Time can be a precious commodity when it comes to travelling, particularly when you are limited to just a few days in an incredible city, and even more so when that city just so happens to be one of the world’s best in Berlin. The German capital is a cultural and historical mecca for travellers and backpackers alike, offering a widespread range of activities, sights, smells and sounds.
With so many options it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but fear not NEXT City Tours is here to help. Fortunately, we are able to provide a local insight into the city thanks to both our Berlin free walking tours and our knowledgeable guides. With that in mind, bid a warm Guten Tag to Lexi Rummel and Alan Hamilton, two of our tour guides hailing from the USA and Northern Ireland respectively, and both firmly converted Berliners, who are happy to divulge their secrets.
Oh it definitely has to be the Strand Bar during the summer. Sitting on the river bank, facing the very impressive and beautiful Museum Island, with the sun sitting in the background. It really is absolutely perfect.
Alan - I don’t really have a favourite spot quite yet (Editor's note - there's too many to choose from)
. I like the hustle and bustle of places like Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz, but I also like the more relaxed spots like the Tiergarten and Templehof Airport.
Best tips for Berlin newbies?
Alan - Why yes, you should definitely check out our FREE walking tour departing from Lustgarten every day at 11 am! Shameless plug out of the way, I’d recommend checking out the Tempelhof airport. There’s something really fascinating about being able to walk down a runway that only stopped operating less than ten years ago.
Lexi - The Allied Museum! This is a hidden gem, quite literally as it is hidden in the residential area of Dahlem in West Berlin. Part of the permanent exhibition is an old US Military cinema so that was really cool and inside it gets better. The Allied Museum takes a closer look at French, British, and American roles at the end of World War II until approximately 1990.
Alan - I definitely recommend checking out the Schleusenkrug beer garden. Nestled at the far end of the Tiergarten near the zoo, it is a lovely spot to grab a few beers, and the schnitzel they serve is unbelievable.
If you're in Berlin for more than two days then explore the outskirts of the city. Parks, lakes and a whole lot of history await you with a C-extension ticket on the train.
I’m a Mitte man myself. I was born and raised 10 miles from Belfast, and I always loved being in the city. There's something so great about the way Mitte is non-stop, there's always a good place to grab a bite to eat with a friend, a coffee with a colleague, or even a wine with a girl. I’m sure that when I’m older, married and have kids, being near a city centre will be the last thing on my mind, but for now, I love it.
Lexi - That's too hard! I love Berlin because I can't choose. Many Berliners and expats have strong opinions about the best district but I'm opposite. Every district has something different, making Berlin a city for everyone.
Source: Instagram - eatinginberlin
It has to be W-Der Imbiss
. I stumbled upon this restaurant near Rosenthaler Platz and I try to go back as often as possible. They serve amazing naan pizzas! The menu is very fresh and vegetarian. It's a great place to go if you're with a group and can't quite decide what you fancy.
Alan - I’m going to go a bit closer to home for this one and choose the Oscar Wilde Irish pub on Friedrichstraße. Fantastic food, great drink and always sports on the TV, it has your typical Irish atmosphere.
Source: Instagram - nadia_on_the_bright_side
Lexi - Villa Neukölln
. It has amazing drinks, great service, and an amazing theatre in the back that often has live music or some quirky event on. A lot more space than you will usually find in Berlin bars.
Alan - I’ve
recently been introduced to Kptn A. Müller
, simply referred to as Captain. Located on Simon Dach Straße in Friedrichshain,
they usually play some alternative music, and it is a nice relaxed atmosphere with some comfy sofas and even a fußball table.
Why tour guiding?
Source: Dom Bryant
Lexi - Berlin has such a rich history - the Kaisers, World War II and the Cold War for example. It's what captivated me when I first visited and a major reason of why I moved back. I wanted to share this history with other travellers, especially those that are not so familiar with Berlin. I love guiding because I get to meet people from all over the world and hopefully make their trip here, even more, memorable
Alan - The history of Berlin is obviously one main reason. I love learning new things, especially about the Third Reich and Cold War, and sharing that with other people is great. But the other big reason is that during my travels last summer I did a lot of these free walking tours, and on one tour in Berlin I met three lovely and friendly girls from Scotland and Canada.
After the tour, we went for drinks and through them I met another two Canadians. I then visited Scotland last Christmas to hang out with two of the girls at the Edinburgh Christmas markets, and just a few months ago one of the Canadians hooked me up with his cousin when she was visiting Berlin. We still all keep in touch with the occasional message or Snapchat. Before this, I never knew that meeting new people and making friends was so easy, and since then I wanted to give back and hopefully make some other people a couple of new friendships.
Have you got any secret Berlin recommendations? Leave a comment below with your suggestions.
Written by Dom Bryant and with special thanks to NEXT's free walking tour guides, Lexi Rummel and Alan Hamilton.