Deutschland

I have had the pleasure to live and study in Berlin for a few months, and to travel around in Germany. It’s a big and beautiful country, and it’s easy to travel around by bus (I only used Flixbus, it’s great and inexpensive, though often it arrives a bit lite) or train (Deutsche Bahn or DB, sometimes expensive but if you can find a deal, go for it). For  a pre-paid cellphone card or plan, I have literally tried every carrier, and Telekom is the one I recommend, mostly for their good and English-speaking customer service (since the plans are roughly the same in every carrier).

Although I haven’t at all visited every place I wanted to in this huge and stunning country, I have seen enough to recommend it without a doubt. The countryside is simply charming, the castles are breathtaking, and each city has its own vibe, style and sights. And the people I’ve met there couldn’t be more lovely and open-minded, contrarily to the stereotype we have in the Americas of German people as strict and narrow-minded; I was positively surprised by how well the Germans in general speak English and their unique sense of humor, with some exceptions of course, like anywhere in the world. I hope you enjoy reading this post and that you find my tips useful for current or future trips to Germany!




Berlin

Berlin is a city like no other: young, attractive, cosmopolitan, green, diverse, historical, open, vegan-friendly, and cheap!

Berlin
The Berliner Dom and Alexanderplatz behind it

The city’s history lays in the heart of the Second World War, as well as the Cold War, since Berlin is of most importance to Germany and Europe.

Berlin9.99999
Map of Germany’s occupation during the Cold War (from the DDR Museum)
Berlin9.999999
Map of Berlin divided by the wall from 1961 to 98 (from the DDR Museum)

Berlin doesn’t have only one city center but many well-known different neighborhoods, although Mitte is known as the business center and the old center on the Eastern part of the city. You’ll need many days to visit the city and get to know its different parts to get a sense of its personality. I was lucky enough to live and study there for a semester, and this is what is worth knowing about it!

Berlin6

I recommend you download the offline map of the city on the Google Maps app on your smartphone, assuming you have that ;), and also download my awesome extensive google maps list for Berlin.

In terms of a place to stay, there are many Airbnbs in the city! I also have two hostels to recommend; the perfectly located Three Little Pigs (also quite clean and comfortable for a hostel) and the Industriepalast (in the artsy young neighborhood Friedrichshain).

For going out, there are endless spots in Berlin! It depends on what you like, but it can get pretty crazy and personally I don’t enjoy that. So here are my personal favorite spots:

  • Biergarten Schleusenkrug: it’s near the zoo, lots of fun for a chill dinner and drinks in the evening (but it closes at midnight);
  • There are great bars in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, such as Bei Schlawinchen, Zum Bömischen Dorf, Klunkenkranich (a really cool rooftop bar), Mano Café, Villa Neukölln, and the bars and clubs in the Urban Spree (which can get pretty crazy but it depends, in general they’re chill);
  • I highly recommend the Alternative 666 Anti-Pub Crawl, a pretty chill pub crawl with chill people who aren’t disrespectful drunk tourists and where the bars, pubs and clubs included are diverse and more alternative, but still chill and not too crazy. It lasts for 4.5 hours and is 12 euros, but it includes cool guides and a few shots! I found it was great to meet people and get to know a few bars in more alternative neighborhoods. The week I did the pub crawl, it was located in Prenzlauer Berg, so here are my favorite spots are in the neighborhood including the best ones from the pub crawl: the Biergarten Prater Garten, the vegan food store and chill bar Caostheorie, the super chill bar Tati Goes Underground, the fun and cozy bar and club Frannz Club, and finally the quite recent alternative club and bar Toast Hawaii.

Last general tip about this great city; if you want to rent a bike for cheaper than hotel prices, I recommend the app NextBike, since their bikes are available all over the city and it doesn’t cost much.

Next on, I’ll tell you about Berlin by neighborhood/s, in the following order (ending with the nearby city of Potsdam):

  • Mitte and its near surroundings
  • Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain
  • Prenzlauer Berg
  • Neuköoln & Bergmannkiez 
  • Schöneberg
  • Charlottenburg
  • Steglitz, Dahlem Zehlendorf

