After a semester spent in Berlin, here is my advice for the city whether you plan to spend just a weekend or you want to move to Berlin for your internship, too. Viel Spaß!
Sightseeing/Things to do
- Do a free walking tour with a group or on your own for these famous sights: Alexanderplatz, Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten, Victory Column at the Großer Stern, Holocaust Memorial (also has a free museum beneath the memorial), Potsdamer Platz, Hitler’s Bunker, Topographie des Terrors, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt (a nearby chocolate shop has recreations of famous Berlin sights made out of chocolate!), Opera, take notice of the unique walk signals called the Ampelmann
- Tour of the Reichstag Dome: free, but you have to reserve tickets online several weeks in advance
- Free: East Side Gallery, outdoor murals on a 1,3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall
- Go up the Fernsehturm (TV tower) in Alexanderplatz
- Sundays: Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, great food and shopping, fun karaoke in the park
- Spree River cruise
- Theatre for new movie releases in the original versions: CineStar in the Sony Center – Buy your tickets in advance. You have reserved seating. (If you see a movie in 3D, you have to buy the glasses for 1 EUR. Also, the popcorn is only salted or caramel…no butter.)
- Underground Laser Tag – Really fun for big groups! The games are played in an underground bunker. Make sure someone in your group is fluent in German because the owner did not speak English.
- Tempelhofer Feld: another great park in addition to the Tiergarten on the old Tempelhof Airport. Great for running, biking, rollerblading, flying kites, etc
- Berlin Zoo at the edge of the Tiergarten
- Guided tours in the underground bunkers: Berliner Unterwelten
- Berlin Wall Memorial
- Museum Island: I went into the Pergamon and Neues Museum, but wasn’t very impressed by their exhibits. I would only recommend these museums if you are a history buff or art lover.
- Climb up the Berliner Dom
- California-Mexican Burritos: Dolores – Rosa-Luxemburg-str. 7
- Ice cream: Cuore Di Vetro – Max-Beer-Straße 33 (best homemade ice cream owned by an Italian couple)
- Vietnamese: Com Viet – Münzstr. 3 (great prices especially for being in Mitte!)
- Vietnamese: Monsieur Vuong – Alte Schönhauser Str. 46
- Asian: Transit – Rosenthaler Straße 68
- Indian: Yogi – Rochstr. 5 (tasty but not the best value for Indian food)
- Breakfast & Brunch: Spreegold – Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 2 (it’s a chain, but has a wide menu when you can’t agree on a restaurant and a great latte)
- Swabian: Schwarzwaldstuben – Tucholskystraße 48 (good but pricey)
- Italian: Vapiano – Mittelstrasse 51-52 (an international chain, but great pasta and pizza and good for large groups)
- Bavarian: Hofbräuhaus Berlin – Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 30 (If you can’t make it to the original in Munich, there is another option right next to Alexanderplatz for a touristy night)
- Asian: Umami – Knaackstraße 16 (order the family meals 20 EUR for two people – comes with a delicious dessert too, very popular so if going in a big group it would be wise to make a reservation)
- Vietnamese: Lemongrass – Schwedter Str. 12
- New York steakhouse and burgers: The Bird – Am Falkplatz 5 (also in Kreuzberg)
- Italian: La Cucina – Schönhauser Allee 187 (tasty Italian, but not the best value)
- International Market: Marheineke Markthalle – Marheinekepl. 15 (best 4 cheese pasta, chicken Schnitzel, Gyros, Pizza, Ice cream, and so many more options)
- Best Chicken Döner in the city and for only 2.70 EUR!: Original Chicken Gemüse Kebap – Gneisenaustraße 89
- Vegan burgers and fries: Glück to go – Friesenstraße 26
- Vegetarian: Tutti – Zossener Str. 17 (Best falafel and halloumi, get the Taumi)
- Coffee and desserts: Cuccuma – Zossener Str. 34 (best lemon, chocolate, and carrot cake)
- Middle Eastern: Sesam – Gneisenaustraße 22 (Falafel and Chicken Schawarmas)
- Indian: Delhi 6 – Friedrichstraße 237
- Biergarten: Restaurant Brachvogel – Carl-Herz-Ufer 34 (good business lunches)
- French-Australian Cafe: Melbourne Canteen – Pannierstraße 57 (great avocado toast)
- Biergarten: Prater Garten – Kastanienallee 7-9
- Cocktail Bar: Scotch & Sofa – Kollwitzstraße 18
- Irish: Belushi’s Bar – Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 41
- Bar with cheap drinks: Logo – Blücherstraße 61
I used the startup Medici Living, which has a network of furnished, shared flats across the city. You have to rent for a minimum of 3 months, but they operate in German and English and are headquartered in Kreuzberg. If you can’t find a flat through your personal connections beforehand, this company is a good, reliable backup.
Anmeldung deiner Wohnung – You must register two weeks after moving in to your apartment. Make an appointment online as soon as you know you will be living in Berlin because the appointments fill up fast. There are 40 Bürgerämter (city registration offices) in Berlin. The earlier you make your appointment the higher your chances are of making an appointment at your most conveniently-located Bürgeramt.
Monthly student pass for Berlin AB costs 56 EUR which gives you access to the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, buses, and trams. I only needed the A and B zones for a majority of the semester. To buy the pass at the reduced student price, you have to go to one of the customer service centers with a stamped letter of verification from your employer. The only times I needed to buy the Anschlussfahrausweis, which adds the C zone to the ticket for 1,60 EUR, was when I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Potsdam, and the Berlin-Schönefeld Airport. (If you are studying abroad in Berlin, your program will most likely get a semester pass for you so you don’t have to worry about this.)
Cell phone plan
I was able to use my iPhone5 from the U.S. I bought the prepaid plan through the grocery store Aldi. I bought the sim card from the store fro 12,99 EUR, which also gave me 10 EUR of Guthaben (credit). This package did not come with a nano sim so I had to cut the sim smaller to fit in my phone. I simply watched a YouTube video to know how to do this. Then, I set up my plan online, restarted my phone, and it worked. I bought the 9,99 EUR a month for 1.5 GB. I was mostly using data so I simply paid as I went for texting and calling. To reload my account, I would go to the store and ask for a specific amount of Guthaben from the cashier. The receipt would have a code to load on to my account online.
Matt’s iPhone6 was locked so he bought a cheap phone from Saturn for 15 EUR and bought a sim card from 10 EUR and pay as you go plan through blau.de. I set this up online for him and he only spent 15-20 EUR on texting and calling the whole semester. His phone was good to have when we were traveling in other countries. (There are many other cheap pay as you go phone plans similar to Aldi and blau.de. These were simply the ones we chose.)
More expensive phone plans are through O2 and Telekom. These plans require a contract and a German bank account, so you would have to open your bank account before buying your phone plan.
Discounters – Aldi, Netto, Penny, Lidl
Regular, but more variety: Kaiser’s, Edeka, REWE
Bring your own bags, but if not you can buy them at the register for 10-30 cents
The itinerary from when my family visited me in Germany:
Check in to Hotel Sonne Prinzregentenplatz 1 (2pm-12am) (if your GPS cannot find this address, use Reichenstr 37 instead) (A limited number of private underground parking spaces are available (reservation is needed) and cost EUR 8 per day.)