The Four Most Unique Restaurants in Playa del Carmen

Everyone knows 5th Avenue is the coolest place to hang out in Playa del Carmen. The storefronts are lit up and the restaurants spill out into the streets. The vibe is relaxed and there’s so much to do and see. However, after awhile in Playa del Carmen the meals can start to blur together. Are you looking for something different? If so, here’s my list of the four most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen! Enjoy!

 

The Rooftop Pools

These are some of my favorite places to hang out, because they’re completely free! All you have to do is buy a certain amount of food and drink, and you can spend the day in paradise. If you want to eat lunch or dinner poolside, or grab a few cocktails, Be Playa and The Palm at the Playa are both great options.

 

girl in pool, be playa hotel, rooftop pool, playa del carmen

 

At Be Playa, you can drink at a table right in the pool, and order from their extensive sushi menu. We tried the chicken and noodle wok bowl and it was delicious. Here, you only need to spend 200 pesos per person to spend the day relaxing by the pool.

The Palm at the Playa also has a gorgeous rooftop pool with beds, a jacuzzi, sky bar, and ocean view. Here, you need to spend 300 pesos per person on food and drink from Mon – Fri, and 500 per person the rest of the week. I’m also pretty sure I saw a promotion for free drinks for the ladies on Friday nights… call & confirm that though! These rooftop pools aer definitely a unique place for lunch in the sun, dinner, or drinks with a view.

 

bowl of chicken and noodles, be playa food and pool

 

 

Alux Cave Restaurant

If you’re visiting Playa del Carmen, you’ve surely heard of cenotes. They’re the underground rivers and cave systems that the Yucatan Peninsula is famous for. While most people go snorkeling or diving in the cenotes, did you know you can actually eat dinner in one as well?

 

girl standing the front of a wall of stalactites underground

 

The Alux restaurant is built into a huge underground cavern. It’s just spectacular to wander around in, and one of the most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen. The food is a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re like me and still want to see it, go for a drink at the bar. You have to pay 150 pesos each, and you get your choice of white or red wine, a rum cocktail, or soft drink. Then we sipped it and wandered all throughout the caves taking pictures and enjoying the dark twists and turns. Its seriously such a cool and romantic place! During your stay in Playa del Carmen, a visit to Alux is a must.

 

Lit up sign that says "Alux Bar" and surrounding alcohol

 

Calle 38 Restaurants

The next unique restaurants on my list are on Calle 38, just south of 5th Avenue. Here, the street transforms into a lush, green jungle, and restaurants are hidden inside it. You can visit La Cueva del Chango, an outdoor Mexican restaurant set in beautifully lit gardens, or the stunning Trujillos restaurant and bar for a hip night out with a super unique twist.

Walk down the street checking out the menus at the six or so restaurants who line this forested drive, and enjoy the ambiance as you choose your favorite. You really can’t go wrong on Calle 38.

 

Seafood Truck and Tiki Bar

This is such an amazing hidden gem I feel lucky to have discovered. Visit my favorite beach, Playa Esmeralda (you can access it on Calle 88) for an amazing experience. I may be a bit biased cause I live right by it, but I truly think Playa Esmeralda is the most underrated beach in Playa del Carmen because its the perfect mix of lively, but not too crowded.

 

seafood truck and tiki bar, playa del carmen, playa esmerelda

 

To get to the food truck, turn left when you enter the beach on Calle 88 and walk for about 15 minutes until you get to the tip of the small peninsula sticking out into the sea. Here is the Seafood Truck and tiki bar. It’s not connected to any resort, and has an amazing relaxed and secluded feel. Order some shrimp or fish tacos for only 90 pesos, and wash it down with a LITER of beer for only 80 pesos (thats a great deal!)

