We arrived in Berlin to traumatically cold winter weather and really struggled our first day to do anything that involved being outdoors. Luckily, there are no shortages of activities, indoor or outdoor, and the festive glühwein certainly makes those outdoor activities more enjoyable. My overall impression of Berlin is definitely favourable, but I’m not sure that it stands out as particularly German. Unlike Kraków or Prague or Budapest, I didn’t feel constantly aware that I was in a foreign country, and that’s probably because it’s a big city and nearly everyone speaks English and there are Starbucks everywhere. All the same, we really enjoyed our time in Berlin and it’s somewhere that I can’t wait to come back and explore further when it’s not sub-artic outside. Here are my 5 favourite things to do in Berlin during the winter.
East Side Gallery
A kilometre-long section of Berlin Wall is preserved and covered with beautiful murals and street art. Unfortunately, a lot of the wall is behind chain-link fence to protect it from vandalism, which makes it somewhat challenging to take good photographs, but it is seriously an excellent place to visit. We spend an afternoon walking along the entire wall and back, enjoying some art alongside some history.
Berlin Wall Blackbox
Right next to Checkpoint Charlie, there is a free outdoor exhibit/museum on the history of the Berlin Wall. There are heaps of paid museums nearby, but we find that the outdoor one has plenty of information (borderline too much information). Still, we need the history lesson, which includes the division of Berlin (and Germany) by the Allied powers after WWII into East and West all the way to the fall of the Wall and reunification of Germany in 1989/1990. A lot of it was new information to me, but I don’t feel embarrassed to admit that because Cal hadn’t even heard of the Berlin Wall before, so.
The checkpoint for foreigners to pass between East and West Berlin is still intact and available for many photos with men in vintage US Army garb.
Alexa Christmas Market
You’d think we might have had enough of Christmas markets by now, but you’d be wrong. On a slightly warmer day (still hovering near freezing, though) we spend several hours enjoying the holiday festivities in Alexanderplatz with our standard picks: glühwein and hot chocolate. Plus, some amazing lamb goulash. It’s all very Christmassy with the fire pits and holiday music and cute little market stalls selling ornaments and other gifts. Scored myself some very toasty sheepskin mittens, which Callum keeps calling unnecessary, but my cozy little paws say otherwise.
Hide from the elements at Liquidroom Spa
To escape from the positively miserable winter weather, Cal and I visit the space-like Liquidroom Spa and spend the day relaxing in the most amazing thermal baths. The main pool occupies an entire dome-shaped room, where underwater speakers play calming music and gentle light shows dance on the ceiling. The saltwater is so perfectly warm and everyone just floats around in the dark, listening to the music under the water. It’s like simultaneously being back in the womb and experiencing an acid flashback, but in an incredibly zen and relaxing way.
We also try out some of the saunas and steam rooms, but they are so hot I feel like I’ll pass out and no one will find me until after-hours when they shut off the steam and have to scoop my naked body out because I’m a puddle and also because it’s a strictly no-suits environment. We spend about 25€ each for the whole day at the spa, including towel rental, so it was pretty reasonable considering the life changing clarity likely to result from listening to electronic music whilst underwater. I just can’t stress this enough: there was music underwater.