But what do I do if I don’t have a lot of time to visit this huge city that has sooooo much to offer? Stay calm. The central part of Berlin is where the “touristy” things are, as well as most of the interesting places to visit. But you shouldn’t miss some other neighborhoods! If you have more time, though, you can spend more time exploring different parts of the city and further let the city’s vibe sink in. But keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to see and do everything; I spent five months in this city actively doing things, and am still far from seeing it all! However, I recommend you to spend at least 4 days in Berlin, because if you have less than four days it’s either going to be an unpleasant rush or you won’t even see some of the best things. Here’s what YOU HAVE TO DO: download my google maps list for Berlin and follow my tips below. I will present to you the neighborhoods in order of importance, in terms of unmissable things to do and places to see when in this magical city. So if you only have a few days, try to see my first three sections or neighborhoods (Mitte and its near surroundings, Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain, and Prenzlauer Berg), which are an absolute must. Then, if you have more time, try to visit Neukölln & Bergmannkiez, then with more time Schöneberg, then hopefully Charlottenburg, then Steglitz, Dahlem Zehlendorf. I hope you enjoy it!

Mitte and its near surroundings:

It’s the center of the city, young and vibrant, with so many things to see and do! Walk in Weinbersweg, a cool street with coffee places and restaurants, plus chill Volkspark next to it. Grab a snack at Daluma, where they serve great smoothies and bowls, or eat a meal at Zur Rose, a great German restaurant. Walk along Torstraße and see the well-known Confiserie Orientale on Tucholskystraße. You must visit Heckmann-Höfe, the lovely square that it’s in with many amazing and inexpensive restaurants (such as the perfecttt Night Kitchen). Don’t forget to stop by 11-13 Auguststtaße, the former Jewish Girls School that has been amazingly maintained and turned into a spot for fancy restaurants (such as Pauly Saal, and Mogg Fine Foods), an art gallery and a museum. Get to the impressive Foundation New Synagogue (with the close by Jewish Israeli Beth Cafe) and chill in Monbijou ParkMomos is my favorite restaurant around the area; for about 10 euros, you can have a vegetarian dumpling feast!

The Hackescher Markt is a cool spot; if you don’t like crowded places or mainstream shopping, explore the little streets hidden around there, they hold lovely cinemas, bars and art galleries.

Berlin9.991
Street close to Hackescher Markt

Walk in the touristy) Alexanderplatz, appreciate the TV Tower or Fernsehturm, the St. Marienkirsche, the Neptune fountain and the impressive Rotes Rathaus. Walk to the bridge between this central Platz and the museum island, where you can have a beautiful view of the Protestant church the Berliner Dom (where you can also get in and have a beautiful view from the top).

Berlin9.9999999
A peak of the Dom

The well-known museum island has much to offer (Pergamonmuseum, Neues Museum, and more), but my absolute favorite is right outside the island; the DDR Museum, one of the Soviet side of Germany and East Berlin during the Cold War.

Right in front of it there’s a delightful boat tour leaving every half hour and lasting one hour (students pay 10 euros), going through the river Spree around the city center; I have also heard about more comprehensive and longer tours, but I can only personally recommend this one.

If you walk from north to south on Friedrichstraße, you’ll be at the heart of Mitte. There are multiple stores and restaurants, most fancy and expensive, though it’s worth it to walk around there. The Ampelmann shop is definitely worth a visit, and the fancy-but-totally-worth-it vegetarian restaurant Cookies Cream as a must as well!

It’s worth visiting the historical Bebelplatz, where the Nazis used to burn “anti-German” and Jewish books before and during WWII; you can also see stunning historical buildings around the square: State Opera, the Humboldt University and the St-Hedwigs Cathedral.

Then, there’s the impressive Gerdarmenmarkt, where you can admire  the beautiful Konzerthaus ans well as churches and other buildings around it; it’s also an important commercial square, where the annual Christmas Market is apparently incredible. I recommend visiting the first floor and getting something to eat on the second floor of the famous German chocolaterie Rausch Schokoladenhaus. The vegetarian restaurant Cookies Cream is really worth a try if you’re down to pay a bit more (25 euros the main course); you have to book a table in advance and be ready to try and find the place, which is quietly hidden in the back alley of a hotel (I found it amazing though and if you can’t pay for a main course you can always just order an appetizer or dessert for 12 euros and at least you’ll get to experience it!).

20170706_185441
At the Gendarmenmarkt

Go see the big and impressive Reichstag or Bundestag (German Parliament), which you have to book in advance for free here if you want to visit inside (the dome is beautiful, and the view from the top is breathtaking!). Check out the huge glass central train station Hauptbanhof, chill in the great green area in front of it, and visit the former train station and now museum of modern and contemporary art Hamburger Banhof.