You can also rent a sun bed here to enjoy the view. Grab a shaded pair for 500 pesos, and 400 of that will go toward food and drinks for the day. The Seafood Truck is one of the most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen because its on the beach but not an overpriced, loud, or giant resort club. This place is so off the beaten path I can’t even find their website or Tripadvisor page (although you can see their menu and driving directions here.) If you want to get away from the resort feel and eat with a stunning blue ocean view, the Seafood Truck and tiki bar is a must.

 

shrimp tacos, seafood truck on playa esmerelda

 

So, these are the four most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen. Rooftop pools, beachside food trucks, dinner down in the caves, and romantic jungle retreats are all on the list. Which one are you going to try first?

All my love,
Di

 

 

 

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Playa Esmeralda is the Most Underrated Beach in Playa del Carmen

Playa Esmeralda is the best beach in Playa del Carmen. There, I said it. I really mean it too. I’m spending one month in the small beachside town in Mexico, and during that time Playa Esmeralda (also known as Playa 88) has become my daily haunt. Here are all the reasons why Playa Esmeralda is the best and most underrated beach in Playa del Carmen.

 

Playa Esmeralda, Mexico, Playa del Carmen

 

1. It’s the perfect mix of lively, but not too crowded. Empty beaches are depressing, and crowded beaches are annoying. This one hits the sweet spot.

2. Playa Esmeralda is in a great location for backpackers. If you’re like me and can’t afford to stay in the heart of Playa del Carmen, you can still be super close to this beach! One main entrance is located on Calle 88 (just for reference, the main drag of downtown is between Calle 2 and Calle 40) so if you live on the “outskirts” of town, you will still be in walking distance to the pristine Playa Esmeralda.

3. It has it’s own private fresh water cenote to hang out in.

4. It has so much greenery. On most of the other beaches in Playa del Carmen, you have giant buildings and resorts spread out behind you. At Playa Esmeralda that’s not the case. The white sand beach is between ocean on one side and lush green plants and palm trees on the other. Although the Paradisus Resort runs along it, it’s hidden so far back from the beach you can barely even see it.

 

blue water, playa esmeralda, playa 88 beach

 

5.. You can swim in places without any rocks underfoot, and the shallow water near the cenote stretches out super far.

6. Playa Esmeralda features one of the most unique restaurants in Playa del Carmen – a locally owned Seafood Truck and Tiki Bar secluded in its own little paradise. You can even rent a sun bed here and relax under shaded palms with the most beautiful ocean view.

 

 

If these reasons aren’t enough to convince you, then hopefully the photos will. Playa Esmeralda is the perfect place to spend a couple hours in paradise, and enjoy all the beauty that Mexico has to offer!

Have you been here? If so, comment below and let me know what you think of Playa Esmeralda 🙂

All my love,
Di

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Boat Cruise from Playa del Carmen: Catamaya Sailing Review

 

This weekend Daniel and I had the opportunity to go on and review the Catamaya Sailing Cruise! If you’re looking for a boat cruise from Playa del Carmen, this is a great option. We had an amazing time, and I’m here to tell you all about it!

 

 

The Stats

Price: $120 for adults $80 for kids
Length: 4 hours
Times: Monday – Saturday from 10am to 2pm
Location: Puerto Aventuras Marina
Included: Round trip transportation, lunch, snorkeling, and open bar
Where to book: 
www.catamaya.com

Our day started with an early wake up call. We packed towels and a change of clothes, then hopped in a taxi to Walmart to pick up some eco sunscreen (essential for protecting the wildlife on the reefs.) Although we didn’t end up taking it, the tours include round trip transport from your hotel in Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Akumal and Tulum.

We arrived at the boat at 9:40 for our 10am departure. The second we stepped on board we were informed that the bar was open, and promptly ordered two margaritas. We took some quick photos and then settled in.

People began to roll in and at 10am sharp the boat took off from the pier. The crew introduced themselves and gave a quick safety talk (most importantly, only two drinks allowed before snorkeling) and then we set off.

