers at subway or train stations.

The city operates an ‘honesty’ ticketing system and passengers are expected to buy and validate tickets on the platform before they board.

The WelcomeCard also gives to discounted entry into many of the city’s top museums, galleries, attractions and restaurants.

Seeing It All

At nearly nine times the size of Paris, you have a lot of ground to cover if you want to see all of Berlin’s major sights.

With our short timeframe, and the preservation of our feet in mind, we opted for a unique and fun way to see the city – by bicycle!

Flat, with plenty of bike paths, parks and quiet road, Berlin is a cyclist dream. But we didn’t just want to pedal around aimlessly having no idea of the history and sights all around so we joined the crew at Fat Tire Bike Tours for some direction.

The tours leave daily, regardless of weather, so with a light snow falling we wrapped up for the elements and hit the road with our guide Rob.

Originally from the USA, Rob’s love and knowledge of Berlin was evident from the get go. Stopping every few minutes, he gave us an overview of the city’s history and monuments including the Berlin Wall, communism,

Checkpoint Charlie, the Prussian empire, the Nazi Regime, Holocaust memorials and Brandenburg Gate. Informative, and more often than not hilarious, Rob’s history lesson helped us understand the complexity of Berlin and Germany’s tempestuous past and gave us a true appreciation of the sights.

The 4.5 hour trip flew by, and despite cycling 6 miles in chilly winter weather we were feeling energised and ready to explore.

Fat Tire Bike Tours at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo by Nick Hunt

Fat Tire Bike Tours at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo by Nick Hunt

The original location of Checkpoint Charlie. Photo by Nick Hunt

The original location of Checkpoint Charlie. Photo by Nick Hunt 

The View

You could pay to go up the TV Tower, but you’ll find an equally impressive view that costs you nothing to enjoy at the Reichstag.

A trip to the top of the dome in the German parliament building is not just visually impressive, but educational.

An audio guide explains the view and history of the building as you wind your way around the circular ramp to the top.

To visit the Reichstag, guests must register online for a viewing time then on the day arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time for a security check. Remember to bring your passport.

The Reichstag under a blanket of snow. Photo by Nick Hunt

The Reichstag under a blanket of snow. Photo by Nick Hunt

Inside the Reichstag Dome. Photo by Nick Hunt

Inside the Reichstag Dome. Photo by Nick Hunt

Art & Culture

Berlin is home to over 180 museums and 440 galleries, so you don’t have to look far for a good dose of arts and culture. Five of the most significant museums are found on Museum Island (Museumsinsel), a UNESCO Heritage Site in the Mitte district, displaying the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, antiques, works by old and new European masters and an impressive collection of Islamic art.

Beyond the established collections you’ll find quirky additions to the culture scene, including the Currywurst Museum and Computerspielemuseum (videogames museum).

For us, our art fix came from an open space – the East Side Gallery.

The Kunstmeile (art mile in English) is located along the banks of the river Spree in Friedrichshain and is painted on is the longest remaining segment of Berlin Wall.

At just under a mile in length, the Wall is covered in about 100 works of art by 118 artists from 21 different countries. Completed in 1990, the works comment on the political upheaval of 1989 and 1990.

Over time, weather and vandalism have caused considerable damage to some of the works, but many have been restored.

The Gallery remains a powerful and beautiful monument to world peace and is a must-see on any visitor’s list.

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

Artwork at the East Side Gallery. Photo by Nick Hunt

History

For many travellers to Berlin, the main drawcard is the massive amount of history linked to the city.

From the horrors of National Socialism and the Soviet occupation in the East, it’s hard to match the terrors of the recent past with the modern and cosmopolitan city we see today.

Museums such as the German Historical Museum, the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum track Berlin’s and the country’s distant and recent history.

The sobering Topography of Terror  museum is located on the former site of the SS Office, Reich Security Head Office and Gestapo prison and highlights the crimes perpetrated by the State during the Nazi regime.

For history from a different perspective, the Berlin Underworlds Association takes you deep down into the city’s past with tours of Berlin’s most important underground structures.

For a thorough overview, the German Historical Museum is a good place to start as it takes you through two thousand years of German history.

Eating

German cuisine has always held a rather lacklustre reputation which is totally undeserved.

Germany’s taste buds have developed over the years and you’ll find a diverse range of international food all over Berlin. In fact, until quite recently it was difficult to find good traditional German cuisine in the city.

For classic German taste with a modern twist you can’t go past Das Meisterstueck. With its extensive beer and food list you’ll find everything from traditional bratwurst and sauerkraut to salmon sausages and Wasabi-cabbage.

We were the only non-German customers when we visited, but the staff spoken fluent English and were happy to go through the menu in detail.

I settled on the delicious Nürnberger Bratwürste with Sauerkraut and grated horseradish and was not disappointed. The mixed platter, apricot-rosemary-spread and freshly baked bread were also incredibly tasty.

When you’re on the go make sure you try a currywurst – a local favourite – plus the pastries and coffee are certainly moreish.

Nürnberger Bratwürste with Sauerkraut and grated horseradish at Das Meisterstueck. Photo by Kara Segedin

Nürnberger Bratwürste with Sauerkraut and grated horseradish at Das Meisterstueck. Photo by Kara Segedin

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Main image by Jumilla

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