The train from Amsterdam Centraal to Berlin Hauptbahnhoff is direct and takes 6hrs 20mins.
We stayed at a place called Generator Hostel (we stayed at Prenzlauer Berg instead of Mitte as it was much cheaper). It cost us £12.22 per person per night in an 8 bed mixed dorm. The hostel was well out of the centre, but as the rail system is so good in Berlin, it wasn’t a problem – especially as it is right next to Landsberger Allee station.
It was a basic room with simple bed frames. Under the bed were storage cages which you could lock your stuff into. The toilets and showers were along the corridor from the room and were also very basic. There wasn’t much of a view and at the time we stayed there, there was building work happening next door which was quite noisy. Downstairs there was a bar area with a large outdoor space, but no kitchen. There was a cafeteria area, but it closed quite early. Round the corner were a few fast food places, like Burger King.
When we arrived it was late and the hostel had stopped serving food, so we got Burger King, then went to the bar and had a few drinks, before it closed, again quite early.
We decided to do a free walking tour on the second day – which is a great way to see a city on a low budget! We met at the Brandenburg Gate. Our tour was with Sandeman’s new Europe Tours and our guide was a Mancunian called Rob Shaw, who kept making jokes about the UK. He was really knowledgeable and enthusiastic and did an amazing job of getting us excited about Berlin.
He showed us the statue of Goethe in Tierpark, the Holocaust memorial, where Hitler’s bunker was, parts of the Berlin wall, checkpoint Charlie as well as some of the older history of Berlin – the musical, artistic, cultural and educational aspects, such as the opera house and Humboldt University (where Einstein taught). By Humboldt was a memorial to the books burnt by the Nazis called the Empty Library. We finished the tour by Berlin Cathedral, which looks very old, but was actually built in the nineteenth century.
After the wonderful tour, we found lunch by the cathedral – currywurst! It is a Berlin fast food favourite – Bratwurst with curry ketchup and chips – yum!
We walked back through Alexander Platz where the TV tower stands, now a panorama point and restaurant. We then headed east to visit the east-side gallery – a wonderful collection of art on a very long section of still-standing Berlin wall. This was excellent, the highlight of the day, definitely worth the train ride to get there.
We went back to our hostel to change, then headed to the Reichstag building where we had booked in to climb the dome. We received an audio guide, but found it a little long-winded. The views from up there are spectacular – especially as we went when the sun was going down. This is definitely worth doing.
We then went out on a pub crawl, also organised by Sandemans. You got a wristband for entry into four bars plus the club Matrix with a free drink in each of the bars. It was fun, but a LOT of walking – wear sensible shoes if you attempt this! Personally I would recommend just going to Matrix, but don’t arrive too early – Berliner’s don’t like to go out until around midnight!
We got up very early and staggered to the train station to go to the Hauptbahnhoff. Some work was being done, so the trains were not running as normal and it was not obvious what was happening, this meant we missed the train we intended to get to Munich. We had to sit around, tired and hungover, waiting for the next train – so much for German transport efficiency!
Tips for Berlin:
– Go for at least three full days.
– See the East Side Gallery.
– Climb the dome of the Reichstag at sunset, the views are stunning.
– If you go clubbing anywhere in Europe, do it here – Matrix is a really good club.
– The history of Berlin is part of what makes the city what it is – acquaint yourself with Berlin’s past, walking tours are a great place to start!