 

 

Boat Cruise Breakdown

The trip is divided into four parts for the four hours. First, we spent an hour sailing to the reef site. Then, we spent about 45 minutes to an hour snorkeling and swimming. Third was an hour enjoying the water slide and eating lunch hot off the grill, and finally, we spent an hour drinking, relaxing, and enjoying the boat cruise back to Puerto Aventuras.

 

The Snorkeling

The snorkeling. was. AMAZING. I’ve been diving around the world in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Oman, and honestly this wildlife is some of the best I’ve ever seen! Almost immediately I ran into a turtle hanging out at the reef, and I swam around with him for about 15 minutes. While I was watching him, two HUGE stingrays passed underneath us! Little did I know these were the first of many we would see.

 

 

The reef was full of fish of all sizes and the coral was beautiful. Just please be extra extra careful not to kick it! I opted out of the fins they offered because I didn’t want to take the risk, but unfortunately I saw other people getting very close.

 

 

The boat provided everything we needed like the masks and life vests, and even two guides to point out marine life. I really enjoyed the experience because they weren’t too pushy and really just let me mind my own business and float where I pleased (usually away from the rest of the group) for the whole trip. Just watching the many stingrays pass by below me was so amazing, and an experience i recommend to everyone.

 

 

The Party

After the snorkeling, we had fun going down the slide of the boat and messing around taking videos in the water. Then, it was time for lunch. You choose your meal when you arrive and can pick from either steak, chicken kabobs, lobster tail, or a burger. We both chose the steak, and had a side salad and macaroni salad with it as well.

From then on, it was time to chill. The bar offered margaritas, tequila sunrises, mixed drinks and coronas. We laid out on the roof of the boat to catch some sun and listen to the music as we sailed. If you’re looking for a crazy, wild experience, then this cruise probably isn’t for you. The crowd was mostly young, but there were a few families with kids as well. I thought the vibe was great and laid back though, and everyone even started dancing at the end. When we pulled back into the marina at 2pm, I didn’t want the trip to end!

 

 

My Experience with Catamaya Sailing

A boat cruise from Playa del Carmen is a great escape from the town, resorts, and crowded beaches. One of my favorite things about Catamaya Sailing was that it was so relaxed and uncrowded! The spacious boat had about 35 people on our tour, and I thought it was the perfect fit. No long lines at the bar, no jostling with arms and fins while snorkeling, and no hunting for a perfect seat or view on the boat.

Their best feature, though, is definitely the personalized attention form the crew. By the end we knew them all by name because they were all so kind and friendly. They made sure our drinks were never warm or empty, and delivered impeccable service from start to finish. The captain even took the time to personally deliver a cooked lobster tail to us while we ate because I had mentioned in passing hours earlier that I wanted to try one!

At the end, the bar was still open when we docked and they even handed out drinks to go. I’m not the type of person to ever comment on service, whether good or bad, but the crew just impressed me so much. I could tell each person wasn’t just an employee but also friends with eachother, and they truly enjoyed their jobs.

 

 

Boat Cruise from Playa del Carmen: My Take on Catamaya Sailing

So, what’s my take away on Catamaya Sailing for a boat cruise from Playa del Carmen? I loved it! Sure, there are bigger party boats around, but if you want a super chill, fun, and relaxing day trip the boat cruise from Playa del Carmen with Catamaya Sailing is your best bet. Visit their website here and check them out! If you do take the trip (or have in the past) comment below cause I would love to know what you think!

All my love,
Di

 

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Swimming with the Turtles in Playa del Carmen 2018

Ok, so you may be wondering why I included the year in the title of this post, and it’s because there has been a lot of misinformation going around lately. Is it still possible to go swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen in 2018? Is Akumal beach closed? Do you need a guide? What’s the situation?

Well, I just swam with the turtles in January 2018, and I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. In 2018, you can still swim with the turtles in Playa del Carmen for free. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is a SCAMMER.

Akumal beach is has exploded as a tourist destination in the past few years, but swimming with the turtles has not changed. The only difference is that there are plenty of men there trying to rip you off.

