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Local guide: the best of Berlin

The hip German capital is under two hours away from Sweden. Thinking of a weekend getaway? Here are the highlights you don't want to miss.

Local guide: the best of Berlin
Photo: Pixabay

The Basics

Few cities can hold a candle to Berlin when it comes to mixing modernity with history. It’s a big, bustling European capital that’s also home to some of the most famous, most heart-wrenching historical museums in the world.

Why you should go

Berlin: the weird, wonderful, real-life Neverland that lures in hip young travellers from across the globe. And for good reason.

There's a no-rules feel to this city, like a grown-up playground. It might shock you just how much “anything goes”. Open-container beer drinking is allowed virtually everywhere. Many clubs literally don’t close. And wherever you go, from sunrise to sunset you're sure to find something going on – whether it's a multilingual poetry reading, a basement jazz concert or a spontaneous dance party in an abandoned bunker. Welcome to Berlin!

 

The Highlights 

The Holocaust Memorial


File photo: Pixabay

This is probably the most obvious one on the list, but it’s no less worthwhile for that. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is perhaps one of the best-known memorials in the world, located in the heart of Berlin.

More than 2,700 concrete pillars rest in an eerie uneven grid, and visitors can enter from any side. The unique design includes an underground information centre where the names of three million victims are read out.

Reichstag Building


File photo: Pixabay

The Reichstag Building is not just beautiful, but also fascinating. It first opened in 1894 but has had a long and complicated history including damage and disuse. The building was an important target in World War II and visitors can still see Soviet graffiti preserved on some walls.

Find out how to get a free trip to Berlin with Eurobonus and American Express

Since 1999 the restored building has housed German parliament. Once again Berlin seamlessly combines historical and modern beauty, and the glass dome on top of the roof offers an impressive 360 degree view of the city.

Tiergarten


Photo: OhBerlin/Flickr

Tiergarten could be called the Central Park of Germany – perhaps even Europe. The massive inner-city paradise is bigger than London's Hyde Park and offers visitors a natural respite when it's time for a break from history. Tiergarten is an oasis of lakes, trees, and beautiful statues.

 

The Hidden Gems

Klunkerkranich


Photo: Andreas Lehner/Flickr

One of the most fun names to say, right? After a day of sightseeing and hearing harrowing tales of war, you deserve to sit back, relax, and enjoy the skyline!

Find out how to earn a trip to Berlin with EuroBonus

And this rooftop bar in Neukölln is exactly where to do it. It’s got a view of the entire Berlin skyline, and you can sit and soak in the sunset on a summer evening. But it’s also great in winter – the place is built in the style of a Caribbean beach hut!

Silents at Midnight

Maybe you don't like to spend your evenings at home watching black-and-white movies. But in Berlin it’s another story. The historic Babylon Cinema – opened in 1929 – makes it an incredible experience! Each Saturday there are free – yes, free – showings of classic silent movies, complete with live organ accompaniment.

And as the name implies, the films kick off at midnight, but you should get tickets in advance.

Kunstsammlung Boros


Photo: Garrett Ziegler/Flickr

The Sammlung Boros Collection is no ordinary art gallery. In a way it's the epitome of Berlin: quirky modern art housed in the shell of what was once a WWII bomb shelter, later a club. Now it's only open on weekends and only by booking.

Viktoriapark


Photo: Guillén Pérez/Flickr

You don’t need to hike into the mountains to enjoy the sound and sight of a waterfall. Nope, Viktoriapark will do just fine.

The beautiful park provides stunning panoramas of the surrounding area, and a national monument stands at the top of the hill with a waterfall running down from there. (The waterfall is actually artificial, but that doesn't detract from its beauty!) Perfect for picnics, sunbathing, playing Frisbee, or another history lesson.

 

Where to eat

Nobelhart & Schmutzig

If you really want something to write home about, this is it. Nobelhart & Schmutzig is the Noma of Berlin – totally unique, entirely seasonal, exclusively local, and utterly incredible. You'll have to book in advance to get a table at the Michelin-star venue – and you'll have to come hungry. The only option is a fixed menu of some 10 courses – using a max of four local ingredients, yet truly complex and divine, and truly Berlin.

Das Meisterstück


Photo: Alper Çuğun/Flickr

This place isn't for budget bites. No sir, this is the true Berlin experience, melding modern fine-dining with classic mouth-watering sausage and the best of local craft beer. The decor is commonly described as both funky and fancy – have you ever dined on bratwurst while being stared at by a dozen cuckoo clocks?

Cookies Cream


Photo: Joselu Blanco/Flickr

You're not going to just stumble across this place – you've got to know what you're looking for. Nestled in a basement accessed through a dumpster-laden alley, Cookies Cream is an unexpected local bit of hipster heaven. The vegetarian menu will convert even the most devoted of carnivores – and they've got the best desserts in town!

Streetfood Thursday in Markethalle 9


Photo: Karen Axelrad/Flickr

 
In Berlin on a Thursday? You’re in luck. Head to the market hall in Kreuzberg! If you’re a foodie and couldn’t possibly choose just one place for dinner, this is your best bet. The hall itself is worth a peek – it's more than 120 years old. And each Thursday evening crowds gather to sample the best of culinary Berlin, in an oh-so-casual way.

Spaetzle, meat pie, Thai kiosks, and Michelin darling Hartmann – here you can try it all. (Tip: If you're not around on Thursday, try Arminius Market instead, open every day but Sunday.)

Zola Pizza


File photo: payam fahr/Flickr

When in Berlin, just do as the locals do – even when that means pizza. We’ve heard Zola’s wood-oven pizzas described as “just delicious” and “the best Italian outside of Italy”, and they’ve got some cool experimental toppings, too. Why copy when you can innovate?

 

Getting there


Photo: Xavi/Flickr

Ready to book Berlin? SAS has daily flights, direct from Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo. The bold city is just an hour and a half from Stockholm – perfect for a weekend away!

You can also get there using 20,000 SAS EuroBonus points (Taxes and fees apply).

Or if you earn just 10,000 points with SAS EuroBonus American Express Classic Card in one calendar year, that means you’ve reached the benefit of a 50 percent discount on a EuroBonus trip – so that’s enough to get you there, too!

Find out how to earn your Berlin trip here.

Book a flight or find out more about SAS EuroBonus American Express Cards– and how to earn points for a trip to Berlin

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by American Express. 

 

TRAVEL

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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