Discovering the historical city of Berlin is on almost every traveler its bucket list, right? Well, it was definitely on mine. But discovering the accessible side of Berlin is something more difficult. That’s why I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the accessibility of Berlin, right now!
In September my PCA, best friend and I decided to take a 4-day trip to Berlin. We discussed a bit about the best way to travel to Berlin, but we chose to go by my car. Why? Because plane travel is too stressful and train travel would be difficult with my medical equipment. So car travel it is!
“Many small people, who in many small places do many small things, can alter the face of the world.” – East Side Gallery, Berlin, 1990
Where to stay?
After some research on the internet, we found the B&B Hotel in Charlottenburg. They claimed to be wheelchair accessible and offered a family room for 4 persons, perfect. Many hotels claim to be accessible, but I don’t always trust their thoughts on accessibility. After checking in, we could see the rooms and judge their accessibility by ourselves. The accessible rooms are on the 7th(!) floor, the highest floor. Well, the view was beautiful, but it was not handy because of fire safety. Clean, spacious and comfortable are the best words to describe the room. Even the accessibility was good enough. Some things could’ve been better, but it’s a budget hotel for short stays.
What to do?
We had a hard time finding the accessible hotspots of Berlin, but the hotel staff could give us some useful tips. It was quite a shock to find out how many things are not accessible in such a big city. But we found our way and did amazing things in only 2 full days. We didn’t have concrete plans to visit things, but Checkpoint Charlie and the Berliner Mauer were a must.
On the first full day, Sunday, we visited the West side of Berlin. It was a rainy day, so we decided (last minute) to do a boat tour. We found out that the Hopp On, Hopp Off company offers accessible tours. We parked the car across the Hauptbahnhof and got on the boat. Approximately once an hour you can Hopp on an accessible boat. The accessibility was good enough to make a comfortable trip along several characteristic historic buildings.
After this tour, we just walked around until we’d find something interesting to do. And so we found the DDR (GDR) museum, one of Berlin’s most popular museums about the living conditions in time of the DDR. The museum is made up of 27 themes, all of which are about the DDR. They all show a different part of daily life and take you on a journey through work, education, and vacation, but also more serious matters such as party ideology, the army and the Stasi. You will learn everything in just one visit! Now let me tell you about the accessibility of the museum and around. The entrance is down at the canals, but don’t be afraid. There is a hidden entrance with an elevator, but you have to call the museum for help. My PCA entered for free because those serving the severely disabled enter free of charge. And my friend and I could enter for a reduced price. They have an accessible wheelchair toilet, so I can definitely tell you the museum is accessible and worth visiting.
One other interesting place we visited was the Berliner Dom, one of the most important cathedrals in Berlin. The cathedral is accessible. There is an intercom system that allows you to notify the duty porter. He will assist you in exploring Berlin Cathedral. If you are in the area, you should really visit the cathedral. Here are five interesting facts about the Berliner Dome;
- Architects estimate that the interior nowadays is worth around 180 million euros.
- The 270 steps lead you to one of the nicest viewpoints in the city at the top of the cathedral. (Note: there is no elevator to this viewpoint)
- The history of the Berliner Dom dates back to the year 1465.
- The dome is located about 115 meters above the street level.
The next day, Monday, we went to the East side of Berlin. We started with visiting the famous Checkpoint Charlie, a former border crossing station. Checkpoint Charlie was exactly at the border for crossing between the American and the Russian sector. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Checkpoint Charlie was abolished. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in Berlin. The museum next door that deals with Checkpoint Charlie is not accessible.
East Side Gallery
And of course, we visited the East Side Gallery, which is known as the Berliner Mauer or Berlin Wall. Everyone knows the Berlin Wall from films, history books or stories. The DDR built this wall around West Berlin so that the inhabitants could no longer flee from the east to the west or vice versa. At the East Side Gallery, you can walk around both sides of the wall. It was very impressive and I loved the graffiti paintings. Every painting has its own (sad) story behind it.
Here are some facts about the Wall, because I love facts and lists;
- The Berlin Wall stood on August 13 in 1961 and fell on November 9 in 1989.
- The French, British and American sectors were in West Berlin, the Russian sector was in East Berlin (DDR).
- The longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall is the East Side Gallery, with 1,316 meters remaining.
- The total length of the wall was 160 kilometers long.
Berlin has many viewpoints in and around the city, so of course we had to visit one of them. But finding an accessible viewpoint was not as easy as it should have been. With blood, sweat and tears (ok, maybe not really) we found out that the Panoramapunkt on the Potsdamer Platz is fully accessible. With the fastest elevator in Europe you can go to the top floor in only 20 seconds (101 meters). There is a café overlooking the west side of Berlin and outside you can enjoy the view around the south, east and north of Berlin. Make sure you go to the Potsdamer Platz, and not to the Fernsehturm on the Alexanderplatz.
Satisfied and well, we went back to the hotel. We packed our suitcases, because we were leaving on Tuesday again. After lunch, we started our trip back home, which lasted nearly 8 hours. I think I lost my heart somewhere in Berlin, because I can’t wait to go back. At first the accessibility was disappointing to me, but thinking back to the things we did, it was quite good.
General things to know
Besides where to stay and what to do, there are some general things you should know.