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[Travel Advice] Visiting Berlin & Amsterdam

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by DCkid, Sep 6, 2016.

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  1. DCkid

    DCkid Contributing Member

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    I will be visiting Berlin and Amsterdam with my wife in late November/early December. I'll have about 3.5 days/4 nights in each.

    If anyone can give any recommendations on sites, museums, transportation, entertainment, restaurants, hotels, neighborhoods, or just general advice relating to those cities I would appreciate it.
     
  2. AroundTheWorld

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    Hi DCkid, it's not the greatest time to visit either city weather-wise, but I am sure you will have a good time anyway.

    I can definitely help with some recommendations for each city.

    Do you have an approximate budget for hotels per night? Any memberships in hotel loyalty programs? Any special interests or aversions (food, history, entertainment)?
     
  3. Big MAK

    Big MAK Member

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    Amsterdam:
    While in Amsterdam, I stayed at the Hotel NH Amsterdam Centre. It's just outside of the main part of the city. Hotel was nice, typical NH, and walk wasnt bad into town.

    For coffee shops, the Bulldog is a popular place, but I enjoyed Happy Feelings better (wasn't as crowded).

    If you're planning on going to the Anne Frank house, go early. I tried to go and the line was insane (and I think this was in February). We also went on a bike tour, I believe it was Mike's bike tours or something. Good time if you want to get outside the main city. Eat some stroopwaffels!!

    Berlin:
    Stayed at Adina Apartment Hotel. Hotel was pretty nice, and if I remember it had a good breakfast. Adina, like many other hotels in Berlin, doesn't offer in-room wifi.

    We went and walked the wall, museum island (has 3 or so great museums), holocaust memorial, and a few other things. We were there with some Germans so we hung outside the city a couple days (and actually crossed the bridge from Bridge of Spies).

    One thing you cant miss is a memorial on the site of the WWII book burnings. You'll easily walk past it (I did), as it's a glass window on the ground looking into empty white book shelfs. It was recommended to me from one of my German friends who was a tour guide for the city in the past. It's located in the plaza at Bebelplatz 1 10117 Berlin Mitte.
     
  4. Big MAK

    Big MAK Member

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    To add, I liked both hotels mentioned above. Used Uber and trains in Berlin and mostly walked in Amsterdam.

    Depending on when you go to Berlin, make it to the Christmas markets. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche, and Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt were quite nice. Been to Prague, Berlin and Vienna over Christmas - my wife liked the markets in Berlin the best while I liked the ones in Vienna. Prague is a disappointment... both the markets and the city as a whole.
     
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  5. DCkid

    DCkid Contributing Member

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    Yeah, this was the only time we could do a trip this year, so we figured if we're doing a winter trip in Europe we may as well go all in and experience a real European winter (without being in the tundra). Maybe see some Christmas markets while we're at it. Basically just wanted to focus on two of the major, larger cities we haven't seen yet that had a lot of indoor things to offer like museums. Berlin and Amsterdam is what we came up with. :eek: I'm sure I'll go back someday in the nicer-weather months.

    We usually "rough it" on vacations and skimp on the hotels since we are rarely ever in them anyway. But I looked at the costs yesterday in Berlin, and it seemed surprisingly cheap. I would say my target price is $150 or less. In some places I've visited in Europe that didn't get me very much. Looks like in Berlin you can easily get a 4 star hotel in Mitte for less than that. Perhaps it's due to the time of year. Based on my initial research, I was thinking of staying in Mitte, since most of the major attractions for a first-timer in the city are nearby, but am open to other neighborhoods if the public transportation is good. No hotel loyalty programs to speak of anymore, since my days of work travel are behind me.

    For food, I think we'd definitely like to go for more authentic "native" cuisine. Also, if there are some particular ethnic cuisines that are prominent and popular I'd be good with that too (kind of like in the UK, there were a lot of good Indian restaurants). My wife is very into seafood. Any breakfast recommendations would be great too. Basically, just not really looking for American style restaurants or Italian food, nor are we looking for really expensive, contemporary fine-dining.

    For sites, mainly looking for (in order)
    • German/Prussian/Dutch History
    • WWII History
    • If there are any museums or art galleries that are one-of-a-kind or focused on art that originated from Germany/Netherlands.
    • Classical Paintings (primarily Renaissance to Impressionism)
    • I know it will be cold, but any outdoor parks or neighborhoods that are good to just walk around.

    For entertainment, just wondering if there are good any good music venues you recommend. Pretty much open to any type of music from classical to commercial pop/rock. Probably looking more at concert halls as opposed to standing-room-only clubs. Of course I'd have to look at the calendar to see what is scheduled for the days we are there.

    Also, are there any good places to see plays that English speakers could enjoy?
     
  6. DCkid

    DCkid Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the recommendations Big MAK. Repped!