Berlin9.99
Bundestag

Visit the historical Brandenburg Gate, and the powerful Holocaust Memorial Site. Make your way to the modern Potsdammer Platz and the interesting Deutsche Kinematek, where there is a great museum on German film across history.

Berlin9.999
Brandenburger Tor

Berlin9.4

The Jewish Museum is very interesting, with personal stories that fit into the broader historical narratives. Also, you must absolutely without a doubt visit the Berlinische Gallerie next to it, an amazing museum of photography and design with an incredible gift-shop!

Berlin9.9999
At the entrance of the Berlinische Gallerie

Visit the Topography of Terror, an extremely interesting and well-presented historical exposition on the rise of Nazism and WWII in Germany (free admission). Right next to it, find an unbelievable remaining of the Berlin Wall. Walk a bit to visit Checkpoint Charlie, an important border between East and West Berlin during the Cold War; there are outdoor expositions which are free and interesting. 

Kreuzberg & Friedrichschain:

Artsy although a bit trashy, these neighborhoods have lots to see and do; each on a side of the former border, they have a similar artsy young vibe.

Berlin9.3

Eat at the well-known and amazing Italian place Il Casolare, or go to the other side of the street to eat at the great and also Italian TerraCruda if it’s too crowded. Kiez Vegan is a great place for an inexpensive vegetarian lunch! Go out at the 24-hour bar Bei Schlawinschen, and the interesting and cool Zum Dömischen Dorf. Alternatively, just grab a beer somewhere and sit at Boeckler Park in front of the river, where you will certainly not be alone! For coffee, Café bRICK, Camon Coffee and Kaffee Fahrrad Lokal A.Horn are great picks. Brammibal’s Donuts are also amazing in terms of vegan options, and it’s right next to the well-known Turkish market. 

20170706_205807
Boeckler Park

Walk along Oranienstraße from Mortizplatz all the way to Görlitzer Park. The Prinzessinnengärten is a must-see in the summer; it’s a place of nature and grown foods in the middle of the city. Next to it, the huge store Modulor is amazing for anyone who appreciates arts, design, writing and such things. Try not to miss the tranquil urban green area and artistic expositions at Kunstquartier Berlin.

Berlin9.5

Along the same street, enjoy the often vegetarian restaurants (such as my absolute favorite for Mexican food, Santa Maria, or the old well-known German tavern Max und Moritz), cool bars and cafés (like my favorite Charlie’s Vegan food & coffee), as well as hip clothing stores and artsy galleries.

20170517_180726-min

Visit the huge food market Markthalle Neun, grab something vegan to eat at the cozy Cafe Rootz or a tasty ice cream at Aldemir Eis, and cross the beautiful Oberbaum Bridge to the former East Side of the city. 

Berlin3
Oberbaum Bridge

Walk along the East Side Gallery, a stunning open gallery which exposes street art on the Berliner Mauer.

Berlin9.2
East Side Gallery

One of the best food stores in Friedrichshain is the huge vegan grocery store Veganz (near the train S-bahn station Warschauer Straße), which also holds Goodies (a vegan snack café), and on the second floor you can find the vegan shoes store Avesu, as well as the vegan restaurant The Bowl. It’s literally vegan heaven.

Berlinnnnnn
In Friedrichshain

Honestly, it’s nice just to walk in the neighborhood, which is one of my favorite ones, chill in the Urban Spree (and get tattooed at their shop Amor de Madre, preferably by the great and sweet Andrea Din Don <3), and for places to eat (such as the amazing Neumanns Café, perfect for brunch or lunch, and the Asia fusion restaurant Gotcha) and drink there; take a look at my google maps list for more spots (link in the beginning of this post). It’s also a nice shopping place, especially along Wühlischstraße (where you can find a great number of vintage clothing stores and Berlin-based brands). Niederbarminstraße makes a nice walk, with cute cafés and good cheap vegan restaurants.

Prenzlauer Berg:

This is probably my absolute favorite in Berlin; it’s really near the center, alive and full of second and first-hand stores, bars and places to eat, yet it’s calm and familiar in a cozy way. It used to be in the East of Berlin, and it has kept a bit of that old style vibe. To know more about the neighborhood’s history related to the Berlin wall, you MUST start at the Nordbanhof train station and walk along Bernauer Straße, passing by the outdoor free exposition about the Cold War in Germany and the Iron Curtain (don’t miss the documentation center about this as well, on the same street).

