Top Questions About Visiting Berlin
For more of “what to see” in Berlin click below:
Berlin Travel Necessities
Always have the umbrella handy.
A jacket, since weather changes very fast.
Includes the S-Bahn and U-Bahn maps!
Comfortable Shoes. The older streets can be killer for those not used to it.
Although you will probably not need it, a German phrasebook may make you more comfortable.
© Nicole Paschal, All Rights Reserved
Since I’ve moved to Berlin, a number of friends and acquaintances have considered visiting this city. They’ve asked me for recommendations on what to see, to do, where to eat, and social customs. Below are some of my frequently asked questions and my honest responses.
1. What is there to see in Berlin?
Berlin Zoo- Great place for children and noted for the German’s amazing ability to simulate the animal’s natural environment.
Arthaus Tacheles- Former Jewish mall turned Nazi Administration Building. (People say they kept French prisoners on the fifth floor) Now it’s used for rebellious, liberal, free-spirited artist’s musings and exhibitions. There is a restaurant on site.
If you want to see more, check out my article, "10 Things to See in Berlin: An Insider's Guide!"
2. Where are the good restaurants?
Option 1: Get off at the Oranienburger Strasse S-Bahn Station and walk along Oranienburger Strasse. You will see a diverse selection of eateries with canopies and really a diverse selection of gastronomy. There is outside as well as inside seating.
Option 2: Get off at Haeckesher Markt S-Bahn station. The moment you step out of the station, you will a number of restaurants, vendors, bars, and street performers in the summer.
3. What are foods that I must try?
Eisbein- large pig’s leg.
Doener Kebab- You will find this at Turkish food stands alongside businesses lining the sidewalk. I think Germans eat this more than typical traditional food.
Gypsy Schnitzel (zigeunerschnitzel)- my favorite.
4. Should I speak English or German?
Germans always appreciate it when you speak to them in German. However, they will probably understand English quite well since most are bilingual, especially in the tourist areas. The problem is that some Germans seem to have trouble understanding German when the words are not pronounced exactly as they should be. A lot of times it’s either all or nothing- if your accent is foreign to them. Still, I think they appreciate the attempt.
5. Where are the Tourist Traps?
Perhaps they exist, but I don’t know of any. Maybe I just don’t recognize when I’m caught in the trap.
6. Should I tip?
Generally Germans don’t tip. Bartenders and wait staff tend to be paid well. Also, people do not tend to tip cab drivers. However, I don’t think they will be offended if you do tip.
7. Are there any social customs?
There are no social customs that come immediately to mind, but people tend to bump or push into others without saying a word. Or if you are walking too slowly, they will almost walk on your heels for you to hurry up. If you are in their way, they will push pass when they could have just said excuse me. Some parts of Berlin are kinder than others and although they tend to act like this in some areas, they for the most part, are respectful to women walking with children. I am American, out of the midwest and west coast and this bothers me. My husband is German and it is the normal Berlin way to him. My friends from New York tend to feel at home.
8. Are the taxi drivers reliable?
Yes, they are. My husband says he has never heard of any illegal activities with them. They charge a fee per kilometer and are reasonable in my opinion.
9. What is the weather like?
Watch the weather here before you come. Wind can be piercing cold, especially if you are from a warm region. Also, weather tends to be cloudy here, or what we call “Bewoelkt”! Anyone living in Germany for some time should get used to the word. I recall reading once that Berlin, Germany is 26% cloudier than Seattle, Washington. So, if that is a helpful indication of the weather, feel free to consider it. In winter, it is dark at around 4:30pm with light around 7am. We may have sunlight at around 8am. Summers can be very hot and humid, albeit still overcast with some days of sun. Weather is also unpredictable, so wear layers and carry umbrella.
10. How is public transportation in Berlin?
Public transportation is excellent! One has access to buses, the U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (above ground) trains. Also, in the eastern area of Berlin there are trams as well. Only if you're hiking, collecting mushrooms, or doing anything else in the extremely rural areas, would you need to drive.