Helsinki and Berlin...opinions please?

Old Jun 17th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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Helsinki and Berlin...opinions please?

We are coming to the end of three months in London and we have one last hurrah,13 nights between Helsinki and Berlin. I get that these are not the most obvious fellows but the flights into Helsinki and out of Berlin are fixed, Yes, there's lots more to see but we always try to maximize everything and often end up with crazily convoluted itinerary. So this time we are thinking of doing something different, 6 nights in Helsinki and 7 in Berlin, or should we do 5 in 8? Or should we let you convince us to go to a third destination, Krakow or Riga perhaps 4, 3 and 6?

Background, friends of our really liked the week they spent in Helsinki last year and we have been meaning to make it to Berlin for years. One Brit, one American in our 40's and 50's. We travelled a lot, we're big museum/architecture/art types, like walking and I like gardens. I'm thinking of pretty nice hotels. Food recommendations would be great too.

So, I guess the question would be where to stay in Berlin, neighborhood and if anyone has any tips for Helsinki?

Thanks very much for any help! I'm happy to trade for advice on London, Paris, Rome, SF, Burma, India etc.!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:17 PM
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4 and 9 with an overnight trip from Berlin or even two nights in Dresden.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...0764/show?rb=1
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:22 PM
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If architecture interest you, Dessau is worth a day's trip for its Bauhuas buildings.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7634933295930/ right-click for more pictures.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:27 PM
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Don't know Helsinki
Visited Berlin 5 times.....world class museums, art galleries, historical sights...a great city.
Easy trips to Potsdam, Dresden,Hamburg,
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:34 PM
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http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-rep-paris.cfm

I have posted a link to my trip report from when we went to Finland about 3 years ago. We really enjoyed it. I also wrote about Riga in the above link. If you like Art Nouveau architecture, Riga has an abundance!

We split time between Helsinki and Turku while in Finland and really enjoyed both places. If you have any questions, I'll check back here!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:14 PM
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Thanks so much for the replies, this gives me quite a bit to think about. I must admit I hadn't thought about factoring in day trips from Berlin.I suppose the attraction of Helsinki is precisely that there aren't as many things you HAVE to do. We loved Lisbon for this reason, it was lovely and all the sites seemed optional where as I know in Berlin I will be running around like mad, it's just my personality!

Will check out the photos, places and TR mentioned. I really appreciate the help because we leave July 1 and this is still up for grabs! Not like me at all .
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:26 PM
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Helsinki is OK - but can't hold a candle to Berlin, esp as far as museums are concerned. I would do 3 and 10 - with day trips from Berlin.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:44 PM
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I am a big fan of Lisbon and of Art Nouveau, but I admit I was a bit underwhelmed by Helsinki. Riga, on the other hand, is high on my revisit list.

Start here for a series of posts on Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga:

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...ain-and-shine/

I haven't been to Berlin yet - I'm starting my next trip with two nights in Potsdam to recover from jet lag and five in Berlin.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 03:23 PM
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Both are wonderful. Helsinki has a nice harbour with all the activity and was nice for mooching and sitting in cafes, but really no comparison to Berlin, probably the most exciting city in Europe at he moment. I think the Berlin museums are hard to beat if you like that sort of thing, plus music, theatre, main-stream and alternative, street art, I could go on...
Side trip from Helsinki would be Tallinn whereas from Berlin you have the choice of Leipzig, Meissen, Dresden at the very least.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 04:31 PM
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With your interests, you might want at least a week in Berlin, maybe even a tad more.

Even with your interests, you might find 4 or more days in Helsinki a bit of a stretch. FWIW, I really enjoyed Helsinki -- I just didn't find enough to do there for more than a few days.

Krakow is stunning, but I'm not sure you have time to fit it in. Again, given your stated interests, I would guess that you might want something on the order of 5 days there.

I haven't been to Riga or Tallinn or Dresden yet. I would definitely consider one or more of them given your time frames.

Enjoy!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 06:48 PM
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Helsinki is okay (seems to be the prevailing opinion) but Berlin fascinating with much more to do.

Since you are all the way up "there", why not include Tallinn with Helsinki? It is a 2 hour ferry ride and it is possible you can take it for less than 20 Euros each way.

4 nights in Helsinki, 3 in Tallinn, and 6 in Berlin would make me very happy.

There are some cheap flights from Tallinn to Berlin.

I just returned from an Erfurt - Dresden - Tallinn - Helsinki trip.
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Old Jun 21st, 2015, 12:11 PM
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Thanks everyone for the bushel of ideas, responses and advice. I must admit we have left everything till the last minute on this one.

Ok Tallin, isn't on the docket as we have visited it before, though it was in December. I really enjoyed seeing it with the snow and with almost no tourists (mainly Russians at that time of year. I'm not sure a revisit would appeal with the summer crowds. Riga remains high on our list but I'm not sure we want to do too much running around so I think we will skip it this time.

