Sightseeing can be a strenous activity, so why not do it the easy way and take a boat trip along Berlin's canals and rivers? You can sit and watch the sights slip by as you sip on a glass or two of Germany's excellent beer. There are also boat trips on the lakes to the west of the city near the forests which cover a large portion of Berlin. Just a 15 minute S-Bahn ride and you're right in the middle of a vast area of woodland where you can go for walks, hire bikes and possibly get lost. A map will help you to keep your bearings. Even the centre of Berlin is blessed with a large area of trees and greenery. The Tiergarten, visible from the Hi-Flyer balloon, fills a wide area between the Brandenburg Gate and the Zoological Gardens in the centre of west Berlin. Full details about boat trips and other excursions on the www.berlin-tourist-information.de website.
The area along the Kurfürstendamm, - west Berlin's answer to the Champs Élysées - retains its sophisticated air, but the up and coming place for shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries is the district in the east around the Oranienburger Strasse, also known as the Scheunenviertel. It's situated just to the north of the historic centre of east Berlin, near S-Bahn station Hackesche Höfe. People love to stroll in this district, with its remarkable collection of restored buildings and now fashionable streets. Many buildings have multiple rear courtyards, lined with designer shops, bars, hairdressers and clubs. Some of the trendiest boutiques are located around here and the district has atmosphere that's both bohemian and sophisticated. 'Gentrified' some people call it, but try telling that to the throngs of visitors who come here.
Berlin has a huge choice of hotel accommodation, most of it bookable via Hotel finder websites which offer discounted rates, even at the plushest five star hotels. For instance I recently stayed at the Swissotel located in the centre of west Berlin, with rooms advertised at just £64 per night, a very good rate for a five star hotel with its superbly designed rooms, ultra-comfortable beds and silky sheets. The views are excellent and there's an award-winning restaurant too. This rate was offered on www.cheaprooms.com but like all hotel deals is subject to availability and should be booked early.
Another hotel with designer credentials is Kudamm 101, conceived and developed by designers Franziska and Daniel Kessler. Everything from the retro style bedside radios, the pastel-coloured colour scheme and the bathroom fittings is like something out of a design museum. It's not as expensive as you might think to stay there. Get information from the website www.kudamm101.de.
But if you think it's a waste to shell out for an expensive hotel room only to spend all your time out sightseeing and enjoying the nightlife, then there's a more minimalist solution. It's the Generator Hotel, located on Storkower Straße next to Greifswalder Straße just 10 minutes on a tram from the Alexanderplatz. It's ideal for stag parties, who can rent a dorm sleeping four or six, bringing the cost per person right down.
At the Generator Hotel you have everything you need for an enjoyable overnight stay and more. The rooms are clean with comfy single beds, spotless sheets and towels. There's no tv, minibar or leatherette folder with leaflets and branded notepaper, but there are powerpoints and a metal locker - bring a mini-padlock. The showers are pristine and there's unlimited high pressure hot water on tap. A basic breakfast is included, and you can upsize it for just a couple of euros. The sausages, bacon and scrambled eggs will keep you going for the best part of the day, but make sure you get down to the restaurant by 10am for breakfast.
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