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As the fifth-largest city in Europe, it can be very hard to decide how to spend only 48 hours in Berlin. There are dozens of activities to choose from, each one better than the last. Some are seasonal, some are weather-dependent, some are strenuous, and some might make you fat.

When to Visit Berlin

Visiting Berlin in the summer has two huge advantages – it’s warmer and you will have more daylight hours. In December, sunrise is around 8 a.m. and sunset is around 4 p.m., giving you only about 8 hours of daylight. On the other hand, in June the sun is up before 5 a.m. and sets after 9 p.m. This will give you over 16 hours of daylight for exploring! Granted, not all of the attractions will be open all 16 hours, but at least you can get more done in a day.

The disadvantage of visiting Berlin in the summer is the crowds. They are massive and there’s a good chance most of the accommodations (especially Couchsurfing) will be fully booked. Many tours will also be fully booked and attractions will be crowded. Only at the parks is this good, as more people means more music, more barbecues and more camaraderie.

Spring and autumn are great choices. The weather is moderate and it’s not too busy. You could also visit in the winter, but it can be very cold, rainy and even snowy (not necessarily a bad thing). In December, there are several Christmas markets around the city to visit. The biggest disadvantage of visiting in winter is that many of the tours aren’t running, and you only have about 8-10 hours of daylight.

Day One

The beginning of your 48 hours in Berlin will obviously depend on when your flight or bus arrives. I’ve arranged the days starting first thing in the morning, but you could always shift the Day One morning activities to the third day if you arrive late. This itinerary is not for the faint of heart and will keep you running from one attraction to another, but that’s the best way to maximize your time if you only have two days.

Watch the Kitesurfers Tempelhofer Feld

Personally, one of my favorite spots in Berlin is Tempelhofer. It’s a great location to start your morning off with some exercise. Tempelhofer Feld, named after the Knights Templar land it sits on, is the site of the Templehof airport which served Berlin until 2008. It was originally built in 1923 and was used by Hitler in World War II. You can walk down the 1.3-mile runway or around the extensive park and gardens. The barbecues mostly come out at night, but there will be plenty of other locals out for a jog or possibly even kiteskating down the runway. There are also tours of the airport, but those are only at 1:30 p.m. which throws a wrench into the other activities.

Tempelhoffer Feld in Berlin

Indulge on the Secret Food Tour

I always say that the best way to start exploring a city is on a walking tour. I also say a great way to learn about a culture is through its cuisine. Thus, taking a food tour couldn’t be a better option. I took the Secret Food Tour of Berlin on which I got to devour delicious schnitzel, currywurst, kebab, flammekueche, and beer. There’s also a vegan version of the tour, which might be even better considering Berlin is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world! The tour starts at 11:30 a.m. by the Warschauer Straße metro station. The tour lasts about 3 to 3.5 hours. Believe me, you won’t want to eat breakfast before the tour, nor will you need to eat again until dinner.

Schnitzel Sandwich

Spend the Afternoon at the Berlin Zoo

Next, I have to recommend visiting the Berlin Zoo. Established in 1844, it’s the 8th-oldest zoo, the world, second in the world for number of animals, and has the most species of any zoo. It’s not easy to squeeze a zoo into half an afternoon, especially when it’s this big (so you might want to consider spending a full day there after your 48 hours in Berlin). The zoo opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6:30 p.m. in the summer (4:30 p.m. in the winter). That gives you about three hours after the food tour to see the animals.

(Alternative) Take an Excursion to the Olympic Village

If zoos aren’t your thing, consider a tour out to the Berlin Olympic Park. This is where Hitler held the 1938 Olympic Games and where Jesse Owens made track history. Unfortunately, the guided tours are only at 11:30 a.m. which conflicts with the other tours on this list, but you can still give yourself a self-guided tour.

Jam at Treptower Park (or Maybe Mauerpark)

The number of parks around Berlin is staggering, and it’s no wonder that they fill up with many of the city’s 3.5 million residents in the evening, especially during the summer months. Two of my favorite parks (other than Tempelhofer) are Treptower along the banks of the Spree River, and Mauerpark about a mile north of the city center. Both parks are filled with street performers and activities throughout the evening. On Sunday night, Mauerpark has a giant free-to-enter karaoke set up in the song pit, and a flea market on the southern side of the park. Treptower similarly has dozens of musicians performing, ball games you can join in on, and dozens of barbecues to tantalize you.

Treptower Park in Berlin

Pick up a Burger at Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor

For dinner, I’d recommend heading to one of the four Burgermeister locations in town, preferably the one under the bridge by the Schlesisches Tor train station. The line is incredibly long for good reason. It’s definitely not hyperbole when I say they serve one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had anywhere in the world, and for only $5! Plan for a takeaway as there’s slim chance you’ll find a place to sit or stand.

Burger Under the Bridge in Berlin

Day Two

Congratulations! Hopefully, you survived the first day. Now you just have most of the key landmarks left to see. Let’s get the day started with some more tours.

Cruise on the River Spree

Perhaps the best tour in town, after the food tour, is a boat tour on the Spree River. There are quite a few different options to choose from, leaving from different piers in the city. Most departures are in the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock hours and last from 90 minutes to 4 hours. While longer is better, it would be hard to squeeze in the longest cruise and still get everything else on this list done. I’d recommend a 90-minute tour to Charlottenburg Castle (leaving from Pier Jannowitzbrücke near Alexanderplatz), or perhaps the 90-minute tour of the city center (leaving from Treptower Park).

Cruise on the Spree River in Berlin

Learn the History on the Sandemans Walking Tour

If you catch a 90-minute boat tour at 10 a.m., you’ll be in time to take the Sandemans Walking Tour at noon. Otherwise, you could take a longer cruise and make the 2 p.m. walking tour. This tour is nearly three hours long and covers the city center. Highlights include Brandenburg Gate (where the tour starts), Checkpoint Charlie, the site of Hitler’s bunker, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Again, there are several different walking tours to choose from, but I’ve always found Sandemans to be one of the best.

Holocaust Museum in Berlin

Explore the Rest of the City Center

Now that you’ve covered the important tours, there are just the remaining several dozen attractions to see. You could wander around Museum Island (there are five museums to visit, but they should be done over a full day or two), see the East Side Gallery (Berlin’s largest remanent of the Berlin Wall – covered in street art), take a stroll through Tiergarten Park, or simply relax with a beer or third-wave coffee.

Berlin Cathedral (Berlin on a Budget)

Enjoy Sunset from the TV Tower

For the final activity of the night (before or after dinner – depending on when the sunset is), head to Alexanderplatz and ride up the Berliner Fernsehturm TV Tower. From the top, you get the best aerial views of Berlin. There’s a restaurant where you can eat dinner, but it’s wickedly expensive (at least out of my budget).

TV Tower in Berlin

Go Vietnamese for Dinner

Allow me to suggest something a little different for the last meal of your 48 hours in Berlin, even if you’ve already decided to stay longer. As Berlin is a particularly international city, there are dozens of cuisines available. As you learn on the food tour, Turkish and Middle Eastern food play a big part in the Berlin food scene. SE Asian food is also huge throughout the city, primarily Thai and Vietnamese (not to mention dozens of Chinese and Japanese restaurants). The one I tried was called Cô Chu. Having completely fallen in love with Vietnamese food on my Hanoi Food Tour, I can say that Berlin’s phở certainly qualifies. While the prices might not be on par with Vietnam, they’re cheaper than many other places around Europe.

