Last December, my boyfriend and I snagged a great deal to fly direct from JFK to Cartegeña. In January, I got dumped. Yup.
Sh*t happens, and as a result, I needed a new plan. The idea of hopping the flight to Colombia solo crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to go ahead with a trip that was initially intended to be an “us” sort of thing. I needed a new plan; one that would be mine from the start.
So on Valentine’s Day, after a decent first date and one too many cocktails, I sat in front of my computer and cashed in my Colombia flight for a new ticket and a different route. I was going to Berlin. And I was going solo.
Now, just so you understand what this trip meant for me, you should know that I had never traveled fully solo for more than a weekend or so. And since I’m partial to outdoor adventure, when I do plan a solo trip, I usually go with a guide company or an outfitter.
I’m a pretty independent lady, but let’s be real, I’m completely comfortable letting somebody who actually knows what they’re doing deal with an approaching polar bear, an inside-the-mouth jellyfish sting, or whatever else may come my way (true stories, for another time).
Anyway, the trip was amazing. I learned a ton about myself, discovered an incredibly fun, safe, beautiful, and weird city, and realized that there was no reason to wait around for a boyfriend, a husband, a friend, or whatever! I could go wherever I wanted, and I could totally do it solo. So, without further ado, here are my tips for rocking Berlin solo:
- Get a bed (or a room) at a social hostel.
In Berlin, finding a clean, safe, and fun hostel is easy. In fact, you’ve got lots of affordable options in just about every neighborhood. I stayed at the East Seven Hostel in Prenzlauerberg (the Park Slope of Berlin, for all of you Brooklynites out there). I decided to “splurge” on a private room with a shared bathroom. They sold beers at the front desk, had a great common area, and best of all, an awesome backyard with a grill. Even if you’re on the shy side, when you stay at East Seven, conversation with other travelers comes easily when you opt in to one of their free weekly “family dinners,” or join the nightly bar crawl that leaves from the front lobby.
- Join a free tour. They’re everywhere!
About five seconds after I rolled into my hostel, one of the folks at the front desk let me know that there was a free tour heading out in just a few. As a newbie to Berlin, I decided to take advantage of the wallet friendly opportunity to get to know the city and its history. Six hours later, I had seen just about every landmark on my list, heard all about the incredible (and at times, horrifying) history of the city, and met a fellow solo lady who would be my partner in crime for the next few days. The cool kids may not think much of the walking tours, but screw the cool kids. The tour was awesome.
- Get Lost.
Having arrived to Berlin a few days before me, my new buddy from the walking tour gave me her best advice before she took off for Amsterdam: “Just get lost.” Berlin is full of elaborate hidden courtyards, tasty street food, fascinating people, and breathtaking public art. I spent the morning meandering in and out of tucked away courtyards, or Scheunenviertel, in Prenzlaurberg. Next I wandered over to the waterfront of the River Spree with no real destination in mind, and punctuated the rest of the afternoon with the occasional brezel—pretzel—and more than occasional beer. Finally, I hopped on the U-bahn and made my way over to Friedrichshain and enjoyed a few beers and some sun in the park before calling it a day. Don’t forget to take advantage of the fact that you can sip a frosty German beer anywhere your little heart desires (no open container laws). Living the dream!
- Buy a lighter.
I know. This one sounds a little weird, but hear me out. I’m not telling you to go out and pick up a smoking habit. Not at all. Just make sure to have a lighter on you. It’s kind of a rule of mine when I roll solo (if I feel like being social). I can’t tell you how many times I was asked for a light in that city. Had I been asked for a cigarette, it would have been another story—I don’t smoke. But when somebody wanders over to your table at the biergarten and asks you for a light, it’s nice to have one to offer and it’s not the worst way to break the ice and start a friendly conversation. You never know, so why not?
Have you ever been to Berlin? What are some of your tips for the city?