 

 

The Scam

The men stand directly in the entrance to the beach with large professional looking signs to make you think they are associated with the actual authorities, or turtle conservation, or any other legitimate company. They’re not. They will stop you and tell you to “look at the rules” and “read the rules” but just KEEP WALKING AND IGNORE THEM. These rules are not real. They say that you now need to be accompanied by a professional guide and rent a life jacket, but you don’t.

If you want to swim with the turtles in Playa del Carmen in 2018, just go to Akumal beach like normal and find a place to sit, preferably down away from the entrance and the scam “guides.” Here, you can spread out a blanket, grab your snorkel (pick them up at Walmart for $10 before you go) and jump into the water completely for free.

 

Does This Destroy Their Habitat?

If you want to swim with the turtles in Akumal Beach, there are some ways you can make extra sure you do not contribute to ruining their habitat. Only wear biodegradable sunscreen, and give them lots of space to be sure not to crowd them. Fins are not allowed as well, to make sure no one accidentally kicks them. All in all, just use some common sense. This is their home and you are a visitor, so treat them with respect!

 

When to Swim With the Turtles in Playa del Carmen 2018

Get there early! Daniel and I arrived at the beach at 8am, and it was practically empty. I spent about 30 minutes just chilling alone with a turtle while he ate breakfast, enjoying the total serenity of the morning. I also snorkeled alone around the reef, seeing colorful corals, giant schools of fish, and even a sting ray!

 

 

By 9:30, the masses were arriving. Giant tour groups in obnoxious orange life vests, following “tour guides” who had successfully convinced them to give them their money. By this point, any turtle had 10 or 15 people around it! Luckily, we were already ready to go.

 

How to Get to Akumal Beach from Playa del Carmen

Getting to Akumal Beach is super easy. There is a collectivo station on the corner of Calle 20 and Calle 2. Just tell the men you’re heading to Tulum and they’ll make sure you get on the right van. Akumal Beach is on the route, and the driver will tell you the stop if you ask him too. The cost is only $2 per person, and the collectivos are comfortable, if a bit crowded.

Once they drop you off on the highway, cross the bridge overtop it and walk down the street to the beach. It’s really as simple as that. To get back to Playa del Carmen, just repeat in the opposite direction. We stood at the bus stop on the side of the highway for about 2 minutes before a collectivo came by and picked us up. So easy!

 

 

What Else To Do Near Akumal Beach

So, like I said, the crowds come into the beach around 9:30 and we took that as our cue to leave. We continued our morning with breakfast at the Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery. The food was really good, and the servings were huge for only $5 each. It’s a bit off the beach (but still has a super open, outdoorsy, and laid back vibe) so it’s not overpriced like the bigger hotel cafes on the water.

Near Akumal Beach there are also cenotes you can walk or take a taxi to. After swimming with the turtles in Playa del Carmen, walk 30 minutes to cenote Yal-ku. Here you can snorkel more in the super clear fresh waters and see a lot of colorful fish. The entrance price is about $15 per person. Cenote Santa Cruz is also very close, but costs $55 per person for a tour.

 

Swimming With the Turtles in Playa del Carmen 2018

If you’re confused about all the different info on the internet (just like I was) you don’t have to be any longer. In 2018, you can still swim with the turtles in Playa del Carmen for free. Don’t fall for the scam, and tell others about it so they don’t either. Buy your own snorkel, ignore the men at the entrance of Akumal Beach, go super early, and enjoy your own magical and private moments with these lovely creatures. I hope you have as much fun as I did!

All my love,
Di

 

 

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Arequipa vs. Huaraz Which Should You Visit?

If you’re planning a trip to Peru, the first step is deciding which places to visit and how much time to spend in each. You’ll probably end up in Lima for a day or two when you’re flying in and out, and obviously spend time in Cusco when visiting Machu Picchu. But, what about the rest of your trip? If you’re debating between visiting Arequipa vs. Huaraz, I have everything you need to know to make a decision. I spent one month in each, so I’m ready for the showdown!