Vietnamese Pho in Berlin

Using the Berlin WelcomeCard

The best way to get around and explore Berlin is with the Berlin WelcomeCard. This gets you free transportation and discount tickets to 200 attractions. There’s also a premium, all-inclusive card which gives you free access to 31 attractions in town, including the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour. Both cards are available for 2 to 6 days. The regular card starts at $26 for 48 hours, and the all-inclusive card starts at $99 for 48 hours. If you’re on a budget, stick to the regular card. If you’re planning to use public transportation a lot and visit at least one or two attractions, the card is worth it.

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48 Hours in Berlin Pin

Further Reading

Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Here are some of my other articles for Germany’s capital.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Back in 2016, I spent a week exploring Berlin on a budget without really knowing what I should be doing there. I had originally planned to go to Hamburg and only changed my plans at the last second. Now I’ve gone back for the holiday season, once again without a plan.

Getting to Berlin

Both times I’ve traveled to Berlin, I’ve gone with Flixbus. The first time was from Copenhagen, and the second was from Hamburg. In 2016, I chose Berlin over Hamburg because the bus ticket from Copenhagen was cheaper, which didn’t make any sense as Berlin is twice as far as Hamburg. Back then, I was on a pretty tight budget and my gameplan was always to choose the cheaper bus. I couldn’t complain as I fell in love with Berlin (although I’ve now found Hamburg is even better!).

If you’re already in Europe, most of the low-cost airlines fly to Berlin for a ridiculously low price. For example, you can fly round trip from Edinburgh or London to Berlin for $32! FYI, that’s one of the reasons I love living in Edinburgh. Conversely, you can fly round trip from Berlin to nearly every country in Europe for under $50 (depending on the dates, of course).

On my last trip, I got a Flixbus from Hamburg. The trip lasted three and a quarter hours and cost a whopping $10 each.

Once you get to Berlin, you’ll probably want to get the Berlin WelcomeCard. This gets you free transportation and discount tickets to 200 attractions. There’s also a premium, all-inclusive card which gives you free access to 31 attractions in town, including the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour. Both cards are available for 2 to 6 days. The regular card starts at $26 for 48 hours, and the all-inclusive card starts at $99 for 48 hours. If you’re on a budget, stick to the regular card. If you’re planning to use public transportation a lot and visit at least one or two attractions, the card is worth it.

Where to Sleep in Berlin

Between my two trips to Berlin, I had a chance to stay at several different locations across town. Here are some options to consider.

Check In Hotel

The first hostel I stayed at in Berlin back in 2016 has since converted into a hotel, and opened a second location as a hostel. I got really lucky with my room, as it ended up being an en-suite 2-bed dorm! The disadvantage was the location was quite far outside of town, but the new hostel is much closer to the center. Check In Hostel is still one of the cheapest hostels in Berlin with a decent review score.

Check In Hostel Bedroom

Hostel Ballhaus

The first hostel I stayed at on my second trip was Hostel Ballhaus, located about a mile north of Brandenburg Gate. My planning for Berlin was quite last-minute and I didn’t have a lot of options left to choose from. Ballhaus was a no-frills hostel with some of the cheapest rooms in town. It’s located several floors up and the elevator was broken when I went, so it’s not the best for people with large suitcases. Otherwise, there’s a good common area with WiFi and the rooms are very clean. The bathrooms on the second floor of the hostel (5th floor of the building) are full most of the time, but those on the first floor are mostly empty.

Citystay Hostel

Ballhaus was fully booked on my second day, so I made my way to Citystay Mitte, located across the street from Alexanderplatz. Mitte means center, and the hostels and hotels with this in the title are thus in the best locations. Berlin is the most-visited city in Germany with 13.5 million visitors each year, and the hotels and hostels are built to accommodate that. Citystay is a huge hostel with dozens of dorms and private rooms. Due to a mix-up at reception, I was given the key-card for a private room and got to see inside. It looked really cozy and had an ensuite bathroom. This hostel had a lot of other nice amenities, like a huge, secure storage room, laundry service, a large dining area (which we used for work), and dozens of showers.

Meininger Mitte Humboldthaus Hotel

For my last night in Berlin, I went for something a bit nicer. Meininger Mitte Humboldthaus is a hotel with ridiculously cheap rooms. Some of the rooms are also dorm rooms, but with only 4 beds. At first, I thought I’d be alone in the room, but at the end of the night, a couple arrived. Sadly, they smelled like they hadn’t showered in weeks which kinda spoiled the experience, but that certainly wasn’t the fault of the hotel. Other than that, everything was really nice, just as you’d expect in a mid-range hotel.

Meininger Mitte Hotel Room in Berlin

For other hostel options, check out this list of best hostels in Berlin for under $10.

Couchsurfing

Of course, my favorite accommodations when traveling will always be with Couchsurfing. There’s nothing better than staying with a local. During my first visit to Berlin, I stayed with Petra in the tranquil Samariter Quarter, just a stone’s throw from the bohemian center of Berlin. She had a really comfortable spare loft bed with one of those ancient concrete heaters beneath to keep the room warm. In the evening, she invited me to a potluck picnic in Mauerpark. I didn’t understand most of what was said there (since I’ve long-since forgotten the German my Granny taught me), but the park was fascinating with all the people hanging out, playing and partying in the evening.

Picnic with Couchsurfing Host in Berlin

What to Eat in Berlin

Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor

I thought Hamburg would be the German (or world) capital for hamburgers. It turns out that Hamburg is more famous for its fish burgers. What’s more, I found one of the best burgers ever in Berlin, and that’s not hyperbole. Located beneath the Oberbaum Bridge, Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor just knows how to make a perfect burger. Perfect beef, perfect bun, perfect bacon and cheese toppings, just perfect! What was even better was the price – less than $5 for the burger! I was exceedingly lucky with only a five-minute wait, as I had been told there’s usually at least a thirty-minute queue and never a spot to sit.

Burger Under the Bridge in Berlin

There are four Burgermeister locations across Berlin, with a fifth opening this year. What makes the Schlesisches location interesting is not just that it’s under a bridge, but that it used to be a public toilet!

Scheers Schnitzel

Schnitzels actually originated in Austria, and they’re called wiener schnitzels in Vienna (Wein is German for Vienna) where they’re made with veal. In Germany, they’re usually made with pork. As popular as this dish is in Germany, for some strange reason, it was actually hard to find a good schnitzel restaurant in Berlin. The one I did find was called Scheers Schnitzel, also located under the Oberbaum Bridge. I ended up going back to the same restaurant two more times during my three days in Berlin. I think the “proper” way to eat a schnitzel is with a side of fries, but I preferred mine in a bun like a chicken burger, topped with coleslaw and tartar sauce.

