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Berlin, the capital city of Germany as well as one of its 16 states, is the biggest city in Germany with a population of about 4.5 million. Hence, it is the most populous city in the European Union. Berlin is notorious for tolerance, internationalism, bustling nightlife, street art, abundant bars, clubs as well as cafés, diverse royal residences, museums and more locations of historical importance.
The architecture of Berlin is absolutely diverse after its reconstruction when the World War II and cold war ended after the Berlin wall fell in 1989. You can see the symbols of various historic eras within a short period of time in the city centre, from scanty remaining antique buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the cutting-edge glass and steel edifices at Potsdamer Platz.
Due to its boisterous history, Berlin is a city with numerous, unique communities. Brandenburger Tor or Brandenburger Gate is a mark of separation at the time of the world war, but it is now a sign of German reconciliation. It was constructed after the Acropolis in Athens and was brought to fruition in 1799 as the imperial city-gate.
Germans speak English but they will like you to speak a little bit of German. You can learn some phrases that are ideal for a traveler and you will definitely make a good impression of yourself.
If there is one city in the world with lots of unique, wonderful people, it will definitely be Berlin. Every single day, millions of Berliners walk around with stories to tell. Either good or bad, the stories are worth sharing or you will enjoy taking photographs with these lovely people. No matter the diversity - young, old, black, white, tall, small, gay, straight, believer, atheist - it is very certain that they are the best people to be with.
There are two operational airports in Berlin:
Tegel International Airport is situated in the north-western part of the city and it is a focal point for both local and international flights. Top airlines like British Airways, LOT, Air France-KLM, etc. run international flights to and fro the airport while Air Berlin and Lufthansa run local flights.
There are buses from the airport to Hauptbahnhof and S+U Zoologischer Garten at the regular ticket tarrif. Taxi and limousine services are also offered by many service providers. Taxi tariff is metered and the meter is switched on when you enter, hence, you should ask the taxi driver to take the shortest route, perhaps freeway instead of city roads.
Schönefeld Airport is the place to find cheap airlines like Ryanair, easyJet and Germanwings. The S-Bahn and other regional trains serve the airport. You can walk to the train station under a sheltered, properly illuminated walkway facing terminal A/B. Late night arrivals are attended to because S-Bahn trains run from here to the city till 1.30 am. There are also taxi and limousine services at this airport run by companies like Kiwitaxi, Talixo, European Shuttle, just to mention a few.
You can get to Berlin through bus from over 350 destinations in Europe. Berlin Linienbus runs shuttles from over 350 destinations in Europe to Berlin. Salinea takes care of travelers from Bosnia while MeinFernbus provides bus transport services for travelers coming from major German cities like Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, and Freiburg, Hamburg and so on.
The national German train corporation, Deutsche Bahn (DB), provides connection between Berlin and other top German as well as main European cities. There are night trains that run daily from Zurich, Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna. Long-distance trains from top Eastern European cities like Minsk, Moscow, Kaliningrad, Kiev, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw, stop at Ostbahnhof as well as Hauptbahnhof. Travelers from Asia can enjoy the once-a-week train trip by Sibirjak which connects Russian cities of Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk as well as Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) directly with Berlin. Chinese travelers will have to connect with Russia's or Kazakhstan's train stations.
There is no seaport in Berlin because it is about 200 kilometers away from the sea. However, there is a nearest seaport, Rostock-Warnemünde, which is about three hours away by train. The Hamburg and Stettin seaports also have the same distance to Berlin.
You can also make use of taxi services if you can afford it and they are far cheaper here compared to other big European cities. Majority of the taxi drivers here can speak English and there are some online companies like Talixo that lets you book a taxi online or through a mobile app. The distance of less than 2-km will usually cost you 4 Euros.
You can get around Berlin easily through trains like the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and Ringbahn which moves around the city in a ring to connect you fast. The public transport system uses a joint ticket; hence, your ticket is usable for train, tram, bus and underground services. Standard ticket costs 2.8 Euros for a single direction within a suitable tariff area. There are reduced fares for children between 6 and 14 while those under 6 enjoy free rides.
