A Weekend Exploring Berlin
Being freelance always means it's tricky to know when to actually take a break but consistently every year the August Bank Holiday and the surrounding days are always quiet so way back in May we booked flights to Berlin. It was a choice made based on proximity - it's a short enough flight, and price, the flights were reasonable. It was only closer to the time when I started doing a bit more research that I found it's considered by some to be the Vegan Capitol of Europe and I got very excited about the trip.
We flew direct leaving at 6 am on Friday morning. Setting my alarm for 4 am I immediately regretted the decision and have promised myself to stop booking crazy early flights but we'll see how long I stick to that for!
Where we stayed.
We stayed in the Almodovar Hotel which is a €35 taxi from the airport. I chose it because of the value and also environmental ethos. There is a long list of all they do in order to be eco-aware here but to sum it up they use electricity from renewable sources, there are no fridges in the rooms, all the wood throughout (flooring, beds etc) is sustainably sourced and they only serve vegetarian food from local producers. The design is modern, scrupulously clean and fresh. I loved it and the breakfast every morning (served until 11) in Bistro Bardot was the nicest I have ever had. They can do eggs if you want but also had an abundance of vegan offerings from tofu scramble, dairy free yogurts to vegan croissants as well as loose leaf teas and juices. The hotel also told us about a lovely organic supermarket a short walk from the hotel so if you want snacks or fresh fruit they're easy to obtain. There is a Sauna upstairs which in the depths of freezing Winter would be so lovely to warm up in. They also provide a Yoga mat in the rooms also which is a nice touch!
Berlin is made for cyclists. Even if you don't feel comfortable cycling normally the cycle paths are so wide you feel totally safe. We downloaded a Deezer bike app and for a very nominal amount (we didn't spend more than €4 any of the days) we cycled to most places and into the city centre, which is about 20 minutes from the hotel. Otherwise we used Uber to the airport and back. Taxi drivers were particularly friendly also.
What to do
Initially I was suggesting we did a tourist bus to get a grasp of the city but on our first evening we cycled to the Brandenburg Gate and from here you can walk around to a lot of the key historical places you might want to look at. There are a lot of memorial sites all with plaques in English explaining the history and what they are for. It can be quite intense and it's also emotional. We walked around taking it all in and to be honest I was happier not to be in a bustling group with an agenda. Checkpoint Charlie is also another site people like to take photos at and there is a museum attached that stayed open late. The German History museum also looked fascinating but we actually only went to the Topographie des Terrors. During the "Third Reich" the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located at the site. It's now a free photographic museum and we spent about 2 hours there.
Where we ate and drank
Naturally I was very excited to try some nice places. I found Yelp as well as follower recommendations brilliant. Everywhere we went to catered to vegans which was refreshing.
The concept of the bar is that upon entry there is a selection of about a dozen perfumes to smell. Based on what you are drawn to the barman will make you up your cocktail. It's quite novel and maybe a fun thing to do with a perfume lover but I didn't love it as much as I wanted to. Nice to check out but not suitable for everyone especially if they just want a beer or glass of wine.
I had heard a lot about Cookies Cream and thankfully they were able to squeeze us in to a 9.45 table on the Saturday night. Once you find it - it's in the back of a carpark - you enter a speakeasy style bar. It's full of contrasts as the place has a vintage feel to it, yet German house music plays out. The restaurant itself (where no photography is allowed) is industrial yet luxe. The walls are almost whitewashed and the ground is raw, yet the linen, glassware and silverware is incredibly fine. The menu is reasonable enough, until you add wine! The atmosphere is vibrant and the food is sublime. It's a fabulous experience and I think anyone would enjoy it, vegetarian or not.
The Bowl came highly recommended and we went there on the first night. It's above a vegan supermarket which I loved browsing through. There were take away options available from the supermarket and also a lovely bakery counter but we chose to eat upstairs. The setting overlooks the city. It's a busy commuter spot so there is lots of people watching. I had courgetti and it was so simple, yet delicious.
Here was right beside our hotel and, as the name would suggest, everything has avocado in it. It's not a vegan place specifically but they had lots of options. Again it was a reasonable place and perfect for a healthy lunch. The design was also very millennial with lots of plants and pale pink throughout.
Andrew wanted to go to a gym and found a very cool place where you could just drop in for a workout. Afterwards we found No Milk Today which was a short walk away. I had vegan quiche which was a bit of a revelation and delicious. This is a sweet slightly kitsch place with lovely vegan food.
The benefit of the late flight on the Monday meant we had a full day to spend exploring. Our last meal was in Factory Girl which does salads and brunch style options. The portions were huge and my salad could easily have fed 2.
Berlin is a fabulous city and there genuinely is so much to do, and see. I would love to go back again!
Hope these tips were helpful!
Lots of love,