Schnitzel on the Secret Food Tour in Berlin

A Kebab Shop

Cooking meat on a rotating stick (doner kebab) goes back millions of years. Serving it in a sandwich roll is attributed to Berlin, Germany in 1974. I can’t say that the kebabs in Berlin are particularly special, but there are certainly plenty of them. Germans love their kebab sandwiches and consume a staggering 600 tons of doner meat every day. If you want to mix things up a bit, you can try a Pakistani or Persian kebab shop instead of the traditional Turkish kebab. What’s the difference? Mostly the spices and vegetables that they use. Some of them even do all their marination and preparation by hand each day.

Iraqi Kebab on the Food Tour in Berlin

Almost Any Currywurst Stand

One meal that definitely originated out of Berlin is the currywurst. The origin of this dish goes back to 1949 when Herta Heuwer got ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She used these to flavor her bratwurst sausages she then sold to the construction workers who were rebuilding post-WWII Berlin. Nowadays, you can get two types of currywurst in Berlin, or mix them together for the “double currywurst special.” In East Berlin, they didn’t have sausage lining. Instead, they would batter and deep-fry their sausages, essentially creating a European version of the corndog. They are wayyyyy too tasty, and I had several portions of these as well in the three days I stayed in Berlin.

Currywurst on the Food Tour in Berlin

Any Vegan Restaurant

Berlin has been labeled the vegan capital of the world, and ranks up there with Tel Aviv, London and Bangkok with the biggest number of vegan restaurants. What’s more, they have four different supermarket chains selling only vegan food. If you’re not a vegan, it would still be worth trying some of these restaurants in Berlin. I’m not a vegan myself, but I love vegan food (although I didn’t actually make it to any of the vegan restaurants in Berlin, mainly because I was stuck eating schnitzels and currywurst).

Take the Berlin Secret Food Tour

If you really want to get a sense of the food culture in Berlin and learn about even more dishes and amazing restaurants, I’d highly recommend taking the Berlin Secret Food Tour. I’ve long since learned that a food tour is the best way to learn about a city. You get to walk around, learn the history, taste the food, indulge in the culture, and generally have a great time.

Flammekeuche on the Food Tour in Berlin

Things to Do in Berlin

Tempelhofer Feld

I’m a huge fan of urban ruins, and Berlin proves to have some of the best in the world. Tempelhofer Feld, named after the Knights Templar land it sits on, is the site of the Templehof airport which served Berlin until 2008. It was originally built in 1923 and was used by Hitler in World War II. Now it’s used for kiteblading, picnics, comedy shows, and morning runs. The two 1.3-mile runways are perfect for sports or just an afternoon stroll. There’s a large community garden on the east end to explore too. When I visited in 2016, thousands of people filled it in the evening for all kinds of activities.

Tempelhoffer Feld in Berlin

Treptower Park

Berlin is simply full of fantastic, huge parks. Treptower is located along the Spree River and has two big sections. The first is a dense woodland with numerous paths crossing it and the defunct Spreepark hidden behind a tall metal fence. The rest of the park was just as busy as Tempelhofer Feld when I went (in the summer), primarily with people singing or performing on musical instruments, playing sports, having picnics, or smoking and lounging for the sunset. This isn’t the kind of attraction I would recommend if you’re in a rush, but if you have a few days in Berlin, definitely stop at a couple of these parks!

Treptower Park in Berlin

East Side Gallery

The most important attractions to visit in a city are those which are completely unique to that city. You can see parks and castles anywhere, but the Berlin Wall is a one-of-a-kind. The Berlin Wall lasted 30 years from 1961 to 1991 and separated West Berlin from communist East Berlin. True, hundreds of chunks of the wall have been sent all over the world, but there’s still a huge display along the Spree river in Berlin called the East Side Gallery, and seeing it in its original location is different than just seeing it in a museum yard somewhere.

Berlin Wall in the East Side Gallery

Alexanderplatz

If you’ve seen The Bourne Identity or Atomic Blonde, you might have caught a glimpse of Alexanderplatz. This is the large square in the center of Berlin with the Berliner Fernsehturm television tower rising above it. The square is surrounded by shopping malls and food stalls. In the center is the iconic World Time Clock. It might not be the most interesting attraction in Berlin, but why skip it.

World Clock in Alexanderplatz

Brandenburg Gate

Another icon of Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, completed in 1791 back when Berlin was the capital of Prussia. Similar to Alexanderplatz, it’s an iconic monument worth a visit, but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly special. Perhaps more interesting is the balcony of the hotel nearby where Michael Jackson once held out a baby. At least, that’s what my tour guide felt was more vital to talk about.

Selfie for 48 Hours in Berlin

Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island

In the center of Berlin, not far from Alexanderplatz, is Museum Island. This small island has five different museums, as well as Berlin Cathedral. The museums are Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum), Bode-Museum, Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), and Altes Museum (Old Museum). Tickets for all five museums combined are €18 ($20) for adults. If you want to visit the Cathedral, entrance is €7 ($8) or €5 with the Berlin WelcomeCard.

Berlin Museum

Free Walking Tour

There are a handful of attractions in the city center, such as Checkpoint Charlie, the site of Hitler’s bunker, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Rather than list all these out, you should take a free walking tour and let your guide tell you about them and their history. I could easily write a full article on these spots, but why spoil the tour.

Site of Hitler's Bunker in Berlin

Christmas Markets

I specifically went to Berlin over the holidays to see the Christmas markets (and to take the food tour). I visited several of the nine main Christmas markets in Berlin, including the Eco Market on Sophienstrasse, the sprawling Alexanderplatz Christmas Market and, of course, the Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus (Berlin Christmas Time at Red City Hall) with its big ice skating rink around the Neptune fountain. I also walked by Weihnachtszauber (Christmas Magic) at the Gendarmenmarkt, but they were charging for entry and it looked like that market was mostly just selling beer. To get an idea of how magical these Christmas markets are, check out my article on the Christmas Markets in Cologne.

Ice Skating Rink for Christmas Market in Berlin

Berlin Olympic Park

The main attraction in Berlin that I really wanted to see but never made it to is Olympic Park. This is the series of stadiums and buildings built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. Unlike many of the Olympic villages around the world, this one is still in use…kinda. You can go swimming at the restored outdoor swimming pool, and the Olympic Stadium reopened in 2004. There are some sections that are not open to the public, but you can still explore them on a guided tour. I’ll be making it out there myself the next time I’m in Berlin.

Not Spreepark

When I visited in 2016, I’d learned that the climax scene in the movie Hanna was filmed in the abandoned amusement park Spreepark. With my love of urban ruins, I needed to explore the park myself. The only problem was that the park was closed to visitors and guards patrolled throughout the day. I managed to find one spot where there was a gap in the fence and took some photos of a roller coaster decaying in a pond. Sadly, most of the park’s features are now gone, due to looting and two large fires. Now, it’s mostly just the Ferris wheel and the remains of a T-Rex.

Spreepark Ride in Berlin

I returned in 2019 to find the holes in the fence had all been patched up. As much as I love to recommend urban ruins, this one is off the list. You’ll have to just watch Hanna to see what the park looked like after it was closed.

Exploring Berlin on a Budget

Thankfully, Berlin’s cost of living makes it one of the cheaper cities to visit in Germany. Hostels start at under $10 a night, and you can even get a private room for 2 for under $30 a night. Then again, there are over 100,000 Couchsurfing hosts in Berlin (5,000 active within 30 days of this article). I found it quite simple to find meals under $5 each. I would highly recommend getting the Berlin WelcomeCard if you plan to see any of the paid attractions. Otherwise, stick to a 24-hour transportation ticket for €7 ($8). If you just plan to see all the attractions around the city center and have a hostel around there too, you won’t even need to use public transportation.