    We thought about doing the Budapest-Vienna-Prague trip that seems to have become so popular, but figured we'd save it for a time when we had more than just a week. If I can ask, how many days were you in each city, and do you think it was enough to get a good overview for a first-timer?
     
  7. dumbartonbass

    dumbartonbass Contributing Member
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    I had a great time in Berlin. We stayed in an Air BNB in the Charlottenburg neighborhood and enjoyed being near some affordable Turkish food. It was pretty easy to get around via public transit from there and I imagine there's Uber, too.

    As for as historic sights, we visited the Checkpoint Charlie area (my company had a nearby office at the time), but didn't enjoy the tourist trap nature of that area. One thing worth checking is the nearby Stasi museum. It's free and fascinating to see how the East German secret police spied on their own people.

    The Topography of Terror museum is within walking distance from Checkpoint Charlie and is a must-see. It's a very sobering look at the Nazi atrocities and you can spend hours going through all of the exhibits. Nice bathrooms, too (I have found this to be a crucial thing in European travels).

    The Kreuzberg neighborhood was a lot of fun for walking around and drinking at cool bars. Highly recommended (I don't remember any names, just walk into some and enjoy).

    The Pergamon museum is fantastic and full of antiquities. Do yourself a favor and allow for a lot of time there.
     
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  8. jo mama

    jo mama Contributing Member
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    i did this exact trip 10 years ago and i went in december. before going i bought a nice, warm marmot jacket that i basically wore the entire time. berlin was freaking chilly! i think the high was mid-30's and it was really windy. on the plus side, tourist crowds were minimal everywhere i went.

    both cities have fantastic public transportation, although i never used it in amsterdam...i walked everywhere. berlin has train, subway and doubledecker buses.

    amsterdam - i stayed in a cool hotel right along the canal about 2 blocks from anne frank museum. hotel van onna. free breakfast, cheap and quiet. van gogh and rijksmuseum are must-sees. vondelpark. coffeeshops are great not just for legal weed, but for meeting people. if you want to not be obviously american dont smoke with pipes. euros do spliffs (weed+tobacco). in dont smoke tobacco so i was rolling joints with weed+hash, which greatly impressed the euros i was around. the americans stood out like sore-thumbs...backwards ball cap bros smoking out of bongs and being loud.

    berlin - i stayed in charlottenburg at a place called pension knessebeck. 5 minute walk from train station, cheap, quiet and free breakfast. id recommend!
    museums: the pergamon is amazing. you mentioned renaissance art - Gemäldegalerie is a must-see. the brandenburg gate. checkpoint charlie, definitely tour the Reichstag and go to the top. i remember having to show id (passport) to get in and there was a line, but totes worth it. i took a daytrip to potsdam and toured the castle of frederick the great. it was pretty cool. you can take the train out there. also, check out the christmas markets.
     
  9. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Insider Newsletter™ 2X Diamond Member

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    Berlin is a relatively cheap and massive city. It depends on the visit you both are expecting but there's a non-stop night life and rebel atmosphere that puts Amsterdam to shame. A truly unique city of its own.

    Amsterdam is a nice city for a four day tourist visit. If you ingest brownies rather than inhale, I'd eat a quarter and wait 45 mins before trying more. Then again it might not be that kind of vacation if it's your first time
     
  10. Raz

    Raz Member

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    Since this seems to be your first trip to Berlin, I think the most famous attractions are a must. You can visit Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, Siegessäule, Bellevue, Reichstag, Alexanderplatz, Rotes Rathaus, etc. in one tour. Regarding museums, find www.museumsinsel-berlin.de/en/home/ for a good overview of the most famous. There's a lot to see so invest some time in research here.

    If you visited in summer I'd recommend Sanssouci palace in Potsdam, which is not half as nice in winter without the gardens. You're on the right track with the Christmas markets though.

    Amsterdam... well, the Red Light District... :rolleyes:
     
  11. Mathloom

    Mathloom Contributing Member

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    For Amsterdam,

    - I highly recommend getting an airbnb. If you typically skimp on the hotel, this is particularly good because you'll get more bang for buck and don't really need the room service. Everyone speaks English and ordering food is easy all the time. Also a greater variety of locations available to you.

    - Don't stay in the center but stay near the center and always RIGHT next to a train or metro. This will save you tons of money and time. If you want to rent bikes, that's an even better way to get around, Amsterdam is ultra bike friendly. The area around the Van Gogh museum is nice. De Pijp is a bustling area with great new stores and lots of activity day and night. Javastraat in Indische Buurt is growing to be a very nice area but a bit far from the center and not a lot of things to do for non-hipsters.

