This forum is pretty dead lately so I figured I'd do a quick trip report of my most recent trip to Berlin (6th time, but who's counting?). It happened just two weeks after my previous trip to Berlin with my family as part of our big Christmas tour of Germany, which sounds ridiculous, but a friend of mine hadn't been and decided to drive up. Realizing this would be about as cheap as I could get to Berlin (splitting gas with 5 people) I decided to go for it at the last minute. We booked again through Go-Apartments, this time staying at their property at Potsdamer Platz. The apartment itself was very similar to the one I'd just stayed at Checkpoint Charlie, but even bigger, although the location was not as convenient as before, it was still fine. We wound up using the 42 bus more than the S Bahn as the Anh Bahnhof stop isn't as convenient and would require transferring to get anywhere we wanted to go. The rate for the apartment was stupid low - it slept 8 officially, 10 in a pinch due to the large sofa sectional (we were 7, so we didn't break any rules...just throwing that out there). For two nights it was 188 Euro, so split 7 ways (or 10...) you can see it's cheaper than a hostel IF you have a big group. They also have smaller apartments. Both so far had huge balconies, which is common in Berlin. You're in residential buildings with normal Berliners (who apparently have quite the time with the rowdy groups of young people these appartmens attract, based on the notes left in elevators, etc). While the apartments are not luxurious, if you're a family or a group of friends on a budget they're a good option. Cont.
Now the real point of this post: I think after 6 times going, often with newbies to Berlin, I've got a pretty good strategy for doing the Mitte sightseeing thing in a quick and efficent manner. This can be a sort of "blitz" walking/public transit tour or based on your interests you can stop off and actually see stuff along the way. My group of 20-somethings were mostly interested in a surface view of Berlin and not a deep knowledge of the history or anything. Start at Alexanderplatz, reached by U or S-Bahn. Marvel at how incredibly ugly the Soviet style and modern architecture is. This was of course the beating heart of East Berlin and it's still really popular with shoppers and tourists alike. Ooh and ahh at the Telespargel (TV tower) and walk a couple blocks to the Rathaus (old city hall) noting that like many of the remaining older buildings in Berlin, it's made of brick, since there were no good sources of stone nearby and it wasn't until the Prussian Kingdom was ascendant in the late 1700s and early 1800s that the royal family could afford to have stone shipped in to create the "Athens on the Spree" that you'll see later on. From there we walked to Rosa-Luxembourg Strasse to get San Francisco style burritos at Dolores* although this is probably skippable to most visitors from North America. Then we walked over to Hackeschermarkt where the lovely Saturday market was going on (crafts and food) and to the Hackescher hof courtyard. Had my friends been interested, we would have also swung by the beautiful "New" Synagogue (which is one of the few synagogues in Germany to have survived Kristallnacht due to a sympathetic local policeman) and the Jewish cemetery in this center of old Jewish Berlin, now a fairly trendy area for art galleries and coffee shops. Cont.
From there, you're at the Museuminsel, the DDR museum, the Berliner dom, and a little further up, the German history museum. We didn't go into any museums, of course, but many pictures were taken. Keep in mind the nice lobby of the History museum makes a good free bathroom stop. It was cold out and honestly I think strolling Under den Linden is overrated, so we jumped on the warm 100 bus just for a stop or two to reach the Brandenberger Tor, where my friends took pictures with the silly dressed up people and paid for it and I pretended not to know them. From there, the Reichstag. We didn't have reservations so just took pictures from the outside. We then jumped back on the bus to head to the west, mostly for the sightseeing-by-bus tour. I pointed out the "chick on a stick" as RS calls her (i.e. victory column), the KaDeWe, and we got off where the bus ended at the Zoo stop. We debated going in the Erotik museum, but settled for warming up in a shisha bar instead, in one of those cool buildings that support the elevated train tracks (next to a wine shop named "Wurttemberg" highlighting wines from the region we'd just come from, and only a few blocks away from "Aroma", the best dim sum in Germany). So I got to knock out most of the "biggies" sight-wise and from start to finish it look us less than 2 hours. Not too shabby! The rest of the trip was devoted to more Mexican food (Taqueria Ta'Cabron on Skalitzerstrasse in Kreuzberg) and Kreuzberg bar hopping, including the new expat oriented John Muir bar, which has excellent artisinal cocktails for extremely reasonable prices, and a fun tiki bar on Oranienstrasse. The next day we did a freezing trip to the east side gallery after seeing Checkpoint Charlie before heading back. We packed a lot in less than 48 hours, not too shabby!
You always make me so very jealous with your frequent trips to Berlin, Sarah. I can't wait until March, when I'll be there for myself, again, after having to miss it last year (broken ankle in Vienna). I can smell the Rosenthaler kebab already!