As always, the budget is quite variable. You could easily stay with a Couchsurfing host, buy your food from a supermarket and walk everywhere, keeping your budget to well under $10 a day (as I did back in 2016). Or you could find a cheap hostel, have some nice but cheap meals at the street food stands around town and get the WelcomeCard, and still keep your expenses to about $30-40 a day (as we did in 2019).

If you really want to stay in a hotel and see as many of the attractions as you can, you’ll probably be looking at $100-200 a day, but I don’t consider that budget travel. As far as I’m concerned, why spend more money when you can spend less and travel more?!

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Further Reading

Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Here are some of my other articles for Germany’s capital.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

I’m going to start this one off by saying that 48 hours in Hamburg isn’t nearly enough time. When I was originally looking at what there was to do in the city, I didn’t think there would be a single day worth of activities. Now I want to go back for a month!

Hamburg City Hall Interior Panorama

Getting to Hamburg

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany, located just south of Denmark. There’s an international airport, including direct flights from the USA with United. Unfortunately, none of the budget airlines within Europe fly to Hamburg, so it might be cheaper to get a flight to another nearby Germany city such as Berlin or Cologne and then use Flixbus for the last leg of the journey.

As part of my Christmas Market Tour of central Europe, I traveled to Hamburg from Cologne. Instead of a bus, Flixbus became Flixtrain! It was the same company (green and very late), but the cabins were surprisingly comfortable. The ride was only a couple hours, but there were six fold-down beds available for a longer trip. With plenty of legroom, wifi, a snack bar, outlets in all the cabins and lots of space for baggage, the ride was far more comfortable than any Flixbus.

The Flixtrain to Hamburg travels along one track starting in Aachen, Cologne and Dusseldorf, but regular Flixbus routes come in from all over Europe. There are plenty of other bus companies going into Hamburg, but I rarely find them cheaper than Flixbus.

If you’re only planning to spend 48 hours in Hamburg, I’d highly recommend getting the Hamburg Card. This will give you free transportation throughout the city and up to 50% discounts to most of the attractions. The Hamburg Card is available for up to five days and will save you loads. An all-day metro ticket costs €7.90 ($8.80). Conversely, a 2-day Hamburg Card costs €19.40 ($21.55), and you can save the additional $5 on your first attraction.

Accommodations

Overall, Hamburg is a rather cheap city for accommodations. The cheapest hostels are only $11 a night, and most of the best hotels are under $200 a night. With well over 600 hotels, guesthouses and hostels to choose from, there’s an option for everyone.

Knowing which part of Hamburg to stay in is important. As usual, the city center has more expensive hotels. The next neighborhood to the west is called St. Pauli. This is the district that has the red-light street of Hamburg but is also known for its bohemian lifestyle. You’ll find a lot of street art here, and also some of the coolest places to stay.

St. Pauli Street Art

Superbude Hotel and Hostel

There are two Superbude hotel/hostels in Hamburg, one in the city center and one on the edge of the St. Pauli district. I stayed at the latter in one of their private rooms. As far as boutique accommodations go, this one is simply amazing! If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like hostels or has never stayed in one, Superbude will completely change your mind about them. Their 89 rooms have been designed with all the comforts of home in mind. Although I can’t personally review the dorm rooms, the private room is spacious with a king-size bed, a large bathroom with a rain shower, and a giant TV (which I’d never use in a hotel but some people like it).

Superbude Hotel Bedroom

The common room was my favorite part of the hotel. There were well over a dozen comfy tables for me to sit at and work with high-speed internet, not that I had any time to work with only 48 hours in Hamburg. I particularly liked the design of using old denim jeans for upholstery. In the morning, a fabulous buffet breakfast was served, featuring meats and cheeses, homemade hummus, dips and sauces, a waffle maker, pastries, yogurts, cereals, fruit, juices, and an espresso machine. I believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day; Superbude made sure I was super fortified before I started out each day.

Superbude Hamburg Breakfast Buffet

Click here to book your stay at Superbude.

Food

For years, I assumed the most popular food in Hamburg was the hamburger. I was wrong. It seems fish is their top cuisine, but hamburgers are still way up there. I only got to have four meals in my 48 hours in Hamburg, other than our two breakfasts at Superbude, and one of those meals was a quick snack at a cafe as I rushed between attractions. Obviously I can’t report on all the thousands of places to eat at across the city, but here are the three that I did try out.

Bok Restaurant

I got off the train late Tuesday evening. Not knowing any better, I decided to find a good hamburger restaurant to see how Hamburg ranked as the possible birthplace of this meal. Unfortunately, all the hamburger restaurants around my hotel had just closed their kitchen as I arrived. After walking around for several minutes, I ended up at Bok, one of the few restaurants still open. I was happy to go with Asian, even after a rather upsetting incident in Amsterdam involving too much sushi.

Bok is a Japanese and Thai fusion restaurant. Now, one thing I’ve found traveling the world is that it’s nearly impossible to find Thai food in other countries as good as they make in Thailand. Bok thoroughly proved that wrong. I had the tom kha gung (coconut soup with shrimp) and a side of salmon avocado sushi. First of all, I was shocked that my plate actually looked better than the photos in the menu.

Simply put, the quality was perfect. Of all the places I ate at in Thailand, perhaps only the Iron Chef-managed Siam Wisdom matched the quality of Bok. The prawns were perfect, there was just the right level of spice (very hot), and the soup itself made me want to book a ticket directly back to Thailand. Even the sushi was surprisingly good (compared to scores of sushi restaurants I’ve visited in my travels).

Otto’s Burgers

The next day, I went to see just how good the hamburgers in Hamburg really were. Just because they aren’t the most popular dish doesn’t mean they aren’t great. While there might be a controversy over who invented the hamburger (USA or Germany), the word does derive from the city of Hamburg. That’s why I had to get one while I was there. After an extensive search on Google Maps, I chose Otto’s Burgers. There was a branch near my hostel, but I went to the one in the center of town instead.

As I arrived, my attention was immediately caught by an ad for the raclette burger. For those who don’t know, raclette is a Swiss-made cheese that comes in a huge wheel which is then cut in half and heated so that melted, gooey cheese can be scraped off and put in a sandwich or, in this case, a hamburger. If that sounds divine, it is! I had my first raclette sausage at the Edinburgh Christmas market a few years ago. The raclette burger at Otto’s was even better. I had my burger with a side of sweet potato fries and left the restaurant far more satiated than I’d been in a very long time.

Raclette Burget at Otto's Burger in Hamburg

Brücke 10

Finally, I went to try out the fish sandwiches that Hamburg considers its top dish. On the recommendation of the tourist board, my destination was Brücke 10 on the harborfront. They had several types of fish on the menu. As usual, I went with salmon. My sandwich had the largest chunk of salmon I’ve ever been served in a sandwich. So yeah, Hamburg is definitely king when it comes to fish sandwiches and you absolutely have to try one when you visit!

