I’ve been happily living in Berlin for close to a decade now, meeting my wife and having kids here. Over the years, i have had many friends and family members visit me. Sometimes, i do get questions about which sights to see, and which things to do in the German capital. Every single time however, the longest conversation is about booking the right holiday apartments in Berlin.
We have hosted many guests at home, but since we have had the kids, it’s just not possible anymore. Therefore, every time, we talk about the things one needs to know before booking a place to stay for a few days in the German capital.
I thought those small insights could be of interest to more people than just friends and family, so here it is. Also, i can just point my guests to this in the future and avoid lengthy conversations 🙂 .
Tips on picking a location: what to know to find something nicer and cheaper.
Geographical center is not city center
I won’t be telling you anything new by saying that Berlin has had a complicated history. The East-West divide has profoundly shaped the urban development of the city, its topography and geography. What this means for you is that contrary to most cities in Europe, the geographical center is not the city center.
Take Paris for example, the closer to the center, the older/more historical it gets. It has a concentrical logic so for a tourist, the closest to the center, the better.
Because of the Wall, Berlin is really not like that. It is rather composed of independent districts/neighborhoods, with each their internal logic/points of interest. So yes sure, Mitte (the geographical center) does have most of the must-see sights, but it’s not a very pretty nor very residential area and it does not have all the best options to go out, or eat in a nice restaurants. Other districts like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauerberg, Charlottenburg have a better flair with plenty of good options of things to do, see and enjoy.
So does that mean more distance and more travelling? Read on further to next point
Great transportation system allows for a broader choice
Berlin has invested a lot in public transportation, and it shows. The BVG network is clean, reliable and complete with trains, subways, buses (and even “bus boats”!). It’s rather easy and fast to get from A to B in most cases. So yes, there are occasional mishaps, which are bound to happen in large cities, but they are the exception and not the rule. Bonus: trains and buses are running all night on weekends.
The takeaway for you here: don’t hesitate to broaden your search radius away from the typical touristic districts! Provided you are a walking distance from an Ubahn or Sbahn station (public train stations), you should not experience any problem at all going to your sights, restaurants or nights-out. Booking your holiday apartment in Berlin with this in mind can seriously save you some money.
Avoid the party districts
Whether or not you are coming to Berlin to enjoy the clubbing scene, stay away from party districts such as the streets located next to RAW Gelände in Friedrichshain, Motzstr./Fuggerstr. in Schöneberg, Rosenthalerplatz in Mitte, Kastanienallee in Prenzlauerberg or the area around Weserstr. in Neukölln. Bars and clubs are numerous there, which guarantees a great night out, but it’s loud and busy at night. If you can escape the noise by living on a side street sometimes, it’s often preferred by party tourists, making prices go up anyway.
Prefer more residential, still well connected districts instead. Again, transportation options are numerous and efficient. You won’t have an issue coming back home and sleep in a quiet place, since trains, trams and buses are also running on weekends. Also; it’s cheaper.
Types of holiday apartments in Berlin
Some landlords operate a vacation rental business holding a permit to rent apartments or houses for a short-period of time only. Such rentals constitute a great alternative to hotels because they often can offer alternative, less touristy locations as well as affordable living space for your holiday.
It is also more often than not the guarantee of great customer service, personal touch and communication throughout your stay.
Some of those offers also make they way on flat-sharing platforms such as airbnb, but also other platforms. As usual with listings like those, do your research and read the ratings carefully.
Aparthotels or service apartments
As you might guess from the name, an apart-hotel combines the best parts of a hotel with a luxury apartment. Your apart-hotel will be outfitted with a generous kitchen and living space to make it really feel like a home away from home. So, if you’ve ever stayed in a regular hotel and yearned for more than a travel kettle and instant coffee sachets, this could be the option for you!
Aparthotels are small serviced apartments that combine the comfort of a generous living space and kitchen with the services and amenities of a hotel. Flexible check-in times, cleaning service with sometimes gym and swimming pool complete the experience of a home “away from home”.
Aparhotels and serviced apartments are terms that can be used interchangeably.
What about Bed and Breakfast?
As in other parts of the world, bnbs are not so common in a big city like Berlin. It’s more often found on the country side, in rural Germany. You can try your luck in booking one.
Home exchange in Berlin
It’s a lesser known alternative but it’s definitely the one counting the most enthusiastic supporters. Home exchange or home swap can dramatically reduce the costs of your holiday apartment in Berlin. You won’t be paying it with money, but by lending your own home, wherever you may live.
You earn credits by lending your home. You use those credits when you need a place to stay elsewhere. There are several well known home exchange platforms, usually coming with a paid membership:
You will find the usual features to filter your request by size, dates, type of home, etc. There is no need to exchange homes during the same dates. Thanks to the credits system, simply use or earn points in your own time. Insurance for both guests and hosts are usually included, just like with Airbnb.
Flat sharing restrictions in Berlin, what are the consequences for me?
Berlin has really tried to crack down on platforms such as airbnb, 9flats or Wimdu. In a city with a really big shortage of living space, the aim was to avoid that flats that could be rented to locals, was instead rented out to tourists, for a better profit. Holiday apartments in Berlin are sometimes accused to inflate prices in some districts.
The latest ruling in 2018 imposed strict rules (but not a ban) on platforms like this. Bottom line for you: you can use services like this with peace of mind, even if the host doesn’t hold a permit. Wrong-doings are never blamed on the guest, always on the host.
I hope those few words helped you to narrow down your choice before booking an holiday apartment in Berlin. Feel free to leave a question in the comments. Have a great holiday in the German capital!