Berlin Walking Tour
Our recommended book
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck takes us through Berlin, both current and before the wall came down. We read about different neighborhoods throughout the city through the eyes of a Berliner who has experienced East Berlin, and is now grappling with a modern and globally connected city. There are references to towns outside of Berlin center, and buildings which we can approximate their location, however major landmarks are beautifully depicted in the story and are a perfect backdrop for a visit to Berlin.
Berlin often feels like a sleepy city. It’s particularly obvious when you look at the opening times for places and notice that most places simply do not open before 10 a.m. Luckily, you can still visit much of the city regardless of this sleepy pace. Luckily, Bonanza Coffee Roasters are open at 9 a.m. so you can start your day off with a jolt of great espresso. From there, you can walk over to Oranienplatz where a vast majority of the book either takes place, or refers back to. It’s a beautiful park in Kreuzberg and is worth a morning stroll through. As you walk through the park, you’ll end up at a beautiful pond with some ducks and swans that have made it their home. Keep walking towards the Spree River and you’ll soon walk into what was former East Berlin.
You’ll walk into what is now referred to as Friedrichshain. You’ll reach the S-Bahn Berlin Kundenzentrum, which is most likely close to the area where Richard lived while he was living in the East. From there, you’ll walk up along the river past the East Side Gallery, which is a memorial of sorts to the Berlin Wall. You’ll continue walking through Friedrichshain in the direction of Mitte (Berlin Center). You’ll be passing through the Plattenbau, typical East Berlin public housing structures.
You’ll arrive to Alexanderplatz, where you’ll be steps away from Fernsehturm Berlin (TV tower), Neptunbrunnen (The Neptune Fountain), and Rotes Rathaus (Berlin Town Hall). This is a major transport hub throughout the Berlin and its surrounding state of Brandenburg. The Alexanderplatz area tends to be very touristic, which means if you’re looking for a bite to eat, it’s best to get off the main path a bit.
Hungry for a bite to eat? You can’t come to Berlin and not have Vietnamese food. It’s easier to find great Vietnamese food here than it is to find traditional German food. The history behind this is quite interesting. During the time of a divided Germany, both East and West were accepting people from Vietnam, although for dramatically different reasons. West Germany was taking in refugees from Southern Vietnam, while East Germany, as a socialist state, invited Northern Vietnamese students to train in Germany. As a nod to this history in Berlin, it’s only fitting to have a great Vietnamese meal. My personal favorite is Quà Phê which has dishes that are incredibly tasty and filling. Grab a Vietnamese coffee to top off the meal. If you’re looking for a sandwich, a favorite in the neighborhood is right next door at Banh Mi Stable. The wait times can be pretty long during the lunch rush, but there’s a park right outside and you can soak up some Berlin people watching while you wait.
Now that your belly is full, it’s time to get a move on. You’ll cross the Spree River again and cross over Museum Island, where a large number of Berlin’s important museums are. There are great parks all along this area, so it’s worth a pause to take everything in. Walk down Bundesstraße and you’ll pass by Humbolt University, where Richard worked as a professor. Walk up Freidrichstraße to the Freidrichstraße U-Bahn Station, where Richard would commute from.
On your way up towards the north of Berlin, you’ll pass by a cute café called House of Small Wonder where you can rest your feet, grab a coffee and re-energize for the afternoon.
At this point, you can hop on public transport and head up to Gesundbrunnen Station, or you can meander your way up. Congrats on a great tour of Berlin. Looking for a cold beer to end the day on, head over to a neighborhood Kneipe (Pub) called Bierbrunnen an der Plumpe. If you’re feeling really German, you can order a beer with Waldmeister in it.
Loved the book? Walk your way through the narrative and discover some of Berlin’s best places. If you’d like to see the map to your phone, simply click on the icon all the way on the right of the map (it looks like it has the four corners of a rectangle) and the walking tour will open inside the google maps application.
Looking for a little bit more?
City notes has a few fun facts that might enhance your understanding of Berlin. Although there are hundreds of different tours you can take throughout Berlin (both free and paid), we highly recommend the tours through Poligonal.