Berlin2

Relax at Mauerpark and enter the cool Oderberger Straße. Turn left or right on Kastanierallee for restaurants (I can recommend Burger World, Van Ahn for Vietnamese food, Habba Habba for falafels, Pizza Pane for Italian food), a great Indian place as well, endless bars (such as Entweder Oder), and just a chill vibe. In general, I simply like to walk around there and casually stop for a coffee (or an amazing waffle and ice cream at Kauf Dich Glücklich), or in one of the many stylish local clothing and accessories stores.

20170708_213027-min
Beautiful sunset at the Mauerpark

Prater Garten is a great place to have a drink, with an amazing atmosphere and German beer if you’re into that; they also serve food, but there are too few vegetarian options. Another amazing vegan place around there is Chaostheorie, where you can find the best vegan Döner, a great Apfel Schorle and all kinds of vegan smoothies and milkshakes; on the same street, there are other cute restaurants that seem to have great vegan options! Zia Mama is THE spot for a vegan pizza.

 

Berlin1
In Prenzlauer Berg

Neukölln & Bergmannkiez:

These are the two neighborhoods in the north (Bergmannkiez) and east (Neukölln) of the Tempelhofer Feld, which was the former Nazi commercial airport, then the American airport during the Cold War; it’s a very historical place which became a park, events location and more, and it can be nice to explore it by bike but I personally found it interesting to do it by walking.

Berlin9.9

Neukölln is neighborhood south of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, where you can find all kinds of people and families. In the summer, there are vibrant music and art festivals there, in addition to permanent galleries and parks. In general, I like this area to eat vegan and relax, since it can be residential and calm, but it can also get trashy and sketchy at night in some parts. For places to eat in Neukölln, check my google maps list of Berlin (link in the beginning of the post), but the must-go is definitely the vegan crêperie and burger bar Let It Be.

Bergmannkiez is a cool artsy neighborhood near Kreuzberg; great cafés always with vegan options (like Cuccuma and Barcomi’s), little shops and many clothing and accessories stores (such as Zebraclub), some which are second-hand (like the huge Pick’n weight Vintage Kilo Store). Don’t miss the cute shop Ararat for post cards and authentic souvenirs.

Berlin9
In Bergmannkiez

In Bergmannkiez, don’t miss the well-known Berlin classic street food stop Curry 36, they have the most amazing vegan currywurst! Mustafa’s Gemüse Kepab is right in front of it, and though there was a huge line to buy the food but you can hang out and get a beer while waiting, the food is worth it! If you don’t mind paying a bit more (but still not a lot, it’s still Berlin ;) – around 8 euros for a main dish), try Umami, my definite favorite for authentic, fresh, vegan Vietnamese food. You can also chill in Viktoriapark, and take a walk along Zossener Straße.

Schöneberg:

Berlin9.6

This amaaaaaazing neighborhood is an LGBT vibrant, diverse and interesting spot! It’s where the world-famous fancy street Ku’Damm is, with the store that resembles a lot to the Parisian Galleries Lafayette, KaDeWe, can be found.

Starting in Nollendorfplatz and walking south, you’ll encounter amazing architecture, restaurants and alternative bars. Take a look at my google maps list for more details, but I’ll just write here that I highly recommend the restaurant Meyan. Also, there’s Barkett, well-known for their vegan Sunday brunch. If you just want to chill with some good coffee and free wifi, I recommend Maxway Cafe.

The Museum of Unheard Things also seems like an interesting visit, as well as the Malzfabrik, the famous flea market Flohmarkt am Rathaus, and the exhibition on biographies of Jewish eyewitnesses in the Second World War “We Were Neighbors” or Wir Waren Nachbarn.

Berlin9.7

Charlottenburg:

I quite enjoy neighborhood because it’s not inside the intense centers of the city, so it’s peaceful and green, but it’s still urban and close to everything. It’s nice to walk around there and discover its streets with many restaurants, bars, university buildings, and stores. There’s a great vegetarian and vegan South Indian restaurant called Satyam, great food and nice price!

Although I didn’t enter the palace, the park and lake of Schloss Charlottenburg is very nice to walk in, take pictures and enjoy the view. It’s peaceful and relaxing to sit on a bench in front of the Spree river next to the palace or have a picnic there.

Berlin8
In the park of Schloss Chartlottenburg

There’s also Tiergarten, the largest park in the city, which starts in this neighborhood north of the Zoo, then stretches all the day to downtown. The biergarten Schleusenkrug is a must-go especially in the summer; has a great vibe, amazing drinks and tasty vegan food!

