Steeped in history with a world-class art scene, excellent street food and top-quality craft beers, Germany’s capital is a feast for all the senses, finds Christina Ausley
Why go? Known for its pivotal role in the Second World War and still haunted by the shadow of the Berlin Wall which was dismantled just under 30 years ago, you don’t have to visit the German capital’s world-class museums to see history. You’ll find it on every street corner. Today the city is a bastion of creativity and tolerance, where local bakers hand-twist pretzels and bartenders pull craft beer by the litre in the many drinking dens that line the flagstone streets. Stay warm during the crisp autumn months in one of the riotous beer tents, which come to town during Oktoberfest, held between 22 September and15 October.
What to do Grab a warm apfelstreusel (apple strudel) from artisan bakery Zeit für Brot zeitfuerbrot.com and set off through Alexanderplatz and along Holzmarktstrasse. From here, head towards the East Side Gallery eastsidegallery-berlin.com then cross the Oberbaum Bridge and marvel at the architecture of this double-decked landmark and its rust-coloured spires. It unifies the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, which were once separated by the Berlin Wall. Next, make your way towards the west side of the city and follow the footsteps of Napoleon through the iconic Brandenburg Gate. One block south is the sobering Holocaust Memorial stiftung-denkmal.de – wander amid the labyrinth before browsing colourful contemporary art in the quaint König Galerie koeniggalerie.com a 1960s church-turned-art hub. Nearby, you can spot new photography talent at the C/O Berlin co-berlin.org on Hardenbergstrasse. Once the royal hunting grounds of Friedrich Wilhelm I, the Tiergartens’ 210 hectares are ideal for a bracing walk through the pretty autumn leaves. End your day by climbing to the Reichstag’s bundestag.de roof terrace, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the city’s skyline. Where to stay Berlin’s hotel scene ranges from quirky boltholes in reworked warehouses to more traditional five-star options. Hotel de Rome 00 49 3 04 60 60 90, roccofortehotels.com is housed in the former Dresdner Bank headquarters in the very centre of
Clockwise from top left: take in Berlin’s iconic skyline and views over the Spree river at dusk; bed down in the Bebel Suite at Hotel de Rome; riding past the Oberbaum bridge; the
dramatic Reichstag dome; explore the Siegessäule victory
column; eat local; service at top restaurant Pauly Saal; Das Stue’s cool interiors; enjoy a
cold glass of German beer Berlin, on Behrenstrasse. There’s a swimming pool in the old jewel vault and handsome suites in the oak-lined director’s offices. For elegant relaxation, try a room at Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm 00 49 3 08 00 99 90, sofitel.com — a startling art-deco building designed by the award-winning German architect Jan Kleihues. Das Stue Hotel 00 49 3 03 11 72 20, das-stue.com may look like a neoclassical mansion, but inside it’s a visual feast, with contrasting textures and animals made from leather, giving a nod to its proximity to the excellent Berlin Zoo.
Where to eat and drink The city is famous for its street food, so dive into a tender brochette of meat and vegetables at Kreuzberg’s legendary Imren Grill. The authenticity of the seasoning will quickly reveal why it’s a local institution, and it’s a steal at just £2.70. For great-value quality street food head to the buzzy covered market Markthalle Neun 00 49 30 61 07 34 73, markthalleneun.de where stalls such as Big Stuff Smoked BBQ do a roaring trade. For a more upscale take on German cuisine, book a table at Lokal 00 49 30 28 44 95 00, lokal-berlin.blogspot.co.uk which is famed for its goose and game sausage ragu. Berlin’s vegetarian restaurant scene is flourishing, so meander down the Behrenstrasse to the neighbourhood gem Cookies Cream cookiescream.com where the parmesan dumplings with Périgord truffle, pine and sherry taste as beautiful as they look. Minimalist restaurant Einsunternull 00 49 30 27 57 78 10, einsunternull.com was awarded a Michelin star just a year after opening in the Mitte area in 2016, and serves very clean, contemporary plates accompanied with a minimal number of ingredients. For strong coffee and velvety German cheesecake, try Five Elephant 00 49 30 96 08 15 27, fiveelephant.com
Time running out Museum Island in the middle of the fast-flowing Spree river is home to no fewer than five excellent museums packed with artefacts from ancient Egypt, Byzantium and Berlin. Trip tip Meeting at Brandenburg Gate, Sandeman’s free walking tours show you the Berlin most tourists miss. neweuropetours.eu