How to Spend 48 Hours in Berlin, According to JJ Yulo
Berlin is a city with a rich, even nefarious, history. It’s also a city that was the HQ of the Nazis, one that was bombed to bits, separated in two different directions, and united. On the basis of that alone, it piques one’s curiosity. Nowadays, it’s got a cool artsy vibe, full of music, design, fashion, and food. Here’s a short weekend itinerary.
2:00 p.m. Story Of Berlin
After checking into your hotel (the Kempinski Hotel Bristol has big comfy rooms at a good price, as well as a nice little hotel bar. You’ll feel like you’re in a Jason Bourne flick!), come over to The Story Of Berlin to get a feel of the city’s history and quirks. This was a city that was bombed and rebuilt, and is now as vibrant as any world city—so much to learn here.
6:00 p.m. Currywurst and Beer
While not exactly like Markthalle Neun (arguably the most famous of the Berlin food markets), there is something about Arminiusmarkthalle. First of all, it’s a bit cozier, without the crush of people of Markthalle Neun, and with a lot of spaces to sit and enjoy. A beer is definitely in order here. Walk around and nosh on whatever catches your eye—have a currywurst (one of Germany’s top street food choices—a sausage, served with curried ketchup and fries), or some fish and chips, or a killer smoked brisket sandwich at Pig Nut, owned by an Alabama-born German opera singer who wants to spread US barbecue culture to the world. Now isn’t that a story to tell your friends?
9:00 a.m. Courtyard Coffee
One of the first things I look for in a new city I get to visit is coffee. The good stuff, of course: a properly pulled shot of espresso, or even a good pour over. Father Carpenter, found in a really pretty courtyard in Mitte (the center of things in Berlin, literally), serves delicious coffee—probably the best I tried in Germany—and does a pretty mean brunch, too, if you’re feeling peckish.
10:30 a.m. Museum Island
If anything, this can eat up your whole day, if you are so inclined. I can only take so much information, but a few hours here is pretty fun, educational, and relaxing, even, if you take your time. Museum Island features 5 museums dedicated to archaeology and art. Berlin’s most popular museum—and you will understand why why you go inside—is the Pergamon Museum. If only to see the magnificent Ishtar Gate, the price of admission is worth it.
4:00 p.m. Sartorial Stop
Berlin is most definitely a city of fashion. Boutiques galore along their shopping streets make sure you look sharp in any situation. One of the best is a men’s store called Truffelschwein in Mitte. Filipino artist Lyon Roque is one of its owners, and personally curates the merchandise from some of the finest small apparel makers from around Europe and America. A gent can kit himself out from head-to-toe here, including underswear, sleepwear, and time pieces. The beauty of the pieces of clothing are found in the little details, and is truly a reflection of the owner’s sartorial tastes.
5:30 p.m. Dussmans
Well, this place dubs itself the “Culture Department Store” and it ever right to do just that. Dussmans is a massive store with a load of books (yes, dear traveller, it has a very decent English book section), CDs (while it doesn’t quite come close to Berlin’s legendary vinyl specialist shops, the array of music on sale is quite good—start on local jazz and classical here), and other fun stuff, as well as a very cool looking café space. Visit here to get yourself hungry—nearby you can also walk to another Berlin landmark: Checkpoint Charlie.
8:00 p.m. Liebensmittel in Mitte
Start Saturday night in this cool German restaurant that used to be a little grocery. This is a great place to have German food which they do quite well using great ingredients. Begin with a salad (believe me—you’ll be eating greens whenever you can), or perhaps some fish, and go for a most excellente schnitzel—one of the house specialties in this bustling restaurant.
10:00 a.m. Hop On Hop Off
If you only had a few hours in Berlin, this is the thing to do. Get on this and go around ALL the major sights of Berlin. A ticket also gets you a pair of cheap headphones that you plug into a box in the seat to listen to audio guides. Undoubtedly one of the best ways for a tourist to get around the city. Like it says, you can hop off anytime you wish to explore further, and get on at the same spot. Well worth it! Get on the one in Alexanderplatz.
12:00 p.m. Trip to Jerusalem
One of the most moving experiences you will find anywhere, the Jewish Museum gives you a sense of the extraordinary history of the Jews—their conflicts, their culture, their people. You probably won’t expect it but at some point you will get drawn in more than you ever bargained for. Currently, as some exhibits are being refurbished, you can find “Welcome To Jerusalem”—as close as you can get there without flying out. And definitely don’t miss the basement floor where the architect Daniel Libeskind built a moving space revolving on topics such as the Jewish exile and exclusion, and the Holocaust. Their little café is a great place to quiet down and eat your emotions after taking all that in.
4:00 p.m. Rausch
They say chocolate is brain food (or am I inventing this fact?), but who cares: chocolate is known to make you happy and give you energy. Any chocolate lover should make a trip to Rausch. On the ground floor, you can buy as much chocolate as your luggage allowance will let you, with everything from bars to truffles to a woman’s shoe made of white chocolate. It’s in the second floor, though, that calm will kick in. Take a window seat (or reserve one, if you’re sure to visit!) and order up some cake (with chocolate, of course!) and coffee and just while away the time—a true luxury.
6:00 p.m. Bikini Berlin
Check out the newest Berlin styles in the very cool shops of Bikini Berlin, overlooking the Berlin Zoo. Last chance for retail therapy in your very short stay. Check out the locally designed sunnies from Mykita to add some German flair to your wardrobe!
9:00 p.m. Restauraton Sophien 11
Finally, you can park your butt here at Sophien 11 for a quaint German restaurant and pub experience. In my head, this is what a traditional German place would look like—full of knick knacks on the walls, and beers on every table. Do order the Eisbein—cured ham hock, tender and full of flavor, served with boiled potatoes and sauerkraut. It doesn’t look very pretty, but all that will be forgotten after your first bite. Wash down with the house beer, and reminisce about the last 48 hours before heading home.