RELAXED NEIGHBOURHOODS AND VEGAN FOOD: A sunny weekend in Berlin

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We went to Berlin for the weekend with the intention of sampling all the vegan food – and that’s exactly what we did! We found lots of cool places:

  • Markthalle Neun: This is a cool indoor market with lots of independent shops. Stop for organic gelato at Rosa Canina then follow it up with craft beer from Heiden Peters.
  • Brammibal’s Donuts is a popular stop with lots of different donut flavours. Everything is vegan and they have two convenient locations.
  • Backbord: This vegan place serving street food is a great place to try some traditionally meaty German snacks. We had currywurst, schnitzel and sweet potato fries. Yum!
  • Bamerang: This rock bar in Prenzlauer Berg has a simple vegan menu of pub food. Relaxed atmosphere and friendly service.
  • Ataya Cafe: A popular vegan place with a buffet service for brunch. The food is a good mix of Italian and Northern African.
  • Kaschk: A craft beer bar with a relaxed atmosphere and a good selection of beers on tap.
  • Chay Viet: A popular Vietnamese place serving delicious veggie dishes.

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We also spent some time exploring the city off the beaten track:

  • Mauerpark is an old favourite and a great place to visit on Sundays, when they have lots of stalls selling anything from handmade artwork to local souvenirs. There’s always a crowd and plenty of musicians keeping things lively. Follow that with the nearby Berlin Wall memorial, which is a good place to see the wall far from the tourist crowd.
  • South of the river Spree, Neukolln is a cool neighbourhood full of bars, cafes and independent shops. It’s a great place to explore for a few hours on a sunny day.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: It’s not the usual type of accommodation we choose, but H2 Alexanderplatz had a good deal. Comfortable rooms and great location (close to Prenzlauer Berg which is my preferred area).

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GREAT BEERS AND PLENTIFUL FOOD: Three days in Munich

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We arrived in Munich late it the afternoon so we only had time for dinner at a random place on our first day.

In the morning we joined a free walking tour with Sandemans. These typically last for 2-3 hours and you pay for a tip at the end.

Despite the bad weather, we got to see many of Munich’s highlights – we started at the impressive Marienplatz and its beautiful town hall, visited Frauenkirche, St Peter’s Church and covered a lot of ground in the town centre.

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For lunch we headed to the iconic Hofbrauhaus, a famous beer hall where you get delicious beer, fresh pretzels and live music in the most traditional setting possible. The place is huge but it’s always very busy (visiting during the day is a safer bet as we struggled to get a table in the evening) – but it’s good fun and definitely worth a visit (lunch for 5 including drinks and tip for 60€).

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We then headed to Victuals Market, full of fun stalls selling fresh vegetables, local delicacies and handicraft. It’s a good place to shop for snacks and souvenirs.

After a stop at our flat, we headed to Augustiner for dinner. This is considered one of the best beers in Munich, and it really was delicious (dinner and drinks for 5 including tip for 55€).

On our last day in Munich we took the U-bahn to the famous English Gardens, which is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. We had coffee under the Chinese Tower, usually a busy beer garden but empty when we visited as it was cold and rainy.

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Heading back to Marienplatz, we stopped for another typically German lunch at Paulaner (lunch for 5 including drinks and tip for 65€).

After struggling to find our way in the rain, we visited the Residenz Palace (tickets for 7€), a huge palace full of baroque glory.

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Our last stop of the day was Maelu, a pastry shop with the most incredible desserts (dessert and drinks for 5 for 45€). Then it was time to head back to the flat as we had an early train to catch in the morning.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We struggled to find accommodation as we got to Munich just before Oktoberfest (a bad idea) and our Airbnb got cancelled last minute. Usually there are lots of options.
  • Transportation: Munich has a good network of U-bahn and S-bahn, and it’s easy to get around. A daily ticket for 2-5 people costs 12.60€ and was a good option for us.
  • Go: Munich can be easily reached by plane, train or car, and it’s a good base to start or end a trip through Bavaria.
  • Food: German food is meat-heavy, but it’s possible to find veggie and vegan food anywhere. Restaurants always have veggie options and can accommodate for vegans on request.

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FAIRYTALE CASTLES AND BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINS: 2 days in Fussen and Zugspitze

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My friend was getting married in Germany, so this was the starting point of my Central and Eastern Europe trip.

After enjoying the wedding, we headed to Fussen, which is mostly famous for the Neuschwanstein castle (one of the castles supposed to have inspired Disney).

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We took it easy on our first day, walking around the cute city centre. In the evening we had a lovely dinner at Beim Olivenbauer (dinner for two including drinks and tip for 32€), a place filled with weird Roman-style knick-knacks serving their own beer and yummy food – and plenty of veggie and vegan options.

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The next morning we had breakfast at our hotel before heading out to get the shuttle to the castle.

Set in an amazing location up in the hills, it’s an impressive sight. We joined the tour of the lavishly decorated rooms, covered floor to ceiling with impressive detail.

Outside you can walk to a nearby bridge where you can get breathtaking views of the castle and mountains nearby.

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After a while exploring, it was time to head back to Fussen for lunch. We stopped at Zum Hechten which had good food but terrible service (lunch for two including drinks and tip for 26€).

For delicious and rich desserts we headed to Kurcafe (cakes and drinks for four for 25€).

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The next morning we left Fussen in the morning towards Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The scenery on the road was amazing, and the views from the top should be great.

