Language course in Berlin: ESL Berlin tips

Get up to date with Zitty, Tip and 030

Three of Berlin’s top listings magazines are Zitty (www.zitty.de), Tip (www.tip-berlin.de) and 030 (www.berlin030.de).
Pick up a copy of any of the three to get a good idea of what’s going on in the city during your German course in Berlin.

Sample the currywurst

ESL - ESL Berlin tips
In a land that really, really loves sausages, one is so famous that it has its own museum (www.currywurstmuseum.de). The currywurst emerged from the wreckage of post-war Berlin to bestride the new nation like a, well, like a bratwurst slathered in a mix of ketchup, curry powder and Worcester sauce. You are guaranteed to succumb to its charms at least once during your stay (unless you are a vegetarian). 800 million servings of currywurst are sold in Germany each year... that’s around 10 for each man, woman and child in the country!

If you don’t fancy a currywurst, Berlin offers some of the finest falafels and kebabs outside of Istanbul thanks to a large Turkish population.

Practise your German with the locals

ESL - ESL Berlin tips
In a city that is defiantly avant-garde, some of the more-traditional activities can be the best way to practise your German. Beer gardens are jolly places where you can enjoy the warm summer months and spark up a conversation with your neighbours. Prater (www.pratergarten.de) and Golgatha (www.golgatha-berlin.de/) are two of the nicest. The Tempelhofer (www.tempelhoferfreiheit.de) Flughafen was once at the heart of the Berlin Airlift and has now become a lovely space where people do sports, have barbecues and generally chill out. Haggling with stallholders at the many flea markets in the city will also help improve your German... with the added benefit of picking up a bargain or two! See more shopping tips

Hire a bike

ESL - ESL Berlin tips
Berlin is a great city for cyclists and there are plenty of cycle lanes all over town. Lots of companies, including fahrradstation (www.fahrradstation.com), Yaam (www.fahrrad-mieten-berlin.net/), pedalpower (www.pedalpower.de/produkte/fahrradverleih/), callabike (www.callabike.de/) and Guido’s Fahrradwelt (www.guidos-fahrradwelt.de, offer bike hire and tours around the famous sights in the city centre. Bonus tip: watch out for tram lines when you are on your bike... it is easy to get a wheel stuck in the track and go flying.

Plan your transport and save

ESL - ESL Berlin tips
Within Berlin, you can pick up day, week or month-long passes for public transport, which offer better value than buying individual tickets. Check out bvg.de (bvg.de) for more about local ticket prices and fares.

If you plan on going further afield while you learn German in Berlin or after the course is finished, it pays to shop around. For example, Deutsche Bahn offers regional group tickets (www.bahn.de/p/view/angebot/regio/laender_tickets.shtml) that can be used for 24 hours on all transport in a specific region (excluding fast intercity trains). Possibly the best group offer is the Schönes Wochenende Ticket (www.bahn.de/p/view/angebot/regio/schoenes_wochenende_ticket.shtml) (in English, www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/prices/germany/schoenes_wochenende_ticket.shtml) which allows up to 5 people a weekend of unlimited travel on DB’s regional services all over Germany for a combined price of just €40, as long as you travel together.

You can also get much better deals if you book in advance online. For example, tickets from Berlin to Vienna are often available for €39 on bahn.de (www.bahn.de/), as opposed to over €120 purchased on the day of travel. If you plan to stick around for a while, you could consider getting a Bahncard (www.bahn.de/p/view/bahncard/bahncard.shtml), which gives you discounts of 25% or 50% on all train journeys and quickly pays for itself if you want to explore elsewhere in Germany.

Finally, if you do want to get the train from Germany to another country, be aware that you may get the same tickets cheaper from the national rail provider in the destination country, using their websites.

To watch, read, listen

ESL - ESL Berlin tips

Watch

Das Leben der Anderen (2006) Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) Director: Wolfgang Becker
Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981) Director: Uli Edel
Lola rennt (1998) Director: Tom Tykwer

Berlin cinemas

One of the nicest ways to catch a movie in Berlin is at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz or Friedrichshain Open Air Cinemas during the summer months. The movies often start in the early evening around sunset, but arrive early to get a deckchair. Alternatively, the Babylon-Mitte (Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, babylonberlin.de) and Arsenal (Potsdamer Straße 2, arsenal-berlin.de) are popular art-house cinemas. The Astor Film Lounge (Kurfürstendamm 225, berlin.astor-filmlounge.de/) offers an altogether more upmarket version of the cinema experience, with a welcome cocktail, valet parking and giant seats!

Read

The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf by Alfred Doblin

Listen

Aggro Berlin by Sido
Alcachofa by Ricardo Villalobos
Low by David Bowie

Berlin music venues
ESL - ESL Berlin tips
A little warning: many of Berlin’s best nightclubs and music venues are locked in mortal combat with property developers who want to turn the buildings into flats. Be sure to pick up a copy of Zitty, Tip or 030 to find out what’s hot. You can also ask at your language school in Berlin. 
Techno, techno, techno. What other kind of music could provide an appropriate soundtrack to those legendary 48 hour parties that give the city its reputation as a world capital of hedonism? Among the top clubs in Berlin are Weekend (Alexanderplatz, week-end-berlin.de), Watergate (Falckensteinstraße 49, water-gate.de), Berghain (Am Wriezener Bahnhof, berghain.de) and Tresor (Köpenicker Straße 70, tresorberlin.com), the last two are both located in old power stations. Berghain is famous for its “no camera” policy and dark rooms where “anything goes” (except photography, logically).

For live music, you are spoilt for choice, with some of the more popular venues including b (Falckensteinstraße 47, liveatdot.de) and Junction Bar (Gneisenaustraße 18, junction-bar.de), where there are live bands and DJs every day. White Trash Fast Food (Schönhauser Allee 6-7, whitetrashfastfood.com) is a mix of restaurant, tattoo parlour and gig venue, where more than 400 rock bands play each year.

Also be sure to check out Clärchens Ballhaus for some Weimar-style frivolity and dancing.

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