Fish Sandwich at Brucke 10

Attractions

Before I planned our trip to Hamburg, I honestly had no idea what there was to do or see in the city. Now that I’ve been, I’d say that 48 hours in Hamburg isn’t nearly enough time. If, however, that is all the time you’ve planned for this city, here are some of the attractions you can squeeze into your schedule. I did manage to get to all of these within my two days, but it wasn’t easy.

Chocoversum

One of my favorite attractions in Hamburg, and actually one of the best museums I’ve been to in the world, was Chocoversum. Little did I know that Hamburg is the second-largest port in Europe (ninth in the world), and they import a huge amount of chocolate. Germans love chocolate and consume an average of 22 pounds of chocolate a year, the equivalent of 91 chocolate bars.

To encapsulate the trade and process, Chocoversum takes you through every step of chocolate production from the harvesting of cacao beans all the way to the final packaging. The museum is fully interactive, in that you can actually taste the chocolate at each step of the process, although it’s only the final product that actually tastes like chocolate. I was one of the brave souls that tried the raw cacao bean. All I have to say about that experience is I have no idea how someone figured out the way to process chocolate from it.

Chocoversum Tour Grinder

Another great part of Chocoversum is the chance to make your own chocolate bar. At the beginning of the tour, we were all given a bar of liquid chocolate and had a couple dozen toppings to choose from. I think we all went a little overboard with our toppings; half of mine didn’t even fit into the chocolate.

Selfie at Chocoversum Making Chocolate Bar

There is at least one English tour every day, although the times vary. Tickets are about $21.50 with a 20% discount if you have the Hamburg Card.

Read my full article on the Chocoversum here.

Miniatur Wunderland

I don’t honestly know which attraction I liked better – Chocoversum or Miniatur Wunderland. Both were incredible. At Miniatur Wunderland, they’ve built the largest model train in the world – a staggering 10 miles of track winding through 16,000 square feet of model cities containing over 50,000 figures.

Venice in Miniatur Wunderland

For a full visual tour of Miniatur Wunderland and the rest of the statistics, check out my full article.

Elbphilharmonie

Another key attraction in Hamburg is the Elbphilharmonie, also known as the Elphi. This structure is one of the largest and most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. What’s more, the design is extremely unique, made of glass and situated atop an old warehouse building on the harborfront. As such, it’s up there with the Sydney Opera House and the Verona Arena as one of the best concert venues in the world.

Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg

Getting a tour of the Elphi isn’t easy, and tickets can sell out for weeks in advance depending on the date you’re trying to go. To guarantee entry, you can book an advance ticket to visit the plaza. The entrance is free, but there’s a $2.20 administration fee for the advance ticket. If you’re lucky, you can show up on your day and try to get in without an advance ticket.

Elbphilharmonie Plaza

You also have the option to watch a concert at the Elphi, which is something I sadly didn’t get a chance to do. Tickets to the concerts are anywhere from free to $60, and these do often sell out too.

Free Walking Tour

I always say that the first activity you should do in a new city is a free walking tour (so I don’t know why I’m listing this fourth). The center of Hamburg is fairly compact and easy to explore by foot, although there are other districts like St. Pauli which also should be explored. There is a free tour of the city center by Sandemans New Europe Tours. I don’t want to spoil all the stops of the tour, but suffice to say, there were several spots I didn’t even know existed and probably wouldn’t have found without the tour. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten all of the information about the city and its history without our guide.

One spot on the tour I found really fascinating was the St. Nikolai Memorial, a Gothic Revival Cathedral built in 1195, destroyed by a fire in 1842, rebuilt in 1874 (at which time it was the tallest building in the world!) and again destroyed in the bombings of World War II. If you have time, you can take an elevator up the tower for a great panoramic view of Hamburg.

St. Nikolai Memorial in Hamburg

Sandemans also has a tour of the St. Pauli district for $16.50. As I’m a lover of street art, I definitely plan to take that tour when I return to Hamburg, hopefully in the near future.

Harbor Tour

Another great way to explore Hamburg is by ship. Along the harbor, there are several tours leaving every day. These boats ply the Elbe River and talk about how Hamburg is the second-largest port in Europe… Well, I think they do. I was accidentally put on a German-speaking tour, so I didn’t actually understand anything that was being said by the tour guide. But I did get to see the various apparatus of the port, which really is comparable to Rotterdam (the largest port in Europe), as well as the landscape out to Altes Land.

Christmas Markets for the Holidays

Finally, if you happen to be visiting Hamburg at the end of the year, I can’t recommend the Christmas markets enough. Christmas markets originated in Germany (Dresden to be specific) and they definitely set the standard. Whether you go through just for the eye candy or want to pick up some Lebkuchenherzen (German gingerbread hearts) and Glühwein, you’re sure to get a warm feeling in your heart. You’ll get all kinds of tasters, you can watch woodcarvers, there are local clothes to purchase, and more types of sausages than you can imagine.

Hamburg Christmas Market and City Hall

Check out my article on the Christmas markets in Cologne to get an idea of what you might find in Hamburg. Unfortunately, with all the other activities that I did in my 48 hours in Hamburg, I didn’t actually have that much time to explore their Christmas markets, which was a shame as that was a key reason I was traveling through Germany!

Budgeting for Hamburg

Hamburg isn’t as cheap as Berlin, nor is it as expensive as Munich. Hostels are as little as $11 a night, while the hotels average about $100 a night. You can get a meal at an inexpensive restaurant for about $10, although there are plenty of options around town (like kebab shops) where a meal is under $5. Our lunch at a cafe on the second day only cost us $5 each. Drinks vary a lot: a cappuccino is about $3 and a beer is about $4. Don’t ever purchase the small bottles of water for $2 as the tap water in Hamburg is really good.

If you’re a solo backpacker on a tight budget, I’d estimate you could get by on $20 a day but you’d have to walk everywhere and stick to the free attractions. If you’re looking for a bit more leeway in your spending, consider budgeting $40 a day. If you’re traveling as a couple and want to stay in a decent hotel, you’ll be looking at closer to $200 a day.

Itinerary for 48 Hours in Hamburg

I’ll admit, it was quite a struggle to squeeze in all these attractions into just two days. I was actually there for a little less than 48 hours. Make sure to check the schedules of each attraction for the days that you go, as the English tours in Chocoversum and the Harbor Cruises change each day. For time frames, the cruise lasts an hour, the Chocoversum tour is 90 minutes, it takes about 30 minutes to explore the Elphi plaza, the free walking tour is 3 hours, and I’d say Miniatur Wunderland takes minimally 3 hours to explore, although you could easily spend the entire day there as if it was an amusement park.

If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll have the benefit of more daylight hours. In the winter, sunset is around 5 p.m. and the opening hours of some of the attractions are shorter too. On some days, Miniatur Wunderland is open until midnight. If you can, try to schedule that as an evening activity since it’s indoors (you can even eat dinner there at their cafe). From the list of attractions I’ve given, I think the harbor tour is the only one that could be skipped. If I were you, I wouldn’t leave Hamburg until I’d made it to the rest.

If you’re looking for more activities, check out this article about spending 48 hours in Hamburg by the Silver Nomad.

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Guide to 48 Hours in Hamburg Pin

Further Reading

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Disclaimer: I was given complimentary tickets on behalf of Visit Hamburg. As always, all views and opinions are my own.

