How to weekend in Berlin the non-touristy way

I love people, I really do. I think I always knew that, but since I started travelling I realised it all the more. Sure, people can be really lame at times, like when they can’t accept each others’ differences. But apart from that, they’re pretty awesome.

I love the fact that I have so many different friends from all over the world and I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to meet all these interesting people. Having friends in different parts of the world also creates more exciting opportunities to, you guessed it, TRAVEL!

I recently took up an invite from a German friend to go visit her in Berlin. The beautiful thing about Europe is that even though everything is so close together, one country is so vastly different to the next.  After roughly 1,5 hours on a plane from Italy, I could be in Holland, Portugal, Spain, Prague or Berlin, for example. Thus, I thought it’d be a perfect long-weekend trip.

Once everything was organised (and by that I mean flight tickets booked – I’m not so big on planning in advance) I realised that I never even had Germany on my bucket list. I have no idea why.

Anyway… I hadn’t seen this friend in two years so the main plan was to hang out and for me to simply fall into their weekend plans – touristy things, like always, on the backburner. If you don’t know by now, I live in a dream world where I imagine that I’m never really a tourist. I just don’t associate with them, I tell myself. If I see a queue longer than 10 people I have no problem moving on. I don’t really care who painted the inside of the roof. (Yes, there are, obviously, exceptions… I’ve been to the Vatican City twice within a span of six months before).

Instead, I prefer roaming around a new place, blending into the crowd and observing things from a distance. I like to absorb the energy of a new city with all it has to offer. Heck, I sometimes hop on a tram just to be on the tram and not really knowing where it’s headed. That’s why I decided that nothing would be more satisfying to me than doing Berlin with some Berliners. Of course, some sightseeing did make its way onto our itinerary, which I’m quite happy about. (*Disclaimer: No, I did not visit one museum. I did not visit Checkpoint Charlie. I did not see the East side gallery… I’m leaving those goodies for next time.)

The not-so-touristy things

Four days in Berlin isn’t really a lot. It’s a big city which requires a lot of walking. But this is a small glimpse of how I weekended in Berlin the non-touristy way.

Strolling around Mitte where we passed Lustgarten and the Berliner Dom (cathedral). Wow. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my fair share of cathedrals by now, but this one is something spectacular.


The extraordinary Berliner Dom.



A city of contrasts. The Reichstagsgebäude on the left and the Paul-Löbe-Haus on the right.


Having a beer and orientating myself at Berliner Republik.


A walk around the beautiful, peaceful neighbourhood of Charlottenburg where I stayed with these two blonde German unicorns.


Eating an insane brekkie at Röstwerk Kaffeerösterei in Charlottenburg.


One of the many garden colonies of Berlin – I’d never seen anything like it. The concept started up in Germany in the 1800s as so-called “paupers’ gardens” for poor, urban populations to grow their own food and enjoy nature. The original intent was to improve the living conditions for people living in poor housing conditions, often suffering from malnutrition and social neglect, but they are now popular across socio-economic groups.


Some graffiti at Teufelsberg. This is absolutely one of my top recommendations – apart from the endless view of Berlin, it also has a pretty fascinating story. Teufelsberg is the old abandoned listening or intelligence-gathering station used during the Cold War by the Americans and British to learn what was going on in Russian-controlled East Germany. Skip the TV tower, you’ll save money and you’ll have a way better experience at this arty hub.




And here’s a quick video containing some highlights :)

Berlin from Ilse van den Berg on Vimeo.

Have you been to Berlin? What was your favourite thing about this city? Any recommentdations for next time? 

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