How to choose the highlights for 72 hours in Berlin
On my first visit to Berlin I expected to find ancient buildings and a sense of history at every turn. From the moment I stepped off the airplane, though, I realized my preconceived notions of Berlin were about to be turned on their head. If, like me, you only have a few days to explore the city, following are some itinerary suggestions that will help you capture 72 hours in Berlin.
Where to stay in Berlin
Centrally located in Kurfürstendamm is the Hôtel Concorde Berlin. Designed like the hull of a ship, the hotel houses 311 rooms, including 44 luxury and junior suites. Unlike many accommodations in Europe, the Hôtel Concorde Berlin’s rooms are spacious, as are the bathrooms with separate showers and deep soaking tubs. Two executive floors offer private check-in and access to a Club Lounge.
Consider one of the distinctly designed luxury suites for unique modern décor and dazzling views. All rooms are equipped with flatscreen televisions and high speed Internet access. Guests can overcome their jetlag in the co-ed wellness area’s sauna, steam bath and cold plunge pool. Or squeeze in a workout in the fitness room. A great way to start each day – complimentary breakfast from St. Germain with a wide assortment of breads, eggs, meats, cheese and juices. Don’t miss sampling the various flavors of quark. Also located within the hotel are Le Faubourg, a brasserie, and the Lutèce Bar.
Within walking distance of the hotel is one of Berlin’s famous landmarks – the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche. This Franz Schwechten-designed church was destroyed by bombs in 1943, leaving only the front tower and a memorial hall that houses artifacts from the structure’s history.
Nearby, too, is the famous Bahnhof Zoo where guests can visit creatures great and small with stops at the monkey house, hippopotamus pool and Bao-Bao the panda’s habitat. Abutting the zoo is Tiergarten, a rambling park with pathways by the lake for taking in the many statues and memorials. Those fond of shopping can pop into several H&M stores as well as KaDeWe (head up to the sixth floor for a gourmet snack while there.) Easy access to the rest of the city can be found via the U-Bahn. The stop closest to the hotel – Zoologischer Garten.
There are several ways to get an overview of Berlin and some of its most famous sites. Catch city tour bus #100 from the second Bahnhof Zoo entrance for transport through Berlin Mitte. Disembark to spend time at various landmarks before catching a subsequent bus on the route. Two not to miss – Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, and the majestic Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of victory.
Look for a double row of square stones running throughout Berlin. These stones mark where the Berlin Wall stood until its demise in 1989. Along the path are crosses and photos memorializing those killed while trying to cross the wall. Humbling, too, is the Holocaust Memorial just steps beyond Brandenburg Gate. Designed by Peter Eisenman, the 2711 dark granite stelae represent the 6 million murdered Jews during the Holocaust. Also nearby – the recently opened Kennedy Museum. Later, linger over the view of the Brandenburg gate with a cappuccino at a sidewalk table of Restaurant Quarré at the Hotel Adlon, where Marlene Dietrich was allegedly discovered.
Another great way to take in the city is on a ferry ride down the River Spree. Grab a giant doughy pretzel from a strolling vendor, then buy a beer onboard for a snack while soaking in the sites. Along the riverbanks are a blend of old and new architecture as well as several of the city’s dramatic bridges, works of art within themselves. Make a note to later join locals sunning at riverside “beach bars” to bask in the sun.
End the ferry tour near Museum Island in Mitte to take in five of Berlin’s finest museums – the Bode Museum, Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and the Pergamonmuseum, home to the Pergamon Altar. Nearby, too, is the newly opened GDR Museum that gives visitors a glimpse into everyday life in former East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic.
When it comes to overviews of Berlin, none are quite as expansive as the Fernsehturm, or Television Tower at Alexanderplatz. Head to the viewing platform where you can look out over the city at other potential itinerary stops such Berliner Dom, Checkpoint Charlie, Charlottenburg Palace and the Sony Center.
Other unique and memorable ways to learn about the city include Berlin on Bike’s tour along where the Berlin Wall once stood and Berliner Unterwelten E.V.’s “Subways, Bunkers and the Cold War” tour showcasing the city’s underground infrastructure along with its evolution and use during WWII, the Cold War and today.
Even though you only have 72 hours in Berlin, spend a day escaping the metropolis with a visit to idyllic Peacock Island on the city’s outskirts. A short ferry ride coveys guests to the island once used as a getaway by Kings Friedrich Wilhelm II and III. Stroll the park-like grounds exploring the palace, dairy and stables, before picnicking under a tree and watching sailboats race across the lake. A short bus ride away is the neighborhood that houses Max Lieberman Villa, the beautiful summerhouse and gardens designed by the artist as well as 200 of his paintings. A short walk away is the Haus der Wannsee Konferenz, where the Nazi’s set the “final resolution” into motion.
Berlin dining and nightlife
Berlin’s melting pot of cultures has led to topnotch cuisine suiting all tastes. In your 72 hours in Berlin, check out the award-winning tastes of Vau, Maxwell, Lorenz Adlon and Margaux. Duck into a courtyard where whimsical curtains billow over outdoor tables at Pan Pacific in Mitte. Savor Turkish offerings at Hasir’s. Spread out several courses in Prenzlauer Berg. Begin with a fusion starter at W-Imbiss. Next Konopke for curry wurst, steak and wine at Weinstein. And lastly, Gagarin for Russian food and dessert. Then again, grabbing a brew at a local biergarten may be the order of the day.
Combining dinner and nightlife is Spindler and Klatt. Located in an old factory by the river, guests dine and take in live music from the comfort of oversized beds. Revved up, experience Berlin’s club scene. Quiz the locals about where to find the latest “movable” club (many of the hottest clubs may only stay in place for up to a week or so.)
A great way to close out a stay of 72 hours in Berlin – an evening of opera at the Staatsoper unter den Linden or Philharmonic Hall to hear the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra perform.
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