 

Hiking

If you’re big into nature and hiking, Huaraz is a no brainer. It’s the access point for Huascaran National Park, which contains one of National Geographic’s best treks in the world: Santa Cruz. Daniel and I solo hiked the Santa Cruz trek over 4 days and it was an awesome experience.

Huaraz also boasts Laguna 69, an absolutely stunning and surreal day hike from the city, mountain climbing like our one day climb of Nevado Mateo (which was one of my FAVORITE experiences from my entire 4.5 month trip through Peru), and other common trips to visit lakes and glaciers in the area.

 

 

Arequipa’s most popular attraction is Colca Canyon, a weekend trek through the second deepest canyon in the world. While in the city, Daniel and I also foolishly tackled the climb up Misti Volcano (and almost died, but thats another story) but it’s really not a hike I would recommend unless you’re an experienced mountain climber. I enjoyed the Colca Canyon hike, but thought it was less beautiful than pretty much everything we saw in Huaraz. For me, the answer is clear.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Hiking Winner: Huaraz

 

Nightlife

Huaraz is a small mountain town of 100,000 people, and Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru with a population of more than 700,000. I think you can probably guess who is going to win this round. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city built with all white buildings, and has much more restaurant and bar options than Huaraz. It has party hostels and plenty of places to drink the night away.

Huaraz, on the other hand had only one small area that was really built for backpackers to “go-out” in, and it’s about two blocks big. The nightlife is really lacking here, but they do have the Sierra Andina tap house and a new brewery opening up as well, so if you’re into craft beer and a relaxed vibe, this town may be for you. On the whole, though, it doesn’t compare to a weekend in Arequipa.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Nightlife Winner: Arequipa 

 

Accommodation and Daily Life

When Daniel and I travel, we usually stay in each city we visit for a month at a time. That means we become well acquainted with the less glamorous parts of the towns like  grocery stores and pharmacies. When it comes to accommodation and daily life for long term travel in Huaraz and Arequipa, which is better?

Like I said, Arequipa is a big city. That means it has malls, giant grocery stores, American chains and fast food restaurants, and cuisines of all varieties. Wifi is fast(ish) and there are coworking spaces to join.

In Huaraz, not so much. We stopped by a small corner store to buy some essentials, and asked where the bigger grocery stores were to visit the next day. After some confusion, we understood what the cashiers were saying… there aren’t any. Most people only shop at the large market in the center of town. We basically lived off premade foods like mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, granola bars, etc. because the options at the small store were so limited.

Also, even though we were staying in a nice Airbnb our wifi also had plenty of issues that I think were due to the limited access the town as a whole has to the internet. I have a Sprint International phone plan, and the whole month we were in Huaraz my data just… didn’t work. In the past year, it’s the ONLY place I’ve had that issue before. Since Huaraz is smaller, Airbnb options and hostel choices are more limited as well. The beauty of Huaraz is stunning, but living in the city for a month wasn’t easy.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Accommodation and Daily Life Winner: Arequipa 

 

Day Trips and Things to Do

In Arequipa, there were tour shops on every corner selling excursions. Downhill biking, climbing Misti Volcano or Chachani, trips to Lake Titicaca, rafting, rock climbing, and more were all on offer. They prices were pretty cheap too. However, a lot of the things to do were far away and took all weekend. Our weekend in Lake Titicaca required a 12 hour round trip, and our trip to Colca Canyon was still around 3 hours away. The downhill biking we did was a total disaster as well. The surrounding area just isn’t that beautiful, and the city doesn’t lend itself well to day trips and excursions to escape the pollution and crowded streets.

