Travelling to any city on your own can bring with it a sense of excited as well as fear of whether you’ll have a good time or in fact whether you’ll meet anyone that you can share your holiday time and experiences with. Berlin is no exception and in this short article we explore some options and things to see and do if you’ve a solo traveller in Berlin. How did I pull together these travel tips? Well, because I’ve done them and I wrote this article sitting in a deckchair beside the river spree having just spent a jam packed 48 hours in Berlin. I travelled alone (as I’ve completed similar trips all across France and Italy) and once again my time in Berlin had been incredible.
While hotel tend to be more private (and in many instances more expensive than a bed and breakfast or small holiday apartment) you do miss out on the opportunity to interact with other tourists or better still, local Berliners. There is some overuse of the term “see Berlin like a local” (which by it’s nature and the commoditisation isn’t enough to do it justice), however missing these interaction points and opportunities to strike up conversations and meet people can really stack the odds against you if you don’t want to explore Berlin on your own.
Choosing to stay in a youth hostel is a great way of meeting people. OK, so you don’t get the luxury or privacy you might expect from a hotel, but you do get the chance to meet fellow travellers, some of whom might also be on their own. Youth hostel dorm rooms and the “where are you from” conversations can quickly turn into wild nights out including pub crawls and going to a nightclub or two. There is also the opportunity to have breakfast or go sightseeing the next morning with those from your dorm room.
Renting a spare room in a Berliners apartment is highly recommended. For around the price of a restaurant meal you can rent a comfortable bed for the night, and many of them are in their own private rooms. If you really want to get under the skin of the city of Berlin and really experience the capital like you’re a local then this is a perfect option. Websites like airbnb can help connect you with hosts, and in my experience, hosts in Berlin will often share their city’s best sights, cafes and restaurants, and generally look after you with hot and cold drinks after a long day sightseeing.
Go on the alternative pub crawl:
While the origins of the company who run these pub crawls (and a popular free tour which meets at the Starbucks next to the TV tower (Fernsehturm) in Alexanderplatz), were based on anti-capitalist ideals and echoed through their basic/thrown together website) it seems the colour of money has inspired the tour company to pull their socks up and the firm has now grown to a sophisticated business turning over nearly half a million euros and with ambitions to expand further including some key UK cities.
On at least 4 visits to Berlin, I’ve attended these pub crawls. Sometimes on the Friday night and again on the Saturday night. I’ve visited the goth rock bar more times than I care for, I’ve played ’round the world ping pong’ with locals at Dr pong countless times and I’m still no good, I’ve been to the Absinthe bar, the flower bar and at least three nightclubs which, looking back, I’ve been Too intoxicated to remember the Names or locations of, but it’s served it’s purpose. I’ve met people (mainly backpackers) and I’ve had a great time… And what I’ve done a few times is stay on the pin crawl until around 1am before leaving it and heading to another larger nightclub like Week End club or Watergate.
I’ll leave the review of the alternative pub crawl to the collective wisdom of tourists who use TripaAvisor, for a more rounded view, but I would say, check it out.
If you’re thinking of moving to Berlin or your just on holiday, you’ve got to be confident. Whether you are already or you can just invert some brovardo, you’ll need in.
Being in Berlin alone can be lonely… So make an effort. If there is a table of people at the pub crawl let’s say, approach them and ask if you can join them, explaining you’re on your own. I’ve done it and 95% of the time it works. The other 5% I miscalculated that a group of 3 girls were German and they didn’t speak a word of English.
Throw yourself into it, and be sure to move around and introduce yourselves to other. The phrase “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” rings true here, so strike up conversations, invent confidence, they’ll probably not remember you in a week and you are the one looking for the “experience” out of your travel… So up your chances of having a really memorable time!
Leave the iPod at home:
When you’re travelling alone I admit there is a temptation to stick on headphones as you sight see, but doing so doesn’t really do a destination justice. Call it a little too poetic, but it’s not just the picture postcard sights that make up the areas of Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg or Mitte, it’s the people and more pertinently the sounds of the city. The sound of the trams in Hackescher Markt, the boats passing down the river spree by the bode museum on museum island, the interactions between market stall holder and local German shoppers and of course the German language itself!
Wearing headphones (or reading a book) is also a big red “don’t talk to me” signal which once again doesn’t help in the quest to meet people in Berlin.
Don’t stress about dining alone:
There are plenty of great restaurants in Berlin and it would be a shame not to experience them for fear of dining alone or indecision of what or where you’d like to eat. Areas like Prenzlauer Berg are home to a large number of writers and artists, and sweeping generalisations aside (and the idea that “no one really cares anyway”) it’s not uncommon to see lone diners, perhaps preparing notes on their next book or sketching.
But overall, don’t stress about eating alone.
Rent a bike and go cycling:
Berlin is massive. Don’t underestimate how far a “block” actually is, as the 5 minute walk I believed would get me to the cafe I was looking for turned into half an hour. Renting a bike speeds everything up and you can discover (like I did) areas of the city you might have otherwise missed.
There are a number of bicycle hire shops in Berlin, including the Fat Tire bike hire shop in Alexanderplatz (at the foot of the TV tower). There also also a number of independent bike rental shops and you can expect to pay around 10 euros for the day. Lock is also usually provided. Red cycle hire stations are also dotted around the city.
Berliners tend not to wear cycle helmets so don’t be surprised if you are not offered on. given the large number of cycle lanes and the width of the roads in Berlin, I’m not surprised by this at all.
On that same note, Berliner are pretty serious about their cycle lanes and for tourists, standing or walking in the cycling lanes is liken to walking down a main road, so take care.
Some of my favourite routes include cycling through the Brandenburg gate and down the long road (Straße des 17. Juni) and onward to Charlottenburg where I spot for a beer. Alternatively go through the Brandenburg gate and take a right (toward the Reichstag) and then cross the river and follow it in the direction of Charlottenburg (away from the TV tower). The towpath alongside the river I beautiful and you can see some fantastic architecture.
That’s it. I hope you have a wonderful time in Berlin, and if you have your own tips on things to do alone in Berlin, please do share them with our readers.