Can you imagine a model railway with 10 miles of track? That’s just what Miniatur Wunderland has in Hamburg, Germany…along with over a third of an acre of miniature model cities from around the world.

20 Years in the Making

Construction started on Miniatur Wunderland in December 2000 by the twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun. By August 2001, they had completed the first three sections – central Germany, Austria and the imaginary German town of Knuffingen. These first three sections totaled over 3,000 square feet and took a massive 60,000 man-hours to complete. The following year, Hamburg opened as the largest city in Wunderland, comprising 1,000 buildings and 50,000 figures.

To date, 923,000 man-hours have been spent constructing the 9 completed regions of Wunderland. More than 300 people have been employed, and €35,000,000 ($38,750,000) has been spent on its construction. Within the 16,000 square feet are 4,340 buildings, 263,000 figures, 389,000 LED lights, 9,250 cars, and 130,000 trees. The heart of Miniatur Wunderland is the train system, which totals 9.8 miles of track, 1,040 trains, more than 10,000 railway cars, 1,380 signals, and 3,454 switches. Everything is managed by 50 high-tech computers.

Traveling Through 9 Regions

Due to the layout of the building, the regions you walk though don’t coincide with the sequence in which they were opened. In fact, the newest region is the first you will see after you walk through the workshop.

Italy

The first region I entered was Italy. Right from the beginning, I was astounded by the detail. This 2,000-square-foot region contains 30,000 figures, 10,000 trees, 450 buildings plus 22 churches, about 400 cars and nearly 50,000 microscopic LED lights. Traveling on the mile and a half of train tracks in this region are about 110 trains with 800 wagons, 110 signals and 404 switches. Altogether, this region took 180,000 man-hours to construct!

Five regions of Italy are represented, including Liguria (Genoa), South Tyrol (Bolzano), Tuscany (Florence and Pisa), the Amalfi Coast and, of course, Rome. The reconstruction of the buildings here is magnificent. In Rome, they’ve recreated the Colosseum and Palatine Hill, Piazza Venezia, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and even the Termini Central Train Station. Even the water in the rivers looked realistic, although perhaps I remember them being a bit muddier in real life.

Rome at Miniatur Wunderland

The Amalfi Coast region included the ancient ruins of Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius rising behind it. Every night (yes, Miniatur Wunderland goes through day and night cycles, but more on that later), Vesuvius erupts and lava flows down toward the town. It a really fascinating display and I just couldn’t believe how realistic it looked.

Venice

Venice is a sub-section of Italy, opened separately as the attention to detail here didn’t make the opening date of the Italian region. By itself, Venice has 3,000 figures, 206 buildings, 26 bridges and 160 gondolas, not to mention over 3 miles of wiring! The highlight of the Venice region is a recreation of Piazzi San Marco including St. Marks Basilica, Doge’s Palace and the Bell Tower. The designers really went to town on crafting everything meticulously. The scale is around 1:1300, allowing them to shrink this part of the island down into 100 square feet.

Venice in Miniatur Wunderland

Other landmarks such as Rialto Bridge are also visible within the tableau. Each of the buildings is painted in the Venetian style, giving far more detail than the other regions. What really sets this region apart from the rest is the lack of cars and trains, just like the real Venice. While the model train system is a key feature of Miniatur Wunderland, gondolas replace them to ply the plastic waters of Venice.

Switzerland

The next region I entered was Switzerland. This region covers 2,700 square feet and spans two floors! It contains another 50,000 figures (many of which are in the DJ Bobo Concert), 700 buildings, 30,000 trees and 1,000 cars. The really impressive part of this region is the landscape. Four tons of plaster and fifteen tons of steel were used to sculpt the mountains and valleys. In fact, part of the exhibit includes walking through the Matterhorn where you can see underground caves, mines and even the subterranean train station Porta Alpina.

The Swiss Alps in Miniatur Wunderland

Within the region of Switzerland is the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Miniatur Wunderland is actually a fully interactive display, and there are hundreds of buttons you can press throughout the regions which will produce different scenes. With Lindt, you can push a button to see the factory go into production, complete with a miniature bar of chocolate dropping out of the dispenser! Lindt is some of the best chocolate in the world, and I saw one guy hovering near the model so he could get a few pieces to stash in his pockets.

I think the most interesting part of Switzerland is the DJ Bobo concert. More than 20,000 individual figures were put into a small field, and dozens of interesting scenes can be found throughout the crowd. Here, you can push a button and have the show play out. It’s even more impressive at night with all the lights coming on. Dozen of the people are somehow holding itty-bitty torches. Perhaps that’s why it takes 7 computers just to manage this one region.

Central Germany and Knuffingen

I’m not entirely sure where the next two sections separated. The first depicted the quintessential life of rural Germany. There were small villages, farms with their animals and tractors, and even an open-air theater where Romeo and Juliet perform. When it opened in 2001, the interactive buttons were revolutionary for models. This region spreads out over 1,300 square feet and contains 13,500 figures, 10,000 trees, 205 buildings, 420 cars, 26,000 LEDs, 130 trains with 1,000 wagons, 80 signals and 120 switches. I’d have to say the level of detail isn’t nearly as high as Venice was, but it’s still incredibly good.

Central Germany in Miniatur Wunderland

Knuffingen is a fictitious region of Germany created solely within Wunderland and is where the mischevious side of the designers stands out. The highlight of Knuffingen is the 400 active cars and trucks driving down the streets (I’m guessing by magnets beneath the roads). Among the vehicles are 31 fire trucks which are constantly rushing to put out one simulated fire after another. By this point, I was just overwhelmed by the level of detail. If you look closely, there are dozens of tiny scenes playing out among the figures, whether it’s police checks, Superman going to save a car crashing through a guardrail in Switzerland, or a nude couple sunbathing in Austria.

Austria

Austria was the next section, although it also blended together with Central Germany and Knuffingen (and opened the same time as them). This is the region of the Alps, and it’s just mind-boggling to see how they’ve chiseled detail into every rock of these mountains, not to mention the snow-dusted trees, the ski slopes and all the alpine huts. This region contains 6,500 figures (the fewest of any region), 150 buildings, 10,000 trees, 180 cars, 40 trains and about 14,000 LEDs.

Knuffingen Airport

If the Knuffingen region seemed slightly less impressive than Italy, its airport took things to a whole new level. Just as Miniatur Wunderland is the most impressive model with the longest toy train track in the world, Knuffingen Airport breaks all the records. There are 52 planes (and one Millennium Falcon) that make about 250 flights a day. They come out of a hole in the wall and either get parked at one of the many gates of the terminal or return to the skies through a hole in the far wall.

Millennium Falcon at Miniatur Wunderland

This airport took 150,000 man-hours to construct and, in addition to the planes, has 15,000 figures, 75 buildings, 4,000 trees, 40,000 LEDs, 90 driving cars, and a staggering 62 miles of wiring within the model. I spent far too long watching one plane after another come down the runway and get taxied into its designated spot in the airport. It was just impossible to keep track of everything that was going on within this 1,600 square feet. There was even a brawl between two figures taking place on one of the roofs. Again, it must have been magnets making them tumble about, but I was really struggling to comprehend how it was all put together.