 

 

Huaraz also had an abundance of tour agencies on every corner. Here, the rock climbing and rafting are in the Cordillera Blanca, one of the country’s most beautiful mountain ranges. You can also ice climb a mountain on a half day excursion, and hike to so many nearby lakes and valleys. We even did a one dollar day trip to Wilcacocha Lake. In Huaraz, the day trips were closer and better (in my opinion) but as far as things to do, there wasn’t much inside the city. During the week we worked at coffee shops, ate dinner out, or enjoyed some drinks on our balcony. In Arequipa, theres a lot more to do in the city like visit the Monastery de Santa Catalina, the Cathedral and main square, markets, museums, scenic overlooks, and endless shopping and restaurant options.

So, this one is split. If you’re a city dweller, you will prefer Arequipa. If you’re a nature lover, Huaraz wins.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Day Trip Winner: Tied

 

Cost of Living

I spent four and a half months in Peru, split between four different cities (Cusco, Arequipa, Huaraz, and Lima). The cost of living was similar between all of them. The only major difference I found was that the cost of food in Huaraz was pretty high. Because the market was so small and options were limited, I’d compare it to buying your groceries every week at a Walgreens. We got less food for more money. In Arequipa, the grocery stores were bigger and cheaper.

For weekend costs, in Huaraz we could do day trips for as little as one dollar, and even a trip to Laguna 69 will only run you around $10 or $12. In Arequipa, you will spend more on longer outings or just eating and drinking in the city.

In both, you can find hostels for any price range in your backpacking budget. Because most people who travel in Peru don’t get apartments and cook regularly, the weekend trip costs in Arequipa slightly edge out Huaraz and make it a bit more expensive. But honestly, unless you’re running VERY low on cash, there isn’t much difference at all between the two.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Cost of Living Winner: Huaraz

 

Location

Huaraz is only an 8 hour bus ride from Lima. That makes it easy to visit when you fly into the country or before you leave. Peru is HUGE and the distances are often deceiving.

Arequipa requires a flight from Lima if you don’t have the patience for a 18 hour bus ride, and even requires a 10 hour bus ride from Cusco. Clearly, Arequipa farther and more difficult to get to. As someone who hates traveling (like the actual act of getting from one place to the other) because I can never sleep or read on the buses or cars, the relatively easy to access location of Huaraz is a big plus in my book.

Arequipa vs. Huaraz Location Winner: Huaraz

 

 

Arequipa vs. Huaraz: Which One Is Right For You?

I’m a bit surprised to learn that the two countries almost tied in my break down, because I personally have such a strong preference for Huaraz. But now that I look at it, it’s pretty clear that the city you choose just depends on your own travel preferences. If you like ease of living, city life, nightlife, and better food and restaurants, visit Arequipa. If you love hiking, getting outdoors, beautiful scenery, and small(er) town life, then choose Huaraz. Or better yet, just extend your trip to Peru and spend time in both!

If you have any questions about the two cities, comment below and I’ll get back to you. otherwise, enjoy your trip to this amazing country!

All my love,
Di

 

 

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How to Spend a Perfect Christmas in Berlin

Christmas in Berlin is magical. In fact, I had such a memorable and amazing time in the city during Christmas that I even recommend it as one of the Best Countries to Spend Christmas in.

For our trip, Daniel and I spent December 18th through the 26th in Berlin and seriously could not have planned it better. The city is chock full of festive, fun, historical and interesting things to do, and I compiled a list of them all just for you! I hope this helps you make plans to spend your own Christmas in Berlin, and enjoy this unique city just as I did!

 

Visit the Christmas Markets

Obviously this is the number one reason to spend Christmas in Berlin! These quaint and cozy Christmas markets are spread throughout Germany, and of course as the capital Berlin has some of the best. These markets are full of hot drinks, beer and gluhwine, meats, sausages, cheese, snacks, popcorn, nuts, candy, pretzels… pretty much anything you could need for a picturesque European Christmas experience is sold here. Some of my favorites are…

 

 

Gendarmenmrkt

This one is great because its set between two massive ornate churches. They sell lots of crafts like homemade ornaments and jewelry, and of course amazing foods. My favorite was this cheesy bread thing pictured above… delicious! ALSO if you come here don’t miss the Rausch Schokoladenhaus just down the street. The awesome chocolate store has massive chocolate carvings of Berlin’s monuments and sites, and is definitely worth popping into when you’re in the area.