Everyone is saying the same thing we'll need lots of time in Berlin, we are going to listen to you! However, the mooching around in Helsinki that Gertie mentioned is pretty appealing. We've just returned from an unexpected 48 hour trip to California (from London) for a funeral and I'll need to recharge for all the cultural sites in Berlin.

So I think we will do four/fiver nights in Helsinki and eight/nine in Berlin with a possible side trip to Dresden as several of you suggested. Given that we are interested in design and are looking to relax I think we'll find plenty to see in Helsinki though I've taken the warning that we may be underwhelmed. Given my current lack of energy that might be perfect !

Michael, your photos were lovely and it was great to see the series of Bauhaus buildings. Here in London we've been seeing a lot of the interesting social housing built before and after the war. Potsdam seems to be a must but we need to buy a guidebook asap!

I've been looking at Berlin hotels but does anyone have a sense of neighborhoods, would you pick one place or maybe try two different hotels for our stay as we have quite a bit of time?
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Old Jun 21st, 2015, 12:32 PM
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Hey there!

As for lodging in Berlin, try to stay at Prenzlauer Berg, that's the cool area I'd say to stay at one place is enough..

And for Helsinki - make sure you see some Marimekko shops, and don't miss Alvar Aalto's works. Also, Fazer chocolate comes from Finland, in Helsinki you can go to Karl Fazer Cafe, it's pretty awesome!

Have fun there, both Berlin and Helsinki are great cities to visit. Very different, but that's even better for one trip.
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Old Jun 21st, 2015, 02:10 PM
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I'm starting my next trip in Berlin - well, after a couple of nights in Potsdam while I recover from jet lag since I was planning a day trip there anyway.

I decided I wanted to book a hotel with AC since I'll be arriving in the middle of July, and since I'm on a budget that really cut back the options. I can cancel without penalty if I decide the forecast is good, but I may keep the booking anyway, since I decided I like the Potsdamer Platz location. I'm not particularly interested in the Platz itself, but it seems convenient for everything I do want to see. If you really want to switch hotels, I guess I'd go for one east and one west.

When will you be there?
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Old Jun 22nd, 2015, 03:38 PM
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Sorry it has been a bit chaotic in my life and I leave for Dublin tomorrow morning. At this rate we will arrive in Helsinki with nothing booked!

mytravelove thanks for the advice on neighborhood and also on Helsinki. Marimekko and Alvar Aalto's were on my radar along with the glass company with a name that escapes me right now. However, my husband is very excited about a chocolate recommendation!, "Chocolate in Helsinki?" he repeated hopefully! A friend who visited Helsinki last year even bought some vintage Marimekko at a street fair, not that it was inexpensive even there.

thursday, we will be there from the 5th or 6th July, leaving very early on 14th July to head home to California. I bumped into a teacher in London recently who was on a budget and had stayed in Potsdam, she very much enjoyed it.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2015, 04:26 PM
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Drat - I arrive on the 15th.

Worst case, there's a hotel in Helsinki airport...
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Old Jun 27th, 2015, 04:06 PM
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Sorry we will miss you Thursdaysd.

The thought of a night at the Helsinki airport finally forced me to book something and so we're going to try the KlausK hotel in the design district. The rate was reasonable and the room is a decent size.

We've decided on five days in Helsinki and eight in Berlin. Berlin is rather an overwhelming prospect, it's just such a large city with so much to see. Also it looks like hotel rates and hotel occupancy is much busier at the beginning of our stay than at the end which could possibly have to do with Fashion Week. This means that quite a number of the places that appealed are already booked, I could also blame my own procrastination but lets say its Fashion Week!

Anyway I looked into Prenzlauer Berg but there didn't appear to be too many hotel options that appealed, though there were quite a number of apartments. As a back up (and while I look through the options) I've booked a place very close to Gendarmenmarkt square for eight nights (Sofitel) though it is cancelable. Another option would be to divide the stay with four nights in Charlottenburg, possibly at the Art Nouveau Hotel Am Stienplatz and then four nights either near Gendarmenmarkt, or at Casa Camper next to Weinmeisterstraße subway station which isn't far from Alexander Platz. This area looks quite nice, but the hotel isn't available for the full eight nights.

I have very little sense of Berlin. On one hand it seems logical to stay as centrally as possible as it's our first time visit, but this is a large city and we will be using public transport to get around wherever we stay. I don't want to stay in a monumental area that has very little in the way of local residents, would this be the case in Gendarmenmarkt? To put it in NY terms I love the East Side the West Side and the Lower East Side or Chelsea etc. but I wouldn't want to stay anywhere near Time Sq or in much of Mid-town. Yes it's well located but to me it's more of a mass entertainment/ business/commercial district with some areas which are much less residential. I'm not much of a shopper and the chain stores/mall experience holds no appeal. I don't mind upscale or hip and grimy I just wants some street life that doesn't shut down after work or on the weekends.

