With my 28th birthday bringing mild panic and a sense of ‘what have I achieved in my life?!‘ I decided to do what any sane person would do and run away to a foreign country for a few days.
Berlin was always somewhere that people told me I needed to visit, but a place I never felt a strong pull to actually go to. I’m not really a ‘city‘ girl, I prefer to go to places with a strong ancient culture or dramatic landscapes, as I find cities a bit samey. Saying all this, you are probably thinking:
Why the hell did you choose to go to Berlin then you weirdo?
Well, it was cheap. Like really cheap. It cost me around £60 return flights and £30 for the hostel for 3 nights and 4 days. What did screw me over a bit was the wonderful Brexit deal being announced the day before and making the pound drop even lower against the Euro. Thanks Theresa!
Let’s crab shuffle away from the topic of politics though and take a look at how I spent my amazing time in Berlin!
Places to Stay in Berlin
PLUS Berlin Hostel
I booked in to the PLUS Berlin Hostel, situated in the Friedrichshain area of the city and close to the East Side Gallery and Berlin Wall Museum. I arrived in the dark by train and although it is pretty much next door, I still managed to get a bit lost. In the day, it couldn’t be easier to find, as the building towers above its surroundings and has the name painted on the side, but it was dark and I did not see this!
Placed just behind a row of bars on the main road, the hostel was modern, very clean and had more amenities than you could shake a stick at.
I arrived on my actual birthday, so I naturally headed straight to the bar/restaurant to celebrate. The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming and I even got a few cheeky birthday shots to help me celebrate! I met lots of other solo travellers and suffice to say, I ended up in a club called the Matrix at 2 am having a grand old time.
PLUS Berlin isn’t the cheapest hostel you could get in Berlin, but it is definitely the best value for money. It even has a pool and sauna that you can use and its restaurant does amazing food. The reception is 24 hours, which was very important for me as I tend to fly at odd time to save money.
They have lockers in the rooms, clean and large en-suite bathrooms in the rooms, extremely comfy beds and free WiFi. So if you’re a digital nomad, it’s a great place to set up for the day.
Places to Eat in Berlin
When it comes to food, there is no shortage of places to eat in Berlin, plus, if you love a hipster cafe, you’ll be in heaven. Because I am a budget solo traveller, I tend to head to a supermarket to stock up on breakfast and lunch foods, but I did eat out a fair bit on this trip.
It is fairly expensive in Berlin, no more so than other big cities like London or Paris and definitely cheaper than anywhere in Scandinavia (I’m still recovering from the shock of Stockholm prices). Many, if not all the staff in these cafes and restaurants speak English, but I always advise to learn a little bit of German to say please, thank you and order off the menu. It just makes life easier!
I discovered Tante Emma on my very last day in Berlin, as I had woken up that morning with the flu and was pretty much dying and looking for somewhere warm and cozy to hibernate. It is situated on the street in Wrangelkiez and is filled with mismatched and cozy furniture. It was exactly what I was looking for and not too expensive for a coffee.
I did end up getting moved on after finishing my latte though, as it was starting to get quite busy and I was taking up all of the comfy sofa.
After being moved on from Tante Emma I decided to keep exploring and find a place for lunch and to hold up until I had to venture to the airport. Walking up past Warschauer train station, I made my way to Roots Cafe, a place I had found on Google when looking for the best cafes in Berlin.
I wasn’t disappointed. I really loved this little cozy cafe, it was warm (perfect for me and my failing body) and it had a great menu of food and drinks to choose from. The staff were super friendly and helpful and there was a couple of blankets on my table that I could use to try and make myself feel less like death.
I had a delicious panini that wasn’t too pricey and a decent size, plus a delicious bottle of lemonade. I even managed to get some hot water and lemon to try and combat the flu that was making me want to cry a little. I did not get moved on from this place (which I will forever be grateful for) and I stayed here until I had to get the train to the airport, ready to fly home.
Free Places to visit in Berlin
As a budget solo traveller, I like to try and find a bargain wherever I go. This means trying to find cheap or free things to do in some of the biggest cities and towns!
Berlin, even though it can be pricey, has a wealth of things to do for free and you could easily spend a whole day without spending a penny. Here’s a couple of things I got up to whilst on my Berlin trip!
East Side Gallery
Combining history and creativity, the East Side Gallery is completely free, it’s just right there on the street and open for anyone to browse as they please.
A long stretch of Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery displays some of the most thought provoking art you’ll ever see. Some artists have chosen to leave messages of hope and love, some represent the atrocities that have happened in Germany’s past. Every piece of art is worth looking at and really interpreting, plus, you can do so as you head towards the city centre!
It’s a must, pretty much the symbol of Berlin, not to mention it is surrounded by the most touristy places, so if you wanted to be a proper tourist, then this is the place to be. It is also round the corner from the holocaust memorial (The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), which is a must visit.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a modern art memorial that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the atrocities of WW2, but it is a place to reflect and just think about and be grateful for everything you have.
I have to have a rant here though, maybe this is just me but let me know if it isn’t. The amount of people standing next to it taking smiling selfies or running through it and laughing like it was a giant playground made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I don’t quite understand why you would want a ‘happy‘ smiling selfie next to a memorial that represents the senseless murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
I didn’t even really want to keep my headphones in as I walked around it and instead opted for just walking in silence and taking in the scale of it all. It is a place you need to see, but please be respectful when you get there!
Falling in love with Berlin
I definitely didn’t expect to love Berlin as much as I did. Solo travel in Berlin is a must at least once in your life as it is a city that feels very safe, everyone is lovely and it is filled with a mix of cultures and languages. There isn’t a huge amount to see as a tourist, but taking your time, a few days in the city is more than enough.
Also, make sure to visit the parks and neighbourhoods to find hidden pieces of art work or delicious cafes. Visiting Berlin is a bit like playing pass the parcel, the more layers you unwrap, the more you’ll discover!