 

Winter World at Potsdammer Platz 

This small Christmas market isn’t the best in Berlin, but is great to visit if you’re in the area. Daniel and I walked here for lunch when we visited Tiergarten, a HUGE park in the middle of the city. This also contains memorials and historical information about the city, as well as a zoo, trees, trails, and beautiful landscapes. It’s worth visiting if the weather is nice, and you should checkout the Winter World Christmas market while you’re there.

 

Alexanderplatz Christmas Market 

My favorite Christmas market in Berlin! Alexanderplatz is huge, and features an ice skating rink, ferris wheel, and tons of stalls and food. It’s also within walking distance of the Nikolai Historic Quarter and Berliner Dom Cathedral, so group them all together for an awesome day.

 

 

Go Christmas Shopping

My two favorite places to go Christmas shopping in Berlin when I was hunting down the perfect (ok, and touristy) gifts for my husband were the Nikolai Quarter and the Kreuzberg Neighborhood.

 

 

Nikolai Quarter

The Nikolai Quarter is a must visit during Christmas in Berlin. This little area in Mitte is the oldest part of Berlin, and looks just like it did when it was built hundreds of years ago. The houses are colorful and quaint, and the cobblestone streets are lined with art galleries, cafes, and shops selling tons of unique and cool gifts. Definitely a must see when you spend Christmas in Berlin.

 

Kreuzberg Neighborhood

The second place I enjoyed wandering the streets of and shopping the small businesses in was the Kreuzberg neighborhood. We stayed here too, and loved the relaxed vibe and easy access to bars and restaurants. The area near Oranienstrasse especially had some cool storefronts worth popping into and browsing around, as well as lots of locally owned restaurants to relax in afterwards.

 

 

Take a Day Trip

Berlin is a huge city and can be a bit overwhelming after awhile. Thats why I recommend taking a day trip while you’re in the city. During our eight day stay in Berlin for Christmas, we took two. The first was to Potsdam, and the second to Sachenhausen Concentration Camp.

 

 

Potsdam

This town is about an hour outside of Berlin on their subway/train system and was fairly easy to figure out the directions too. We got off at the Babelsberg stop (mostly cause we kinda had no idea what we were doing) and walked through a small town and a large park with a lake and castle in it before we actually even made it to Potsdam itself. I thought both were kind of cool and worth seeing, but it’s not the most efficient way. On the way back we boarded at Potsdam Park Sanssocci stop, so this is probably where you want to get off as well.

In Potsdam, we of course walked through, ate at, and thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas market. We also visited the giant Sanssoci park. This is one of the best features of the town. It has fountains, ornate buildings, and the Nues Palace (google it, it’s beautiful!). If you want a taste of the traditional European Christmas feel you don’t get in modern Berlin, this day trip to Potsdam will be right up your alley.

 

Sachenhausen Concentration Camp

This isn’t the best way to get in the Christmas spirit, but visiting a concentration camp is an essential part of understanding the history of Germany when you visit. Daniel and I went to Sachenhausen, the closest one to Berlin. This concentration camp was an extremely sobering experience. The camp was one of the first in Germany, and used as a “model camp” to build the rest. Thousands of people were killed there, so plan to spend time reading at the memorials and in the museums, because there is a lot to take in.

 

 

Check Out The Museums & History

The history in Berlin is different from most of Europe. It’s not old churches and cobbled roads. Most of the city was destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt, so it’s more modern. But the super recent history means the museums and memorials are fascinating. Some of the must sees are…

 

 

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is my favorite place in the city. If you spend Christmas in Berlin, definitely do not miss it. After the wall fell and unity was restored, artists from around the world were invited to Berlin to paint it. This long stretch along the river hosts murals, quotes, and beautiful pieces of art.

