Berlin is the place to be if you’re an arty, hip, vegan.
But even if you’re none of those things (like me), odds are you’re still going to fall in love with this colourful, vibrant city. We got to experience two sides of it during our visit – the quiet suburban neighbourhood, with blocky apartments and all – and the edgy eastern area. I think that one of the first sights we laid eyes on in Berlin sums up the city nicely: a skate park, bike trail and community garden, all slotted in tightly alongside a railway track.
Best of all, Berlin is ridiculously affordable in comparison to some other European cities (cough Munich cough). Our arty hostel cost 18 euros a bed, for example, and the awesome soup cafe down the road clocked in at under 5 euros a meal. Just walking around provides free entertainment in spades – my favourite surprise sights included a random abandoned-looking circus and a dodgy park where we napped in the sun and observed covert drug deals being done from afar.
Seriously, though, there are tons of frugal ways to enjoy yourself in Berlin. My recommendations:
Visit the Brandenburg Tor at night (free)
This imposing gate is impressive at any time of day, but it takes on an ethereal glow when lit up in the dark. Go, and thank me later.
It started raining on us about halfway there, but instead of turning back, we bought an umbrella from the nearest shop and forged on (which later served us equally well in the sweltering heat of Venice and Athens). Amidst the wind and wet, the Brandenburg Tor lit up the night like a beacon at the end of the road – a sight for sore eyes on our first night in Germany.
Buy strawberries from a street stand (cheap)
I’ve been horribly spoiled by European produce. This continent has shown me the light, with the sweetest berries and tomatoes I ever did taste, and in comparison, the stuff we get at home doesn’t even register. Buy a carton of strawberries from a street vendor, devour, and hold back tears of ecstasy. The fruit quite literally melts off the stem and drenches your mouth with its goodness. Once you start, you can’t stop.
Eat at Burgermeister (cheap)
Plunked firmly underneath a U-bahn station, Burgermeister dishes up a range of hearty burgers for under 5 euros. The tables go fast, so you might have to perch on one of the plastic crates, or head across the road to one of the nearby public benches. Be prepared to wait a while, and try not to think about the fact that the place used to be a public restroom.
Check out the rock climbing scene (free/cheap, depending on whether you watch or partake)
If you’re in the area, wander through Cassopeia on the East Side – the old industrial compound houses some outdoor climbing areas next to a few grungy bars. Alternatively, spend an afternoon exploring the Volkspark, which caters to everyone from bikers to beach volleyballers to climbers.