Berlin: Where to Stay and What to Do in This Weird Paradox of a City

Berlin: Home to currywurst, spacious sidewalks, tons of graffiti art, a stellar metro system, and grunge fashion.

I spent four nights in Berlin and, at first, I was not a fan.

The city felt cold, dreary, and unwelcoming.

I thought the Berlin Wall had been knocked down…but Berliners still seem to have walls up of their own… especially to block out Americans like myself. 😌

Of course, first impressions can be rather misleading. My first night in Berlin, I stayed at the Singer109 Hostel. It sucked. Do not stay there.

The folks at reception made me feel as though every question I asked was the biggest hassle ever and there was absolutely zero atmosphere. Though, I must say the rooms were rather nice…mine had an ensuite bathroom which is a rare find for most hostels. But still…not worth staying there!

So, where to stay instead?

I followed the advice of The Hostel Girl and checked into The Circus Hostel for my last three nights in Berlin. The atmosphere was night and day. I immediately felt better about Berlin and was excited to see what the city had to offer!

Ok, what should I DO in Berlin?

As I usually suggest…go on a walking tour! Similarly to the hostel in Copenhagen that I stayed at, The Circus offers free walking tours TWICE daily! So, if you sleep in and miss the 9:45 tour, you can always join the one at 1:15.

Our tour guide, Kyle, offered up tons of history about Berlin. For me, the highlight was seeing the hotel balcony (Hotel Adlon) where Michael Jackson dangled baby Blanket from all those years ago. πŸ˜‚ I had no idea that was in Berlin…RIP MJ. πŸ’™

Pop culture aside, Berlin is home to a lot of dark times in European history. The tour included a stop by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. Selfies are not allowed (for obvious reasons) and, while you can sit on any of the 2,711 stones, folks should refrain from standing on them.

So, why is Berlin a “paradox”?

Well, Berliners like to think they’re super progressive and forward-thinking…but here are some weird things I learned about Berlin while visiting:

Most of the city is cash-only.

In fact, cash is still the means of payment in some 80 percent of point-of-sale transactions in Berlin! According to Bloomberg, “the use of cash has, to a surprising extent, become a proxy for profound concerns about trust, privacy, and the role of the state.” So, be sure to carry euros ALL the time!

Clubs will reject folks who dress nicely.

Heels, suits, colorful dresses…not cool in Berlin. Even locals suggest wearing all black, sneakers, and anything “grungy.”

If you don’t know your DJs, GTFO.

Again, according to locals and other tourists I chatted with, music is a BFD in Berlin. Bouncers will ask you what DJ you’ve come to see and, if you don’t have an answer, you can hit the road. Apparently, they do this to weed out tourists from the true house-music loving locals…but I think it’s rather unwelcoming. πŸ€”

For a city that claims to be so accepting and open, the folks here seem to follow an odd set of rules. Someone I met recently said Berlin reminded them of NYC and, being the native New Yorker that I am, I don’t agree. In all my travels, there is no city more open and welcoming to ALL then good ol’ NYC. 😍

Disclaimer: I didn’t hit the clubs while in Berlin…folks in the city START partying at 6AM and also drugs are a big thing (not surprising with the hours they keep), so… not really my scene.

HOWEVER, there was plenty I eventually learned to love about Berlin and I’ll write all about it in my next post!

Have you been to Berlin?! What’d you think? Let me know!

P.s. If you’re not already following me on Instagram, do it now! I’ve been posting plenty of entertaining stories…including a rather claustrophobic experience in Berlin — more on that in the next post!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie