So I didn’t exactly backpack through Berlin, but that alliteration sounded good so I had to use it. Well, unless you count taking a 7 hour bus from Munich to Berlin on FlixBus for 20 euros backpacking (hey, gotta save money where you can am I right!?).
My friend, Dora, flew to Berlin to meet up with me and we stayed at the St.Christopher’s Inn Hostel. I LOVE this hostel chain – I’ve stayed in it in Barcelona and Prague. I’ve also heard that Wombats is amazing too, so look up both and pick one. As long as you stay in the Kreuzberg district you’re set; it’s the home of vegan/vegetarian/gluten free foods.
I’m a little bit of a history nerd, so fair warning, I went on a lot of tours, but I’ll keep it brief to give you just enough info for you to figure out if it’s what you want to do when you visit. Along with the tours, I ate at a TON of restaurants. Berlin was actually ranked Europe’s Vegan Capital, so in order to try as many restaurants as possible, Dora and I ate at 4 restaurants a day. I promise, it’s not an exaggeration. I may or may not have gained 10 pounds this Eurotrip, but it was totally worth it!
The majority of Europe’s major capitals have free walking tours. The one in Berlin is a must; with all of the history that the city has to offer, you’ll casually walk by important sites not even knowing what it is. The tour in Berlin meets at the Brandenburg Gate everyday at 10:00a.m., 11:30a.m., and 1:00p.m.. It’s a 2.5 hour-long tour that describes Berlin’s major attractions. The guides are awesome and you tip however much you think they deserve.
There were a few tours offered at the front desk of my hostel and this one caught my eye the first day. If you aren’t planning on staying at a hostel, then you could book it on their website, here. If you want a highly educational and in-depth tour about World War II and the Nazi Regime, then I highly recommend it. Our guide’s name was Kyle and she (yeah, she even made fun of the fact that her parents gave her a boy’s name) was incredible. She knows everything there is to know about that time period. Quite honestly, I’m very well educated when it comes to the Holocaust and World War II because I’ve taken many courses and went on a Poland trip in high school just to learn about the Holocaust and visit all of the death camps there. But, even I learned so many new facts that I took a crazy amount of notes.
Fun Fact: A man named Gayord Elser almost killed Hitler in the earlier years of the war, but he was 14 minutes too late. There is a silhouette statue of his face in the city.
DO THE ONE WHERE YOU GET TO GO TO THE WORKSHOP AND GRAFFITI YOUR OWN PIECE! This tour is a great way to get a feel for the culture in Berlin. Normally, you don’t really pay attention to street art because we’re taught as children that it’s vandalism and grow up to believe it’s just a bunch of kids having fun. I truly didn’t know that it was so much more than that until I went on this tour! Berlin is especially full of it, so much so that some companies now pay some graffiti artists to design advertisements. The city has gone through so much in recent years from the World Wars, the communist takeover, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that street art became a way for the people to express their political and social views. There are popular artists who sign each of their pieces and there is a well known rule in the Street Art world that you DO NOT tag over someone else’s work (unless you can top it with something way better).
Fair warning, waterworks will start here. This museum is not like most for a few reasons. First of all, it’s 100% subsidized by the government; it’s free to anyone who wishes to visit to keep the memory alive and to commemorate the lost lives of the Jews in World War II. Secondly, it’s located under the Jewish Memorial – you know, that memorial that was huge in the news because of Holocaust? If not, look it up. Last but not least, it recounts the stories of survivors through audio tapes and there are a ton of postcards and letters written to and from family members who were being sent off to camps and were to never see their family members again. It’s not that big of a museum but it’s one of the most emotional because of how personal it is. This is a must-see in Berlin.
Contrary to the Holocaust Museum, this one is huge. It’s in a beautiful building on the opposite side of town (if you’re staying in Kreuzberg like I recommended) but again, so worth it. This museum speaks about the history of the Jews and the details of the religion as well as the Jewish community before, during, and after World War II. Moreover, you see video clips from World War II trials, testimonials, and a plethora of other historical evidence. This museum hit close to home, as well as most of the WWII stuff I have seen because I am Jewish and have people in my life who have been personally affected by the Nazi regime. I spent five hours in this museum – that’s how big it is. The architecture is incredible; there is even a meaning behind the way the building was structured. There is so much to do in this beautiful city and I was fortunate enough to have had a lot of days there, but if you’re crunched for time I recommend doing the other activities I listed first. But, if you have time, you should go – you also get a student discount.
