Ok so first off, I apologise for the delay in this write-up! I went to Berlin at the end of May (29th May - 2nd June) and since returning have been swamped with work (conferences, paper writing and thesis mostly).
We booked Berlin in April using LastMinute.com because none of us could be bothered to actually source anything properly so we decided to go for the lazy option. Flights return from London City and a 4 night stay at TYP Berlin, fairly close to the centre (close enough for us anyway). We booked because we wanted to get away from the UK for a week, and I've always wanted to see Berlin for the history so it seemed like a good choice.
We flew out on Monday 29th May from London City, having endured bank holiday trains on Great Western Railway to London (named 'Great Western' solely because there is no other service to compete with...) and left behind ok weather to some rather good temperatures in Berlin, about mid 20s on landing around 4pm (their time). We took a taxi to the hotel and checked in before heading out to dinner/have a wander.
Something I have somehow become very adept at is an ability to find the nearest McDonald's in a foreign land without really trying. Sure enough, after about 5 minutes of walking from the hotel, we found the large train station with multiple lines, but also saw the McDonald's sign. So, first night in Berlin we opted to stick with what we knew and had a McDonald's dinner.
We were about to return to the hotel when I looked out across the concourse of the station and saw, in the distance, the top of a dome that I vaguely recognised but couldn't quite place. The others were up for a bit of a wander (it was about 8pm, still very light) so we headed over there to find the Reichstag building. One monument crossed off the list already! While there we saw an advertisement for a light showing of German history that started at 10pm, so we went and had a drink on the river before going to sit on the steps outside the Bundestag building. The half hour light show was very good, and detailed German democracy from the late 1800's to present day, showing the impact of both wars, the rise of Hitler, the splitting of Germany and its reunification. There was a decent crowd for it as well and had 2 showings per night as a result.
After this we returned to the hotel for the night.
The next day we decided to go and see some landmarks of Berlin, which included:
- The Reichstag building (again)
- The Brandenburg gate
- Memorial to war victims
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Spy museum
We walked everywhere (save money on public transport) so we then finished the day at the Berlin mall for dinner and a bit of a sit down before returning to the hotel.
The third day (Wednesday 31st May) we went to the Anne Frank Centre and the rebuilding of the royal palace and found some parts of the Berlin Wall near the hotel, so another day of high walking (~20km) before we went to the Oscar Wilde pub for the night.
Our fourth and final full day in Berlin was spent following more of the Berlin Wall before ending up at the East German DDR museum which contained a lot of DDR history and items, including a simulation of driving a Lada (would recommend). We then went to the Berlin Dungeons before everyone went back to the hotel. I decided to go back and watch the Light Show again before going to the pub for the final night.
The final day was spent walking to the airport (~10km) with our bags, cause we'd run out of cash for a taxi so opted to walk back and see the quieter side of Berlin with the residences. Having enjoyed high 20's temperatures for the week, we landed back in London City to a thunderstorm before enduring another Great Western Railway trip back home.
All in all, a decent trip and a lot of walking (according to my phone app I racked up just under 100km that week) to see a city full of history. I imagine we only scratched the surface of what was available to do by staying in the centre, but there's plenty of time for a second trip yet. Of everything, I'd recommend the DDR museum and the Light Show (which is on until October I think), both very good experiences (the latter is free as well which is even better). The spy museum was good but you do need to spend 2-3 hours to really take in all the exhibits and history of it.