Berlin May 2024 – An Overview



Berlin Trip: 23 – 27 May 2024
See also the posts on Berlin June 2023 for more food and travel and recommendations.


Berlin, like any large city, offers any number of attractions and distractions you could ask for. It can be overwhelming and a little planning ahead will ensure a rewarding trip. Not too much planning, though, as I found this second trip more relaxing and fun as we did not try to do too much. In particular, we skipped most of the must-see museums as we had visited them previously.


Berlin: Preparing for your trip

Please see my previous post, A Berlin Primer, on guidebooks, maps and other online resources. The Rough Guide to Berlin (12th edition) has just been published, ISBN 978-1789194753. Very often, major newspapers carry travel articles entitled 24/36 hours in Berlin, and these provide a helpful snapshot of the city. Check the date of publication as establishments open and shut all the time. This is a late-2022 article on what to see, eat and do in Berlin (New York Times).



For a selection of English books on Berlin and German history, head to Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus (Friedrichstraße 90, 10117 Berlin) which is the kind of bookshop all book lovers dream of. Let’s learn some German: kultur = culture, kaufhaus = department store and das = the. Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus = Dussmann the Culture Department Store. Ordinarily, a bookshop = buchgeschäft.



Berlin: Understanding the city layout

If you are independent and like walking, then I can highly recommend Rick Steves’ Berlin Travel Guide (4th edition, ISBN 978-1641714754). It is well written, insightful and there are many good walks to be had following the maps and suggestions in the book. Have a pen or pencil and some sticky notes to hand when you read the book: within a walk Mr Steves recommends eating places or accommodation, but this is in another chapter, so you need to either write down the page number or place a sticky note there. There is also some information on the website. Read a bit about Rick Steves here.

If you prefer less walking, then a city hop-on-hop-off tour by bus (with an optional boat ride) will bring you to all the major sights in Central Berlin following an East-West axis. You won’t see any part of Prenzlauer Berg (North) or Kreuzberg (South) but you will cover all the major sights in the former East and West Berlins. Operators include Big Bus Tours, City Sightseeing and City Circle.

If you like things more personal and to have your hand held, there will almost certainly be privately guided tours by car that you can access. If I come across any, I will update this post. For now, we still love walking, and taking the underground/ metro is not a challenge.


Surprisingly, free maps from hotel lobbies are very useful


Boat tours on the river Spree


Berlin: Packing guide

One of the ironies about getting older is that the more you can afford to fly in Business Class, the less you need or want to carry. British Airways allows us 2 x 32 kg luggage allowance (checked-in), but we only carried hand luggage weighing less than 8 kg. Cabin bags cannot exceed 56 x 45 x 25 cm / 22 x 18 x 10 in, to includes wheels and unextended handles.

On a short city break, it’s not worth the risk having your luggage misdirected or lost. Carry-on luggage is the way to go, so the packing list for an all-weather 4-night trip is: 5 x underpants, 1 x thermal vest, 1 x cardigan, 1 x pyjamas, 4 x shirts/ blouses or t-shirts, 1 x scarf, 4 x socks and 1 x rain/ windproof jacket. I always have a pair of cashmere bed socks as I hate getting cold feet when sleeping. Squirrel away any cosmetic samples you get throughout the year and place in a dedicated plastic bag, thus ensuring and you have no need to decant anything last minute from a large bottle. Chinese people always buy bigger bottles of everything as this is better value for money, but we always get stuck when needing to travel light.

The other reason for travelling light is that airports are truly frustrating these days with very long corridors and often escalators and lifts that do not work (yes! even in industrial and efficient Germany). If you cannot carry your luggage up and down a few flight of stairs, then travel by taxi or pack even lighter.


Berlin: Useful items

In addition to the essentials in the packing list above, I always travel with an emergency First Aid kit: paracetamol, ibuprofen, anti-histamine, Mopiko, plasters and Steri-Strip in case of deep cuts. Hand steriliser and face masks are still a must.


Don’t leave home without an umbrella: the Gilley umbrella is useful with or without its casing, or bring any favourite umbrella that will cheer you up if it rains


Berlin: Where to stay

Although we have stayed in self-catering cottages, especially when we travelled with the children, I would not consider staying at an Airbandb. I grew up in a Malaysia that was a newly-emerging Asian economy, and it was a treat to enter a Western-style hotel with its posh lobby and carpeted rooms. I still love hotel lobbies, en-suite bedrooms and double locking the room door at the end of the day, thus signalling the shutting out of the world’s cares and troubles.

Everyone has their own budget, and idea of comfort, but consider staying near a metro line as this makes travelling up, down and across Berlin so much easier. Berlin is well-connected so any U or S line would be good, but look into the neighbourhood too, especially if you intend to travel late at night. Berlin hotel rates are not unreasonable for a capital city.


Berlin: Getting to and from Brandenburg Airport

Here is a helpful guide on airport transfers, however in our experience train cancellations can happen at short notice (this happened to us). It is best to familiarise yourself with every possible train route to and from the airport, or simply take a taxi. That itself is not trouble free: our flight back to London was delayed as the Captain and crew were stuck in road traffic and reached the airport half an hour late.

Let’s learn some German: flug = flight, hafen = harbour and flughafen = airport. Ankünfte = arrivals and Abflüge = departures.