Hello to all of my friends from the sunny side of the Cloud!
During this holiday season, I am drawn to Berlin, the most welcoming capital in the world. Berlin, with its Christmas Markets, is the perfect setting to gain holiday cheer! A few blogs ago, I wrote about the Christmas Market in Vienna. Christmas Markets never fail to put me into a festive spirit!
Berlin is a modern capital of a unified Germany but it has a long history of power. The “official” foundation year of Berlin is 1237 but Spandau, a section of Berlin, was mentioned in documents in 1197 and Kopenick in 1209. Berlin has been a capital of its region or the country for nearly 700 years. Today, it is the second largest city in Europe with 5.2 Million in the metropolitan area. Only London is larger than Berlin and so Berlin will be the largest city in the European Union following England’s “Brexit”.
There is so much to see and do in Berlin all year round, but here are my favourites for the Christmas season:
Berlin Christmas Markets are full of festive fun!
I recommend a leisurely stroll looking at festive arts and crafts while you sip Gluhwein (a mulled red wine) and eat a currywurst or bratwurst. By the way, it’s hard to recommend one of the markets over another but the one at Gendarmenmarkt is the most popular even though I like the one on Potsdamer Platz the best.
During the winter season, I always head to Museum Island to view its incredible collections. There are currently five museums on the Island; the Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Neues Museum (New Museum), the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. In 2020, the delayed Humbolt Forum is scheduled to open.
Here’s a pro-tip: You can purchase a discount ticket to see all of the museums over multiple days. I’d see 1-2 a day over several days so you don’t catch “Museum Burnout”.
I also enjoy window shopping on Kurfurstendamm and Schlosstrasse at Christmastime. Increasingly, the shops are competing against online outlets and offer great sales in a fun and festive atmosphere.
The Berlinale is an outdoor film festival
- The Brandenburg Gate – this historic monument is iconic and represents Berlin. It is always a good time to visit!
- The Reichstag – this is the seat of government but it is also a monument to struggles and bravery.
The Brandenburg Gate is a Berlin “must-see”!
- The Berlin Zoo – this exciting venue is also a centre for research into conservation and environmental sustainability
- The Tiergarten – this fabulous park is great for strolling at any time of the year. I love to watch the different seasons at this beautiful venue.
Here’s another pro-tip: Berlin has a fabulous marathon that has some of the fastest times of any location in the world. It is great for running because of its weather, running paths and flatness. In fact, the Tiergarten is one of my favourite places to run in the entire world!
The Tiergarten: good for running and hunting!
The public transportation system includes the S-Bahn (surface trains), the U-Bahn (underground trains), trams and buses. Ride-sharing services are very prevalent and taxis are refreshingly inexpensive compared to other European cities.
Hotels in Berlin offer excellent service and are very reasonably priced. My favourite is the Grand Hyatt which combines excellent facilities and service with an environmentally conscious operation. The Bikini Hotel is another favourite which has excellent service and style. The Hotel Adlon Kempenski Berlin is the most iconic hotel in Berlin with its location right next to the Brandenburg Gate. Finally, the Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt is right across from the French Cathedral and in the midst of the downtown shopping district.
Berlin has all sorts of foods to fit any diet and desire but here are a few of my favourites. I’m trying to reduce my consumption of beef but two of my favourite steak restaurants are in Berlin: Grill Royal is right on the river and offers excellent food and service with a great wine list, and Wilson’s in the Crowne Plaza Hotel has excellent prime rib. The Refugium in the basement of the French Cathedral offers fantastic food in a unique and charming venue. Finally, Tulus Lotrek is a quirky and fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant where the proprietor often visits the table to encourage diners to drink more alcohol!
Enjoy hanging out on the patio at the Monkey Bar!
Berlin is the “Capital of Cool” at any time of the year and I hope you visit and enjoy one of my favourite cities!