Take Your Time with Slow Travel in Berlin
Adjust to a more leisurely way of life with this guide to the German capital. You're on holiday, after all.
One of the world’s great cultural capitals, Berlin buzzes with energy and creativity. But while it’s filled with art galleries, bars and independent shops, it also has plenty of important landmarks and historical sights. But how does this translate into slow travel?
Inspired by the slow food movement and the growth of sustainable tourism, the slow travel philosophy is all about taking it easy, relishing the moment and avoiding holiday burnout. That means no more stomping around endless tourist attractions, nose in a guidebook. (Phew.) And as this is a sprawling city that is constantly changing – if you’ve been before, chances are your beloved little bar has since relocated – it makes the perfect destination for slow travel. Berlin is full of secret treasures. You can explore the unmarked bars, hidden parks and foodie pop-ups as you meander towards (or, if you like, studiously avoid) some of the more high-profile tourist spots. And as you’ll be mainly walking, you’ll be pleased to learn there are no hills to climb.
Consider some of these Plum Guide pointers about luxuriating in slow travel in Berlin.
Choose a neighbourhood
Berlin is big. It spans 12 districts, which are further broken down into smaller areas known as Kiez. This all makes sense when you find out that this city was originally a series of small villages that, over the years, became intertwined. Add to that the Berlin Wall that once divided the city (it’s still marked by a brick line tracing its path) and you’ve got a city full of areas with their own distinct personalities.
You’ve got to stay in just one of them. Sorry. The decision is yours: will you plump for Mitte, the central neighbourhood (and tourist favourite)? Or will you embrace your sense of adventure and look to the elegance of Prenzlauer Berg; the nightlife of Friedrichshain or the beautiful bohemia of Kreuzberg? Whatever you choose, you can find your perfect Berlin apartment with Plum Guide. We pride ourselves on expertly handpicking only the top 3% of homes, so you can pretend to live luxuriously in Berlin – at least for a little while.
Slow travel in Berlin means walking. Wandering, even. Take your time to savour the sights, and don’t fret about sticking to a regimented itinerary. The guide books will doubtlessly advise you to walk from Brandenburger Tor to Alexanderplatz, a route packed with tourist attractions – and, you’ve guessed it, tourists. It’s time for a different approach…
Meander to Bergmannkiez (Kreuzberg) or Hackescher Markt (Mitte) and get involved in café culture. Embark on a Berlin food tour – hop from café to bar to food stall, trying the local delicacies (amid all the schnitzel and currywurst, the vegan food scene here is one of the best in the world). Watch the people pass by. It’s a great way to get a feel for the real Berlin – and without a tour guide bellowing at you through a megaphone.
If you’re visiting in the summer, make the most of the city’s green spaces. The former Tempelhofer airport is now a glorious public park, Tempelhofer Feld, which has plenty of room for picnics, barbecues, cycling and skating. Green-fingered locals even use it for urban gardening.
Elsewhere, Volkspark Friedrichshain is Berlin’s oldest public park, with small lakes, a fountain and several monuments and sculptures. Or you could make tracks to Viktoriapark, a former vineyard with beautiful views of the sunset; Treptower Park, where you can hire a pedalo; and Volkspark Rehberge, where you can spot wild boar and roe deer or enjoy a film under the stars at the open-air cinema.
If you’re looking for a quirky twist to your slow travel in Berlin, seek out some of its tucked-away secrets. This is a city steeped in fascinating – and often sombre – history, so it has many unusual sights that you probably won’t find in your travel literature.
Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände is a forgotten oasis: an old railway yard that was shut down after World War II and has since grown into something of a jungle, now a landscape and nature conservation area and ripe for exploration. The site is also dotted with artwork, photography and sculptures.
Alternatively, the romantic Pfaueninsel ('Peacock Island') on the River Havel, near Potsdam, is UNESCO World-Heritage listed and can be accessed by ferry (definitely a slow-travel means of transport). On the island, you’ll find a fairytale castle, designed in the late 18th century as a summer palace for Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia; landscaped parklands and yes, you’ve guessed it, peacocks.
Or, if you want something really weird, there’s Spreepark, an abandoned East German amusement park, full of eerie dinosaur models, rusty roller coasters and static ferris wheels. Is that taking it a bit far? There's only one way to find out.
And if the sound of slow travel in Berlin has you eager to explore other cities in the same way, take a look at our guide to slow travel in Paris too.