How to Spend 48 Hours in Berlin
Berlin is colour, culture and cutting edge.
This vibrant city has so much to offer. Though steeped in history, it’s also a very modern city, with contemporary installations throughout and many things to do. Whether you're inter-railing or exploring in your time off from being an au pair, Berlin tends to be a staple of popular itineraries.
It can be difficult to know where to begin, especially if you’re stretched for time. As an Au pair, you have to be especially efficient with your time on your days off, with family duties no doubt calling from back home. Bearing that in mind, here’s how to optimise your 48 hours and complete the essential things to do in Berlin.
Day 1, 10am - East Side Gallery
Why not begin with a piece of the past?
Start your first day at the longest open-air gallery in the world: The Berlin Wall. Spreading 1.3km, the East Side Gallery is an awe-inspiring display of history and art. Splashes of colour decorate this dark divide. On what remains of the political barrier between East and West Berlin, murals symbolise the hope and desire for a brighter future. The ugly, the obscene and the stunning make this a main photo op for your flying visit, but there is also an overwhelming sense of the power of expression and importance of liberation.
Follow the wall towards the city centre. On your way, make a stop at the Holzmarkt.
Day 1, 12pm - Holzmarkt
Step into Berlin’s urban oasis; Holzmarkt! This bright village is an arty and alternative hub for youth culture. I stumbled across this place on my walk into the centre, and I’m so glad I did.
The Holzmarkt offers culture, music and great coffee. It’s the perfect pit stop. Graffiti-clad walls border a selection of cafes, workshops and riverside views. Holzmarkt comes to life at night with its legendary techno clubs (if you know, you know), but during the day is a calm and trendy retreat from the crowd. Just a few steps from The Berlin Wall seems like miles when you enter the Holzmarkt haven.
Day 1, 2pm - Alexanderplatz
A short walk to Alexanderplatz takes you into Berlin’s commercial, cosmopolitan heart.
For cheap eats, treat your taste buds with a pretzel or Bratwurst. There are street vendors and cafes galore in this central square. What’s more, if you’re lucky enough to visit during Christmas market season or Oktoberfest, this is the place to be!
Alexanderplatz is also home to the Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm). This skyline dominator offers panoramic views of the city which is certainly not worth missing (although it may not be for the faint-hearted!).
Day 1, 3pm - Nikolai Quarter via Town Hall
From Alexanderplatz, head back in time to the fairy-tale town of the Nikolai Quarter (Nikolaiviertel).
It is known as Berlin's oldest residential area and the special feel of old Berlin shines through.
Be sure to look up on your way! The Red Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus) is an architectural feat, worthy of a photo. Tiny taverns and beautiful buildings line the cobbled streets of the Nikolai Quarter. Spend a lazy afternoon strolling through this picturesque maze of history. Reconstructed after it’s ruin during WWII, this quarter is now a popular tourist area and it’s easy to see why.
It's also hard to miss The Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas's Church), with its unique double spire design. Take in an organ concert if you have time!
Day 1, 8pm - Kulturbrauerei
If you’re on the lookout for some nightlife, Kulturbrauerei is where it’s at. It’s for sure the coolest place around. Set in an old brewery, this cultural hotspot no longer brews beer, but it’s the perfect place to enjoy one! With an awesome array of clubs and a dazzling atmosphere, Kulturbrauerei is totally worth venturing to the north of the city for.
Day 2, 10am - Hackescher Markt
Start Day 2 at the Hackescher Markt.
The market begins outside the S-Bahn in Mitte. It is a train station with an ornate art nouveau style and it is a beautiful place to begin your day. Take time to admire the architecture or the unique designer clothes shops in the shopping area nearby. You'll find ample photography opportunities throughout as you jump from between courtyards. There are dozens of quirky little cafes and restaurants, so you will have plenty of breakfast choices ahead of you.
For those interested in shopping, Hackescher Markt is as unique as it is pretty, with there being no room for larger chain brands. As such, prices can be a little higher here, so ensure you've got your Euros at the ready.
From here, head West.
Day 2, 11am - Museum Island
One island; five museums.
Museum Island is chock-a-block with culture, art and history. Even if you don’t have time to venture inside a museum (the queues can get crazy!), the facades are impressive enough.
From pretty much anywhere on the island, you get a fabulous view of the grand Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom). Iconic and ornamental, you don’t want to miss this sight. Again, if you don’t have time to enjoy the cathedral’s interior, the exterior is just as grand: a key feature of Berlin’s cityscape.
Day 2, 1pm - Unter den Linden and Pariser Platz
Heading down the beaten track, Unter den Linden takes you from Berlin Cathedral all the way to the majestic Brandenburg Gate.
This shady, tree-lined boulevard is a relaxing pathway through the city. It’s the perfect transition into your afternoon adventure. Before you reach Pariser Platz, be sure to stop off en route. Grab some Kaffee und Kuchen and a window seat – Unter den Linden is a people-watcher’s dream!
Day 2, 2.30pm - Stasi Prison
The Stasi Prison is a window into some of the darker history of the area.
It has been preserved in its original state and it really helps provide you with an insight into the lives and conditions of those who were there. You can take guided, English-speaking tours at different points throughout the day, which are led by contemporary witnesses who will guide you around and really explain what life was like within these walls.
Day 2, 5pm – Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie
This trio of historical monuments are within walking distance of one another. The Reichstag houses the German parliament and represents the turbulent history of Germany. Getting up close is an absolute must. The Reichstag Dome provides a sky-high 360° view of Berlin, which involves getting to witness political decisions made at your feet. It’s best to book tickets a long time in advance, as this is, of course, a popular experience!
Next stop: The Holocaust Memorial. This imposing and moving Memorial to the Jews of Europe consists of 2711 concrete slabs of varying heights. It’s easy to get lost in this looming labyrinth. The memorial is no doubt a heavy and challenging installation, but nevertheless an important point on Berlin’s historical map.
To wrap up your whirlwind visit, head to Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstraße. A historical crossing point between East and West Berlin, this is a key landmark. Espionage and escape attempts are detailed in the little museum beside the checkpoint. The movie fans amongst you might even recognise this spot from Octopussy or The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
Once you’re here, you’re in the glittering entertainment district. Vibrant theatres and bars line this boulevard and provide you with loads of opportunities to enjoy the evening. It’s the perfect place to end your time in Berlin with a beer. Prost!