17th July, 2014
Some of the younger members of The Carter Company team visited Berlin recently. There are many reasons why we think it's a great city (we list a few of our insider tips below), but one thing that really struck us was how bike-friendly it is. Compared to London, it feels streets ahead. Berlin isn't really a walking city, as the distances are just that bit too far, so you see a lot of locals cycling around the place. This is the case of course in London too, but unlike London, there has clearly been a concerted effort (back by significant investment) to make cyclists feel safe. The bike lanes are generous in width; cyclists have priority on roundabouts; there are traffic lights and other road markings addressed specifically to those on two wheels.
As a tourist, it's incredibly easy and convenient to find bike hire shops; they seem to be dotted throughout the entire city. As is the case with most things in Berlin, it's also extremely good value for money. We hired some really comfortable, high quality bikes for €10/day. Most places ask you to leave a deposit though, so remember to take some spare cash with you.
Once on board, it's unbelievably easy to navigate around the city. If you do like to have a map on hand though, we recommend downloading a CityMapper onto your phone whilst still at home or over WiFi so you don't get stung with data roaming charges.
The other big bonus of cycling around Berlin (or anywhere in the world for that matter) is that you are travelling slow enough to see all the detail you would if you were on foot, but you don't find yourself completely exhausted after covering a few miles. Pottering around on your bike really lets you soak up the atmosphere and feel of a place, and you can usually visit several neighbourhoods in just a short amount of time, leaving you with a colourful patchwork of memories to take away with you.
The best things to see in Berlin by bike
Mauerpark Really fun and vibrant park in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. Visit on Sundays for impromptu, terrible (and hugely popular!) public karaoke performances. It really embodies the spirit of the city - laidback, all-embracing and not overly self-conscious. Buy a beer for €2, take a seat in the mini amphitheatre and get ready to clap along!
W Der Imbiss As vegetarians, Europe can be a tricky place. Berlin isn't as bad as Paris, but you can struggle to find good vegetarian places. However, this one is a real winner. Not only is it fantastic, fresh veggie and vegan food, it's also amazing value and serves a variety of dishes really well - so you can have a Mexican burrito or an Indian curry, and both are delicious (honest!) The meat lovers we were with gave it the thumbs up. Find it on Kastanienallee 49.
Clärchens Ballhaus Located on Auguststraße 24, this is a real gem. You can almost smell the history and the stories as you approach. It celebrated 100 years in 2013, and it's been a colourful hundred years at that. Recently it's changed ownership, but it continues to function as a dance and live music venue. Or you can just pop by for a drink or bite to eat - the garden is lovely on a sunny day. It's got that 'faded glory' feel to it, all crumbling but beautifully complimented by fairy lights, vintage garden furniture and a bright, kitsch interior.
Neues Museum If you only visit one museum in Berlin, we recommend this one. The building itself is a museum, let alone all the incredible Egyptian and other ancient treasures it houses in its permanent collections. The British architect David Chipperfield won a competition to restore the building after it was damaged severely during World War II, and work began in 2003. After painstaking and careful work, it reopened in 2009. The result is breathtaking - the scars of war have been carefully preserved (you can still see bullet marks on some of the facade and interior walls) - but it has been seamlessly updated at the same time. Hard to put in into words really - just go and see it! Find it on Museum Island, Bodestraße.
Biking vacations in Europe
Why not combine a visit to Germany with a cycling tour in another European country? We recommend a bike holiday in Spain if you're heading to Europe in autumn. It's cooler than in peak summer months and would offer a lovely antidote to a few days in a bustling city like Berlin.