What to do in Germany's quirky capital ?

November 10, 2023

So imagine this. You’ve arrived in Berlin. You want to try and fit in as much as possible. Maybe you think of Germany and Dirndl, Lederhosen and Brezeln come to mind. Well rule number one for a weekend in Berlin: stay away from anything stereotypically German looking. These things are from the Bavaria region and have little space in Berlin. So forget all the stereotypes you’ve ever heard about Germany if you don’t want to look like a tourist. I’ve come up with some things you can do and try in Berlin so you can experience the city like a true Berliner.

First, let’s get to grips with the lingo…

If you know some German already, you might notice that some words are pronounced slightly differently and a little harsher in Berlin – we call this Berliner Schnauze (pronounced: Bearleener Shnoutse) which literally translates to “Berlin snout”. Here are some examples:

English: German: Berliner Schnauze:
I ich “ick” or “icke”
what was “wat”
no nein “nee”

Think Berliners are rude and impolite? Wrong! They might not smile a lot, and they’re often very direct with a dark and subtle sense of humour. But most of them will be MORE than happy to help you out. Just ask!

Take an afternoon stroll

There are more bridges in Berlin than there are in Venice: that’s around 1,700! If you visit the city in summer, make sure you rent a pedalo or take a cruise on the river Spree; it’ll give you a unique perspective on the city. And if the weather’s bad, you’re sorted too: Berlin has around 180 museums and galleries – that’s more than rainy days per year!

Hungry? Stop for some Currywurst!

If you want to observe real Berliners in their natural habitat, stop for a snack at one of the many sausage shops and order the infamous Currywurst . This grilled pork sausage comes chopped up in a curried-tomato sauce, topped with hot curry powder and served with a bread roll or fries on the side. You might get asked: Mit oder ohne Darm? (lit. “With or without intestine?”), which – to be honest – sounds a bit gross. But whether you prefer your sausage with or without the skin, it’s a Berlin icon you just HAVE to try.

Fun fact: Berliners eat up to 70 million of these sausages per year – that’s more than 190,000 a day! They sure do like their Currywurst!

But that’s not the only speciality invented in Berlin. The Döner Kebab was apparently invented here in the 1970s and it’s become nearly as popular as Currywurst! It’s served in crispy Turkish bread with sesame seeds. Traditionally, a Döner comes with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, red cabbage and – obviously – meat. To top it off, you have a choice of different sauces like Kräuter (herb), scharf (spicy) and Knoblauch (garlic), but some places offer variations with beetroot or curry spice, for example.

About 60 tons of döner meat gets eaten in Berlin – every day! Can you imagine?!

If you want the whole works, just order a Döner komplett. And for all the veggies out there: try a Falafel Döner instead. Just tuck in and enjoy!

Next stop: the Berlin wall

Berlin had an interesting anniversary recently. Monday 5th February 2018 marked the 10,316th day since the famous wall that once separated East from West Berlin officially fell – that’s longer than the number of days it stood for! Nowadays, there is 1.3km of it left, painted by various international artists. A must see!

Tip: Go there in the evening or even at night when it’s less busy. You can see the murals best from the opposite side of the road and take more time to look at them from a distance. And taking a tour with a guide along the former border is also something you should consider doing, as it will take you right through the whole city.

Hitting Berlin’s electro scene? Here’s some local drinks to get you in the mood…

Berliner Weiße: This type of cloudy sour beer is local to Berlin and can only be produced here under the name Berliner Weiße. (By the way: the letter ‘ß’ is pronounced like the letter ‘s’ in German.) The beer is usually served in bowl-shaped glasses with either raspberry or woodruff flavoured syrup to balance out the sourness. When ordering it, you might get asked: Rot oder grün? (Red or green?) – now you know why!

And even if you don’t like shots, you are most likely to come across Berliner Luft (lit. ‘Berlin air’) aka Pfeffi, a clear or green peppermint liqueur especially popular amongst 20-somethings. So don’t be surprised if you’re served a shot that tastes just like liquid mints when you say that you “need some air”…

With these tips you’re definitely ready to explore Berlin like a Berliner. Now get ready for your perfect city break, brush up your German with busuu and practise saying: Ich bin ein Berliner!… because you might find you just never want to leave!

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