Where to stay: I was in Berlin for New Year’s Eve, so finding accommodations was a bit more challenging than it would usually be. I ended up staying at the Jugendgästehaus Lichterfelde, which is a hostel (found on www.hostelworld.com) that’s just a bit outside of the city. Even though it was New Year’s weekend, we each only paid just over 20 euros a night in a 4 person dorm room. The hostel provided a great buffet breakfast, German style, which basically means cold cut meat and breads and such, but it was definitely sufficient. If you don’t mind having to take the train 15-20 minutes into the city every day, then this is a great hostel- it’s right next to the train station, and the train can take you right in to the very center of everything, so there actually isn’t too much walking involved!
Where to eat: I was actually surprised how difficult it was to find what I considered to be “traditional” German food while I was in Berlin, but most of the places I was in were of the touristy variety. Desperate to find a decent dinner that I wasn’t going to spend my entire budget on, we took the S-Bahn to a random stop (Oranien-Burger Straße S-Bahnof) and we found a really great Italian restaurant called Ristorante al Dente. I know that eating Italian in Berlin seems a bit strange, but this was a really great spot, and you can’t beat the prices! The best places I found in Berlin were found wandering around random streets that were a decent distance from Brandenburg, so exploring is your best way to go.
What to do: My favorite thing that I did was go up into the TV Tower, I chose to go up at night to see the city lights, but I would imagine that the view would be even better during the day. I would recommend booking online in advance if you can, otherwise you might have a long wait from when you purchase your ticket to the time you’re allowed up. I also visited the Berlin Wall, and this experience isn’t something I would say I “enjoyed”, but I was really glad that I did it. It’s a pretty incredible reminder of the history of the city, and I think that it’s important to go to. We didn’t get a chance to go into the Reichstag because the city was so crowded that weekend, but the building looked incredible from the outside, so I think it’d be worth a visit!
Overall Opinion: I really liked Berlin, but I can’t say that it was my favorite city in Germany. The city itself didn’t seem very “German” to me, and it also seemed very grey for some reason. It might have had something to do with the fact that we were there in December, so it was actually cold and all the trees were bare and such, but I just didn’t get that feeling anywhere else in Germany. With that being said, I do think there are many things in Berlin worth visiting and doing, the New Year’s celebration in front of the Brandenburg Gate was easily the best New Year’s I’ve ever experienced, but the city might be better visited in the summer.