“Willkommen in Berlin” said the sign at the Tegel airport in Germany’s capital. As a first-time visitor, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this vibrant city that also possesses a vivid backstory. Our initial experiences displayed a contemporary European capital, rich with culture and cosmopolitan cuisine.
Our stay in Berlin was brief, by Sunday we would be boarding the Viking Star luxury ocean liner for a journey through the Viking Homelands of Denmark and Norway. The voyage, compliments of Viking, would be my second time on a Viking Ocean Cruise.* (Be sure to read about my 2017 Viking Ocean Cruise where my boyfriend L and I traveled on the Viking Star to the Cities of Antiquity and the Holy Land. It was awesome.) This year, my lucky companion was my sister N.
A Great Place To Stay In Berlin
“Let’s add an extra day,” I said to N when we were booking our flights. “That way we can have time to catch up from our jet-lag and see a bit more of Berlin.” “Yes, yes,” said N, she was all in favor of exploring the city.
The Viking team had selected the Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm for Saturday and we tagged on an extra night. (I was pleased we could secure a room via Booking.com, considering it was the weekend of the Berlin Marathon.) It’s a beautiful hotel in a great location near the main shopping street in the center of downtown. Plus it’s a block away from the U-Bahn, Berlin’s subway system.
We arrived early Friday morning, the Sofitel representative checking us in suggested I sign up for the Le Club Accor Hotels, which is free. As a member, you get an additional discount of up to 10% off the price of your room by booking via AccorHotels.com. Plus, it provides early check-in if there are rooms available – that was the best benefit for this stay. We had a room by 10:30 am to nap and relax after our long flight.
When In Berlin Eat Apfelstrudel
Once rested, we were eager to venture out and sample some German fare. We walked along West Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, known as Ku’Damm by the locals, and filled with high-end shops. According to my former colleague K who lives in Berlin, “the three or so blocks between *T Schlütterstrasse and Uhlandstrasse have the highest-end stores in the city.”
“Germany is supposed to have good apple strudel,” said N. “Ooh, ooh, ooh, I love apple strudel,” I replied. According to Wikipedia, strudel is part of Austrian cuisine but also common in many other Central and Eastern European cuisines.
We didn’t have to go far to find a perfect spot on Ku’Damm for our Apfelstrudel, as it is called in German. The spot was Leysieffer Chocolaterie. N and I sat on the barstools for our Kaffee und Kuchen, a German-style of the British teatime. We ordered cappuccinos and shared a slice of strudel. It was so good, so good, so good!
Dining Out In Berlin
Not being familiar with Berlin, I asked K for recommendations. He is a big foodie and provided many choices for our Friday and Saturday evenings. We selected two from his list and followed his ordering instructions for each menu.
Where did we go? What did we eat? Glad you asked. BTW, not only did I make reservations at each restaurant ahead of time, but I also googled directions from our hotel to each restaurant (and other Berlin sites we had planned to visit) and brought the printed directions in my travel folder. It was so helpful to have.
Long March Canteen
On Friday evening we selected Michelin-rated Long March Canteen. The restaurant was about a 30 minute subway ride from our hotel.
“This is one of our absolute favorites,” said K. “Chinese dim sum at its best. Fantastic dumplings and small plates that are great for sharing.”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I was nervous even with the directions in hand. It was nine stops away and then an 8 minute walk. We got a little lost and asked a nice neighborhood man for directions. When we found the restaurant N and I were so happy.
We ordered exactly what K advised: cold spicy chicken, eggplant in “indescribable” sauce, and pork ginger dumplings. It was so good, so good, so good.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, I was equally nervous that we would find our way back to the hotel via U-Bahn. We carefully retraced our steps, counted our U-Bahn stops and were very happy to see the Sofitel upon our exit. (Special Note: Always, I said always, cross at the crosswalk when in Berlin and only when you see the green little man light up, which means walk. Otherwise you literally might get run over. Drivers seem to have the right of way here.)
Grace Restaurant In The Berlin Zoo Hotel
On Saturday evening, we went all out and made reservations at Grace Restaurant.
“Grace is our favorite high-end place with amazing food and attentive service in a stunning setting,” said K. “Make a reservation well in advance, and arrive early to have a specialty drink in the very hip bar just in front of the restaurant.”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, this restaurant was just as K said. We were glad to learn that Grace was within a few minutes walking distance from our hotel, right on Ku’Damm. Impressed how I am talking like a local now? It was in a trendy boutique hotel called The Zoo, not in the real Berlin Zoo, as I originally told N.
We ordered the 3 course menu. There was so much food to share including burrata with fresh figs and spicy tuna bites for starters, filet and shrimp for the meze, followed by lemongrass chicken with beans and miso cod for mains. Everything was ah-may-zing!
Ooh, ooh, ooh, did I say that dessert was included too? OMG, there were three desserts to share. Could we manage to consume all three? Absolut! We scooped up every spoonful of the berry sorbet, we scooped up every bite of the cheesecake and we scooped up every morsel of the molten chocolate cake. It was so good, so good, so good.
The meal was pricey (equivalent to about $100 US per person) but worth every euro. I definitely would recommend this restaurant when visiting Berlin.
A Walking Tour of Berlin
Now that you know we ate well, there’s more to share about Berlin’s backstory from our four hour Walking Tour of Berlin (we needed the exercise to balance out all the food we consumed) and our visit to the Jewish Museum. BTW, if you plan to visit Berlin, which I hope you do, check out visitBerlin.com for tourism information.
For now, my tummy is too full to write anymore. Until next time, or should I say bis zum nächsten Mal.
P.S.: In case you missed my first blog post about my Viking Homelands cruise, check it out here:
♥All Aboard Viking Star: A Great Way To Discover Scandinavia
* Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Viking Cruises provided me with a complimentary press trip on the Viking Homelands Ocean Cruise and a complimentary one night’s stay at the Sofitel. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.