Me and Jake took a 4-night break to Berlin and Hamburg! We have never been away in the Winter before so were not too sure of what to expect… here is how it went!
We arrived in Berlin at around 10pm local time on Friday (9th) and decided to catch a train from the airport to our hotel. This was only around 4Euros and took around 20 minutes. It was fairly easy to find the correct train and tickets – Jake used a handy app on his phone as well as the good ol’ Google Maps to help us along the way.
Our hotel was about a 10-minute walk from the train station – We stayed at the Scandic Hotel. Check in was a breeze and we were very happy with our room! It was really spacious and the decor was beautiful; there was even a note for us to say that everything in the mini-fridge was included in our stay price and that they would refill it for us daily!
The next morning, we went exploring! We wanted to try and see as many of the local monuments as possible during our brief stay. There were three main monuments within a 20-minute walk from us, so off we went! First, we stopped at the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe, there were over 2,700 tomb shaped slabs, many with flowers placed on top. It was like a maze to walk around them all, it was very interesting.
The next was the Brandenburg Gate. This was very beautiful, it was the gate leading to the various embassies and parliamentary meeting offices. When we walked through the gate, there was a huge Christmas tree in the centre and there were protests taking place to ‘Free China’ – It was amazing to watch and was actually quite emotional.
The third was the Reichstag Building (Berlins Parliament Building) We booked ourselves tickets for the following evening to go to the dome at the top of the building to see the view over Berlin and listen to some of the incredible history the city has to offer.
After this we headed to Alexanderplatz for their Christmas markets (as the main markets closer to our hotel were not there, due to construction taking place in the area)
On our way to the markets, I persuaded Jake to let me go to one of Berlins huge, beautiful book stores, Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus. This book store has multiple floors, various language sections, music, stationary and film sections and much more!
We headed to the little English bookstore at the back and I instantly fell in love! It was so pretty and christmassy with loads of incredible books to choose from. I managed to limit myself to purchasing just one book and some festive bookmarks.
After this, we stumbled upon an Erdinger Bar (Jacob’s favourite beer!) So, it was only fair that we stopped here for food and drinks before continuing on our way.
Here we shared a Curry Wurst sausage with chips and potato dumplings. It was very tasty!
When we reached the markets we were amazed by all the glistening lights, the indoor grotto style restaurants and cafes, the music, the drinks, the food and the local, handmade products that you could purchase from the various stalls that they had available.
In the centre of the markets was an Ice Rink too! But it was very busy, so we decided against it on this occasion.
We enjoyed Baileys Hot Chocolates and bought ourselves a little Christmas Tree Decoration! We were also able to buy a couple of Christmas presents while we were there.
The next day we had an early start! We were heading to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp for a group tour. We met our tour guide at a near-by train station and made the 40-minute train ride to the camp. When we got off of the train, it was snowing lightly as we made the 20-minute walk to our destination.
It was very bizarre to me that there was a housing estate just over the road from the camp. When we visited Auschwitz in Poland back in 2020, it was quite out of the way from residential areas!
The tour was very eye-opening and very interesting. With lots of information to read within the memorial sectors and exhibits, as well as our tour guide giving us information as we walked around various parts of the camp, I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional… especially when we were looking at one of the extermination chambers of the camp.
Many people wonder why these types of places are still standing, many believe that they should be knocked down for good and have something positive built in their place, many wonder why people would want to visit these places… I think that it is amazing that we are able to visit these places. Yes the events were devastatingly brutal, heartless and cold, yes, thousand of people were murdered… but to knock it down and to re-build on the grounds, for me, would be disrespectful. By doing that you would be forgetting the past and ignoring the voice of any remaining survivors and their families.
We need to remember the past, we need to listen to the stories of the survivors in order to fully understand what happened back then… we need to remember in order to avoid anything like this from happening again in the future.
After our tour, it was time to head to the Reichstag Dome. This was an interesting experience! We were able to walk around the dome and see the city from above whilst listening to a guided through a headset, which gave us information about the different things that we could see from our viewpoint – This was free to book and I would definitely recommend taking advantage of this! They do also have a fancy rooftop restaurant that you can book into as well if you did want to splash out the cash.
After this, we found the main markets in their new location! They were very pretty, with a mixture of indoor and outdoor markets to enjoy. We ate in one of their heated indoor cabins; pulled pork and fried potatoes… this was delicious! Whilst here, I had a hot apple vodka to drink whilst Jake enjoyed a beer! After tea, we grabbed some chocolate crepes… you cannot go to a Christmas Market without crepes!
On Monday, we went to see the Berlin Wall memorial before catching a coach to Hamburg.
Here you could see a glass wall memorial which had the photographs of the people who lost their lives as a result of the Berlin Wall; either by trying to escape, or simply getting too close to the border without reason… there were also many accidental deaths, with the wrong people being shot at.
There was a lot of information to read and to listen to whilst here, it was very interesting and I definitely learned a lot!
When we reached Hamburg, we checked into our Premier Inn for the night and headed straight out to their markets.
They had multiple markets all fairly close together which was nice! Their main market was fairly big and it was absolutely stunning. Surrounding the markets, there were loads of big shops and cafes, similar to the likes of Liverpool One but on a much larger scale!
We stopped at a cute cafe for a Baileys Latte before playing a little game…
We had 1 hour to split up and venture into the markets alone, we each had 10Euros and had to find a gift for each other within that time, we would then meet at a lovely restaurant and exchange gifts!
The restaurant we went to was really beautiful, we had curries, dessert and cocktails here!
We exchanged our gifts – I picked out a Hamburg Market mug and a Christmas decoration for Jake, which read ‘Ich liebe dich’ across the front (this means ‘I Love You’ in German!)
I received a fridge magnet to add to our collection and some super cosy Christmas socks!
After this, it was time to call it a night, knowing that we would be heading back to Manchester the next day!
Before heading to the airport to leave for Manchester, we took a walk down to the Hamburg Port, found somewhere for brunch and lit a candle in the local chapel.
Overall, we had an incredible mini-break!
It definitely made me want to explore other cities for Christmas in the future.