5 things I wish I'd known about Berlin

Katherine Price shares what she wished she'd known about Germany's capital city before moving there for a year

7 mins

1. Take heed of temperatures

It's hot in the summer, and cold in the winter. I knew to expect proper seasons in Berlin, but I wasn't quite prepared for the biting cold of Berlin's winters, which can drop to -15 degrees, and then the searingly hot summers, where temperatures can rise up to 35 degrees.

Snow is guaranteed every winter. Gloves, two pairs of socks, thick boots, a good coat and a hat that covers your ears are absolute necessities. While it is lovely traversing the Christmas markets through the snowy streets, snow can become a bit of a bore come March, and 22 hours of sunshine throughout the entirety of January is downright depressing.

However, when May arrives, the weather is practically tropical, with temperatures rarely dropping below 25 degrees, often in the 30's. It's hot, humid, and the downpours are torrential.

2. Leave your heels at home

I discovered my heels at the end of my year abroad gathering dust at the bottom of my suitcase, having been completely unworn. Unless going to the opera, a business meeting or some very expensive restaurants, you'll want to leave the dresses and suits at home, because Berliners simply don't dress up outside of the work environment, and you certainly won't see many high heels.

Leave the posh clothes at home and enjoy the freedom of wearing flats all day, or jeans in a bar. Berlin style is much more dressed down and is still very influenced by its arts scene, being prominently inhabited by musicians and artists. You're far more likely to see a pink mohawk and a face full of piercings than a suit – even on teachers.

3. Watch out for cyclists

Almost every street in Berlin is separated into cyclist and pedestrian lanes, usually cyclists on the left, pedestrians on the right, and the paths will often be different colours or materials to show this. Easy enough, but stumble accidentally into the cyclist lane and they will have no mercy.

There are thousands of cyclists in Berlin – around 500,000 every day. At best they will yell at you to get off the cycle path, furiously ringing their bells. At worst, it's even been known for pedestrians to be pushed off of the path out of the way. Don't let yourself be caught out by the hordes.

4. Look past the Wall

Berlin's separation and later reunification left far more behind than the remains of the Wall. Once you've seen the Wall, take the time to look past it and explore the deeper effects of the Berlin Wall – the effects on the language of Berlin (the Berlinisch dialect is a creature of its own), the abandoned spaces and buildings now reformed by the community and the still-living memory of a divided city under surveillance by the secret police.

Part of Berlin's charm is its ability to take the most run-down building and make it cool. So many of Berlin's best venues are converted old buildings, whether old or abandoned. Some of the old Prussian constructions are now museums in Charlottenburg.

5. Get a MuseumPass

Berlin is incredibly cheap for western Europe, and is fantastic for offering discounts. If you're planning on visiting any of the museums on Museum Island – and you should – or any other national museums, then you can grab a three-day MuseumPass (€24, €12 for concessions), which will get you into any national Berlin museum for three consecutive days.

The quality of Berlin's museums are truly astounding, whether escaping from the biting cold or the sweltering heat. If you're around for the long haul, or are a regular visitor, you can also get a Jahreskarte pass, which covers you for all national museums in Berlin for an entire year for €50 (€25 with concessions). Definitely worth it.

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