Running through the Brandenburg Gate to the finish line of the world's fastest marathon is top of the bucket list for many runners, from marathon hopefuls to seasoned elites. Around 40,000 runners will take part in the Berlin Marathon in late September, with several thousand travelling from the UK. If you're among them, or if you're supporting someone who is, here's what you need to know about travelling to the highlight of the autumn running calendar.
The Adagio City Aparthotel Kurfürstendamm is in Charlottenburg just two miles (under 4km) from the race start – the perfect distance for a warmup jog to the race. It's also just a couple of minutes' walk from the race route on Kurfürstendamm, where there's a live music station at kilometre 34. So it's a perfect spot for non-runners to have a lie-in and still grab a prime spectating spot to do some much-needed cheering near the end of the race.
On the other side of Tiergarten park is the Adina Apartment Hotel Checkpoint Charlie, which is even closer to the start and finish, and just a few steps from the route at kilometre 40 at the corner of Leipziger Strasse and Jerusalemer Strasse. In the city centre near Checkpoint Charlie and other sights such as the Jewish Museum it's a good base if you're planning to do some sightseeing after the race.
Even closer still is the Adina Apartment Hotel near Berlin Hauptbahnhof – next to Berlin's central station, this one's ideal if you're at all nervous about travelling before the race. The direct bus from Berlin Tegel takes just 20 minutes to Hauptbahnhof, so it's perfect for a no-hassle, stress-free trip. Check flight times from London City Airport to Berlin to plan your trip.
At just 1 hour 45 minutes, the flight from London City Airport to Berlin Tegel is the quickest route to Berlin from London on average, so it's your best bet for a relaxed journey out. Book your flight from London City Airport.
The day before a marathon can be stressful, so getting your Saturday planned out can really help you relax and keep your mind off any big race nerves. Of course you'll want to get plenty of rest, but that doesn't mean you can't soak up the big-race atmosphere and enjoy some of the city sights.
The expo opens on Thursday afternoon and is in the STATION-Berlin events complex in the city centre next to Gleisdreieck U-Bahn station, so you can head there well before the eve of the race if you've travelled before. It's always a good idea to pick up your number as soon as you can, so you can relax and know that all you have to do is turn up prepared on the morning. You can get full information, including opening times and directions, on the expo website.
There are several official races that make up the Berlin marathon weekend starting on the Saturday, so you can enjoy the event from both sides. Rather uniquely, Saturday sees an inline skating marathon with about 8,000 rollerbladers skating around the marathon course.
If you want to loosen up your legs there's an official 6km 'breakfast run' the day before to get you in the marathon mood and shake out any stiffness. If you've travelled for a big race before, you'll know that friends for life are often made at events like this, and the breakfast run is a great way to meet fellow runners – 11,000 people took part in 2016, so it's handy if you're competing alone and want someone of a similar pace to run with on race day. The breakfast run sets off from Schloss Charlottenburg at 0930 on Saturday 23 September 2017, but it's a yearly fixture.
The course covers much of central Berlin and there are designated 'hotspots' for spectators to gather around the route, as well as live bands at several points – you can browse them on the official interactive map, but if you want to catch your runner a few times during the race you can watch the start, make your way to kilometre 7 with a short walk, then stroll to kilometre 38 to spur them on and make it back to the finish. You can also walk between the halfway point at kilometre 21 and kilometre 37 in just a few minutes.
After the race you'll naturally want to bask in glory (think positive!). The city is busy with runners and supporters on marathon weekend, so it's a good idea to have a rough plan for when you've finished.
You'll have earned a celebration and you'll have a few calories to replace; fortunately traditional German fare is perfect for both, and a beer-and-schnitzel blowout at the Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt beer hall is a good way to treat yourself. Both of Apostel's restaurants have a great reputation for wood-fired pizza, or for veggie options try Vöner, proud purveyor of Germany's first vegan doner kebab.
If you've got any energy left, the Berlin Marathon hosts an official after-party at Kosmos on the Sunday evening. Otherwise, you're spoilt for choice in Berlin and you're never far from a bar that will suit, whether you want an old-fashioned Bavarian-style beer hall, a swanky cocktail bar or the techno-heavy nightlife Berlin is famous for. Try Sisyphos for a uniquely Berlin clubbing experience or Green Door for quieter cocktails.
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