Mauerpark Flea Market
Mauerpark is an extensive park in Northern Berlin that hosts a flea market every Sunday afternoon. Hip Berliners will sell their clothes, household appliances, vintage antiques, and amazing furniture surprisingly. A popular activity there is the karaoke sessions that takes place at the amphitheater. There is also a variety of food trucks there serving everything from fresh squeezed orange juice to Moroccan cuisine. Dora and I had a flight to catch to Paris that day so we went for an hour to check it out. I bought two cute bracelets, but honestly, if I had more time I would have definitely purchased one of the vintage jackets.
Instead of boring you with all the restaurants I went to, here I’ve listed my favorites. They’re all rated 10/10, so based off my description pick what you’re in the mood for. BON APETIT!
No matter what, you need to get the matcha here. I like to think of myself as a matcha connoisseur; whenever there is matcha available at a café or restaurant, I get it. And never in my life have I had a better matcha latte than the one I had here with their homemade almond milk! The menu is pretty extensive, so you’ll be a little overwhelmed as I was with what to choose, but everything looked amazing. I got the Makro bowl, which was my first time having kimchi, but it was soooo good.
If you like Vietnamese cuisine, this vegan restaurant is the perfect fit. Located right by St. Christopher’s Inn in the heart of Kreuzberg, this place is the spot to get a hearty meal.
WARNING: If you like spicy food, ask for the spicy sauce on the side because if not, you’ll burn your mouth with the amount of peppers they add.
Hummus & Friends
I obviously had to try the restaurant named after my favorite food and let me tell you it did not disappoint! For someone who has been to Israel many times and grew up with Israeli food, I can be picky with my hummus, falafel, and basically any Israeli dish. It was amazing. The chef is Israeli and the food portions are huge and perfect.
PERKS: it’s kosher & vegan!
I ate here three times – I think that should be enough to convince you to try it out! Mainly because of its proximity to my hostel, but the food is so fresh and quick because it’s a café. If you’re looking for a healthy, quick breakfast or even a light snack before a night out, then this place is for you.
Funny story – we stumbled across this place after wandering around Berlin for two hours lost with dead phones. This burger joint has vegetarian options as well; I got a seared tuna “burger” which was amazing. Also, if you’re as obsessed with sweet potato fries as I am, then this is the place to get them.
Woop Woop Ice Cream
Unfortunately, they ran out of ice cream the second we got there, but after showing them how distraught we were and explaining how it was our last night in Berlin, they gave us some of their “reserves” ice cream. It was so good that I can only imagine how the fresh, on the spot one tastes! This ice cream is made to order with nitrogen and the flavors are very distinct.
A few others on my list that I didn’t have time to make it to:
Das Brunch (on Saturdays)
Gemüse doner (doner is super popular in Berlin due to the influx of Turkish immigrants. You’ll find their delicious cuisine on almost every corner. Doner is how they call shawarma)
Geist im glas
If you go to any of those please comment on this post and let me know how it was with photos!
I’m going to speak more about the nightlife in a separate post with Munich’s nightlife, because Germany’s nightlife is unlike any I’ve seen before. Berliners truly love music; especially deep house and could care less about appearances. It was quite a change of scenery from what I’m used to in Paris, NYC, and Miami.
For those of you reading this or are going to Berlin soon, check out these clubs:
- Watergate, Tresor, and Berghain (if you dare)
- I also recommend the Pub Crawl where you meet many people from across the world, go to four different bars, and end up at a club called Matrix
- A local told me that Circus is fun too, but I never made it there
- Don’t go out alone, it’s honestly a little sketchy at night, but very fun and a cool scene.
- Wear all black if you’re going to a club with your friends – more details to come in the next post, so stay tuned!
There is a lot of shopping to be done in this hipster town, especially the district of Kreuzberg. If you’re looking for cool shoes, this is where to find them! Below I’ve listed some of my favorite shops, but honestly you’ll pass by a lot just by walking around the city.
Berlin truly is an amazing city with so much to do and so much history to uncover. The people are welcoming and humble, but it’s evident that they haven’t forgotten when Germany was in turmoil because of what they have endured in the past 100 years. The younger generations are especially desperate to make their voices heard through whatever mediums they can – whether it’s graffiti, their awesome fashion sense, music, or historical conservation . Berlin is definitely on me top list of cities and I think that anyone visiting Europe should visit at least once!