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The perfect day in Berlin? One local’s favourite spots



Rachel Schnalzer

Senior Writer, Eurail

Inspiration and creativity are everywhere in Berlin – especially if you know where to look. 


Just ask Bernd Neff, owner and general manager of Berlin Travel Club and Berlin Travel Festival


“I moved to Berlin in 1989, when the Wall came down,” said Neff, who grew up near Lake Constance in southern Germany. “There was no question that I wanted to be here in the city.” 


Berlin has evolved in the decades since Neff became a resident. But the city’s spirit has largely remained the same, he says. “What has stayed all the time is the quality of life that you have here. You have the creativity, you have the internationality, you have the openness and the tolerance.” 


Bernd Neff


Over the years, Neff’s work in the fashion, music, event planning and tourism industries has taken him all over the globe – eventually culminating in his decision to start the Berlin Travel Club and Berlin Travel Festival, which will run from 1-3 December 2023. 


Neff says the festival, which kicked off in 2018, aims to celebrate travellers who chase their dreams. "We want to bring people on stage sharing their ideas,” Neff said. “All these mavericks and crazy people that are out there not only talking about what they want to do but actually doing it.” 


Meanwhile, Berlin Travel Club functions as a community hub and online shop, meant to serve as a “home to the people who bear travel in their hearts.” 


This December, Interrail has partnered with Berlin Travel Club to create a sustainable capsule collection of apparel, with all products made of 100% organic cotton. 


The collection, which incorporates colours such as aloe and desert dust, is designed to feel “a little bit friendly, a little bit open,” said Neff, while balancing comfort and style. “You spend quite some time on the train and you want to look good [while staying] cosy.” 


Neff’s passion for travel is evident in his work – but at the same time, whenever a trip comes to an end, Neff says he’s happy to return home to Berlin. “It seems like I’ve ended up here forever,” he said with a laugh.  


We spoke with Neff about his favourite off-the-beaten places in Berlin to give Interrail travellers a taste of what life is like for one resident of Germany’s largest city. Visit Berlin with the Interrail Global Pass or the Interrail German Pass


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


First things first. What’s your ideal breakfast routine in Berlin? 


BN: Normally I’d like to go and have a nice breakfast at Galão A Pastelaria. It’s a walk-in coffee shop with newspapers, which is very important to me in the morning, kind of a routine. I like to have my coffee and muesli and read the newspaper. 


What do you recommend wearing during a day out in Berlin? 


BN: One of the nice parts of Berlin, there’s no real dress code. In Berlin, [the style] is very easy and non-conformal. But it can get pretty cold and foggy from November to March or April, so I would recommend something warm and waterproof. 


What’s an off-the-beaten-path location travellers should make sure to explore? 


BN: One spot that is really interesting and lively is Alt-Tegel, up in the northern part of Berlin. There is the Tegeler See, a pretty big lake with a walking area, Italian ice cream places, and all kinds of restaurants. There’s beautiful nature there.    


Speaking of nature, what are your favourite green spaces across the city? 


BN: Berlin has so many lakes and greenery – when you look at the map of Berlin, it is actually super green. 


There’s the Tiergarten, the park in the city centre. And then in the northwest part of the city, you have the Tegeler See, and in the southeastern part, you have the Müggelsee


There’s also Treptow Park, which is very nice and closer to Kreuzberg. These are all really beautiful places to go. 


Tegeler See


Berlin is known for its incredible variety of museums. What are your favourites? 


BN: I really recommend Fotografiska, a very new photography museum. It’s originally from Stockholm and has a few locations around the world. Fotografiska opened in Berlin only two or three months ago. 


There’s also C/O Berlin, another photography museum, and the Neue Nationalgalerie is definitely a place that you need to visit.


Moving on to lunch – where do you like to go? 


BN: If I go for lunch, I go to Marubi, which is a small Japanese restaurant with fantastic ramen. Or I go to Muret La Barba, an Italian restaurant that is also a wine seller. 


What do tourists usually miss when visiting Berlin? 


BN: Sometimes I think it’s good to get off the recommended touristic path. Berlin, in the side streets, has so many things to discover. Every district has its own little centre to explore. Get out of Mitte, take the U-Bahn and travel to the outside districts. 


Just take the bus or U-Bahn to the last station, where it starts or ends, get off there and explore (just don't take Ringbahn, because Ringbahn goes in a circle!)  


Speaking of U-Bahn stops, do you have a favourite in Berlin?


BN: I think it's Bayerischer Platz.  It has really fantastic architecture. But also Alexanderplatz, which is one of the main stations. There’s often art and photo exhibitions there. 


Favourite day trips from Berlin? 


BN: A classic day trip is going to Potsdam, nearby Berlin. It’s a pretty, old city and the capital of Brandenburg. They have lakes and parks to walk around – it’s’ a really nice place to explore on a day trip. You could also take the train to Dresden. It’s really, really lovely. 


Let’s travel back in time to 1989, when you moved to Berlin. What place in Berlin did you first fall in love with? 


BN: It was Tacheles, a huge building run by artists in Mitte. It was actually a ruin, but the artists took it over. It was a wild and free spot. 


Fun fact: Fotografiska has now moved into this building. It’s been renovated and made really luxurious – but the original facade is still there. 


What’s your favourite place to grab dinner at the moment? 


BN: In Germany, we traditionally eat Christmas goose. And everybody I know goes to Prater Gaststätte once during this pre-Christmas time to have the “Weihnachtsgans,” as it’s called. 


Lastly, where is your favourite spot to see the sunset in Berlin? 

BN: One is Viktoriapark in Kreuzberg, specifically the National Monument. And another is the Teufelsberg, in a forest in the west. From there, you can see the whole city.

Feeling inspired to visit Berlin and beyond?