Your Guide to a Long Weekend in Berlin

Making the most of Berlin as a student

(Image: Marti Stelling)

It is one of those cities that appears somewhere on every traveller’s bucket list, with beautiful architecture, great food, and being just a short flight from London, Berlin is certainly not one to miss.

After having it on my own travel list for years, I finally booked a four night stay in Berlin last December. As a former travel agent, I was aware of the important things I needed to do, like booking travel insurance and making sure my hotel was central to where I wanted to be, but there were still lots of things that I wish I had known before going! So, I thought I would compile an official (non-official) guide to a city break in Berlin. Genießen! (Enjoy!)

Planning Your Trip

My friend and I began to make our plans for Berlin with a shared Google Doc, listing all of the things that we wanted to do. We decided to book through Jet 2 City Breaks, as this meant that our flights, hotel, and baggage would all be included in the price we paid. We were also able to choose our seats and add travel insurance, which gave us some peace of mind. Jet 2 allows you 22kg of hold luggage and 10kg of hand luggage, which was more than enough- even with the addition of all the German snacks and Christmas ornaments we bought while we were over there!

We stayed in the Neue Grünstraße area, which was within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go. Berlin also has excellent public transport, so getting to Kurfürstendamm for the Christmas market was very easy (and not to mention cheap!).

One of many, many Christmas markets in Berlin

My first recommendation would be to plan your route from the airport to your hotel ahead of time. After my friend and I had picked up our bags, we gawped at an intimidating map of the city alongside other clueless tourists, wondering how on earth we would get to our hotel. We also didn’t have access to any wifi or data, which made for a somewhat concerning cab journey, especially considering our taxi driver didn’t speak a word of English and our German left a lot to be desired! Here’s a tip, don’t get into someone’s car just because they’re the first person you’ve found who recognises the word ’taxi’. For our return journey we got the train to the airport, which was a lot cheaper and fairly simple…once we managed to find the right platform!


Before going to Germany, I would recommend learning a few basic words and phrases, if only to be polite. The ones we used most were bitte (please), danke (thanks), wasser (water), and basic numbers. Most people do speak English, but it’s better to at least have a go at saying a few words.

One of our favourite things to do when walking around Berlin was looking out for the statues of colourful Buddy Bears outside shops and hotels. Inspired by the CowParade in New York City, the bears are a symbol of goodwill.

The Museum of Film and Television at the Sony Centre

To make the absolute most out of our trip, my friend and I squeezed as much as we could into our four nights, and yet we still didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. Some highlights include Charlie’s Checkpoint, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral, East Side Gallery, the Sony Centre, and the Mall of Berlin. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the War Memorial, but this just gives us yet another reason to go back!

Another thing that I didn’t know before going to Berlin was the fact that you have to pay to use public toilets. The only exception to this is at the airport. Everywhere else, you will find a cleaner collecting 50 cents per person, or a toll gate. Not knowing this resulted in a very awkward encounter in McDonald’s on our first day when I didn’t know that I was supposed pay the nice lady who welcomed me into the bathroom!


Speaking of McDonald’s, I would definitely recommend checking out their menu while you’re away. There is undoubtedly far better food to eat in Germany, but you can’t ignore the perks of a cheap and quick meal. I had what I can only describe as a cheesy burger bun with a sausage patty and some roast potato(?) inside, and it was insane. They also offer lots of different dips, including ranch dressing. My friend tried the breaded shrimp, which is definitely not something you would ever find at McDonald’s over here!

Baileys hot chocolate, anyone?

As our trip was in December, we had most of our meals at traditional German Christmas markets. There was so much to try, including Bratwurst (German sausage), Currywurst (fried sausage seasoned with curry ketchup), Flammkuchen (flatbread pizza), Fruchtspieße (chocolate-covered fruit skewers), giant pretzels, waffles, Pommes (fries), and the richest, most delicious hot chocolate you could ever imagine.

The water in Berlin is safe to drink, unlike the water in other parts of Germany, so make sure you bring a water bottle to avoid overspending on bottled water.

Final Tips

Depending on the time of year you go to Berlin, I would recommend taking a combination of cash (euros) and card. We both used Monzo, which allowed us to pay without conversion fees. Most places do accept card payments, but lots of the Christmas markets were cash only. There are plenty of ATM machines dotted around, but check with your bank as to whether or not you will be charged extra for using them.

Finally, beware of the city tax! When checking out we were told that we had to pay an additional cost for staying in the city. This was 5% of the overnight rate, so although it wasn’t much, do make sure to save a little for the end of your trip.

I just know that you will love Berlin as much as I did!