Being a lover of large, international, bustling cities that ooze history, the cultural arts, and untold numbers of captivating attractions, I vacillate between these two dynamic European capitals. And regardless of the city you may choose or the duration of your visit, I encourage travelers to make a strong effort to connect with the people and immerse themselves in the ways of the local residents. This requires a little research, planning, and preparation.
For starters, it is important learn something about and become familiar with the public transit system. Berlin and Paris have excellent subway systems (the U-Bahn and the Metro, respectively) and getting around either city is easy, inexpensive, and safe.
And then, of course, you must make a decision on where you will stay. It is essential that you take a little time to find accommodations in a location/neighborhood that matches your interests and budget. Location, however, may not be as important as neighborhood given the high quality public transportation systems in Berlin and Paris. But checking out all of your lodging options is absolutely important.
While most travelers immediately think of hotels when looking for lodging in Berlin or Paris, there are other alternatives: think apartment rentals, or a Bed and Breakfast. If, for example, you’re looking for rooms in Berlin, an apartment rental may just fit the bill. With an apartment rental, you will have the convenience of cooking and laundry facilities, and you will be, in most cases, living with the locals. An apartment rental can be a real money saver as well, allowing you to take one or two meals a day at “home”. Once you have settled on accommodations, turn your attention to getaway activities.
Plan your stay around events and activities that local residents attend and participate in rather than focusing on visits to the usual landmarks and monuments where you will compete for space with hordes of tourists. For example: when visiting Paris, join Parisians and stroll the Champs Elysees on a late Sunday afternoon. It seems that this is the day and time that throngs of young lovers, oldsters, and families alike, head for the greatest avenue in the world. Or consider being extravagant with your time and read a book while relaxing in the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.
Consider arranging attendance at a sporting event, a concert, or a movie. If you have a penchant for physical exercise, think about renting a bike or roller skates in order to get an all together different perspective of Paris. As for the tourist oriented landmarks and monuments, you will see those (in some cases from a distance) on your own terms as you make your way through the city
If visiting Berlin, think about attending a comedy club, the theater, the opera, or visiting any of a multitude of museums. Or perhaps a visit to the Zoologischer Garten Berlin (zoo) is right up your alley. It is one of the oldest and largest zoos in the world.
Finally, when visiting Paris or Berlin, you won’t want to miss some of the best nightlife on the planet. Europe’s night clubs generally do not open their doors until 11pm and really do not get hopping until after 1am. The night club scene in Paris tends to be a bit low key and is quite different from the club scene in in most European cities. Most Paris clubs have fairly rigid dress codes and you may be turned away at the door if not properly attired. Think trendy fashion, sedate and sophisticated, especially compared to Berlin night clubs.
In fact, Berlin has the distinct reputation for providing the most hip, unpretentious, nightlife venues anywhere in the world. Everybody gets down and there is no dress code. Anything goes. So, you can expect to see a great mix between sophisticated club wear and some of the most outlandish outfits imaginable.
Oh, did I mention cuisine? Yes we all have to eat and when on a holiday we want the best food and memorable dining experiences. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you in Paris. On second thought, I sure could go for a Currywurst.
Written by Bill Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com