It’s also worth walking on Kufürstendamm, seeing the remaining of a huge church as well as the shopping garden Bikini Berlin (really interesting, and modern inside with cool stores), and KaDeWe. There is also a traditional Curry 36 (vegan option) close by and a Wursterei (typical German sausages fast food style).

Steglitz, Dahlem & Zehlendorf:

They are three peaceful neighborhoods close to each other, full of green areas and small outdoor centers with cute stores, coffee shops, bakeries, churches, schools, and a university. But to be honest, I only spent a lot of time there because I was living and studying in the area; otherwise, if you only have a few days in Berlin, it’s really not worth the time. But if you want to get away from the crowded parts of the city, take it easy and see the real German life (border suburban life), you should spend some time in these places. Check out my google maps list for specific spots there (link in the beginning of the post).

Berlin7
In Zehlendorf

 

Potsdam:

Okay, Potsdam is actually a city on its own. But it’s so close to Berlin (depending on where you are, it can take 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there) that it can almost be considered as a part of the huge city that is Berlin! And it’s worth a day-trip.

To be honest, there’s isn’t much to do there, but there is a lovely old town and center, and there are beautiful gardens and castles around the center. In my google maps list for Berlin (the link is in the beginning of this post), you can also find pinpoints for Potsdam. For instance, the Stadtschloss is this grandiose pink building, close to the historical square Alter Markt, the Old Town Hall and the beautiful church St. Nikolaikirche. Walking around the center, you should pass by Nauener Tor, an old preserved gate, as well as the Brandenburger Tor, which is situated in a charming part of the center.

Potsdam
Walking in the old town

The Sanssouci park and palace are well worth the visit, and both are within walking distance to the center. If you’re game to walk a bit more, you can visit  the Neues Palais, more of this huge park, and other palaces hidden in there.

Potsdam1
In the Sanssouci Park

To the opposite side of the city from there, you can find more places to visit which I unfortunately didn’t get to go: another pretty park Neuer Garten, the well-known Schloss Cecilienhof and Marmorpalais. There’s also the Memorial and Meeting Place Leistikowstraße, a historic place from the Cold War which I wish I had had time to visit.

 




Munich

Munich
Nymphenburg Park

München is a beautiful, clean and modern city. The public transport works wonderfully and there are many things to see and do, although I don’t find it has a unique personality like Berlin or other German cities. We stayed there for four days and it was perfect, though you could stay a bit longer.

On the weekends, the center gets full with tourists and the Victuals Market comes to life, where you can eat, drink and buy local products; it’s cheap and a lot of fun, I definitely recommend to get a falafel at Sababa. Preferably during the week (less people and food stands in the streets), I recommend that you visit the following places and monuments in the center, which is actually not that big: the Old Town Hall, the stunning Marienplatz, the green area Marienhof, the Munich Redidenz (beautiful on the outside but we didn’t get to go inside), Odeonsplatz (though it was completely under construction when we visited) and the beautiful Hofgarten (which leads to the peaceful and huuuge Englischer Garten, which you should visit at least a little bit of the southern part).

Munich1
Victuals Market
Munich3
In the Englisher Garten

Towards the north of the center there is the neighborhood Maxvorstadt, where you can find art museums (the Pinakotek) and a lovely set of apartments and commerce. I didn’t get to visit those museums, but the Pinakotek der Moderne seems particularly interesting. Also, the Botanical Garden has been very well recommended, and I wish I had enough time to visit it thoroughly!

You should definitely spend a morning or afternoon at the Nymphenburg Palace, which you can easily reach by subway or bus; you can spend hours walking in its beautiful green area and surprising nature free of charge, and you can also pay a fee to visit its museums and artistic interiors (which I didn’t do since it was such a beautiful day to stay outside!). Inside the gardens, go visit the exterior of the lovely old Magdalenklause (it’s mostly close to the northern exit of the Nymphernburg park area).

I also have a few restaurants and bars to recommend, and though I haven’t tried all of them myself I received great comments about them and can personally recommend the area around the following places: Wirtshaus in der Au (in the south of the center), Hoover & Floyd Tages & Abend Bar (south too), Prinz Myshkin (in the center), Hofbräuhaus München (in the center), LAX Eatery (in the north of the center). I also have a vegan and eco-friendly clothes and bag men and women’s store to recommend in the north of the center: Dear Goods.

