I spent two full days and two half days in Berlin in August 2015, and managed to cram about five days’ worth of sightseeing in; so much, in fact, that I’ve split this into two parts to make it easier to read. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon (by train from Amsterdam, travel time six hours) and left at midday on a Tuesday. I did so much that one entire afternoon is a fuzzy memory, but I’m going to try to reconstruct most of my path for you. Don’t be me; give yourself more time to see less sights! Here’s how I did gluten free travel to Berlin.
Gluten free travel day one: arrival, getting settled and exploring the area
I arrived into Berlin Central Station just before 4 pm. I was supposed to be there an hour earlier but my train connection was delayed. My first stop in the train station was to buy a Berlin Welcome Card. These come in a few varieties, with a few different lengths of stay and the option to include travel to Potsdam and museum visits. I went for the basic, no extra travel or museum stuff, for 72 hours – that’s the 3-day AB pass (€27.50). This pass gives you unlimited travel on the city’s buses, and the above ground trains (S-bahn) as well as the subway (U-bahn.) It also gives you discounts at a number of tourist sites and has a city map in it.
I took a train and then the subway to reach my hotel, ibis budget Berlin Kurfürstendamm, near Wittenbergplatz subway station. I actually really liked the hotel, it was inexpensive but clean and comfortable, and they had a pretty decent breakfast spread with gluten free bread available. (It was weird dense German bread though, so I bought my own at the very nearby grocery store.)
Since I’d only eaten a salad with some chicken that I’d bought at the Amsterdam train station that morning, I was fairly well starving by the time I reached the hotel and got checked in. I set out to explore just around my hotel and stumbled upon PK Pan Asian Kitchen (after a failed attempt to communicate in a Thai restaurant in both English and German.) They were very helpful and knowledgeable about gluten, and I ended up ordering a starter of hot and sour soup and a main dish of glass noodles. The soup was alright, but the noodle dish was really good. I really liked this place, and so far, my gluten free travel to Berlin was off to a good start!
I wasn’t up for too much adventure that evening, but I did hop back on the subway to Kurfürstendamm, which was just one stop over. That’s a big area of retail shops and clothing stores. I had a look around before everything closed around 8 pm, then headed back for the night.
Gluten free travel day two: Flea market, Berlin Wall, too much tourism in one day
A word to the wise about Germany on Sundays: grocery stores and retail shops are closed. Plan your time around this – you don’t want to plan to visit the shopping district on the day everything’s shut.
However, the best thing in Berlin on a Sunday is the flea market at Mauerpark (Flohmarkt am Mauerpark). It was the furthest thing I did from my hotel, so it was quite a journey and then a bit of walk to get there, but it was well worth it. The market has rows of stalls selling everything from handmade bags and clothing to jewelry to random secondhand stuff. There’s also quite a few food stalls – if you need a snack, I recommend looking for the Brazilian stand selling tapioca pancakes. These are gluten free and come with a few different fillings.
From there, I caught a quick bus over to the Berlin Wall Memorial, which has a small museum in a building and then quite a few outdoor displays over several blocks of where the wall stood (and in some sections, still stands.) It’s worth taking a look here, as it’s a good way to really learn the history of the city divided, and the ways life differed on either side of the wall. Also, the story of what happened to the people living in the area where the wall was built is also quite interesting.
From here is where I got overambitious and went into hyper-tourism-mode. You could probably break this next section into two full days and still not see everything.
My next stop was the Tiergarten (a big park near the zoo), which I reached by a subway to near the Brandenburg Gate and then a bus that left me just in front of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Being me, I didn’t go in the Haus but I did eat lunch at the restaurant on the back side of the building, in their outdoor seating area just along the Spree River.
From there, I took the bus back to the Brandenburg Gate for pictures and walked over to the Reichstag building for pictures there too. Then I got back in the subway to head to Alexanderplatz, which is mostly a shopping area that was closed on Sunday. There was a little outdoor market and festival happening that I wandered through. From there I walked to the Nikolaiviertel, a quaint and lovely little neighborhood. It was nice after the big buildings and crowds of Alexanderplatz to find a quiet little oasis nearby. I had a snack at Kartoffelhaus Nr.1, a potato-themed restaurant.
From there, I made my way over to Potsdamer Platz, by which time I was tired and was starting to not care. My last stop on my tour of everything ever was Checkpoint Charlie, which again, I just took pictures at, though the nearby museum looked cool. I think if I hadn’t been so exhausted at that point I would have paid to visit that.
I headed back to my hotel to clean up, and then couldn’t be bothered with any more adventure (it was hot and my feet hurt.) I found Dolores very close to the hotel and had some tasty tacos. Dolores is pretty similar to a Chipotle (US) or Pinto (UK.) Then it was back to the hotel for some CNN International and sleep.
A map of my adventures in Berlin