We had air miles, we had a companion ticket that needed using and we had children who were away with friends for the weekend: It was the perfect opportunity for my husband and me to get away on a child-free weekend. But where to go?
The list of places I want to go is long indeed. In this case we were guided by availability and someplace where both of us had never been. Amazingly, Berlin made the list. Having just spent a long weekend there, all I can think is, What took me so long?
One great thing about this trip even beyond the city itself was that I had the Fujifilm X-A3 mirrorless compact camera to capture it. As I’ve written about before, I’m often torn between carting around my massive DSLR and getting good images or relying on my smartphone, which is handy but has limited range in going from evening restaurant pictures to scenic views to quick shots grabbed on the go.
I loved having my X-A3 — so light and easy to take everywhere and the ability to get fabulous shots. The more I’ve used it, the more I’ve discovered ways to use it that suit me. I can lift it up, flicking the on switch as I do and I’m ready. I’ve been using it on the SR+ setting as we walk around. On this setting the camera adapts to conditions, going from landscape to macro seamlessly and adjusting for light. This is ideal for my travels — it allows me to grab shots on the go rather than fiddling with my camera when I’d rather be admiring monuments, enjoying art, eating, drinking and learning.
Which is exactly when you get to do in Berlin. Here, 15 pictures that highlight some of the top sights and experiences on our grownups weekend.
All the pictures here were shot with the X-A3 and are shown unedited.
The Brandenburg Tor
The Brandenburg Tor (Gate) is a must-see for any visitor, a neo-classical monument commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia and completed in 1791. It’s a calling card for the city. You can walk through the gate from one side to another, and the plaza in front is perfect for photos ops (also Iced Caramel Macchiato — there’s a busy Starbucks on the corner of the platz). When we arrived it was a Thursday morning and overcast, so there were fewer people milling around. We returned on Saturday with the sun streaming down — the area is well served by buses and very near the Reichstag and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This memorial, designed by the architect and engineer team of Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, is stunning, challenging and impactful. The 2,711 concrete slabs, or stelae, range from knee-height to more than 15 feet, set on undulating ground over more than 4 acres. Wandering through is an unsettling and moving experience. It affected us so much that we visited twice in three days.
The TV Tower
The Berlin Fernsehturm, a symbol of GDR, is visible as you walk around town. You can visit the observation deck and even eat and drink at the top. We loved using the tower or its silhouette to orient ourselves as we explored the city.
There are so many opportunities to drink gorgeous German wine while in Berlin. We loved the wine stalls at Markthalle Neun, where you leave a €3 deposit for your glass and can sample a wide range of reds, whites and sparklings. We kept stumbling across little wine bars and shops where people sat outside sipping glasses that were glinting in the sunlight. The camera automatically did the background blur, something that as an improving photographer I like to play with more and more.
When a luxury travel writer like Sarah from Live Share Travel recommends a restaurant emphatically, I take notice. This dim sum restaurant had my husband reacted like Sarah had: saying when can we come back?
Graffiti is practically everywhere in Berlin, from tags to fully realised masterpieces. Walking around the city is a treat for any street art appreciator. When we next visit, we’ll be organising a street art tour.
Five world-renown museums sit on Museum Island and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were pleased to have bought a Welcome Card for 72 hours of unlimited travel in the A and B transport regions which included free entry into all the museums.
I captured this picture of a tour boat with the Berliner Dom, the Berlin Cathedral Church, on the island seconds after we walked onto the bridge. I like how the X-A3 captured the red trim of the boat, the green copper roof of the Cathedral and the detail on the roof, and it’s a shot I never would have gotten with either my DSLR or iPhone.
Shooting the Market Gate of Miletus, the panoramic feature of the X-A3 gives a sense of the impressive scale of the stunning monument.
Berlin is one of the greenest capitals in Europe with city parks, gardens, even woodland within the city. We spotted these groups of students picnicking in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie on Museum Island. It would be lovely to bring some nibbles and sit here on a sunny day before seeing some of the most important art and ancient civilisation artefacts in the world.
German cherry crumble
I don’t just like cherry desserts. I want to run away with them for long weekends. Luckily, when you run away to Berlin, the German version of cherry crumble is already there. This moist, almost cake-like dessert is tasty, tangy and has that tempting red colour. I was so eager to eat this that I forgot to snap a picture until I was several bites in.
This square was formerly divided by the Berlin Wall and is now home to awe-inspiring architecture from Renzo Piano, Hans Kolhoff and the historic Haus Huth by Conrad Heidenreich and Paul Michel, among others. We walked through the Sony Center (below) as they were preparing for a Smurfs film premiere (“die Schlümpfe”). The dome is a striking feature both from inside and out.
Delicious food on a budget
There is so much delicious food in Berlin but you don’t have to spend loads to enjoy it. Our second wander round Berlin Mitte and Rosenthaler Strasse ended up with a quick stop at Kreuzburger, which is named on every list of best burgers. Burgers in Berlin? It ended up being the perfect quick lunch stop, with a burger and fries for my husband and for me a salad of rocket, corn, tomatoes, cucumber and a delicious yoghurt dressing. The fab bit? My salad cost €4.80, the burger costs €4.90!
On the Thursday we arrived, we headed out for the restaurant where we had a reservation and along the way stumbled across Markthall Neun (Markethall Nine), a Thursday night food market. There was a buzz of the crowd and stalls selling what seemed like practically every type of food, from meatballs to Mexican, Japanese to Venezuelan, cheese and chocolate — even a stall selling nothing but tofus. My husband snapped this picture of me enjoying the classic German meatballs. I love how the X-A3 automatically turns on the portrait setting, which smooths skin tone and makes me look like I didn’t get up at 4am in London and am still going at 7pm in Berlin.
Kebabs are not just late-night post-booze snacks. In Berlin they are practically an institution. Thanks to Berlin Stories for leading us to Tadim, which has amazing bread and delicious kebabs, in a low-frills but friendly setting.
This final picture is actually a video not a picture so it’s bending the rules a little, but I wanted to share it because it’s so easy to record with the X-A3, with one-button start and stop recording. Throughout the weekend I captured little snippets of interesting things we saw and did — I’m excited to edit them together to tell a short video story of our trip.
The Fujifilm X-A3 is available exclusively at Jessops and retails for £549.
I was provided an X-A3 camera to try and keep and am working with Fujifilm in a paid relationship. All opinions are my own.