Obviously we'll be in touristy areas, we are tourists too but I'd rather not stay in an area that is given over entirely to tourists. I hope this makes sense, maybe it's time to relook at Prenzlauer Berg. Does anyone have an opinion about splitting the trip into four night stays, or about the locations I've mentioned....?

Thank so much, I'm now going away to overwhelm myself further by looking at a list of museums in Berlin!
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Old Jun 27th, 2015, 04:43 PM
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Well, the Fashion Week does draw a substantial number of visitors - especially to those hotels you mentioned, like CasaCamper or anything that smells even remotely like design or boutique ;-)
Recommending the "right" neighborhood is a pretty hard task, even though I live here.
First of all, there is no "Financial District" or similar within the central districts that would be dead after 6pm. Some small patches with many government buildings are a bit like that - like the area around Berlin central station (or Hauptbahnhof).
The area around Gendarmenmarkt is not exactly a hotspot of nightly entertainment, but still has many restaurants and bars that are open and frequented till late.
Potsdamer Platz is also not one of my favorites, but far from being dead at night and many people I know like staying at hotels there.

Tourists are everywhere in Berlin, but there are very few "touristy" places where no Berliner would go.. "authentic" places only stay authentic until the next Lonely Planet goes into print or online.

If you like a lively neighborhood with shops and bars and restaurants, you have a slightly more upscale West Central from Wittenbergplatz/ Kurfürstendamm/Zoo subway stations to Uhlandstr. subway stop and Savignyplatz S-Bahn station.

In the East, you have a corridor from Oranienburger Tor via Hackescher Markt S-Bahn stations along Weinmeisterstr. and Rosenthaler Platz subway stops further along Kastanienallee to Eberswalder subway stop where you would never be far from nice to quirky places to eat or drink.

For the young at heart, in the district of Kreuzberg anything along the subway from Görlitzer Bahnhof to Warschauer Str. will have close proximity to hundreds of eateries, cafes, pubs, clubs etc.. and lively means lively here.

But as you will need to take the subway or S-Bahn or buses around town to go places anyway, there are no real rotten spots to stay - or at least very few.
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Old Jun 28th, 2015, 01:04 AM
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Cowboy - I really appreciate your detailed and extremely helpful reply.It's rather reassuring to read your response. I'm not looking for a perfect neighborhood but this helps me get a slightly better sense for Berlin as a city. I'm not too worried about the late night/club scene, we've been in London for the last three months and we are staying in the East End which is hopping. It's fun to pass the clubs but I seem to have "aged out" of the desire to go in anymore, though I must admit to being tempted by a place down the road which is a strip club in an old pub by day, that turns into a Rockabilly club at midnight on Saturdays!

You are entirely right, it's not that Fashion Week is swamping the city, they're just at the kinds of places we want to stay too! How imitating that I've consumed their aesthetic and now have to compete with them for it!

Thanks for outlining some of the livelier neighborhoods. I really appreciate getting a thoughtful detailed response. There doesn't seem to be that much discussion about Berlin on Fodors (at least compared to Paris) so I'm sure it will be useful to others. I was dreading the singularly unhelpful "suck it up you are a tourist" response.
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Old Jun 28th, 2015, 03:58 AM
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My pleasure - and I think that Berlin still is very "tourist-friendly", even though the numbers have been rising substantially during the last two decades.

There IS one nasty scam (well, legally it is not a scam) that has popped up at restaurants and bars in areas with many tourists, which is the "tip not included" scam.
More and more you find that phrase printed on your bill, and while it is true that tips are never included, the service charges (and taxes) must always be and is always included (also in the advertised prices on the menus).
So "tip" here means only the little extra (rounding up more or less graciously), but NOT paying the 10-20pct which are the norm in countries where service charges are not included.
Obviously, the owners of these establishments hope that foreign visitors misunderstand it and add as much as at home.

Another area to explore for food and drinks is the Bergmannstrasse neighborhood (accessible by subway line 6/7 to Mehringdamm). Following its "borders", which is the quadrant made of Mehringdamm, Bergmannstr., Zossener Str. and Gneisenaustr. will take you on a culinary trip around the world - from Austrian cuisine to Nepalese and Tibetian as well as Sudanese eateries and the ubiquitous Vietnamese or Thai restaurants. Plus what is inside the Marheineke market (covered market). In addition to the multitude of eating options, you also have many quirky shops for bargain hunting or local designer wear. The latter not necessarily bargains, even though the neighborhood is far from upscale.
It draws a pretty much international crowd, so getting along in English is no problem at all. But few tourists ever make it there.

Another trail with many diverse restaurants starts at Nollendorfplatz subway station and goes South via Winterfeldplatz and Goltzstr. to Eisenacher Str. subway stop and beyond. Especially the restaurants around Winterfeldplatz with their larger terraces are popular during summer nights.

While the Bergmannstr. neighborhood is a tiny bit more rough on the edges than the more upscale Winterfeldplatz neighborhood, both areas are perfectly safe at any time during day or night.
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