Tips for trips on and off the bike at Germany's premier event, Velothon Berlin.
by Carola Felchner
Velothon Berlin is one of the fastest urban cycling routes through the German capital you can sign up for. The courses (60 km, 120 km, or 180 km) will lead you along history-filled streets and gorgeous sights as you hunt for your personal best. But if you're looking for the full Berlin experience, you'll have to hop off your bike at the end of the race and get ready to explore.
The German capital is not only the city where the notorious wall that once split Germany into two countries stood (and where the country's government currently resides), but also a melting pot of all kinds of culture. You'll find theaters and museums in Berlin and come across historic evidence of the time Germany was divided almost everywhere you go.
Shopping enthusiasts and foodies will be spoiled with the countless shops and restaurants ready to be explored. To sum it up—staying a few days in the German capital before and after the Velothon race is a no-brainer, regardless of whether you'd like to spend them on or off the bike. Follow our tips below to maximize your time out of the saddle in one of the world's most interesting cities.
Getting there: Berlin is easily accessible from (almost) anywhere. If you plan on driving, keep in mind that free parking is limited. Save yourself the hassle and opt for a Fernbus when traveling within the country's borders. This is a network of buses covering long distances. If you are lucky you'll get a one-way ride for less than ten Euros. Another option that is faster, but a little more expensive is going by train. As not all trains in Germany will allow bikes on board, make sure you book one that does. Of course, you can also travel to Berlin by plane. There are several national and international airlines that fly daily into the city's airports.
Berlin by bike: Let it roll
It may not seem like it at first sight, but Berlin loves its cyclists. Yes, there is plenty of traffic, and you may have to ride quite a bit to get out of town, but there are also lots of well-kept cycling lanes guiding the way. There are also many bike-friendly hotels in Berlin that offer safe bike storage, a room for drying your cycling clothes and equipment, regional cycling maps and healthy breakfast options. A & O hotel group is one of them. They also offer advice on discovering by bike the respective Berlin "Kiez" (quarter) they are located in.
If you do not want to stay in your hotel for breakfast and other meals, you'll find some cycling cafés in Berlin that offer fresh coffee as well as helpful bike parts, bikes, and maintenance services. Keirin is more like a museum than a bike shop-turned-coffee shop with many classic steel frames decorating the space. Standert (Berlin slang for "standard") is quite posh, with clean bikes made of steel, raw stone walls, and mood lighting. They even have a group that regularly meets for rides.
Aside from these bike-friendly locations, there are plenty of unusual, yet healthy and cozy cafés and bars to check out after a few kilometers in the saddle. Wahrhaft Nahrhaft in Friedrichshain is a great example. They offer classics like bagels, muesli, salads, and soups, but sometimes they add a twist: Fancy a cinnamon goat cheese or sweet potato bagel, or a corn-mozzarella-carrot quiche? If you travel with your dog, they also have sausage balls and biscuits specially made for your four-legged companion.
Another gem is Frau Lüske in Lichterfelde-Süd where you'll find delicious egg dishes, quinoa porridge, and poached apricots. Or just park your bike near Karl-August-Platz and take a stroll over the weekly market taking place every Wednesday and Saturday. You'll find all kinds of products (art, leather, flowers) and produce (vegetables, fruit, wine) at the market. Afterward, pedal alongside river Spree or Havel. But if you don't feel comfortable exploring Berlin by bike on your own, book a guided tour instead. There are many theme-oriented offers like Streetart Berlin, Oasis Cycling Tour, Berlin at Night, and Berlin Wall Tour.
Still not enough options to feed your cycling hunger? The blog Mit Vergnügen collected 11 scenic and short tours in and outside Berlin. You can download them on the Komoot cycling app.
Berlin off the bike—boats, buses, and bikinis
If you want to restrict your time in the saddle to the Velothon race, Berlin has plenty for you to see and do.
If you're a first-timer to Berlin, central lodging is your best bet to save time and money while seeing the sights. Berlin is big enough without having to ride for hours to get to the city from the suburbs. Rather affordable options are Pfefferbett Hostel in Prenzlauer Berg. It is situated in a former brewery and part of the Pfefferberg industrial monument. Hackesche Höfe, an old town market quarter, Alexanderplatz and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) are in walking distance–and so is a tube station. Old Town Hostel (also Prenzlauer Berg) is quaint and inexpensive, plus, the staff is friendly.
If you prefer something more luxurious, four-star hotel Lindner Hotel am Ku’Damm is a nice place to stay. It is located near Bahnhof Zoo which is central to many amenities. Rooms are reasonably priced and you can use the gym on the opposite side of the street for free.
A Berlin classic is a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. There are tours covering different themes, duration and town quarters, so ask the staff what they offer and recommend. Especially on weekdays, you should have no trouble getting tickets on site, but if you want to book a tour in advance you can do so online at sites like Rent a Guide.
If you prefer water to tarmac, check out the boat tours in and around Berlin. You can book a boat from Berliner Dom to Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Friedrichstrasse (a former leisure mile with theaters and the like). You can also have ride alongside the Reichstag (government buildings) on river Spree.
If you're looking to get out of town for a breath of fresh air try Berlin 7-Seen (7 lakes) tour. It starts in Spandau, a rather green part of Berlin with lots of lakes and a nice old town. There, you'll climb on board of a historic steamboat that will carry you alongside Grunewald (Berlin's largest forested area, to the south-west of Charlottenburg and also worth a visit), and continue on lakes like Kleiner Wannsee, Stölpchensee, Griebnitzsee, and pass Babelsberg and Potsdam before heading back via Pfaueninsel (peacock island) and Kladow.
For adventurers looking for something special, we recommend taking a stroll in Spreepark, a rather overgrown theme park north of Berlin, or visit Teufelsberg. On this man-made rubble hill in Grunewald, you'll find an abandoned NSA spy station (Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg). You can walk through it and marvel at the sight itself (you won't believe how impressive a decrepit building can be) and the numerous graffiti works of local artists that are to be found on almost every wall—there are even graffiti contests held. Plus, you'll get a great view of Grunewald and Berlin's skyline.
Up for a day of shopping? You can do so at Bikini Berlin. This former industrial building in Charlottenburg is now host to various young designers that offer their clothing in small stalls. You will, however, find established fashion brands as well. Charlottenburg is also a great place to grab some grub. Savignyplatz is full of nice restaurants and bars so everyone should find something. Vietnamese restaurant Pho Nguyen 68 is a great place to get fresh and sensibly priced food.
For those who want to add some glamor to Berlin's cliché food, the Currywurst (sausage in curry sauce) pay Bier's Kudamm 195 a visit. It has been a Berlin institution for more than 50 years now and offers, among other menu items, the classic sausages accompanied by champagne.
And champagne will surely be the right drink choice to celebrate a great Velothon race. Cheers!