    - If you toke a lot and don't care about the coffeeshop experience, then get your stuff at Boerejongens only. You can't sit there, but you buy there and they have some of the best quality, variety and prices. If you're only interested in trying it out for the experience and not necessarily a big fan, then go for the classics Barney's and/or Bulldog. Bulldog Palace in particular is cool to go to because it's a former police station where the owner of Bulldog was held for selling weed, and then he bought it, and now it's a coffeeshop. If you want a nicer slightly more upscale place to hang out try Greenhouse or Barney's uptown. If you want somewhere where you can relax and lay down on some comfy cushions while watching people walk by try a little place called Kashmir. You could also go down to the park and find yourself a little corner if that's more your thing.

    - If you're into clubbing, try Canvas at Volkshotel, great view, nice crowd. If you like live music, definitely check out huge historic venue Melkweg. Warehouse Elementenstraat is good according to lots of people, but chaotic. CC musiccafe and Bimhuis can be great for live music on the right days.

    - Foodhallen is the ****. It's a huge foodmarket and all the restaurants there are pretty amazing. Probably the best food in a single place in Amsterdam. It's a place where people drink and eat a lot, and you can also shop for great food too.

    - Definitely try Indonesian and Surinamese food when in Amsterdam. For Indonesian my favorite was Sampurna for really authentic food. If you want to be wowed, check out Blauw but it's a bit too fancy for my taste. For Surinamese the best is Riaz though it might be a bit out of your way. For something closer to the center try Albina.

    - For dutch street food I know everyone loves that raw herring with onions, but I can't eat seafood so I can't vouch for it. Wife loved it. Definitely try a Frikandel (basically a hotdog) or a Kroket from somewhere they're all over the place.

    - For really touristy stuff, the museums and tulips and red light district you're going to find out real quick anyway. FWIW, my favorites were the modern art (stedelijk museum) and obviously the Rijksmuseum houses insane pieces. What might also be nice is having a picnic on a canal cruise, you can even get a private one and have a date.
     
    #11 Mathloom, Sep 6, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2016
  12. plcmts17

    plcmts17 Member
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    Visited Berlin this past May and I had a great time. There is so much to do and see. I would say the top things to see would be the Reichstag (good views of the city, but long lines), Potsdam (San Souci Palace and Gardens), Treptower Park (Soviet Memorial) and Museum Island.

    The great thing about Berlin is the transportation system. The U and S Bahn take you pretty much everywhere and you can use your U/S Bahn ticket with buses as well. Go to the Hauptbahnhof, which is an amazing train station, to get maps and train/bus passes.

    There is a lot of construction around the Unter Den Linden and the Rotes Rathaus so you've been warned. Berlin is also a bit pricey.

    But Berlin will NOT disappoint. It is a great place to visit.
     
  13. Uprising

    Uprising Contributing Member

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    <iframe width="921" height="518" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sEON08d76oE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>




    I'll be in Amsterdam for a couple of days as a stop on my way over to Dubai in December. It's been almost a decade since I've been there, due to the non stop Emirates flights (I used to always take KLM, and have a layover).
     
  14. s land balla

    s land balla Contributing Member

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    I went to Blauw for Indonesian earlier this summer and was extremely underwhelmed.

    I went to another Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam the night before and it was FANTASTIC (not to mention cheaper than Blauw). It was called Warung Spang Makandra. Order the Javanese Rames and thank me later.

    There's also a hole in the wall Surinamese-Indian restaurant I loved called Roopram Roti. Amsterdam is likely the only place in the world where you can try this mishmash of cuisine, so I'd definitely recommend it for lunch.
     
  15. Mathloom

    Mathloom Contributing Member

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    Yeah I feel like Blauw is more about taking instagram photos than the actual food right.

    Roopram Roti is a place I heard about but never went to, have to check it out next time.
     
  16. Mathloom

    Mathloom Contributing Member

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    That video :grin::grin: hahahaha
     
  17. AroundTheWorld

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    Will get back to this thread later, but in Berlin, you can stay at 5 star hotels for $ 150 or less. In Mitte, the Hilton is decent and right on Gendarmenmarkt. If you were to stay more in the West, the Intercontinental is a decent choice. You should be able to get either for less than $ 150/night (unless there is some event or conference going on that fills up the hotel rooms). The hotels I would recommend most in Berlin are: Rocco Forte Hotel de Rome, Adlon Kempinski, Hyatt - but they are all a bit more pricey than the $ 150 or less. You could perhaps also get a Leaders Club Access membership and stay at Hotel Palace (close to Intercontinental) - it's not pretty (80s style), but with that Access membership, breakfast should already be included, and some other benefits.

    In Amsterdam, I like the Andaz (part of the Hyatt chain). I used to stay at the Pulitzer when it was still part of SPG. The other one I like (but it's a bit more out of the way) is Hotel Okura (great Teppanyaki restaurant). Not sure how much these hotels would be.

    But in either city, you will have plenty of decent choices.
     

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