The 80c budget tip for seeing Berlin
OVER the 20th century, despite wars and walls and other momentous historical events, Berlin still remained a favourite destination for visitors, who flocked to the city for its art, culture and music scene - not to mention the bars.
Today it's still one of the most exciting hubs in Europe, living always by its unofficial motto, Poor But Sexy. In Berlin you'll find beautiful cityscapes, fascinating history and some of the best watering holes in the west.
Berlin's bars are famous, but if you're after a cheap(er) drink, just go to one of the thousands of Spätkaufs across the city. Beers start at 80c and the fancier ones go for €2 (about $3.20), bottle openers are at the counter where you pay, and public drinking is allowed in Berlin. You can sit by the canal, River Spree, in one of the city's many gorgeous parks, or by a lake, and enjoy the fairground atmosphere.
JOURNEY UP HIGH….
Berlin's Fernsehturm (TV Tower), built in East Berlin in the '60s behind the Wall, forms a spire you can use to orientate yourself across Berlin; those seeking bird's-eye views can take the charmingly outdated lift up to the top. Or try Klunkerkranich, a rooftop bar atop a shopping centre in the hip Neukölln district, for a more relaxed view of the city with a beer in hand.
… AND DOWN LOW
There are plenty of underground bars in Berlin, like Le Croco Bleu, hidden in the engine room of an old brewery in Prenzlauer Berg. But you'll find history underground, too. Try the Berlin Unterwelten tours, which take you through bunkers left from World War II, and when you visit the Holocaust Memorial, don't miss the museum located directly underneath the momentous stones.
Berlin's U-Bahn (underground subway) system is super easy to navigate. The ticketing system? Not so much. The city is divided into three rings of A, B and C, but nearly everywhere you'll visit as a tourist is in the A/B zone, so if you get a ticket with that marking you should be safe. Just don't get tricked on your way home - Schoenefeld Airport is in Zone C.
Save the scramble for change before you jump on a train. If you're going to use the U-Bahn, download the BVG app, which lets you buy tickets online and hooks up easily to your credit card or PayPal account.
OR GET WHEELY
Berlin is a bike city, with lots of bike lanes, a mostly flat surface and a surprisingly small area, which makes it easy to get around on two wheels. You'll find bike rental stores in every neighbourhood, usually for a maximum of €20 per 24 hours, or try Rent A Bike 44 in Schillerkiez, a rental outfit famous for its friendly attitude and fitting you to the perfect bike for your ability and needs.
SHOP BEFORE SUNDAY
Most businesses in Berlin, including tourist-focused ones such as bike rentals and many restaurants as well as supermarkets, are closed on Sundays. If you're staying a while, make sure you have snacks ready or be prepared to eat fast food all day.
WATCH YOUR FEET
Some of Berlin's memorials to WWII, including the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum, are impossible to miss but others are smaller. Keep an eye out through
the city for the Stolpersteine (literally means stumbling stones) - little squares of gold embedded into the cobblestones with the names and fates of Jewish people who lived in the city in the 1930s.
DON'T MIND YOUR MANNERS
Berliners are known for their direct and even confrontational style. Don't waste time on pleasantries or small talk with your waiters, bartenders, and shop assistants; most of them will be baffled and the rest will be actively annoyed. Stick to a polite bitte (please) and danke (thank you). And don't worry if you get some funny looks - staring isn't rude in Germany, and it's quite common to have a stranger lock gazes with you on a long train ride home.
SMILE AND NOD
Nearly everybody in Berlin speaks English, however, many of them don't like to. If you're buying tickets to tourist attractions or ordering a meal, you'll probably be able to speak English. But for small encounters in corner shops, supermarkets or at markets, it's best to just push your purchase across the counter, hand over enough money and escape without exchanging a word in either language.
Unlike in most countries, smoking in bars is still legal in Germany as long as there is no food being served. For smokers, this means you don't have to duck into the cold for a quick smoko between drinks. For non-smokers, make sure to pack plenty of clothes and don't wear your favourite coat on a night out - it can be quite hard to get rid of the smoky smell.
You'll want to try all the usual German delicacies while you're there: wurst (sausages), pommes (chips, usually doused in mayo and tomato sauce) and schnitzel. But take a moment to notice the huge Turkish population in the city and you'll find some of the best eating, too, from kebabs to lentil soup to deliciously seared lamb. At Mehringdamm U-Bahn is Mustafa's, the city's most popular doner joint - the line usually stretches several blocks.
STAY CASHED UP
Berlin is still a cash economy; most bars, many restaurants, every corner shop and even some museums won't accept any card payments, especially international ones, so make sure to keep euros on you. ATMs are also costly to use - sometimes as much as €5 per transaction - so it's worth it to take out enough money to last you for the next few days for when you do visit one.
If you're visiting in winter, when the city takes on a slightly deserted appearance, you might struggle to find some of the hidden hotspots for which Berlin is most famous. When at a loss, head to Weserstraße in Neukölln: every second door is a welcoming bar or restaurant.
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