Berlin is a rebellious city with a rich history and tons of culture. I wasn’t too sure what to expect and honestly didn’t know much about this city until now. I got to explore badass Berlin and its more refined side while the hubby attended a conference.
If you could describe Berlin in one phrase it would be: “Live and let live”. Berlin is an unpretentious city where the locals believe in personal freedom and where creativity is encouraged. I personally love this motto!
The past is very much present everywhere you go in Berlin. This is a city that has endured rather turbulent times. A revolution was planned here, it was the base camp to the Nazis, it was destroyed, it was split in two and then reunified. All this within the 20th century!
Berlin has its share of five star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurant, art galleries and numerous shopping areas.
Mandala Hotel Berlin
My husband’s conference was at The Ritz Carlton but we procrastinated on the reservation and it was fully booked. For that reason, we ended up at the Mandala Hotel. A little disappointing to say the least! The rooms at the Mandala are very spacious but dated, they’re one saving grace was the spa. After checking in I decided to dine solo at a close by restaurant prior to my spa appointment.
Lutter & Wegner
You can’t go to Germany and not have a Wiener Schnitzel! Lutter & Wegner have four locations so if you make a reservation be sure it’s the closest to where you are staying. With a full belly it was time to head back to the hotel for a little pampering.
Located on the top floor of the Mandala Hotel, ONO Spa offers some wonderful treatments. I decided to indulge in a 90-minute Pharmos Natur Green Luxury Facial since I had the whole evening to myself. This is one of the best facials I’ve had in a long time! I’m a big fan of extractions (yes I know…ewww) which most spas don’t offer anymore. The fresh cut Aloe Vera leaf was so soothing and my skin still looks and feels great! I even managed to convince my husband to get a facial the next day and he loved it!
We also booked a 60 minute classic couple's massage on Saturday morning. This treatment is a gentle full body massage with aromatic oils. The facial wins.
The Brandenburg Gate
The next day I decided to explore the city and started at the Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin’s most important monuments. This landmark has over 200 years of history. It was a symbol of Berlin and German division and today it is a national symbol of peace and unity. I chose to begin my day here because it happened to be next door to Hotel Adlon Kempinski where I made lunch reservations. Food is always a priority!
The Dome of the Reichstag Building
Before heading for lunch, I also wanted to visit The dome of the Reichstag Building, which offers great views of Berlin and the government district. Turns out you must book way in advance! The registration process for those who did not book in advance disrupted my plans so I decided not to visit. Poor planning on my part.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Just south of the Brandenburg Gate is Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman. 2711 concrete slabs of different heights cover a site that is 19,000 square meters. There is an information centre on the south-eastern side of the memorial grounds where you’ll find documentation about families and individuals.
It was time for lunch! Restaurant Quarré, located at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski, offers outside seating where you can enjoy views of the Brandenburg Gate. From April to June the restaurant offers in-season asparagus from Diedersdorf. So of course, I had to find out what was so special about this royal vegetable, as they call it. I opted for a filet as my main dish with the asparagus which is served with a béarnaise sauce. I wasn’t blown away.
Kaufhaus des Westens
At this point the weather was not cooperating so I decided to take shelter in a department store. Turns out Berlin is home to the largest department store in Europe. Kaufhaus des Westens, also known as KaDeWe, has over 60,000 square meters of display space spread over 8 floors. You’ll find mid-range brands like Zadig & Voltaire, MAJE, Sandro and luxury brands like Gucci, Dior, Chanel and much more! It rained all late afternoon so I had no choice but to do a little damage. Blame it on the weather!
I joined my husband and his colleague for dinner at Aigner that evening. The cuisine combines dishes from Vienna and Berlin and offers outside and indoor seating. I opted for the half-sized portion of Wiener Schnitzel, again. This seems to be a local favorite but it was average at best.
Restaurant Tim Raue
The highlight of our Berlin trip; Restaurant Tim Raue! Ranked no. 34 on The World’s 50 Best list; it is an absolute must. Tim Raue’s story alone is worth knowing, his difficult childhood and all the obstacles he’s had to overcome make this dining experience even more special. I opted for the signature menu which includes all of Tim Raue's signature dishes. His fascination with Asian cuisine is portrayed perfectly in his creations, here are a few of his masterpieces:
After our fabulous lunch, we decided to explore the city a little further. Checkpoint Charlie happens to be a few minutes walk from Restaurant Tim Raue. This was the most famous crossing point between East and West Germany. There is an open-air exhibition on the corner of Schützenstraße and Zimmerstraße which tells the story of the people who succeeded or failed to escape East Berlin.
The Wall A.K.A. Die Mauer – Yadegar Asisi Panorama
Mitte Shopping District
We then decided to walk around and discover the Mitte shopping district. This is home to several local designer shops where you’ll find unique items. I personally didn’t find much but I could see the appeal for some.
What a charming, laid back restaurant! The staff at Industry Standard is lovely and the food is good. They serve small plates made to share rooted in rustic French and Mediterranean cuisine. I have an agreement with the hubby that we can only do one tasting menu per day. For that reason, I had to find a restaurant that could satisfy a foodie but also relaxed enough to enjoy a casual meal. This place checked all those boxes!
East Side Gallery
You cannot visit Berlin without seeing The East Side Gallery. The longest open-air gallery in the world that once was the Berlin wall is worth a visit. This is where various artists shared their views on political changes in 1989 and 1990. I love street art so I enjoyed the various murals.
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