For our latest adventure, we took a last-minute decision to visit a European city during the May half term school holidays. Available from our local airport Liverpool, we saw Berlin had some great flights to make the most of two nights away. Joanne and I had visited Hamburg in the past to visit the Christmas Markets and I’ve been to Munich, but as family we’d never considered Germany for a break.
We chose the Novotel Berlin Mitte, located right on the River Spree, only a short walk to Alexanderplatz and the old East Berlin. The hotel welcome was first class. We received a gift for the kids, a map of the city and some tips on how to get around Berlin. Clear directions to the room, which for a family of four was a decent size, which was clean and had everything we needed. A complimentary drink, jar of sweets and a personal welcome note from the manager was left for us in the room, which was a wonderful first impression. Drinks were reasonably priced for a city centre hotel and the bar area was easy to relax in.
On the first day, we took a taxi to Brandenburg Gate, where we joined a free two-to-three hour walking tour of the Old East Berlin. It was a brilliant tour showing you the key locations during the Second World War followed by the Cold War. The tour guide was extremely informative, giving some great information on the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Fuhrers Bunker, Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie and finishing in Gendarmenmarkt and the Konzerthaus Berlin.
We had lunch in the Gendarmenmarkt square in a lovely and excellent value for money restaurant called Amici., where you can buy full-sized pizza for five Euros.
After lunch, we walked to the Humboldt Universcity, home to some of Europe's finest brains over the years, the Berlin Cathedral, the Hackescher Markt, followed by a trip to the top of the TV Tower for some spectacular views of Berlin. To round off the afternoon, we took an early evening river cruise on the Spree, costing 30 Euros for a family ticket. There were some lovely sights and the hour was well narrated. In the evening, we returned to the Hackescher Markt, which contains lots of restaurants to choose from. We ate in a steak house called Escados, a good menu for the whole family, and prices comparable to the UK.
To me the Old East Berlin is very relaxing and cultured, people don't seem to be in a rush and there's a lot of cyclists. Despite the traffic and trams, there's plenty of crossing opportunities and walking the city on foot is easy, as all the main attractions are well sign posted.
Day two and time to visit the rest of the City that was the Old West. We took the opportunity today to use one of the excellent Hop on Hop Off buses. Firstly, we visited the beautiful park Tiegarten Berlin. Close by is the Victory Column and the Presidents home, Bellevue Palace, then we headed over the Kurfurstendamm, a boulevard where shopaholics are in their element. You’ll find all your favorite brands, countless hotels, restaurants and cafes here.
For lunch, we headed to Potsdamer Platz; a bustling square right in the heart of Berlin with plenty of shops and restaurants. Lunch was in a typical German restaurant serving lovely local dishes. The rest of the afternoon we spent on the bus listening to the narration as we went around the city, before returning back to the hotel to check for our flight home.
The kids really enjoyed the trip and would have loved to have done the two-and-half-hour river cruise. Next time I’d like to spend more time seeing the countless museums and learning even more about the history of this fascinating city. For me, the highlight was the free guided tour, It was informative, well planned and certainly whet your appetite to explore the rest of the city.