Berlin

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Image used under Creative Commons from Libertinus

A short hop from Shannon Airport – flight time is just two and a half hours – Berlin is the ideal getaway for city break lovers.

Germany’s capital is the largest city in the country and home to 3.4 million people. In fact, it is the second most populous city in the whole of Europe.

The population squeezes into two-thirds of the total area of the city with Mother Nature taking up a considerable slice as the remainder consists of rivers, lakes, gardens, parks and forests. With so much open space, those taking in the sights of what is probably the most historic city in Europe, if not the world, will have plenty of options to rest among the many natural wonders.

Situated in the north east, those favouring a trip in moderate to warm temperatures should visit in spring and summer where temperatures can reach up to 35ºC, although 22-25ºC is more normal. Temperatures can plummet in winter – the average low is 3ºC.

Accommodation

Deciding where to stay depends entirely on the type of holiday you’re looking for. There are an abundance of hotels (which vary in standard), B&Bs, guest houses and hostels. However, an increasingly popular choice is to rent an apartment. Often cheaper than traditional accommodation, you can base yourself in the centre of the city for as little as €30 per night. Some of the local owners will even let you use their bikes for free so it’s important to research your options beforehand.

Getting around is a breeze in Berlin. Schönefeld Airport, one of the city’s main entrance points, is well connected to the centre, while trains (the S-Bahn and express regional trains), buses and car hire companies are on hand to welcome visitors. The public transport system here is reliable and cheap and taxis are readily available. 

When you arrive in the city, you’ll find trams, buses, the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn. Divided into zones A, B and C, (the city centre falls into zones A and B) the entire area of Berlin is easily accessible. You can purchase an all-day public transport ticket which entitles you to as many journeys as you need. For families, the small-group day ticket is ideal and allows up to five people to use all public transport services up until 3am the following day.

Culture Vultures

For culture enthusiasts, the city is a haven of museums and galleries, while shoppers will be thrilled to find that local vendors and flea markets can be found among the clutter of the typical high street right in the middle of the city itself. Hackischer Markt is a particular case in point – the market is dotted with plenty of cheap and delicious restaurants as well as quirky stalls and shops.

Idyllic and vivacious in equal measure, those that spend time in Berlin will find a wonderfully welcoming city with no shortage of activity for all ages.

Five for free

  • Find a free walking tour

    A free walking tour, starting at the magnificent Brandenburg Gate in the centre of the city, is available every day from 11am and 1pm. Taking in Checkpoint Charlie and the Lustgarden, amongst many other historically significant spots, you’ll be on your feet for over three hours so make sure to wear comfy shoes! The tour is in English and while it’s free, your guides will appreciate any tips (of the monetary kind) that you can afford.

    Image used under Creative Commons from Dan Nevill

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  • Visit the Holocaust Memorial

    Designed by New York-based architect, Peter Eisenmann, the Holocaust Memorial is a sobering monument to the world’s greatest travesty and tragedy.

    Opened to the public in 2005, visitors will find the five-acre site close to the Brandenburg Gate and can walk freely among the 2,700 concrete slabs which are a haunting reminder of Nazi rule. Audio guides are available from the underground information centre and cost €4 for those that want a more detailed description.

    Image used under Creative Commons from Jürgen Stemper // Bloemche

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  • Picnic in the Park

    With roughly one-third of the city’s land area given over to public parks, gardens and lakes, pack a picnic and kick back with the thousands of locals. Tiergarten is the most well-known city park and is the ideal place for you to relax after you’ve visited the sites.

    Image used under Creative Commons from Spigoo

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  • Immerse yourself in the Arts

    Culture buffs will find that lots of the city’s best museums are free of charge, including the Berlin Wall Memorial. Contemporary art lovers should flock to the Kunstraum Kreuzberg, while independent and low-budget movie fans will find plenty of alternative fare the Calabash Club on Veteranenstrasse. (Entry fees may apply here and will vary).

    Image used under Creative Commons from Ben Cumming

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  • Go on a bike ride

    Some visitors will be lucky enough to have a bike included in the cost of their accommodation. For those that are not so fortunate, renting a public bike for the day is well worth the €10 fee.

    You can join a tour, which vary in price, or take in sites like Museum Island, the Victory Column and the Reichstag, home to the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament), at your own pace.

    All prices correct at time of publishing – December 2013

    Image used under Creative Commons from abbilder

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