Short Break:

For Julia's travel feature: a Berlin Wall checkpoint for the tourists in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (nb: this isn't Checkpoint Charlie)
For Julia's travel feature: a Berlin Wall checkpoint for the tourists in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (nb: this isn't Checkpoint Charlie)

Joining the locals for city living Berlin style

THEY say that no-one who lives in Berlin was actually born in the city, so, if you choose to stay in an apartment there, you should fit right in.

A group of us were staying in the lovely Tiergarten area in the sort of loft apartment you couldn’t usually afford to stay in (£215 a night for eight people) as prices are relatively cheap in Berlin. We were guests of the website HouseTrip.com, which specialises in short city breaks.

The site advertises 528 privately-owned properties in Berlin alone.

I’ve done self-catering on city breaks before and like the chance to relax a bit more, eat when you like and try out some of the local produce and food shopping.

It’s also popular with young families as parents have somewhere to relax when the children are in bed.

Our place was a few minutes’ walk from the U-Bahn underground system and, once you got your head round the layout of the system, it’s a cheap way to travel into the city centre.

If you haven’t been to Berlin before, I’d recommend a four-hour walking tour with The Original Insider Tours (www.insidertour.com). The guides really know their stuff and are very engaging as they talk you through the city’s culture and amazing history.

It costs 12 euros or 10 if you’re under 26 or a pensioner.

They also do tours on any number of specialist topics.

The tour will take in parts of the Mauer Weg, a trail that traces the route of the wall that divided the city during the Cold War. Only one part still exists but there are sections dotted around, many made into art.

It’s chilling to think that Berliners woke up one day in 1961 to find that they had been divided from each other and that if you tried to cross over you were risking your life.

A display in the area around Checkpoint Charlie (a reconstruction for the tourists) recounts its history.

These days there are any number of phone apps to help you find your way around as well. The one I downloaded from TripAdvisor is pretty good, with walking tours and details of attractions and places to eat and drink, including reviews from users.

If you want to get off the main tourist trail, one interesting city suburb to explore is Prenzlauer Berg, which has a Bohemian, relaxed feel with lots of good places to have a coffee or a beer and browse the shops.

To see some of the city’s older history, head out to the pretty area of Potsdam, which was the playgound of the Prussian kings and emperors.

If you fancy a glimpse into another Berliner’s life, try out a supper club held in a city flat but book ahead.

We booked with the Shy Chef (http://theshychef.wordpress.com/) for a great five-course meal with drinks included in the trendy Kreuzberg area. It costs 63 euros a head.

Julia Armstrong