Off-season airfares can create bargain opportunities for visiting Europe. Hotels can also cost much less than the peak summer season and there is more availability for utilizing points. It’s the perfect combination for an affordable getaway.
One particular destination that offers a great off-season travel experience is Berlin, Germany. Whether the season is spring, fall, or winter, you’ll find terrific value and a wide variety of things to do. Here are 10 reasons I think you should add Berlin to your off-season travel list.
As a city divided, East and West Berlin evolved with totally different architectural styles. We noticed not only the different vibe in the Eastern part of the city but the stunning difference in the architecture. For a fascinating look at the contrast, and an “in-depth comparison with a local architectural historian”, try the Cold War Berlin Tour. If you’re not an architectural buff, you can still appreciate the differences as you explore the city. Read up on the significance before you go then utilize the subway system to travel between the East and West areas. A day pass is about 7 Euros.
There is nothing that will get you into the holiday spirit more than a German Christmas market. We visited two on our last trip but we could have easily spent our time doing nothing but hanging out at these fun events as there was one in every neighborhood. An easy way to participate in these festivals is to take the hop on/off bus and get off at every stop you happen to see a market. There are dozens of markets from which to choose.
The most significant aspect of Berlin is its history. Any first-time visitor would want to visit the prominent historical sites such as the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, The Holocaust Memorial, The Berlin Wall and the Topography of Terror. However, if you’re interested in history at all, you’ll want to explore much further. Here’s a comprehensive list of historical sites in Berlin to get you started.
The Coffee Culture
Visiting Berlin during the off-season may involve some cooler temperatures. Such was the case on our last visit as we found ourselves ducking into a café now and then to warm up. As a result we also discovered the great coffee culture of Berlin. While you could seek out the most historic cafes in Berlin, which would be an adventure in itself, the accidental discoveries we made proved just as rewarding.
Street Art Exploration
Street art enthusiasts will revel at the variety and volume offered in Berlin. The eastern part of the city seems to offer the best selection. Head over to the Raw Tempel area off Stralauer Allee, or walk the East Side Gallery, a lengthy section of the Berlin Wall, a historic wonder and home to a unique outdoor gallery of street art. A condensed guide for finding other street art in Berlin can be found here.
The Berlin Wall
You’ll find sections of the Wall throughout the city, some protected and preserved while other sections open to vandalism and environmental deterioration. The location of the Wall is outlined on most maps so you can walk specific sections if you choose to do so. Visiting the East Side Gallery portion of the Wall was significant enough for us.
Seeing the City by Water
When your feet get tired from walking you can hop on a river cruise and enjoy the sights of the city from a new vantage point. River cruises through Berlin are affordable starting at less than twenty dollars and lasting a few hours or more. Lunch is either included or available for purchase on board. There are several options from which to select including combo bus/boat tours. Boat tours are available most months of the year.
Berlin’s Awesome Street Food Scene
Whether you prefer currywurst, falafel, sushi, tacos, doner kebop, halloumi or schnitzel, you’ll find an array of delicious street food in Berlin. Sure you can feast at a fancy restaurant but for those on the go exploring the city, nothing beats the ethnic variety and quality of the small food establishments. One of our favorite finds was the halloumi “burger” which we preferred served in soft, warm pita versus a bun. A fried salty goat/sheep cheese patty, topped with fresh salad, parsley, and garlic sauce, the halloumi truly satisfied our taste buds. For a wide selection of gastronomical pleasures, also try one of the weekly food markets.
So Many Lodging Options
If you’re looking for affordable lodging options in Berlin, off-season is the best time to score. Using the points generated from a Hilton HHonors Card from American Express to secure my room, I was able to afford to stay right in the heart of the city. Find out which hotels have rooms available with loyalty points by using Award Mapper or Hotel Hustle.
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Exploring Neighboring Potsdam
One of my favorite day trips from Berlin is Potsdam. About a half-hour train ride from Berlin, Potsdam is home to palaces, parks, and royal gardens. Unlike central Potsdam, the surrounding area was spared from bombing so the expansive evidence of Prussian royalty remains. You can view many of the castles/palaces on a boat tour. The historic Dutch Quarter of the town is charming and you’ll find quaint shops and cafes in the city center. From the train station you can also book an affordable tour of the area or take the hop on/off bus for less than $20.
No matter your interest, Berlin is an off-season gem and with the Euro hovering at around $1.06, it’s a perfect affordable getaway.
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