Tips from Locals in Berlin

By Jessica Fishman

 

Tips from Locals in Berlin

 

Last summer I visited Berlin for the first time on a four week long backpacking trip through Europe. We were on a tight budget and reducing the costs of lodging turned out to be essential for saving money. In Berlin, we discovered the beauty and benefit of staying with locals. The most fantastic parts of our trip were found through tips from locals in Berlin.

 

A couple from Washington (Tim and Susan), who’d become accustomed to the culture and heavily explored Berlin in just 3 months, hosted us. While, of course we visited some of the essentials like the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten etc. what I found most interesting was the city itself; the things that made Berlin, Berlin. Nervous about imposing on our hosts with our stay, I was delighted to find the contrary. They were more than happy to have us, and even still, happier to show us around a city that they loved.

Tips from Locals in Berlin

Tim and Susan introduced us to great beer gardens like Prater, a well-known establishment with an extensive outdoor seating area and delicious bratwursts and pretzels.

Prater Garden - Tips from Locals in Berlin

Turkish Market Fabric Kreuzberg - Tips from Locals in Berlin
They took us to Kreuzberg, a neighborhood that had a fun Turkish market and craft fair with a particularly large selection of fabrics and buttons, along with handmade pottery, cutlery, jewelry and more. Kreuzberg also had a fun, but not overwhelming, nightlife scene and the entire neighborhood was scattered with cafés, shops, and restaurants.

Bernauer Strasse - Tips from Locals in Berlin

On the advice of Tim and Susan, we decided to see the remains of the Berlin wall. Large rusted poles are all that’s left of the once massive wall, which lines a stretch of Bernauer strasse, the famous street that once represented the divide between East and West Berlin. Our hosts pointed out to us that the cement wall had been disassembled and converted into art and placed throughout the city. Later as we walked through Berlin, we noticed these art installations everywhere.

Berlin Wall Art - Tips from Locals in Berlin

Tim and Susan recommended that we walk all the way down Bernauer strasse, past the wall, until we ended up in Prenzlauer Berg. We took their advice and were pleased to find ourselves in a young neighborhood with lots of vintage clothing stores and cafés. We met Tim and Susan at Prater where we sat outside and enjoyed some cold beer. All the while avoiding the chestnuts that would pelt at us from the trees above.

 

Prenzlauer Berg - Tips from Locals in Berlin

Mauerpark - Tips from Locals in Berlin

Later in the week we returned to Prenzlauer Berg for a mega-flea market that was unlike any I have ever been to. It was enormous! Rows and rows of antiques, clothing, bicycles, pottery, old steins, food and more filled Mauerpark, just off of Bernauer strasse. Musicians and other street performers were also scattered throughout the park and provided a festival-like atmosphere.

While in Berlin, we did of course visit some of the Must-See attractions such as the Reichstag, Berlin’s parliament. Like many buildings in Berlin, the Reichstag was partially destroyed in WWII and instead of completely rebuilding, they decided to combine the old style stone building with the modern look of a large glass dome protruding from the top. Our gracious host Susan informed us that we could climb up the dome for free and see stunning views of the entire city. She also pointed us to their online reservations, which allowed us to skip the line. The views were amazing and we could see for miles in all directions. Having already walked through a large portion of the city, it was very cool to put Berlin’s geography into perspective.
Reichstag Glass Dome - Tips from Locals: Berlin

Our last night was spent at a traditional German restaurant with Tim and Susan and their golden retriever Kona. We ate outside and feasted on slabs of pork smothered in beer sauce with large potato dumplings. And of course, accompanied by lots of German beer. We talked and reminisced about the last five days, sad that we would soon depart.

Berlin Skyline - Locals' Tips: Berlin

Berlin is brimming with historical monuments and sites, and many of them are worth exploring. Visiting a city so full of history and culture sometimes makes it difficult to decide what to do and easy to miss out on some of the best hidden spots. I recommend trying to stay with locals on any of your future travels. Whether that means couch surfing or finding connections that you may already have, staying with locals isn’t just about the inexpensive price tag, but creating enriching cultural experiences.

If you want more tips from locals in Berlin on the less-advertised and cheap attractions of the city, check out our Alternative Culture in Berlin or Poor but Sexy in Berlin Featured Trips

 

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