Berlin for the third time

This year I visited Berlin for the third time. Berlin is like Madrid one of my favorite cities in Europe. This third time around it took a bit more time to prepare an itinerary. We had visited all the usual suspects on our previous visits and it was the middle of winter, so I had to look for a lot of indoor activities. This time we will stay 4 days, 3 nights, and we will stay at the Hilton Hotel in Mitte, on the edge of the Gendarmenmarkt, a posh area.

The Hilton hotel is an older hotel, a bit dated but still very stylish. Breakfast is not included in our room rate and we won’t take it at 33 euro per person. There are some breakfast places just on the doorstap of the hotel. The hotel has a swimming pool and a fitness. They have a sauna but it costs 14 euro if you want to use it. The rooms have coffee and tea making facilities and bathrobe and slippers are available. The rooms and bathroom are spacious and sound insulated.

We arrive on Saturday noon, and take a taxi from Tegel airport to the hotel, which only takes half an hour. We check in and walk out for a lunch. We walk to Chipps where you can eat breakfast all day through but we finally decide on entering Quchnia on the Gendarmenmarkt. They have lovely open sandwiches on dark bread an yummie bagels. I take the Q-tea with fresh mint, ginger and lime and some honey, really lovely.

After buying a 72 hour Berlincitytourcard for 24 euro at one of the ticket machines, we take the U and S bahn to Hauptbahnhof, the central train station, and walk to the Hamburger Bahnhof, a museum for contemporary modern art. We take a global ticket. They have an extensive permanent collection of contemporay art, belonging to the Nationalgalerie, showing major figures and movements in art since 1960, taking up where the Neue Nationalgalerie (closed for renovations) leaves off. There are some temporary exhibitions on show as well. I am impressed with the building, and old train station, a bit less with the collections which are not really on-edge anymore, and is not yet old enough to have an historic feel. 

We take the U-bahn to Hackesche Höfe, and in particular a shop where I bought a handbag in 2012. Although the handbag is still in perfect condition, and has now a vintage look, I wish to buy a second one, to alternate with the one I have. On my last trip I didn’t find something to my taste, this time around I do! The shop Promobo has many more beautiful things to take home. 

We walk to the Tajikistan Tearoom for a tea. The interior, where you can sit on the floor, is very original and cosy, the teas are less impressive… But it was a great stop to get us out of the cold.

Our restaurant is just a few steps further: Night Kitchen is a hip, trendy small restaurant, with a very welcoming atmosphere. They serve Mediterranean dishes to share. We ordered 4 dishes and a dessert to share, and apart from the meat salad, they were all very tasty. Recommended!

The next morning we walked over to Quchnia on the Gendarmenmarkt again for breakfast, we had made reservations the previous day, to make sure we had a table on Sunday, the favorite day for locals to take a brunch.

We then take the U-bahn to Kurfürstendamm, and walk over to the Museum für Fotografie, which holds the Helmut Newton Foundation: the exhibition ‘Private Property’, on the ground floor of the museum. The temporary exhibitions Nudes by Saul Leiter, David Lynch and Helmut Newton on the first floor and Berlin in the 1918/19 Revolution on the second floor are well presented in this small but beautiful museum.

We take the U-bahn to Potsdamer Platz and have a quick veggie lunch to share at Ki Nova, where you also have a great choice of vegan dishes, and a great beverages menu.

We walk to the Topographie des Terrors, a museum with free entrance, focusing on the central institutions of the SS and police during the “Third Reich” and the crimes that they committed throughout Europe. A temporary exhibition about Kristallnacht is also on. Outside is an extra exhibition with 15 stations complements the permanent exhibition indoors. The exhibition leaves a deep permanent impression.

I had booked a table at the Jazzcafé Grolman for dinner. We take the U-bahn again and are given a cosy table by the window. The menu looks rather traditional but the dishes are very good and of high quality. The service is very friendly and warm. Just a few steps away is Jazzclub A-Trane, and many combine dinner with a live jazz performance a 8 PM.

The third morning we take breakfast again at Quchnia on the Gendarmenmarkt, but this time around we are a bit disappointed, and decide to take our last breakfast the next day at Chipps, just around the corner. I enjoyed a swim in the hotel before starting my day.

I have two days to fill on my own while my husbands works. I first take the U-banh to the Berlinische Galerie , a museum for modern art from Berlin dating from 1870 to the present day – with both a local and international focus. A temporary exhibition focuses on the Novembergruppe, launched in November 1918 during the revolution in Berlin, showing art from the Weimar Republic.

I then walk to the Modulor store, a heavenly place if you are a creative soul. I pick up some materials to take home, and have to stop myself from buying more.

I take the U-bahn to Mitte, to have lunch at the House of small wonder. I arrive a bit before 3 PM, and I am just on time, because they plan on closing at 4 PM that day. I have a great lunch and fresh lemonade and some cheesecake as dessert. The place is small but super cosy. Love it!

I continue to the Me Collectors room, a private museum. On the way there I took in the views of the beautiful Jewish synagogue and Fernsehturm (Berlin’s television tower) in a clear blue sunny sky.

You enter the museum through the me-café. On the ground floor runs the photo-exhibition ‘The moment is eternity’, with photographs of the Olbricht Collection. On the first floor you find the Wunderkammer Olbricht, a private collection including over 300 valuable curiosities from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, which are among the most significant examples of their object types.

In the evening my husband joins me for a nostalgic dinner at Monsieur Vuong in Mitte, a great Vietnamese street food restaurant, always full and with a great ambience. It tastes heavenly, so we even take a dessert, of which the taste and smell throws us right back to Hanoi.

On our last morning we take breakfast at Chipps, where you can eat breakfast all day. It was a welcome change from Quchnia. They serve great egg dishes and pancakes.

This last morning I spent in the wonderful Gemäldegalerie. It is a very large museum and you best decide what you want to see, because there is just too much to take in during just one visit. I enjoyed the works by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Rubens, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Breughel de Elder, Memling, Rogier Van de Weyden, Jan Van Eyck and Lucas Granach.

Almost next to it and also part of the Kulturforum, is the Berliner Philharmonie where every Tuesday at 1 PM you can enjoy a lunchconcert at the Foyer, free of charge. Just make sure you get there on time if you want to have a good spot and because only a limited number of people are allowed in. Only people with a disability get a chair, all others sit on the floor, or one the stairs. A string quartet played J. Haydn and F. Shubert. A great zen moment for the mind.

I had lunch close to the hotel at Beets and Roots, a self service bar for a healthy lunch, with vegetarian and vegan dishes, mostly bowls, soups and salads.

I then took a taxi to Tegel airport to meet my husband and fly back home, after another great visit of this inspiring city!

And for more inspiration, here are the links to my previous blogs on Berlin:

A building should tell a story. Daniel Libeskind

Berlin beyond the Pergamon Museum, East Side gallery and Checkpoint Charlie

Potsdam waiting to be discovered

Citytrip naar Berlijn in de herfst (only in Dutch)

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