Hamburg

As Miniatur Wunderland is located in Hamburg, it’s no wonder that they would dedicate an entire region to their own city. Within these 2,500 square feet, all the landmarks are represented. Here is the Köhlbrand Bridge, the Speicherstadt warehouse district, Volksparkstadion Stadium (with over 10,000 figures within), the entire harborfront with cranes loading the ships, Hamburg Central Station, Hagenbeck Zoo and, of course, Elbphilharmonie.

Volksparkstadion Stadium at Miniatur Wunderland

The “Elphi” is Hamburg’s new concert hall, one of the largest and acoustically advanced halls in the world. The replica in Miniatur Wunderland actually opened three years before the grand opening of the real thing, and their stories are surprisingly similar. The model cost 350,000 euros ($385,000) and consumed 13,000 hours to create. Now you can push a button and the building will open up so you can watch the concert inside. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than going to see a real concert there, although that’s still definitely on my bucket list.

Elphi at Miniatur WunderlandElphi at Miniatur Wunderland

The rest of Hamburg includes 50,000 figures, 12,000 trees, 1000 buildings, 1,300 cars, 190 trains, more than 1,800 rail cars, 1.6 miles of track, 260 signals, 550 switches and about 60,000 LEDs. Although I did a walking tour and a boat tour, this was still a great way to see the city and learn about all the different landmarks.

United States

Finally, I came to my region of origin, or rather selected parts thereof. Depicted are the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Mt. Rushmore, a Christmas Village (Germany is spilling over into the USA), Miami, the Keys and Cape Canaveral, Yosemite, and Area 51. The population of the country has dramatically decreased to only 30,000 figures along with 450 buildings, 10,000 trees, 800 cars, 140 trains and about 70,000 LEDs.

Wild West of the USA at Miniatur Wunderland

I’ll admit, I had spent so much time in the previous regions that I barely had time to wander through this section. This is also where I saw my first pink letter, which meant I spent most of my remaining time in Wunderland trying to find the other pink letters, which I’ll describe below.

Scandinavia

At this point, I have to say that two hours in Miniatur Wunderland isn’t nearly enough time. On some days, they’re open until midnight, but they closed at 6 p.m. on the day I went. By the time I made it through the other regions, I only a few minutes left to rush through Scandinavia, which is a real shame as this is the region that uses nearly 8,000 gallons of actual water. Also used are 40,000 figures, 30,000 trees, 500 buildings, 600 cars, 150 trains and about 50,000 LEDs. I’m going to have to go back someday to see more of it so I can fill in this section!

Scandinavia in Miniatur Wunderland

Attention to Detail

Even knowing that they’ve spent nearly a million man-hours building the models, it seems like it should have taken longer. Every inch of Miniatur Wunderland looks like it’s been painted by a one-hair brush. Blades of grass are drawn in, the cars have tiny writing, the buildings have impeccable detail, heck, you can even see the rosy nipple on the nude sunbathers.

Nude Sunbathers in Miniatur Wunderland

There are countless tiny scenes to be found among the regions. I loved the one with penguins waiting with their luggage and a puppy at one of the train platforms, and the guy leading a pet kangaroo down another train station. I found quite a few Santa Clauses in different locations, including stuck in gridlock on his way to the airport. I’m willing to bet you could spend a thousand hours scouring Wunderland and still not find half the easter eggs hidden throughout.

Spooky Scene at Miniatur Wunderland

Enjoying Miniatur Wunderland Day and Night

Perhaps the most impressive feature of Miniatur Wunderland is how it changes every 15 minutes through day and night cycles. The scenes are completely different when the 389,000 LED lights come on, and some are definitely better at night. The handheld torches at DJ Bobo’s concert are far more visible at night, the Alps look magical with all the alpine houses lit from within, and Mt. Vesuvius is definitely a highlight as its lava rolls down toward Pompeii every night.

Rome at Night at Miniatur Wunderland

Finding the Pink Letters

When I went, Miniatur Wunderland had their own “Where’s Waldo” game throughout the regions. Instead of Waldo, you had to find 15 pink letters beside unique scenes. When you found them all, you arranged them in a sequence which spelled out a word you then had to submit on a website. Once I found my first letter (15 minutes before closing time), I blitzed through all the regions again finding the rest. In fact, I ended up being the last one out, but at least I found all the letters and was able to submit the right answer.

I don’t know if this will still be around, as the competition ended a couple weeks after I visited. Perhaps they change the letters around to different scenes. It’s just another feature that makes Miniatur Wunderland so much fun!

Plans for the Future

Miniatur Wunderland is far from complete. They’ve got plans for the next decade, including the regions of a Fun Fair, Monaco and Provence, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, England, France, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), and Africa/pan-Asia/India (basically, the whole world). The future regions do vary from time to time as their creative passions change, but the quality and detail of their work only get better. This is a place I’d love to bring my kids in a couple decades to see how far they’ve progressed (after I’ve had kids, of course).

Visiting Miniatur Wunderland

The opening hours of Miniatur Wunderland vary wildly, but it’s always open at least from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some days, it’s even open until midnight. It does get really busy (over 18 million people have visited since it opened) so advanced booking is essential, especially in the summer. I would honestly say you should spend the entire day there (just like you would at a full amusement park), and take a break in their cafeteria for lunch. If you’re in a rush, 3-4 hours would be the absolute bare minimum. But seriously, just go for the whole day!

[button color=”blue” size=”medium” link=”https://skye683a.myportfolio.com/miniatur-wunderland-hamburg-germany” icon=”” target=”true”]My full gallery of Miniatur Wunderland photos[/button]

Tickets are €15 ($16.50) for adults, but there are 12 other categories of tickets from children to handicapped. There’s no easy summary of their ticket prices, opening hours or wait times, so just head to their website to book your tickets.

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Further Reading

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Disclaimer: I was given complimentary tickets to Miniatur Wunderland on behalf of Visit Hamburg and Miniatur Wunderland. As always, all views and opinions are my own.

What food comes to mind when you think of German cuisine? Sausages? Kebabs? Beer? The truth is that, just like most countries, German cuisine varies by region and city. Recently, I did the Secret Food Tour in Berlin and discovered several of the amazing restaurants and dishes served in Germany’s capital.

Please note, this article is not a substitute for taking the Secret Food Tour in Berlin. It’s only meant to whet your appetite and make you want to take the tour. To help keep the Secret Food Tour secret, I’ll cover the dishes, but not the restaurants. You’ll have to take the tour yourself to find the best places in town, which might not be the same ones I went to.

Finding the Best Schnitzel Ever

When I went to Vienna back in 2015, I didn’t have any of the Wienerschnitzel, simply because they were way out of my budget back then. Then when I went to Berlin in 2017, I missed out on having any schnitzels. In fact, the only schnitzels I remember having in my travels were at a German restaurant on Koh Chang Island in Thailand back in 2016, and another small German restaurant in Vang Vieng, Laos earlier this year.

First of all, on the tour, I learned the difference between schnitzel and Wienerschnitzel. Weiner is the German word for Vienna, which is where the latter are produced. They’re also made with veal, whereas the German version is usually pork. You can either order them with mashed potatoes or french fries on the side, or you can get one in a hamburger bun with coleslaw or other toppings.