The Berlin U-Bahn is easily accessible from every corner of the city. There are electronic signs at the stations indicating the time the next available train will arrive and its routes. On weekends and during Christmas as well as New-Year celebrations, U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines operate for 24 hours, therefore coming back from late night events or outings will not be a problem. The ticket used for the train service can also be used for underground service.
The trams (Straßenbahn) usually seen in East Berlin because the tram lines in West Berlin have been removed to enhance rapid vehicular movement. Trams work late into the night and even till early hours of the morning and your joint ticket can also be used here.
The buses will take you to anywhere in Berlin and the usual metro buses are not as fast as the express buses because they stop at every station. You will also find the yellow double-decker buses around to take you to the destination of your choice.
You can also get around Berlin through cycling and there are many bicycle oaths around the city. Many hotels as well as hostels offer bicycle rentals and usually, you may be asked to pay 7.5 Euro for a day.
Currywurst is a staple in Berlin and it is a sliced bratwurst concealed in ketchup as well as curry powder. It is available with street vendors everywhere and it is worth trying out especially if you are a vegetarian or you prefer less fatty foods because there are animal-free variants. Top, famous currywurst stands include "Yoyo Foodworld" near U-Bahn station Frankfurter Tor, U5, "Curry 36" in front of the Mehringdamm U-Bahn location in Kreuzberg (just 2 bus-stops south of Checkpoint Charlie) and "Konnopke's Imbiss" beneath Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2, just to mention a few.
Moreover, you will like Döner which is flat bread that is packed with meat, salad as well as vegetables and it is available at various Turkish stands. Vegan Döner is also available and the popular one is called Vöner which is available at eateries close to S-Bahn station Ostkreuz. Falafel and Maqali sandwiches are other foreign foods in Berlin worth trying out. Other delicacies you will like in Berlin include Pretzels, Kartoffelpuffer, Eisbein, Königsberger Klopse, Apfelstrudel, Berliner Pfannkuche, Schnitzel, just to mention a few.
Due to the availability of vegetarian options in most restaurants, Berlin is renowned as the vegetarian capital of the world. It is not expensive to eat out in Berlin compared to other European cities and indeed other cities in Germany. You will love eating out at Hackescher Markt/ Oranienburger Straße and if you want cheap, good food, Kreuzberg and Neukölln are the places to be with their abounding pizza, Indian as well as Döner Kebab restaurants. Görlitzer Bahnhof on the U1 line is also full of restaurants where you can get cheap foods that are very good.
Save with a tourist card (Welcome Card)
The Welcome Card is ideal for every tourist because it covers all public transportation as well as gives you discounts at tourist attractions and restaurants. You can get 48-hour card for 19.80 Euro, 72-hour card for 26.70 Euro and five-day card for 34.50 Euro. You can also buy the card online before your arrival and you will be given a free city map.
Take advantage of free guided tours
There are many tour companies organizing free tours that last for about three hours and this is an opportunity for you to have some bucks. Companies like New Berlin Tours and Original Berlin Tours organize free tours to some historical sites in Berlin and you can tip the guide if can afford to do so.
Buy cheap snacks and drinks at grocery stores
You can save some bucks by buying snacks as well as beverages at grocery stores and you will get them at a fraction of what you will pay at snack bars and convenient stores. You can also buy chips, soft drinks, beer, and bakery goods and so on at affordable prices.
Know the cheap foods
The popular cheap foods in Berlin include currywurst, pizza, falafel, döner. The prices may not be the same from ne neighborhood to another but generally they cost less than 5 Euro.
Shop at local markets
You can get cheap fresh produce, fish and meat at farmer's market in Berlin. They also have food stands where you eat fast lunch for not more than 5 Euro. Some popular farmers markets in Berlin are Winterfeldt Market on Winterfeldplatz in Schöneberg, Turkish Market on Maybachufer in Kreuzberg and Marheinike Markthalle in Kreuzberg.
