Why you should add a winter trip to Berlin to your city-break bucket list
Steeped in controversial but fascinating history, there's so much to learn about Berlin.
The great East/West divide, the Berlin Wall and World War Two are all historical topics which have gripped me over the years, but I have only ever touched on through a text book.
A visitor of many other parts of Europe, it was time for my first German adventure and what better starting point than with a visit to its vibrant capital?
Berlin is a city that has seen many monumental stories unfold, particularly over the 20th century, but beyond its history there are many wonderful boutiques, superb restaurants, lively bars and lovely green spaces, making relaxation between sightseeing so easy.
Where to stay:
The 427-room Radisson Blu Hotel is one of the most exciting in Mitte, the most central borough of Berlin. Perched on the banks of the river Spree and opposite stunning Berlin Cathedral, it’s the perfect base for exploring the city.
Just a short stroll away are many great restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries, as well as the large transport hub of Alexanderplatz, Museum Island and all the exclusive stores along Friedrichstrasse.
The hotel’s unique feature is its giant AquaDom in the lobby, which contains so much sea life it’s like you are submerged at the bottom of the ocean as soon as you walk through the doors.
What to do:
In my opinion, one of the best ways of seeing any city is on a bike tour. Three- and-a-half hours on two wheels is ample time to see most tourist spots and you can stop, admire and ask questions at your leisure. And, for us, it was also a great way of keeping the blood pumping in the cold German snap.
We saddled up with Berlin on Bike on the ‘Berlin’s Best’ tour and our knowledgeable guide left no stone unturned as we rode, listened and talked through 800 years of the city’s history.Setting off in trendy Prenzlauer Berg, once a working class area, we headed into the city centre with stops at Museum Island, iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, the seat of German parliament with its famous glass dome.
There was also time for reflection, with emotional stops at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, built to commemorate the events of World War Two, and the Berlin Wall Memorial, reminding us how 40 years of communist East Germany left its mark on the city.
If you’re a fan of beer and hearty food a visit to Brauhaus Lemke is a must. Directly opposite Alexanderplatz, it’s the perfect place to discover the tastebud-tingling combination of expertly-brewed beer and the best regional cuisine.
Germany is fairly new to craft beer, but like most things, it does it very well. A brewery tour, plate of pork schnitzel, currywurst and a flight of Lemke beers was the perfect way to spend a ‘real German’ afternoon.
Where to eat:
With 26 Michelin stars and countless culinary stars of the future, Berlin shines at the highest level when it comes to food.
Whether it’s domestic or international cuisine you want, there’s plenty of choice, but one of the city’s most outstanding food players is Restaurant Tim Raue, a holder of two Michelin stars.
Located near Checkpoint Charlie, the restaurant offers Asian-inspired dishes in a friendly and informal atmosphere, but you shouldn’t be fooled by the relaxed nature as the food is second to none.
There’s no bread, pasta or rice dishes as Tim Raue’s remit is to give you an experience that won’t burden the body.
There were many elegant plates for us to enjoy including delicious langoustine, pikeperch and Peking duck, plus a selection of exquisite small dishes featuring pork belly, pak choi and cashew nuts with massaman curry.
It was only at the end we were handed a menu to discover the finer details of the gourmet journey we had just been on. After this gastronomic treat, you can see why Tim Raue now occupies 37th place in ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.
Flying just shy of two hours from Manchester to Berlin Schoenfeld, our airport connections in Germany were made simple thanks to the purchase of a Berlin WelcomeCard, a ‘must-buy’ for any tourists.
Whether you’re hopping on the train, tram or bus, using a WelcomeCard is the most cost-effective way of getting around as it entitles you to free travel, so all you need to think about is enjoying your time in the city.
It also offers discounts of up to 50 per cent at over 200 attractions and with the ‘all- inclusive’ option, there’s also free entry to be enjoyed in a few.
A great way of taking the hassle out of any trip is to book meet and greet parking at the airport, which allows you to drop-off your car and keys at the terminal, grab your luggage and stroll into departures in minutes. Pre-booking with Holiday Extras at Manchester Airport Terminal 3 costs from Â£53.99 for eight days. Visit http://HolidayExtras.com or call 0800 955 5989.
- Radisson Blu hotel: Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 3, 10178 Berlin, 0049 30 238280. Rooms start at 105 euros - http://radissonblu.com/en/hotel-berlin
- Restaurant Tim Raue: Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 26, 10969 Berlin, 0049 30 25937930. Prices for set menus start at 88 euros - http://tim-raue.com/en/
- Berlin on Bike: Starting from Kulturbrauerei, all tours cost 24 euros until March 14. Private tours start from 170 euros - http://berlinonbike.de/en
- Brauhaus Lemke: Hackescher Markt, Dircksenstraße, S-Bahnbogen 143, 10178 Berlin. Tours cost 20 euros per person - http://lemke.berlin/home/
- Visit berlin: http://www.visitberlin.de/en