Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Once a city characterised by its chaotic past and traumatic history, Berlin has risen from the scars of 20th century warfare and political manoeuvring to become a vibrant and dynamic cosmopolitan destination. A truly modern metropolis, the capital is a fascinating mixture of contemporary architecture, numerous art galleries and exhibitions, grandiose Prussian buildings, charming boutique cafés and shops, and fashionably edgy nightlife. Consequently the city is a magnet for the young and creative talents of the world, with people involved in industries like music, fashion, technology and film gravitating towards the cool East side districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Here the streets hum with the sounds of a million backroom sewing machines and recording studios, and the creative overspill is evident in the number of style mavericks to be found roaming the area.

Berlin Graffiti

Berlin Graffiti

East Side Gallery mural

East Side Gallery mural

 

Berlin manages to maintain a balance between the utilitarian blocks of its Soviet past with the shambolic encroachment of graffiti and modern constructions of glass, giving the city a unique feel that is a direct result of the numerous metamorphoses it has undergone over the decades. Whereas the suburbs of the city, like Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, are pioneers in terms of design and entertainment, the central parts of Berlin retain a more traditional atmosphere, particularly along the tourist must-see stretch of Unter den Linden. With the Brandenburg Gate at one end and the Reichstag at the other, this boulevard is like a walk through the city’s history, flanked by significant museums and galleries including the Berlin Guggenheim. Nearby, the towering skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz transport visitors back into the 21st century and act as a reminder of Berlin’s growth as a capitalist power and technological innovator. Along the seam of the old West and East divide can be found the occasional ruins of the Berlin Wall, aptly demonstrating the changes that Berlin has seen take place in our times, particularly at the East Side Gallery where the remaining Wall has been turned into a colourful series of graffiti murals.

Whatever your tastes or budget, Berlin’s liberal and avant-garde attitude to life accommodates everyone, meaning that it is no surprise that it is now the third most visited city in Europe. With one-off shops, amazing architecture, the best variety of cakes on the continent and a rich historical background, Berlin is the perfect urban destination for modern travellers.

River Spree

River Spree

Best Berlin Hotels

As you would expect from such a diverse and fashionable city, Berlin boasts a huge variety of hotels spanning the sublime to what some might say is the ridiculous! The thread running throughout however is a sense of fun, innovation and style, making it easy to find unique and memorable accommodation regardless of location or budget. Here we pick three of the best Berlin hotels for your city break.

1. The Circus Hotel and Circus Hostel

Situated in the central Mitte district of Berlin on Rosenthaler Platz, both the Circus Hotel and Hostel offer affordable and unique rooms that score highly for both comfort and aesthetics. Every room is bright and full of individual touches, from bizarre printed wallpaper to kooky models hanging off the walls, and firmly avoids the uniform trap of budget hotels whilst remaining welcoming to all. The location is fantastic, with the busy shopping streets around Hackescher Markt within walking distance and the U-bahn on your doorstep, and the ever-friendly staff can help you plan out your days with walking or bike tours, event tickets and general advice. Within the hotel building there is the Restaurant Fabisch, which serves contemporary cuisine and tasty cocktails, and in the neighbouring hostel annex the Circus Café provides quick snacks and great breakfasts. Goldman’s Bar is the perfect place to kick off your nights, with the graffiti slathered walls, cheap cocktails and live music mirroring the Berlin nightlife outside.

The popularity of the Circus Hotel is borne out in the fact that it was voted second best hotel in the whole of Germany by users of TripAdvisor, where it is consistently rated at 5 out of 5 stars.

2. Propeller Island City Lodge

If you like every element of your travels to be an ‘experience’, the properly bonkers Propeller Island City Lodge is definitely worth a visit. With each room the creative project of Berlin artist Lars Stroschen , you could find yourself in a flying or rotating bed, a Dali-esque upside down room, a room entirely covered in mirrors, sleeping in a coffin or in a nightmarish torture chamber style cell! This mid-price hotel is probably not to everyone’s tastes but for those who have a soft spot for the brilliantly bizarre it will prove a talking point for years to come. It is difficult not to form a fondness for an establishment that refers to itself as a ‘work of art’, ‘museum’ and ‘sculpture’ on its website, and the Propeller will prepare you admirably for the loopier excesses of Berlin creativity. Additionally, its location to the West of the city near the Kurfürstendamm leaves you well-placed for shopping and sightseeing.

The Propeller Island City Lodge currently has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

3. nhow Berlin

nhow Berlin exterior

nhow Berlin exterior

nhow Berlin art gallery

nhow Berlin art gallery

nhow presents itself as a ‘music and lifestyle hotel’, pitched firmly at creative types visiting the city and located along the banks of the River Spree near the East Side Gallery and the German headquarters of Universal Music. Sleek, shiny, and very, very, pink, the nhow is a modern design haven of amorphous plastic sculpture, soft neon lighting and iPod docks/WiFi connections galore, with unique extras like a recording studio and modern art gallery in-house. The cork-shaped bar serves a dazzling array of clever cocktails, the restaurant has items like  ‘bling bling salad’ and chips ‘dusted with 24 carat gold’ on the menu, and the rooms are a colourful and tongue in cheek tribute to minimalist decor. The distinctive building even has a huge mirrored block that juts out over the river and pulls off the difficult trick of elegant ostentation, and the endlessly polite and helpful staff go out of their way to make your stay the best it can be. nhow Berlin is slightly pricier than our other picks, but for chic that makes you smile it’s definitely worth it!

The nhow Berlin has been awarded 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

Flights to Berlin Airports

Berlin is served by 2 airports, Tegel and Schönefeld.

  1. Berlin Tegel Airport is the city’s main international airport, with over 15 million passengers passing through its terminals in 2010. It is the fourth busiest airport in the whole of Germany, although it is scheduled to close in June 2012 to make way for the opening of the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport.
    The airport is the hub for the airlines Air Berlin and Germania, as well as being a focus city for Lufthansa and handling traffic from a variety of other airlines, including British Airways. The majority of international arrivals and departures occur through Terminal A.
    Passengers arriving at Tegel Airport can connect to the city using BVG bus lines that take customers to the U-bahn and S-bahn. For example, the JetExpress TXL bus stops at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz in the city centre.
  2. Berlin Schönefeld Airport is the smaller of Berlin’s two international airports, transporting just 6.6 million passengers in 2010. It is further outside the city and has good transport links for East Berlin. Schönefeld is due to be turned into Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport next year in 2012.
    Today, the airport is used almost exclusively by Ryanair and easyJet, with Ryanair operating out of Terminal A and easyJet in control of the whole of Terminal B.
    Connections to the city centre are relatively straightforward from Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen station, which is a short 2 minute walk from the terminals and connects directly to the city’s S-bahn on both the S9 and S45 lines. Alternatively, BVG buses are available and it is around a 30 minute taxi ride to the city centre.

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Gay Berlin

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