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Going to Germany/Berlin for the first time

Going to Germany/Berlin for the first time

Feb 3rd, 2009, 10:00 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2006
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Going to Germany/Berlin for the first time

My husband, 16 year old daughter and myself will be going to Paris to visit our 19 year old son where he is studying. We all want to fly to Berlin for 3-4 days to sightsee. We would love recommendations as to where to stay and what things we should absolutly do. I know we want to see a concentration camp, if possible?? Any recommendations? We like to travel on the higher end so we would like recommendations for a great hotel, great restaurants and driver as well.
rjbriskin is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:17 AM
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Berlin is one of my very most favorite cities in Europe - my impressions of it:

PalenQ is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:23 AM
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thanks PQ.
I'll be visiting Berlin for the first time in July -5 full days.
Looking forward to it!
danon is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:25 AM
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If you like art and/or history I would recommend the Gemäldegalerie (old masters paintings) and the museums on the Museum Insel, including the Pergamon Museum (Pergamon Altar), Bode Museum (mainly sculpture) and the Altes Museum (famous bust of Nefertiti). The Berliner Dom which is nearby is also quite impressive. I also enjoyed my visit to the Reichstag.

I stayed at the Westin Grand and would highly recommend it. It is 5-star and is definitely high end. It has a fabulous location too, at the corner of Friedrichstrasse (lots of shopping) and Unter den Linden. It is within easy walking distance of the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and lots of other interesting sights down the opposite direction of Unter den Linden.
Delaine is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:37 AM
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The Sachsenhausen concentration camp is close to Berlin.

For seeing Berlin, I have been using the book BerlinWalks by Fritzsche & Hewitt which is a little old but still valid (I used it 15 months ago) and very good at explaining the history of a neighborhood.
Michael is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:40 AM
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Here's my trip report, in case you are interested:

Michael is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 11:43 AM
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Rather than do the walks on your own, use one of the walking tour companies, such as Insider Tours, Brewers, New Berlin, etc. If you contact them they will also do private tours and can probably arrange drivers too. Hearing the fascinating history of Berlin from a guide who is passionate about history, art, and the city, is ever so much better than walking around with a book, trying to find answers to your questions. They all go to Potsdam and the Sans Soucci palace and to Sachsenhausen too.
Mainhattengirl is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 01:01 PM
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> know we want to see a concentration camp, if possible??<

It's easy and only about a 40 minute train trip from the city to Orienenburg then either a small bus or walk (about 15 minutes) to Sachenhausen camp. It was built in 1936 and it is estimated that 100,000 perished inside its walls. Details about it are here:


Between 1933 and 1934 the same town had the very first camp, built in its centre. Known as the Orienenburg Concentration camp its purpose was the persecution of the 'opposition'. It was taken over by the SS in 1934 and closed.

I read a fascinating quote about Sachenhausen camp a few weeks ago. The person had visited it on a freezing cold January day and a few years later returned but this time in early June. The camp had the same effect on him and he said 'you can't take winter out of the place'.

Couldn't have put it better myself.

joe4212 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 01:10 PM
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You will enjoy Berlin.


Berlin has almost two dozen 5-star hotels. I have stayed in most of them.

The very best is the Rocco Forte Hotel de Rome - excellent location, boutique hotel feeling.


But there are other options. Check www.hrs.de for bargains.


The very best is Fischers Fritz (2 Michelin stars). They offer an affordable lunch menu - 5 courses at 39 Euros - an almost unbelievable bargain. For dinner, pretty expensive.


If you are ready for the adventurous side, try an 18-course molecular menu at the Maremoto (a student of Ferran Adria):


BTW, Maremoto's chef will organize the opening of El Bulli's first independent branch which is scheduled for May or June in Berlin.
traveller1959 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 01:30 PM
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yes, Berlin has much to see...3 days are perfect to visit the greatest highlights of Berlin.

You shouldn't miss http://www.germanplaces.com/germany/berlin-sights.html where I have found all highlights combined with amazing photos! There is an activities' section as well as accommodation to check out...

However, I discovered Potsdam there...looks beautiful and worth visiting...http://www.germanplaces.com/germany/potsdam.html

Have fun,

lisaly is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 01:50 PM
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I have also enjoyed the Westin Grand. It's location is excellent. There is a very good restaurant on the backside of it. Sorry I don't know the name. One of the most relaxing things I did after a long day of sightseeing was to sit in one of the comfortable chairs in the beautiful lobby, have a cup of something and listen to the piano player.
One tip, if you go to the Reichstag, which I recommend, do that first thing in the morning. The line will be much shorter. The view from above is not to be missed. Have a great trip. CJ
CarolJean is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2009, 04:13 PM
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Hello rj:

Another vote for the Westin Grand. Here are comments on some nearby restaurants as I reported last year:

(8) Bocco di Bacca
Friedrichstr. 167

We stayed in Mitte so this was a natural. Fabulous. The spaghetti vongol was especially delightful. Nice wine list.

(9) Lütter and Wegner
Charlottenstr. 56

Great for Sunday brunch, particularly the goulash and noodles

(10) Borchardt
Franzosischstr. 47

This is the place where Berlin celebrities are often seen. Our experience was that the food was mediocre and we were rushed.

The Concierge at the Westin arranged an English speaking driver for a great tour. He was a dapper fellow, formerly in the hotel business, in his mid-60's. Ask for him.