If you have a bit more time, I definitely recommend a trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial; only one hour away from the center of Munich, the big camp has a lot of history to offer. You can easily spend a day there, either for free or with a guide or audioguide for a fee (find more info in their website), and visit its well-presented and explained, and impressive interior and exterior. There’s also a great cafeteria there with good prices.

Munich2
In the Dachau Memorial

Overall, Munich was a positive surprise, since I wasn’t expecting much of it. Definitely worth a trip!




Hamburg

Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city, after Berlin, and a very important port city. It’s also a vibrant city, especially in the summer, with lots of concerts, festivals, and cool people. I visited it over the weekend, so of course two days weren’t enough to see it all! But honestly, I found it pretty small compared to Berlin, so you can easily walk around the center and take the train, ferry or bus only for a few minutes to get somewhere else. Check out my google maps list for Hamburg.

Hamburg1
Getting to the center on the ferry 62

I stayed at an Airbnb in the lovely neighborhood of Ottensen-Altona, near the S-bahn train station Altona. It was surprisingly vibrant and cool; in the evening and at night, it gets filled with young people, adults as well as families along the streets of Ottenser Hauptstraße and Friedensallee. We were even lucky enough to experience a free outdoor dance and music show around there! A great place to eat the German-style pizza Flammeküche and enjoy many drinks is the Café Reise Bar.

Hamburg6
Ottensen-Altona

During the day, the Dockland just a few steps away is a great place to enjoy an industrial view of the river, and on Sundays there is a well-known Fischmarkt  or fish market there. From and to there, you can take the ferry (either the 61 or 62), which costs close to nothing and takes you  along the river until downtown. The ferries are definitely a way to do free sightseeing in Hamburg!

Hamburg
Industrial view from the ferry 62

In the western part of the city, there are a couple of young artsy neighborhoods, which can be a bit trashy sometimes, though: Sternschanze and Flohschanze. Even though it was raining when I visited, it was still a nice spot! They’re both small and close to one another.

Sternschanze has a great vegetarian (& vegan) all-day breakfast restaurant: Mamalicious; but it gets crowded on the weekend. Overall, it’s nice just to walk around that region, which is quite small, and find second-hand and fancier but hipster stores for shoes, clothes and accessories. Flohschanze has the same kind of vibe, and the same kind of things to do.

Hamburg7
A skate park in Sternschanze

Not too far by, a nice and diverse park in Hamburg is worth a visit: Planten un Blomen.

Hamburg8
Planten un Blomen

Further south, there’s the former prostitution quarter, St Pauli. Nowadays, it still has a red-light street but it’s mostly casinos, cinemas, restaurants and big stores. It’s nice to walk there at daytime, and I found a good Chinese restaurant there, Man Wah.

Close by, you can find the main port of the city; Landungsbrücken. It has an industrial yet beautiful view, and there are many local food shops and touristy souvenir shops directly on the shore.

20170701_141251
Landungsbrücken

From there, the city center is easily reachable. It has a lot of shopping areas, but also some hidden alternative spots. It’s worth walking around there and discovering the downtown area. For instance, I found it nice to sit on the shore of the Binnenalster, near the Jungfernstieg station, and just enjoying the weather (it was sunny for like one hour) and the people around me. The city hall or Rathaus is simply astonishing and worth seeing, as well as the art museum Kunsthalle (which I only saw from the outside). Also, the Museum of Art and Industry is a nice visit.

Hamburg5
Sitting on the shore of Binnenalster
Hamburg2
Hamburger Rathaus

Towards the south part of the center, there is my favorite area of Hamburg which is in the HafenCity quarter; Speicherstadt. It’s a quite industrial and warehouse district where you can stroll along the streets next to bridges and parts of the river, admiring its special architecture, with some new developments and parts of the area still under development. It’s well-known internationally, and there are museums and other things to do around there; I just walked around for hours and contemplated the many views.

Hamburg3
Speicherstadt in HafenCity
Hamburg4
Speicherstadt in HafenCity

Overall, Hamburg was a truly great place to spend the weekend, since it’s so unique and special, and only three hours by bus from Berlin. I would have liked a better weather, but many people told me that it always rains in Hamburg. It was still a very pleasant city!

 




Hanover

Hannover is a young, hip, vibrant and historic place. I wasn’t expecting a lot and was incredibly positively surprised! I definitely recommend spending a weekend there.

Hanover2
In the historic center of Hanover

We stayed at a great Airbnb in the neighborhood of Linden, which is a very young and chill spot! You can find many restaurants (including the amazing Street Kitchen Viet Cuisine), bakeries (including the great organic Doppelkorn), and vibrant bars (as well as interesting spontaneous street bars constituted of young people sitting on the sidewalk drinking beer and playing games) along the pleasant Limmerstraße.