Rent bicycles off tourist paths
Bike rental is available throughout the city bit you will get a cheaper deal if you rent off tourist paths. Many hotels and hostels may charge you about 12.20 Euro per day to rent a bike but you can for as low as 8 Euro if you rent from neighborhood like Prenzlauerberg, Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg.
If you don't taste the nightlife in Berlin, there is every possibility that you are missing out. The city is regarded as the hub of techno plus warehouse clubs. Its bars are some of hippest in the world strongly energized by a lively youth culture. The nightlife of Berlin not at all ceases - dancing, drinking, live music, etc. and if by the time you are done you discover that you can't remember your name, it means you have done it well.
East vs. West
Even though the Berlin Wall has been destroyed and moving for east to West Berlin is seamless, there are still reports of the presence of some racists in the eastern part of the city and they can be violent. Racially induced crimes are not common; people are generally robbed if somebody wants something that you have.
The common scam here is for beggars to fake injury or young women to carry babies around asking for money. The babies they use as well as the crotch are fake and it is advisable not to give them your money.
It is very important for you to watch where you step because some remote areas like Grunewald have wild boars roaming the streets. There are also many dogs in Berlin and some dog owners don't clean up after their dogs.
German beer is very strong and may be stronger than what you have in your country. You should drink responsibly to avoid getting drunk easily so that you don't spoil your trip.
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Hackescher Markt is centrally located with many exclusive and luxury products. There are also cheap restaurants around and this is where you will get the best, well-known brands. How to arrive at Hackescher Markt: You can easily get to Station Hackescher Markt via S-bahn. It is just a stop from the transport point, Alexanderplatz.
Shops: Scotch and Soda, Pepe Jeans, Strellson, Paul Frank, Adidas, Mavi, Wesc, Diesel, Energie, Cos, Swatch, Fossil.
Alexa is centrally located and a walking distance from Alexanderplatz. It is 56,000 square meters large with 180 diverse shops and 17 restaurants. The place can be crowded on Saturday but there is enough time for shopping since the mall opens between 10 am and 9 pm.
How you can reach Alexa: It is easy through Alexanderplatz or Jannowitzbrucke and you reach both stations by S-bahn or U-bahn.
Shops: Billabong, Northface shop, Mango, Levi, Mediamarkt, Quicksilver Shop, Zara, Esprit, H&M, Vero Moda, Tommy Hillfiger, Edeka, Bijou Brigitte.
Friedrichstrasse is one of the best places for a tourist to shop and this is because of top tourist attractions around like the Checkpoint Charlie and others. Friedrichstrasse is closely associated to the splendid history of Berlin and World War II.
How you can get to Friedrichstrasse: Through the S-bahn you may get into Friedrichstrasse.
Shops: Hugo Boss, Breitling, Emporio Armani, Escada, Dussman Kulturkaufhaus, Galeries Lafayette, Gucci.
The Berlin Wall built in 1961 and demolished in 1989, is today a centre of attraction in Berlin. With features like the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum displaying exhibits pertaining to 1.5 million people who went past Berlin as refugees and the monument in remembrance of the divided city as well as the casualties of communism.
There is also the window of remembrance and a visitor center where you will have the opportunity of seeing the remains of the wall.
You will also find the Museum Haus and Checkpoint Charlie that was the interchange between East and West of Berlin city, with exhibits tracking the history of human right.
Opened in September 2014, Mall of Berlin is the newest place to shop. It is near the Potsdamer Platz and has more than 270 shops on a 200,000 square meter landmass.
How to get to Mall of Berlin: The most convenient way is through the U-Bahn using the square Potsdamer Platz and Mohrenstraße. Popular Shops: Peek & Kloppenburg, Guess, Esprit, H&M, C&A, Douglas, Armani, G-Star, Saturn, Replay, Pepe Jeans, Levi’s, Vans, Hugo Boss.
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