You get a train up the hill (from this December a cable car will also be available). When we got to the top we were surprised by snowfall and freezing temperatures, so the views were nowhere to be seen. We still got to ride toboggans and enjoy the early winter.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We stayed at Fantasia, which was great, centrally located and had great service (we paid 178€ for two nights plus 8€ for breakfast).
  • Visiting Neuschwanstein: To get to the castle and also Hohenschwangau (the other castle nearby) you need to take an hourly shuttle from Fussen’s station. Tickets cost 1.60€. That will take you to the ticket office – entry to Neuschwanstein costs 13€ per person and is part of a guided tour (it’s a good idea to book online in advance and skip the queues). From the ticket office to the castle it’s a 30min walk through a beautiful forest or you can take a bus.
  • Go: Fussen is in Bavaria and not too far from other cities in the region. We travelled by car which is an easy way to explore the countryside.
  • Visiting Zugspitze: The tickets to visit are expensive at 53€ from Eibsee – this includes the train up and back the hill. The trip takes about 40min each way and the service is regular. There are restaurants and cafes at the top, so you can have a meal with a view or warm up with a shot of schnapps.

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IN PICTURES: Street art and sunny days in Berlin

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Berlin was great – as always.

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I visited on a sunny weekend in August, a beautiful time to go.

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For the first time I managed to visit the Reichstag (it’s free to go but you must book in advance).

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The cool cupola by British architect Norman Foster is definitely worth a visit.

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And it’s a great place to take weird self-portraits.

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The street art around the East Side Gallery was a bit more damaged than I remembered.

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But it’s still quite impressive.

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And there are lots of other great street art all around the city.

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This was also the first time I visited the impressive Berlin Cathedral.

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From the top you get great views over the city.

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And inside there are many amazing details too.

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Sundays in Berlin are always great for brunch.

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After eating at the lovely Napol Jonska in Prenzlauer Berg, we walked around Mauer Park.

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This is a great area to see remains of the Berlin Wall in a less touristic area.

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But we also stopped at some of the highlights – like the Brandenburg Gate and the memorial next to it.

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Berlin never disappoints!

COMING BACK FOR MORE: Places I visit again and again

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My current travel objective is to visit all European countries. And although I’m only (or already, depending on how you look at it) halfway there, I also keep coming back to my favourite places – it’s hard to find a balance! These are some of the places I want to visit again and again:

1. Berlin

I’ve been to Berlin three times already, but I think I haven’t even scratched the surface yet! Berlin strikes the perfect balance between having lots for tourists to do while still being cool and modern.

I’m looking forward to my next trip in August!

2. Paris

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Paris was the first place I’ve ever visited in Europe, and I’ve been there eight or nine times, spending whole months there. I still visit almost every year: it’s very close to London and wandering around is always great.

It’s just so scenic… you can’t really go wrong in Paris.

3. Rome

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I went to Rome for the first time in 2003, and only returned (twice) this year. Rome is, in many ways, the birthplace of western civilisation, and just by walking around you grasp the importance of the place – the architecture is absolutely awe-inspiring, and history is everywhere.

Plus the food is probably the best in the world. I’m not a foodie in any way, but as soon as I get to Italy all I can think about is food!

4. Marrakech

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My dad is always asking if I work for the Moroccan tourist board (I don’t, but I’d definitely take that job!) because Marrakech is the first place I suggest whenever people ask me where to go on holiday.

Somehow it really feels like home to me, which is weird given that it’s completely different from anywhere I’ve ever been. I love the food, the people, the architecture, and, most of all, the bustling atmosphere. I don’t know when I’ll be going back, but it’s just a matter of time!

Where do you want to go back to?

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I WANT TO LIVE THERE: What I say every time I travel

My dream was always to live abroad. Many years of hard work and a Master’s degree later, I succeeded! I left my home country and never looked back.

Funnily enough, moving countries actually put me off doing it again, so I have no plans of relocating. But I can’t help myself – every time I visit a new place, I immediately start imagining how great it would be to move there!

Here are three places where (I daydream) I could live:

 1. Marrakech, Morocco

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Growing up I wanted to live in Paris. The French capital was the first place I visited in Europe and it completely changed my world view.

Then a few years ago I went to Marrakech and got that same feeling all over again: now I’m absolutely obsessed with the place (I’ve been four times), the souks, the food, the amazing energy.

How I wish I had a whole riad to decorate!

2. Berlin, Germany

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It took me a long time to go to Berlin, and I so shouldn’t have waited!

The city is absolutely great – there’s so much to see and do. There are lots of different neighbourhoods where you can spend days finding new interesting places. And there’s so much to learn about the country’s history, with remnants of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie serving as reminders of how much the place has changed.

Get a flat in Prenzlauer Berg for the best Sunday brunches ever.

3. Belgrade, Serbia

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I visited Belgrade at the end of my Old Yugoslavia tour. The city is very understated, so it’s not as if there’s tons of things to do.

But then we hit the bars, and it was THE BEST. There are so many places around, from cocktail bars to French bistros, and the prices are amazing!

A great place to buy a little flat and hang out a few weeks per year.


Where you would move to if you could?

THE 5-MINUTE TRIP PLANNER: A weekend in Berlin

Berlin is a great city. At some point I should really stay there for a couple of weeks, but so far I’ve only been for short breaks.

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Aside from the main highlights, it’s a great place to wander around and explore all the different neighbourhoods.

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I really want to go back!

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: The flight from London only takes two hours, so go after work to make the most of the weekend.
  • Stay: Schoenhouse Aparments is great – large flats in a great location, highly recommended!
  • Eat: Brunch is massive in Berlin. You’ll be completely spoilt for choice around Prenzlauer Berg, a lovely neighbourhood to explore on a lazy Sunday morning.
  • Do: Don’t miss highlights like the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, as seeing these up close gives you great insight on recent German history. But also make sure to spend some time just wandering around – Berlin is full of hidden gems and you don’t want to miss that!

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The 5-minute trip planner: Planning a short trip in no time