I was lucky enough to take a city break in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. My mate’s a nanny and gets time off when her “family” is away. She happened to be going to Frankfurt so we tacked on our first visit to Berlin – a city that has been in the top 5 of my travel list for a few years now. Here’s a breakdown of what we did and how much the trip cost me.
My mate wanted me to travel around the bank holiday weekend – which would have meant not taking a day off work. I hate flying when school kids are travelling so refused to do anything like that. By leaving late on the following Wednesday night and arriving on Saturday morning, I kept my flights cheap at £96.06. Choosing to fly at reasonable times of the day also meant that I took public transport both ways instead of a taxi.
When I looked at Airbnb apartments for the duration of our stay, they were outrageously priced. At least £100 a night. I’m not sure if it was because it was at the end of August – peak travel season – or because it was predominantly midday, but we didn’t want to spend such a lot of money on a place to crash. After facing similar challenges with hotel prices, we settled on 2 nights at Wombats hostel. for the princely sum of £120.22. We opted (in a frugal move) to spend the night at the airport out on the town instead of paying for our final night.
Fortunately, a few days after we made this plan, my mate’s girlfriend asked her brother’s girlfriend’s mum if we could stay at hers. The wonderful woman said yes and so we wound up paying only for the first night because my flight didn’t get in until nearly midnight. This only cost £35.21 for my half.
Anyone who’s read any of my other frugal travel reviews (Paris, Budapest, Vienna) should know that I like to walk, take public transport and only resort to taxis where I have no choice. Like most of continental Europe, Berlin is much smaller and cheaper than London in this respect. I took the S-Bahn and U-Bahn late at night to get to my hostel and then we caught the U-Bahn and express train to the airport. Both journeys cost €3.40 each. The rest of the time we walked everywhere – a great way to burn calories and keep things cheap.
Day 1: We claimed free drinks (a latte for me and orange juice from her) from the hostel’s rooftop bar and sat on the terrace and enjoyed the sun for a bit then set off to meet our host at her apartment. After we dropped off our stuff, armed with a fancy looking travel guide that my friend had insisted on buying, we set off for the city centre. I just wanted to ramble so we meandered through the city centre stopping off to admire various things including buildings, art, outdoor space, flowers, the river, anything that caught our fancy. We had to chill out in a Balzac coffee shop to avoid being drenched by a sudden spell of rain.
I love to nap these days so I asked if we could go back to the apartment for a wee nap before dinner and we couldn’t get in. After about 15 minutes trying to figure out the keys and the locks, we gave up and went for dinner at a nearby restaurant. On our way out, we realised that there was more than one similar looking apartment block and realised that we might have been trying to get into the wrong place. After 4 hours of eating and drinking, we discovered that we had been trying the wrong apartment and thankfully sunk into bed happy and sated.
Day 2: Another typical thing for me is going on a walking tour (or in some cities cycling). We decided against cycling because it would cost money and we weren’t sure about the weather. We chose the original free Berlin walking tour which was advertised as a 2.5 hour walk but lasted closer to 4 hours. It was informative and insightful and lots of the stuff we’d seen the previous day suddenly made sense. I gave the chap around €8 (4 hours is a lot! and my mate tipped €5.
One highlight of the walk was meeting a lovely Polish girl who I chatted with a bit. Turns out that she’s studying at a small city that is dear to me, Darmstadt. We’ve made plans to meet up again when she returns to Poland. I haven’t seen Warsaw and it will be wicked to do so with someone who has inside knowledge of it.
We went for a coffee at the Steel Vintage bikes cafe (€3.95). I couldn’t resist the gorgeous hoodies they had on sale so I got one for me and another as an early birthday present for my mate. I asked for a wee discount and they knocked them back from €45 to €40 each (total £73.98). They came in handy because it got a lot cooler when we went to chill out at Lustgarten. I was too tired to brave the night life so after dinner we headed ‘home’ and joined our hosts for a relaxing evening drinking wine and chatting.
Day 1: Shared home-made sandwich with my mate and free drinks from the hostel. Our host opened her kitchen up to us so we helped ourselves to the most gorgeous bread, salami and butter. I had a Walk to Wok super spicy duck & egg fried rice meal for lunch (£7.98) and a latte at the Balzac which my mate covered. Dinner was at a small, traditional German place near the apartment. Sadly, we were worried that my battery wouldn’t hold out so I have no pictures of the gorgeous meal that I had. Our three-course meal plus 2 beers each cost £36.59 for my half.
Day 2: We had breakfast after I replaced all the stuff we ate the night before (£5.98) and coffee at home. During the tour’s break, we stopped off at McDonald’s, they make the quarter-pounder cheeseburger with mayo and tomatoes and I love to have this in Europe. Some nuggets, fries and a drink drove the price up to £9.24. We then had dinner at Hofbräu Wirsthaus, a Bavarian style restaurant near Alexanderplatz. The staff was wearing what I think were Lederhosen and Dirndl. I had an excessive amount of meat – pork knuckle, some other pork thing, weiss sausage, 2 other kinds of sausages, kartoffel (a sort of potato dumpling) and sauerkraut. It was fabulous and pretty filling, even for me. I also got a couple of beers and there was live music thrown in for free. This excellent evening out only set me back £28.90.
The only other things I spent on were some chocolate and a bottle of wine for our hosts and some medicine because I arrived with cold/flu symptoms. The meds set me back £6.44 and were super effective. Wine is so cheap in Germany, we got a good-looking bottle and some chocolate for a tenner making my portion €5. I wish I’d been energetic enough to check out the night scene because I’ve heard it’s great. I guess that’s more reason to go back to Berlin sometime soon.
When I chuck in the Gatwick express ticket I paid to avoid missing my flight (£19.90), dinner at the airport (£16.95) as well as the regular train back into London when we got back (£8.10), I still came in at £319.35. That’s not as frugal as I’d hoped but it was planned and within budget so I count that as a win.