 

Black Box Cold War Museum & Panorama  

This museum has so much information about the lead up to the Cold War and its aftermath. My favorite part, though, was the neighboring “Panorama” next door. Buy a combo ticket and you can enter it as well. First, see some of the most interesting and striking photos from the fall of the Berlin Wall. Next, add your name and a message to the colorful array of thousands covering the walls. Finally, step into the panorama. Here an artist recreated the view of East Germany from the wall almost exactly. You’ll be surprised how long you stand mesmerized by the accurate and life size piece.

 

Checkpoint Charlie 

This iconic part of history is right near the Cold War Museum. The still standing checkpoint carries the ominous message “You Are Leaving The American Sector” in English, German, French and Russian. It marked the strict border between East and West Germany and is one of the most important pieces of history in the city.

 

Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial is a must visit in Berlin. Plan to spend some time here reflecting. One of the reasons we decided to spend Christmas in Berlin was to see and understand the city and country’s recent history, and the Holocaust memorial is a sad but important aspect of it. Visit it along with the Brandenburg Gate and Tiergarten park, because they are only one block apart.

 

Topography of Terror

This museum is located next to a still remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. It is a super in depth look at why and how Hitler was able to take charge of Germany, and the details behind the Axis regime and the Holocaust.

 

Brandenburg Gate 

The Brandenburg Gate is a memorial built in the 1700’s. It is giant and imposing, and a cool piece of German history involving Napoleon, the Nazis, and the Cold War. Now it stands as a symbol of peace.

 

 

Eat and Drink

Berlin is one of the best cities in Europe to eat and drink in. The nightlife is also totally on point so if you’re into a party scene this is the place for you. Some of our favorite restaurants from our Christmas in Berlin were the little cafes dotting the neighborhoods, the kabob shops for a cheap and filling meal, The Bird burger restaurant, Hafbrauhaus (of course, it’s a must visit), and the super strange trance club we spent a night in called Tresor. There is so much to eat, drink, and explore in Berlin!

 

 

 

Stock Up For A Cozy Christmas

One thing you need to keep in mind when you spend Christmas in Berlin is that this isn’t the same as the US. The country almost completely shuts down for the holiday. They take their Christmas Eve celebrations seriously, so stock up on food, drinks, and (in our case) alcohol before December 24th! We hit up the Markthalle Nuen in Kruezberg and bought some meats, cheeses, breads, pesto, fruit, pretzels, and beer for a delicious Christmas Eve dinner in our Airbnb. We also bought some amaaaazing little breakfast pies to warm up on Christmas day. It was cold and cozy and just perfect 🙂

 

 

Take in the View

When I visit a new city, one of my priorities is getting an awesome view. In Europe especially there are plenty of high points to soak in the cities and Berlin is no different. During your Christmas in Berlin, check out the view of this strange, sprawling city from these two places!

 

 

Berliner Dom

Visit the Berliner Dom along with the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market and Nikolai Quarter. The Berliner Dom is another name for the Berlin Cathedral. This massive church is worth exploring because it has beautiful paintings, architecture, and some historical tombs. My favorite part of the church was taking in the view from the roof!

 

TV Tower

The weird TV Tower in Berlin dominates the landscape. The circular top holds a restaurant and bar. We thought about visiting multiple times, but when we finally decided to there was a long line and the price was kind of high for us. Visit the website here to buy online and skip it, and check out the prices as well. I know this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Berlin, though, so consider checking it out just for what I am sure is a stunning view.

 

 

Christmas in Berlin…

… is magical! I had the best time celebrating Christmas here and really can’t recommend it enough. Take in these sites, check out my list of recommendations, explore the day trips, and eat, drink, and be merry for the holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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