As much as helping you to find accessible holiday accommodation is our primary aim here at Accomable, we know that's just one part of the whole trip. We want to bring you more information about what's great, good, and not so easy about some of the destinations available on Accomable. This week Alex introduces us to the fabulous city of Berlin, welcome Alex. . .
Berlin is one of the most modern, fascinating and, most importantly, accessible cities in Europe (in my humble opinion). There are so many things to see and do in Berlin it’s impossible to list them all here, so I’ve listed some of my favourites to give you an overview.
Where I stayed
I stayed at the modern and stylish Abba hotel which is located just off the upmarket Kurfürstendamm Boulevard in West Berlin. My two carers and I stayed in a reasonably-sized accessible room with a wheel-in bathroom. On the Kurfürstendamm nearby there are lots of boutique shops, restaurants and bars. Plus the pavement is wide and flat so it’s easy to go for a wander.
Abba Hotel, Berlin
Berlin is an easy city for wheelchair users to get around in my opinion. Most of the pavements are wide and flat with plenty of dropped curbs, and most importantly very few cobblestones.
The main bus operator is BVG and all of their buses have hydraulic or manual ramps for wheelchairs. Buses 100 and 200 are a good way to easily see many of the main sites, and you can get off whenever you like. It goes past the Reichstag, the Brandenburg gate, TV tower, Museum Island and many more of the main sights in Berlin.
The city’s two train services, the S-bahn (overland train) and the U-bahn (underground train), have stations all over the place. I had no problem using either of them as there was level access between the platform and the train in all the stations I used, as well as lifts.
The Berlin train route map shows what stations have lifts or ramps, and this can be downloaded online or found at the stations themselves.
One disappointing thing was the apparent lack of wheelchair accessible taxis. I couldn’t find any information about them anywhere, and none of the locals seemed to have any knowledge of them. But this wasn’t a problem because the public transport was so good that taxis are not necessary.
The majority of Berlin’s most important attractions are located in the historic central district of Mitte so you can easily see many of them without travelling very far.
The Reichstag - this is the German parliament building and it is possible to have a tour around it. However, make sure you book at least a week in advance to avoid the queues, and bring some ID. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Being hopelessly disorganised, I turned up with no ID and without booking and I couldn’t get in. Like they say, the wise man learns from the mistakes of others, fools by their own.
Brandenburg gate - just 500 m from the Reichstag is the iconic Brandenburg gate. No visit to Berlin would be complete without visiting this historic monument. It is the symbol of Berlin and a great place to take selfies. Immediately in front of the gate is the large square of Pariser Platz surrounded by buildings which had to be completely rebuilt following World War II. The entire square is flat and accessible but it does tend to get busy with lots of tourists around.
Alex at Brandenburg Gate
Holocaust Memorial - 600 m from the Brandenburg gate lies the Holocaust Memorial, which covers an area of 4.7 acres and consists of 2,711 concrete slabs laid out in a grid pattern. The slabs vary in height from 0.2m to almost 5m, and the ground slopes downwards as you get towards the centre. It can be quite disorientating as you get further into it as the blocks rise above your head. The blocks are spaced wide enough so my chair could fit between them easily. The ground is slightly undulating and slopes but it is not difficult to get around it. It’s a thought-provoking and moving place to visit.
Topography of Terror - a 1 km walk from the Holocaust Memorial is the Topography of Terror, which is an exhibition centre built on the site of the former SS headquarters. There are a number of extremely informative exhibits here about how the Nazis came to power and what they did. If you want to learn about the Nazis this is definitely the place to come. I spent two or three hours going round just one exhibition as I found it so fascinating. The centre is in a spacious, modern and fully accessible building with a lift and accessible toilets.
Alex at Topography of Terror
Museum Island - Berlin has over 170 museums but its 5 most famous ones are all in the middle of the river Spree, on Museum Island. I only had time to visit three of them: The Pergamon, the Neues (new) and the Altes (old) Museums. All three are wheelchair accessible, however the Pergamon is undergoing renovation until 2019 and so 40% of it is off-limits. You can still see the best bits though so don’t let this put you off. Each Museum focuses on different areas of the world and time periods. The Pergamon exhibits ancient Greek, Roman and Islamic art, with its star attraction being the massive Ishtar gate from Babylon. The Neues houses the Egyptian collection with the must see piece being the 5000 year old bust of Nefertiti. Finally the Altes has lots of Greek and Roman artefacts and statues.
Alex at The Altes Museum
German Resistance Memorial - this was one of the most fascinating museums in Berlin in my opinion, for two reasons. Firstly it is primarily dedicated to the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler, as depicted in the movie Valkyrie. Secondly, the museum is housed in the actual building where the attempt was planned, and the plotters were executed. Even though this building was built in 1914, it is fully wheelchair accessible, with spacious rooms and a lift going to every floor. It is well worth a visit.
Berlin Wall Memorial - the Berlin Wall Memorial is situated in the centre of Berlin, easy to reach by the S-Bahn with a station literally right next to it. The memorial consists of 1.4 km of original Berlin wall, and the only place with a preserved section of the death strip behind it. The memorial had level ground throughout so I was able to get up close.
Berlin Wall Memorial
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp - located 20 miles North of Berlin in the town of Oranienburg. We had to take an intercity train to get there from Hauptbahnhof, Berlin’s huge main train station. Unfortunately the train door was 6 inches lower than the platform. As we didn’t have time to book a ramp beforehand, my carers lifted my chair onto the train. The train did not have any wheelchair spaces so we had to sit in the area next to the door for the 25 minute journey.
From Oranienburg station we walked 2 km through the town to get to the camp, which was a smooth ride for me. In the camp itself, which is in the shape of a 500m equilateral triangle, many of the original buildings are no longer there but some still remain which now house exhibitions. The whole camp has good accessibility and I was able to get into 90% of the buildings. The whole site is on flat ground and there are paved walkways, however some of these are fragmented and bumpy. I was unable to get into the prison building as the doorways are narrow. However most of the buildings are accessible such as the barracks, the former kitchen building, and the remains of the crematorium and gas chambers.
The camp is a very interesting and poignant place to visit. Plus the vast majority of it is accessible for wheelchairs so it is worth seeing. Although try to book a ramp early for a more accessible train from Berlin.
I highly recommend visiting Berlin. The accessibility of it’s public transport and attractions is very impressive. Plus there is no shortage of things to see and do. I can’t wait to go back!
Excellent, thanks for such a detailed breakdown of Berlin Alex!It sounds like you really made the most of your time there and explored so many interesting places. If you're planning a trip to Berlin, or have now been convinced to book one, we have some great accommodation options for you:
- One-bedroom modern accessible apartment in the Bavarian quarter of Berlin
- Crowne Plaza Berlin Potsdamer Platz, 4* hotel with 10 adapted en-suite rooms, centrally located close to many city centre attractions