You should try to have lunch at the Reichstag. Here is the e-mail for the person to reserve lunch at the Reichstag:

[email protected]

Good luck. Gradyghost
gradyghost is offline  
Feb 9th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Thank you all for your responses. Now that I have done research the following hotels came up: Westin, Intercontinental, Grand Hotel Esplanade and Hotel Adion. I know everyone has recommended the Westin but I was wondering if anyone had thoughts on these other hotels???
rjbriskin is offline  
Feb 9th, 2009, 07:29 AM
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Hey I would recommend this beautiful and relatively inexpensive apartment we stayed in in December:


It's right at checkpoint charlie, on the onld berlin wall divide. Actually a walk up the street will take you to some wall remains.

This place is gorgeous and completely central.
travel_buzzing is offline  
Feb 9th, 2009, 02:00 PM
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Of the hotels you mention I would rule out the Interconti and the Grand Hotel Esplanade.
Neither of them is a bad hotel, but their locations are worse compared to the Westin and the Adlon. Not because both of them are in West Berlin, whereas the Westin and Adlon are in the East. But the Grand Hotel Esplanade is in a sort of residential neighbourhood bordering a canal with an extensive government/administrative complex on the other side and doesn't provide great access to public transport.
The Interconti is on a stretch that really consists of some rather dreary 60ies/70ies West Berlin architecture not offering much disraction, despite being reasonably close to the Zoo.

The Westin and Adlon are both in the center of the action in Mitte on Unter den Linden.
The Westin (former pride of the GDR) should be reasonably upscale 4* standard (if I recall correctly some recent renovations, which should make it a reasonably good choice). The Adlon is a notch above that at 5* level. The price one pays for the Adlon's reputation (and fabulous location next to Brandenburg Gate) is lots of traffic from sightseers who would never be able to afford staying there and which the hotel takes some effort to keep out, but will allow in for coffee or lunch etc. The whole experience would be quite posh, if not to say slightly stuffy in my opinion.

That said, none of these would be my choice. From my experience the Marriott offers some great value for money and, while on generic Potsdamer Platz it is not as prominently located as the Westin, is still in a convenient location. Alternatively the modern Radisson SAS just behind the Berliner Dom Cathedral and Museum Island would offer a nice clean look and good location (but is not as good service wise and it's interesting lobby feels a bit cool). The best in my opinion (and the more often I have stayed there the more convinced I am) is the Grand Hyatt, also on Potsdamer Platz with still modern looks about it, service to perfection without being ostentatious and a brilliant rooftop spa and pool. It even tops Rocco Forte's Grand Hotel de Rome (which, between Unter den Linden and Gendarmenmarkt admittedly beats the Hyatt's location on Potsdamer Platz) from my point of view, but it also certainly regularly tops the Westin, Marriott and Radisson in price, too, by some margin (it most likely would still be cheaper than the Adlon, though).
hsv is offline  
Feb 9th, 2009, 03:53 PM
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HSV: Good to see your words on the board. Haven't seen you weigh in in a while, but maybe I've beem MIA. Gradyghost
gradyghost is offline  
Feb 9th, 2009, 06:03 PM
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Just scanned the responses, so sorry if this is redundant. I concur with the Westin Grand; nice hotel and well located. Also, don't forget about Ravensbruk in addition to Sachsenhausen. The Wannsee Villa is also close by for those interested in further Holocaust studies.
lucy_d is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 10:44 AM
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cheers and thanks for the compliments.

I have been too busy to contribute much over the past 2 years and actually still am, but in a rare mood to continue staring at my screen after work yesterday this one caught my eye.

I completely support your restaurant recommendations BTW, (with the exception that it's "Bocca di Bacco" and "Lutter & Wegner" spelling wise).
The hip scene these days gathers at Grill Royale for steak, it appears (many Berliners complain about the prices, but it actually isn't that bad).

Ma by Tim Raue (formerly chef at Swissotel) receives rave reviews, but is too ostentatious for my taste, so I don't have a first hand experience to report. Others may like it and try it, though.

(actually I hate the website already).

I kind of still like Gugelhof, but it's certainly not upscale:

For good drinks(with a good view) - and actually quite edible food served in the restaurant section, one could try Solar:
hsv is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 12:27 PM
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I want to take issue with the comment that hiring a tour guide is better than going around on your own.

That is purely a subjective call, and personally I am so glad I toured Berlin on my own, picking out the things I wanted to see there -- the Reicghstag Dome, Christopher Isherwood's apartments, the Pergamom, the Bauhuas Museum, the History museum, the Turkish quarter, the Berlin Wall, and some other noteworthy sights, then being led around by somebody who hasn't a clue who I am.
zeppole is offline  
Mar 17th, 2009, 07:08 PM
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If I may add my two cents, I visit Berlin at least once a year for the last 10 years. I find the Westin hotel to be a very poor 5 star in room quality. I actually moved out of the Westin because their rooms were in poor condition. I would recommend the nearby Regent hotel or even the lesser Sofitel. I've never stayed at the Adlon or Hotel de Rome but those two would be what I think as the top Berlin hotels. Berlin has so many great 5 star hotels, it would be so ironic if you get stuck at the old Westin built in the DDR era.

I actually enjoy staying in the new section of the city called Potsdamerplatz because it is conveniently located right in the center of town between East & West Berlin. My favorite hotels there would be the Grand Hyatt & Mandala Suite Hotel. The Ritz & Marriott in Potsdamerplatz are also nice & new.

I would pretty much echo hsv's opinion that the Intercon has a clumsy location in West Berlin.
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