Berlin has served as the Kingdom of Prussia’s base, the center of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, a symbolic and physically divided city post-WWII, and finally Germany’s reunified capital since 1990. Today it is a metropolis with rich legacy, brimming with vibrant culture, science, politics, and media industries. Famous for its festivals, architecture and contemporary arts, nightlife, transportation networks, and high standards of living, Berlin promises year-round attractions for all travelers.
Landmarks and Attractions in Berlin
You can’t miss the TV Tower, rearing out of the Alexanderplatz and offering spectacular views of Berlin’s cityscape. Grab a lift on a train or bus tour for a delightful whirlwind experience of all the best attractions downtown. Catch a concert at the Schloss at Charlottenburg, immerse yourself in a sobering but fascinating history at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the eerie Holocaust Memorial. Or chart the city’s history along the Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate, and the Gate of Peace. Stroll along the banks of the River Spree to Museums Island; its five museums include the Pergamon museum, fabulous and surreal with vivid blasts from the past. Art lovers will delight in world-class galleries at the Kulturforum, most affordable during Berlin’s Long Night of the Museums (12 Euros, and you’ll be museum-crawling all night).
Take a tram or train and make your way to the Oberbaumbrucke bridge; cross it to pay tribute to the infamous Berlin Wall, where you’ll see the East Side Gallery: graffiti paintings by 118 international artists, celebrating the Wall’s fall. The world’s largest open-air gallery, the longest one-piece stretch of the Wall—and a sight you won’t forget.
Family Fun and Nightlife in Berlin
Come spy on the German parliament hard at work, from the glass dome in Reichstag. In the summer, go swimming in the scenic Teufelsee in the lush Grunewald forest, or spring around the Olympic stadium, home to the 2006 Olympics and venue of famous concerts. Or visit the and meet the much-beloved polar bear Knut (and 14,000 other friends). You’ll also find the world’s largest indoor fish tank and exhibition at Berlin’s Marriott Hotel.
Enjoy artistic fusion of avante-garde theatre, dance and music performances, and operas at the HAU and Sophiensaele. Or hit the clubs Berlin-style in Mitte, celebrating old classic grooves and modern mainstream at venues like Clarchen’s Ballhaus or White Trash Fast Food. Jazz up with concerts at upscale bars like A-Trane, B-Flat, or catch the annual Jazzfest Berlin, Fringe Jazz Festival, and Total Music Meeting in November. Other annual festivals include the Carnival in February, DMY International Design Festival, Carnival of Cultures, Fete de la Musique, Festival of Lights, and Berlin International Beer Fest.
Off the Beaten Path in Berlin
Ahh, bizarre Berlin. Join the fun at the Badeschiff (bathing ship), an indoor swimming-pool-turned-alfresco-nightclub when the sun goes down. Or dine at the pitch-black Unsicht-Bar, where blind servers have you explore nuances of taste without visual distractions. Combine art and dining at the innovative Zagreus Projekt, or sample wine to your heart’s content at the Weinereis, paying with praise. Get caught up in Berlin’s latest passion, Russendisko, where readings and film screenings merge into live music.
Shopping and Restaurants in Berlin
The big shopping street Kurfurstendamm is the mecca for upmarket labels and famous department stores such as KaDeWa. Browse the popular shopping avenue is Friedrichstrausse, and head west to visit Berlin’s commercial centerpiece at the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, the venue for the world-acclaimed annual Berlin International Film Festival in February. For funky shops and great cafes, head to Hackescher Markt, or explore hip designed labels off the beaten track at Belinomat. For local cheap chic try the Trodelmarkt Boxhagener Platz, or vingtage clothing at Berliner Antik-&Flohmarkt and other bustling flea-markets.
Start the day off right at one of the countless charming cafes for coffee, cheeses, fruits, pesto, and German sausages. Berlin has a fantastic range of quality restaurants with national and international cuisine to suit your fancy. Choose accordingly; chic and up-market at Charlottenburg, trendy and youthful at Friedrichshain, traditional Kreuzberg, diverse Schoneberg, and more. Be sure to save room for afternoon Kaffee and Kuchen!—mouthwatering cakes and coffee available at most any café, especially pleasurable in lovely districts like Mitte—or the delicious curry-ketchup sausage snack Currywurst.
Photos provided by: Till Krech and Rene Ehrhardt