Further north, you absolutely must spend some time walking, napping, pic-nicking or chilling at the huge Georgengarten, close to the beautiful Leibniz University and the absolutely breathtaking Großer & Herrenhäuser Gärten (the entrance is 3.50 euros after 5:30 pm, instead of the regular 7 euros fee).

In the southern part of the city center, the artificial lake Maschsee is beautiful for a walk, jog, or photo shoot! There’s the well-known German art museum Sprengel close by, and I have heard great things about it, though I couldn’t go myself. The Maschpark is also lovely, and the New City Hall beside it is simply stunning, from the outside as well as the inside!

Hanover
Maschsee

In the historical center of the city, there are a few nice things to see, but mostly I recommend to walk around and admire the clashing architectural styles and markets! To drink, the Waterloo Biergarten has a great vibe, good drinks and inexpensive food. The Markthalle is also filled with good foods to choose from! I have also received recommendations of Café Konrad. To visit, I advice you to go check out the old medieval Church, or what’s left of it, the Aegidienkirche. Also, the Ballhofplatz is nice in terms of architecture! The Staatsoper is beautiful as well.

Hanover3
Waterloo Biergarten

In the eastern part of the center, there’s the first vegetarian restaurant that was open in Germany, with a great variety of dishes, all homemade and amazing, plus it’s pretty inexpensive. I can definitely recommend Hiller!

In the northeast of the center, there is a lovely street you can walk on, Lister Meile; there are lots of Italian ice cream places, cafés (like the well-known Mezzo), and restaurants (check out La Perla!).

If you have a few hours to spare, I cannot recommend enough the Marienburg Castle, an amazing place South of Hanover; you can take the bus 300 at the central station of Hanover and it will take you directly to the castle in about one hour, passing by the suburbs and the beautiful countryside. There, you can visit the outside of the castle and its snack bar in the courtyard for free, but to go inside you need to participate in a guided tour; we took the least expensive one, it cost 4 euros for going inside the tower and spending half an hour up there with a breathtaking view of the region!

Hanover1
Schloss Marienburg

All in all, inexpensive and interesting Hanover is a great place to visit!!




Dresden & Leipzig

Dresden3
Zwinger Dresden
Lepizig2
Kaiserbad Leipzig

I put these two cities together because they’re roughly 1 and a half hour apart by bus (I took a Flixbus), so you could easily visit them both in one weekend, as I did. I would have stayed longer, though, as they are both very interesting and full of surprises! Take a look at my google maps list for Dresden & Leipzig to access my favorite spots on your smartphone!

Dresden

Dresden is simply one of the most beautiful European cities that I have been to. It’s very historical, and despite the damaging Second World War bombing there, parts of the city center had to be reconstructed, which was made impressively.

You should start by walking in the center and let yourself be blown away by the Frauenkirche (a protestant church), the Dresden Castle, the stunning opera house Semperoper, and my favorite one, the Zwinger (a Versailles-like building and garden). Don’t forget the pretty Terrassenufer and Brühlschen Garten!

North of the city center there are many things to see as well, and it’s a less touristy part of town. I highly recommend the Museum of Military History, especially if you’re a history-lover like me; I could’ve spent the whole afternoon there. It’s only 3 euros for students, and it’s 100% worth it. Close by, there’s the Sankt Martin Kirche, an amazing church (to me, its most beautiful angle is from the back).

Dresden
Sankt Martin Kirche

Then, the park Alaunplatz has a chill vibe and lots of people relaxing on the grass in the summer, and the great Café Komish next to it. The Kunsthoffpassage is an absolute must-see.

Dresden1
Kunsthoffpassage

The area around it is also very cool to walk in, get some coffee, ice cream or food. Speaking of, I had lunch at the lovely restaurant Planwirtschaft (their vegan vegetable pasta is the best). I can also recommend Ron’s Backhaus for some tea, coffee or baked goods.

Dresden2
In the backyard of Planwirtschaft

To get away from the city, you should take a walk in The Grand Garden of Dresden, a huge garden with a castle and many small lakes. It’s easily accessible by tram or walking.

