What to Do in Berlin in 2 Days
I love Berlin and this was my third trip to this grittily artsy city, still emerging from the everything, all these years after 1989. 1989! I still remember my German aunt, married to my American uncle, convinced that the world was going to end the night the wall came down.
I went to Berlin for the first time in 1993. What I remember most about that visit is the massive cranes, hovering above the rooftops. They were everywhere.
This time around, I met up with my friend Karen. We got our MBAs together at the University of Chicago back in 2004. She lives in Geneva now with her husband and two kids, but she had a weekend free and asked me if I knew what to do in Berlin in 2 days. I told her I didn’t really know but that I wanted to find out! So we made plans to meet up.
The German language was what had brought us together in the first place. I had studied at the Uni Innsbruck in Austria many years ago. (20 years ago?How did that happen?) She, Freiburg. Not that speaking German matters anymore in Berlin. Everyone, and I mean everyone, speaks English. And so much better than I do German, despite my many years of superintensiv Deutsch.
It was hot when we visited. So hot. 100 degrees Fahrenheit, plus some. Words cannot explain. So don’t got to Berlin when it’s hot. Most restaurants don’t have air conditioning, and public transport doesn’t either. But also remember that I am American and I’m sensitive to a lack of AC.
But go to Berlin for all the other reasons. This was the Paris of the East then. This is the City of the East now. This is a big city, a large city…a London, a New York. The public transport is awesome and amazing and efficient. The city is massive and sprawling and beautiful. Everything is gorgeous. Berlin is gorgeous. Gorgeous and efficient! I want to live there. I think I might live there.
So if you too are wondering what to do in Berlin in 2 days, here are our suggestions…
Day 1 in Berlin…
Start your first day in Berlin with this good value walking tour and get your bearings. But careful…taking a walking tour of Berlin when it is 100 degrees Fahrenheit out like we did is not a wise idea. We loved our tour guide Philippa (a Brit expat) who took us all over the city, from the Berlin Wall to Unter den Linden and then onto the Brandenburg Gate. We also stopped in front of the rebuilt Reichstag and the Holocaust Memorial and heard the amazing stories of Cold War Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie. This was a really great, comprehensive tour of the city.
Have Lunch at Schwarzwaldstube in Mitte
This is simple, hearty delicious German food served in an environment somewhat akin to your elderly aunt’s front room. I loved it here and could have sat there forever, watching the people go by. Very relaxed, very perfect. (And yes, it is sort of funny that we went all the way to Berlin to eat food from the Black Forest but we didn’t really care about that.) Don’t fill up too much because there’s more food to come today…
Take a break for a few hours and then get ready for your food and street art tour of Kreuzberg. I am a huge fan of Urban Adventures, the tour provider. You’ll get a chance to experience Berlin’s multicultural food scene and taste Berlin staples like currywurst and doner kebabs while you discover Kreuzbergian street art and hear stories about Kreuzberg’s wild past and present.
Have Dinner in Friedrichshein
After taking a break after your street art tour, head over to Friedrichshein for dinner. Check out Alarabi, a Lebanese restaurant. Friedrichshein is rocking late at night so enjoy the vibe along with some delicious Lebanese wine. Alarabi is a nondescript place on a street crowded with restaurants. You will enjoy the quality, the value and overall, the taste. We had a great time here which just goes to show you…don’t judge by appearance alone. After dinner, check out some of the other bars in Friedrichshein! This is a great neighborhood to explore if you are wondering what to do in Berlin in 2 days.
Day 2 in Berlin…
Start your morning by finding your way to the DDR Museum, which is dedicated to life in East Germany before the wall came down. If you like old-school branding, this is the place for you. The museum also gives you a good sense of the surveillance state and how people lived and shopped. I loved it here and it only took us about an hour to absorb everything. After the DDR Museum, you will be right on Museum Insel so take your pick of visiting the Berlinerdom (the cathedral), the Altes Musuem (Greek & Roman), the Neues Museum (Egyptian), or the German Historical Museum. Honestly, you could spend all day here, there’s so much to see!
Have a Late Lunch in Mitte
Whenever you are ready, head over to the lovely Murat La Barba in Mitte: for some excellent Italian cuisine. I had a huge heaping plate of pork medallions and delicious mushrooms, all washed down with some lovely Italian rose. I liked the simplicity of the space and the friendliness of the staff and would gladly eat here again and again.
Check out Markthalle Neun
After lunch, do some window shopping in Mitte and then head over to Markthalle Neun, a really nice food market in Kreuzberg. Check out the great beers at Heidenpeters and have some delicious snacks from the many vendors. The only downside is a lack of seating. Be ready to stand, a lot. (Which is a German thing. They love the tall tables.) Check the opening days and hours before you go as this seems to be only a Thursday/Friday/Saturday thing. Thursday night, in particular, is the big night so if your’e in town on a Thursday night, this is a MUST.
Enjoy the Wine and Food at Ottorink Wine Bar
Ottorink Wine Bar in Kreuzberg is a great place to have dinner and experience German wines. While we were there, we asked the barman how old he was when the Berlin Wall fell and he shared his amazing stories of the day. We liked it so much here that we went back to our hotel to cool off for a few hours and then came back for dinner.
Seriously, guys, I had such a great time in Berlin even though it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine how much fun I would have had if it were cooler! It is a great city and one I can easily see myself living in. Enjoy your time here!