My food tour took us to unquestionably the best schnitzel restaurant in Berlin (you’ll have to take the tour to find out which one). As I’ve said before, the best restaurants around the world are those that only sell one item, and this establishment was no different. You could get them with french fries or in a bun, but that’s all they sold. Our tour guide provided us with half a schnitzel sandwich each.

Schnitzel Sandwich

Now, you might look at the sandwich and think it’s a chicken burger. They look similar, but one is a Ford and the other is a Ferrari. I really don’t know how to describe the taste of the schnitzel. In America, I hated pork chops; Germany knows how to make them delicious! I ended up having one every day I was in Berlin!

Learning About the Different Kinds of Wurst (Sausages)

At the Christmas markets in Luxembourg, I learned about mettwurst, the sausages of southern Germany and Luxembourg. Bratwurst is the more common sausage of Germany, prepared a bit simpler with veal or pork and not as many spices as mettwurst.

Currywurst is Berlin invention. In 1949, a lady named Herta Heuwer acquired ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She used these to flavor her bratwurst sausages she then sold to the construction workers who were rebuilding post-WWII Berlin. They were a success, and at one point her stall was selling 10,000 sausages a week!

The meal continues to be popular today with dozens of currywurst stalls all around town. My tour took us to a particularly good one which sold the “double currywurst special.” This is because there are actually two types of currywurst stemming from the former cities of East and West Berlin. The bratwurst of West Berlin had the usual sausage casing, but this wasn’t obtainable in East Berlin. As such, the bratwurst in East Berlin was made with a batter coating, effectively crating the German version of a corndog.

Currywurst on the Food Tour in Berlin

Did Germany Really Invent the Kebab

Many people say the kebab was invented in Germany, but that’s only partially true. The practice of cooking meat on a stick goes back nearly a million years on this planet. Doner kebab is that huge inverted cone of meat rotated on a metal stick against a vertical grill or electric heater. This was apparently invented in the 19th century in Bursa, Turkey, with the first restaurant in Istanbul serving doner kebabs in 1945.

It wasn’t until 1971 when the first doner kebab sandwich was served in Berlin, Germany by a Turkish immigrant. Whether that was the first time it was served in its sandwich form is highly contested by other cities and countries. Whoever invented it first, I think it’s safe to say that Germany eats the most kebab, with 600 tons of doner meat consumed daily within the country.

My food tour chose to give us something slightly different. We went to an Iraqi kebab for a shawarma sandwich. The proprietor marinates his meat with turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, lemon juice and garlic before roasting it against a grill. To say our sandwich was massive would be an understatement. I think the food tour could have consisted of just that one meal. In fact, I believe I was the only person who finished the whole thing. How could I not? It was delicious!

Iraqi Kebab on the Food Tour in Berlin

One tip our guide gave us in finding a good kebab was to chose one where we could see the lines of meat, as if we could see the individual fillets on the spit, rather than a big blob of meat that almost looks like it’s minced. These are the higher-quality kebabs, and I’ve noticed the difference myself in my travels.

Proper Doner Kebab Meat

Going Nuts

Kebabs aren’t the only product brought to Germany from the Middle East. Well, nuts aren’t just from the Middle East, but many of their desserts use nuts. The shop we went to featured a lot of Turkish sweets such as baklava, halva and Turkish delight. We also had a bunch of praline nuts, but I think those come from France.

Turkish Sweets on the Food Tour in Berlin

The Turkish are the biggest cultural group in Germany after Germans themselves, comprising nearly 3 million citizens in the country and almost 100,000 in Berlin alone. Thus, it’s no wonder that they would bring their cuisine to the country.

Flammekueche – Germany’s Answer to Pizza

Someday I’m going to get around to writing about all the different types of pizzas around the world, such as the french fry-topped pizzas of Sweden, the oblong pide in Turkey, or the Thai pizzas that use something similar to tortillas for their base.

Flammekueche comes from the Alsace region of southwestern Germany and western France, not far from Switzerland. This dish can be found in all three of these countries (and I found it in Luxembourg too at the Christmas market). Often it’s referred to as German pizza. It wasn’t surprising that we were served some as part of the Secret Food Tour, especially as most people who haven’t been to Germany aren’t familiar with flammekueche.

Flammekeuche on the Food Tour in Berlin

The basic recipe of flammekueche is pizza dough rolled out really thin and topped with various toppings such as crème fraîche, onions and bacon lardons. It’s then cooked just for a couple minutes at high heat in a wood-fired oven so that the outer crust gets a little burnt. After everything else we’d had on the tour, I was surprised I had room for anything else. But I’d built up a reputation for cleaning off the plates, so I was passed the last several slices to devour.

German Dishes Not on the Food Tour in Berlin

As mentioned above, the food tour in Berlin covers just one region of German cuisine. In Hamburg, I had the idea that the main meal would be hamburgers. They did serve amazing hamburgers, but as a port city, it was more popular to order a fish sandwich. I went with the salmon which had a huge amount of fresh fish. The restaurant I got my sandwich at is called Brücke 10, on the recommendation and sponsorship of the tourism board.

Fish Sandwich at Brucke 10

There’s a lot of debate whether Germany or the USA invented the hamburger. Either way, I found some seriously delicious burgers in Germany. In Berlin, I stopped at a tiny shack called Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor located under a bridge. I’ve eaten burgers all my life and all over the world, but I can honestly say this one stood out as one of the best I’ve ever eaten! I know Berlin is cheap, but it’s still hard to believe that the burgers only cost me $5!

Burger Under the Bridge in Berlin

I also tried a highly-rated hamburger restaurant in Hamburg (as you do) called Otto’s Burger. There were two locations, one just down the street from my Superbude Hotel, and another in the center of town. The one near my hotel was closed by the time I arrived, so I went to the other location a couple days later. Their burgers were a little more expensive ($10), but getting a massive, homemade burger covered in oozing raclette cheese and caramelized onions was a whole different level of divine!

Raclette Burger at Otto's Burger Hamburg

 

There were several more dishes I had in Germany, including many from other cuisines. Perhaps I just got lucky choosing good restaurants, but I didn’t have a single meal that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy! I often say I travel primarily for the different types of food around the world. Well, I’d consider living in Germany for a few months just to be able to experience their delicious cuisine every day.

Booking the Secret Food Tour in Berlin

Secret Food Tours operate in 56 cities across the world and they’re adding new cities all the time. I did their Edinburgh Food Tour, on which I learned about even more delicious Scottish food than I already knew about. Another I did in London was no different and I was introduced to a couple of British dishes I was unaware of, while getting information behind many of my favorites.

The food tour in Berlin lasts about 3 hours and starts outside the Warschauer Straße metro station. There are two other tours available – a vegan tour and a beer tour (adults only). I had no idea Berlin is such a vegan-friendly city. In fact, there are four different supermarket chains that sell only vegan products. I know Edinburgh is very vegan-friendly, but Berlin might just top the world with the highest number of vegan restaurants and markets per capita.

Summary

 

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Further Reading

Interested in booking another Secret Food Tour? Here are some others I’ve been on around the world.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary ticket to the Secret Food Tour in Berlin on behalf of Secret Food Tours. As always, all views and opinions are my own.