Dresden4
Inside The Grand Garden of Dresden

Leipzig

Leipzig is an incredible city, with a strong personality and unexpected spots! The vibe is pretty chill and borderline hippie in some parts of town. To sleep, I totally recommend the hostel where I stayed: 5Elements was clean, I had a great service, and it was located in the city center, for only 20 euros a night (for a bed in a 4-people dorm). I also recommend that you walk around the area of this hostel, especially along the street Große Fleichergasse and Kleine Fleischergasse, and its little passageways with hidden cinemas, bars and restaurants.

The historical center is pretty nice, though pretty touristy and I didn’t find the buildings as stunning as Dresden’s. However, you should walk around there, see the central Marktplatz and St. Nicholas Church, where the musician Bach is buried. Speaking of, there’s the Bach Museum there which I didn’t visit, and the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, a free-entrance museum about the communist and reunification eras in Germany, which I did visit and absolutely loved.

The Lindenau neighborhood is a must visit; it’s chill and lively, especially if you go on a Saturday! In my google maps list for the city (the link is above), I pinpointed a few places to visit in Lindenau, but mostly just walking around there and taking in the industrial artsy place is already incredible.

Lepizig
Lindenau
Lepizig1
Lindenau

Around Kaiserbad, it gets really interesting on Saturdays, as the stores, restaurants  and individual sellers expose their products on the street. There, you can eat well for cheap and have fun walking along the street and seeing all sorts of people and things.

Lepizig3
Street markets on Karl-Heine Straße

Overall, these two cities were completely stunning and I definitely recommend you visit them! If you don’t have too much time, like me, you could spend one day in each, but if you have more time I think there is more to each city than what I could enjoy in a day!




Cologne

Cologne1

Köln is the fourth largest city in Germany; modern but historical, it’s a great place to relax and get to know the culture, since it isn’t very touristy and there aren’t many well-known attractions per se.

The city is easily reachable by any means of transport, and everything seems close, for instance the airport is only 15 minutes away from the center! Also, food and drinks aren’t particularly expensive compared to other German cities. To be honest, there isn’t that much to do in Cologne, but there’s an authentic vibe in the city that reminds me of my Montréal <3 and made me want to stay longer! Also, it’s close to the cities of Bonn and Düsseldorf, which I didn’t get to personally visit but it’s easily reachable if you ever get bored during your stay in Cologne, or on the contrary if you get bored in any of those cities you can hop to Köln. 

We stayed at an Airbnb in the cool and hip neighborhood Ehrenfeld, and it was great! It’s close to the center, yet it’s a whole other neighborhood very nice to walk around in, full of shops, coffee places, restaurants, bars and clubs.

When in Cologne, you must see the Dom, a huge cathedral in the center of the city that is simply impressive and stunning. Close to it, there’s the Rhine Garden, a green area on the shore where you can chill, have a picnic and watch the Rhine river. If you wish to cross over, the tall and modern building KölnTriangle has a beautiful view of the city (only 3 euros to go up by elevator).

Cologne

There are also many well-known museums in the city, but the only one I got to personally visit was the Cologne Chocolate Museum, an extensive and interesting one, worth the price. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to visit the renowned EL-DE-Haus, a museum about the Nazis and Gestapo in the city, apparently awesome if you like history. There’s also the Ludwig Museum of a private collection of art, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum with many art collections, and the German Sport and Olympic Museum.

If you run out of things to do, check out the many events and shows at the nice venue Gloria Theater, and the cinema that keeps movies in their original version instead of dubbing everything yo German, Metropolis.

Good places to eat/get a coffee/drink are: Craft Beer Corner (there are good craft beers, although it’s a bit expensive), Engelbät (amazing German-style crêpes, great price, located in a nice part of the city), Biergarten Rathenauplatz (outisde beer garden in a nice green area), Goldmund (unique and authentic café, restaurant and bar in Ehrenfeld, you can recognize it by the many books in shelves), Chocolate Museum Café (it’s worth it to get their hot chocolate even if you don’t have time or money to actually visit the museum!).

I definitely recommend a trip to Cologne, but I’ll admit that a couple of days can be enough :)




 

Overall, Germany to me is a place that never ceases to surprise. Whether it’s the sights, the castles, the cities, the restaurants, or the people, I felt very welcome and ended up feeling home. I couldn’t recommend it enough! If you want to bring more ideas to this post or simply respond to it in your own way, please leave a comment below :D

There are other places I wish I had visited, and I will definitely go back for the following: Heidelberg (close to Stuttgart and Manheim, it is apparently a peaceful little town which holds a magnificent castle), Nuremberg, Beethoven’s city Bonn, the coastal Lübeck, and more!



 

Advertisements