In this installment of “Who Does It Better,” I’m talking about some of my favorite things that Berlin does better! Having been to a decent part of Southern Germany, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in to the northern, urban capital of Germany. While my expectations were fairly low (understandable after experiencing the beauty of Bavaria), Berlin was always a place I had wanted to visit and had heard such great things about. I completely fell in love with everything that Berlin had to offer and I’m excited to share some of my favorite things with you!
Berlin Does New Year’s Better
I had the pleasure of ringing in the start of 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Truthfully, I am not a big fan of New Year’s; I’ve always found it to be so crowded, expensive, and overrated. That being said, I had just lost my Grandmother two weeks prior and I was in a new city, a new country, and I was ready to say “Hello” to a new year.
Just like any other city around the world, Berlin welcomes in the New Year with big celebrations and lots of fireworks; I mean lots of fireworks. New Year’s in Berlin is a twenty-four hour celebration with fireworks going off well into January 2.
Similar to New York City, Berlin does one large fireworks show at midnight at the Brandenburg Gate. Folks line up early in the day to get the best viewing spot. But as I’ve just mentioned, I’m not particularly into the large crowds or waiting all day in the cold. Living in the greater NYC area, it’s a well-known fact that locals do not go anywhere near Times Square on New Year’s Eve (or ever, really) and I had the same feeling about watching the fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate.
So with that, a few of my new friends and I headed to a small, three story bar for a private party with plenty of booze, dancing, and fun casino games. It was a magical night with new friends. At midnight, we all ran outside to catch locals lighting fireworks in the streets. It was cold but I stayed outside a few extra minutes to soak it all in. It may not have been a crazy, wild New Year’s but as I’ve always said, it’s not where you are, but who you’re with that matters. And I was with the best people.
Berlin Does Museums Better
Perhaps museums aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Berlin. But they should be. Berlin is home to over 170 museums and art galleries, containing some of the most important collections in the world. In fact, five of the most famous can be found on the famous Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From history, to art, to culture, everyone can find a museum for them in Berlin. Many of the museums in Berlin are free and many others can be visited on one ticket. But arrive early; some of the most popular museums, such as the Pergamon, can have up to a two hour wait time.
Berlin Does Markets Better
*I want to preface this small section by letting you know that I visited Berlin just two weeks after the Berlin Christmas Market attack in December of 2016. In fact, our hotel was right next to the specific Christmas market where 12 people died and 56 others were injured. While visiting this famous Christmas market (there are markets all over the city during this time), I found thousands of flowers, candles, and notes everywhere honoring the victims. Beautiful memorials and tributes could be seen all around. The spirit and persistence of the people of Berlin was something to be admired.
Berlin is famous for its Christmas markets. These markets are small pop ups that happen all around the city from late November to early January. They are full of delicious food vendors, mulled wine, and merchandise and craft vendors. I highly recommend the markets to anyone looking to experience a lot of Berlin culture in a small place. Visitors are able to try countless different food options, experience some of the best drinks Berlin has to offer, and discover all kinds of fun crafts and Berlin specific merchandise. Many of the markets are free to walkthrough, while some cost just 1 euro to enter. While it may be cold outside, bundle up and take an afternoon to explore these magical little markets.
Berlin Does Street Art Better
Perhaps the most famous street art in Berlin comes from the Berlin Wall. Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall was created to separate East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. The west side Berlin Wall was always the perfect spot for artists and citizens alike to express their opinions and feelings during the turmoil of the Cold War. It was one of the largest canvases in the world although much of the artwork has never been claimed and remains anonymous. Although much of the wall has been removed, you can still see some of the famous street art in some places such as Potsdamer Platz.
While the Berlin Wall is most famously known for its graffiti art, my personal favorite example of famous Berlin street art comes from the Haus Schwarzenberg, a small, hidden courtyard that’s easy to miss but filled with colorful street art that’s constantly changing and evolving. There’s plenty of cafes and shopping just outside this courtyard which makes it a great way to spend an afternoon.
Berlin Does Wine Better
It’s no secret that I love wine. I have a Bottle King membership card that gets swiped regularly, I have a wine fridge, and a wine club subscription (both of the latter thanks to my wonderful significant other). I’m typically a white wine kind of gal but I’ll never pass up a glass of wine, even if it’s a red or a rose. My mom, also a lover of wine (she even takes college level courses on the subject), was thrilled when I told her I was going back to Germany. Germany, she said, has some of the best wines in the world. Given her expertise and knowledge, I trusted her, especially since when I first experienced Germany, I was only 12.
I first had gluehwein in the Christmas Market outside our hotel. I had no idea what I was buying. But the sign said “wein” and who was I to pass up wein? What I discovered was that gluehwein was a delicious, hot, spiced, mulled wine. And boy, was it amazing. For the next 17 days in Eastern Europe, I sought out every opportunity to drink gluehwein I possibly could (mulled wine is popular in many countries in Eastern Europe).
Since experiencing gluehwein in Germany, I have made it many times at home, especially during the cold months. But if I’m being honest, I still haven’t found a recipe that quite mimics the amazing mulled wine from the streets of Berlin. But don’t worry, I’ll keep searching. It’s research, right?
Berlin Does Hospitality Better
Perhaps the best thing that Berlin does is hospitality. Everyone I met and interacted with was so warm, friendly, and helpful. While Germans are known for being reserved (which I completely agree with), I have always found that if ever asked for help, they are willing to jump right in with assistance. Nothing illustrated the hospitality of the locals in Berlin than the employees at the Tikki Tanga bar. Not the most obvious choice for a drink, a small group of us stumbled upon this bar while looking for a nice place to grab a drink and hang out. This was the first place we came upon and truthfully, we decided on it ultimately because we were freezing and wanted to be warm. We would stay here for almost 5 hours getting to know each other and enjoying the delicious cocktails from the bar. The staff was incredibly attentive and welcoming. By the end of the night, we had racked up quite a bill, of which they only charged us 1/3 of. This is just one example of the generosity and kindness we experienced from the locals. I would absolutely recommend Berlin to anyone looking to experience an amazing, urban city.
Do you have a favorite tip about Berlin? Let me know!