There is a popular German saying that “Berlin is always worth a visit” and the Berliner Luft (the air of Berlin) is now so famous that it is even sold in cans. Berlin is not only the capital of Germany, but also its largest city and the hometown of about 4 million people. Renowned for its historical sights and unique nightlife, Berlin also has many cafés and bars as well as several festivals and events throughout the year.A brief look at History
has a long and diverse history. Founded in the 13th century, it is comparatively young in relation to other European cities. In 1871 Berlin became the capital of Prussia and remained so throughout the periods of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. During World War II Berlin suffered immense damage, hence it no longer has any real old town and is architecturally dominated by new buildings.
After World War II and the subsequent division of Germany, Berlin was also divided. Eastern Berlin became a part of the Russian sector and was considered to be the capital of Eastern Germany whilst Western Berlin was an enclave in Eastern Germany. The capital of Western Germany was Bonn. After the reunification of Germany, Berlin was reinstated as the capital and in 1999 the government also moved to Berlin.
The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 and after being demolished in 1989, the wall was removed quite fast and only very few parts of it still remain. The longest section still standing can be found at the East Side Gallery near the Oberbaumbrücke .Getting to Berlin
There is a saying that “all roads lead to Rome”. Likewise, there are numerous
ways of getting to Berlin and you can travel to the German capital by bus, train or plane. The brand new railway station is located near the Regierungsviertel. Travel from the railway station is possible via the S-Bahn as well as several busses.
One of the busses that passes the railway station is the TXL which goes to the Tegel airport. Tegel is still Berlin’s main airport and serves several cities within Germany and throughout Europe. There is also a connection to the USA. Berlin also has two other airports, viz. the rather small airport at Tempelhof and the Schönefeld airport. Schönefeld is located in Brandenburg and an S-Bahn as well as a local train connects it to the city center. Construction of the big new airport BBI has also commenced in Schönefeld and, when it is opened in several years, the other two Berlin airports will be shut down.
If you come to Berlin by bus you will most likely arrive at the Central Omnibusstation, ZOB in short, which is located nearby the ICC and the Funkturm.Getting Around
Berlin has a good transport network which is operated by the BVG and the S-Bahn Berlin GmbH. There are busses, underground trains and S-Bahn trains. You can also go by tram (especially in Eastern Berlin) and, last but not least, the BVG even operates a few ferry lines.
Tickets for public transport can be purchased at vending machines in underground and S-Bahn stations, in trams and directly from the driver in busses. Furthermore, tickets can also be found in some little stores which are marked with the label BVG. There are three different fare zones and tourists will mainly need the tariff zones A and B only, unless they want to go to the distant outskirts of Berlin, an area which is locally referred to as "jwd" (short for "janz weit draussen", meaning "very far outside"). The BVG also provides a Berlin Welcome Card, with which you can use public transport and also get discounts at many attractions. These cards are available at the Tourist Information center.What to see and do?Must-See
Berlin has a lot to offer and it is hardly possible to visit all the major attractions in just one visit. In this sense the saying that “Berlin is always worth a visit” is particularly true and those who are addicted to art and culture will love Berlin with its many galleries and museums.
The city centre’s of Berlin, being the so called City East
and the City West
, are especially interesting.
area around the Kurfuerstendamm in Charlottenburg is called City West
. The Kurfuerstendamm, which is called KuŽDamm by the locals, is a popular shopping street with many stores which cover all price ranges. Next to the Kurfuerstendamm, on the Breidtscheidplatz, is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church consists of a small new church and the old, big church which was severely damaged during World War II and is no longer in use. Nevertheless, it is still standing there as a memorial.
You will find not only many shops on the Kurfuerstendamm, but also the Theater am Kurfuerstendamm.
At the Breidtscheidplatz, where you can also find the Europacenter shopping mall, the Kurfuerstendamm becomes the Tauentzienstraße. Here you can visit the biggest European department store, the Kaufhaus des Westens or, in short, KaDeWe. The Beate Uhse erotic museum is also centrally located in the City West
If you decide to visit Charlottenburg Castle, which is also located in the western part of Berlin, do not miss exploring the Egyptian Museum.City East
refers to the area around the city centre of the former Eastern Berlin that is around the Television Tower at the Alexanderplatz. The Television Tower is 365 meters high and from its observation deck, which is combined with a café, you can enjoy fantastic views over the whole town. At the Alexanderplatz you can also “shop till you drop” at a big, newly renovated branch of the department store Kaufhof. Around the Alexanderplatzt many different sights await visitors. The Worldtime clock has always been a popular meeting place for blind dates and it is interesting to go there and just watch people. Of course you can also find out the time all around the world at that clock. The Berlin city hall, the so called Rote Rathaus, is also within walking distance from the Television Tower.
Another nearby attraction is the Hackescher Markt with the Hackesische Höfe, where you can find many popular cafés, bars and a number of unusual shops.
you jump onto a bus line 100 (which is also called the sightseeing line) at Alexanderplatz, you can enjoy the benefits of an unusual bus trip with the usual cheap ticket. To see many of the sights of Berlin, jump on the bus at the Zoologischer Garten and stay aboard until you reach Alexanderplatz. You will pass the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, drive through the Tiergarten and also see Castle Bellevue as well as the House of World Cultures. The Siegessäule is also in the Tiergarten and, after passing the Reichstag, the bus will head off to the Brandenburger Tor. The Tor is closed for cars and busses, so the bus has to drive through the next street, where the Holocaust memorial is located. Within walking distance from the memorial is the Potsdamer Platz, where only an old traffic light remains as a reminder of former times. Recently the Potsdamer Platz was Europe’s biggest building lot and now there are many new buildings such as the Sony Center (with its roof which changes colour at night) and the Potsdamer Platz Arcaden, which is a huge shopping mall. You will also find the Berliner Philharmonie,where you can see splendid classical concerts, at Potsdamer Platz.
If you remain on bus 100 and do not exit at the memorial, you will soon be in the former Eastern Part of the town again. The bus will bring you to the street Unter den Linden, past the Staatsoper, the Neue Wache and the Berliner Dom. Minutes later you will reach Alexanderplatz.
Are you looking for traces of Berlin’s history as a divided city? Not much remains of the original wall and only at the East Side Gallery would you find a more or less authentic piece of the wall. At the Checkpoint Charlie you can not only see authentic signs stating that you are leaving the American sector, but also experience the Wallmuseum. There are many souvenir vendors selling items which remind one of the times of the wall, ranging from pieces of the wall, to hats and emblems from the Soviet army. If you are interested in a sad part of GDR’s history, visit the Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, the erstwhile prison of the „Stasi“, the secret police in the GDR. Former inmates take visitors with them on a tour through the prison which was located right in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen. Expect to hear interesting but also very shocking stories.
If you are more interested in art and culture, you will be enthralled by the numerous museums. Centrally located in Mitte is the Museumsinsel, which is even an UNESCO world heritage site. Here you can visit the newly reopened Bode-Museum, the Pergamon-Museum, the Alte Museum and the Neue Museum as well as the Alte Nationalgalerie. Another museum which is definitely worth a visit is the German Museum of Technology Berlin. Located near the underground station Gleisdreieck, it can be easily recognized from afar by the airplane which is hanging on the front of the museum. The Jewish Museum is not just another piece of very unusual architecture, but also full of surprising exhibits and definitely worth a visit. If you are interested in discovering Berlin’s sub-culture, take a tour with the Berliner Unterwelten and explore facets of Berlin which hardly any visitor and only a small number of Berliners know. There are plenty more museums in Berlin and you can find details about themhere. A special event that takes place twice a year and would interest museum lovers is the Long night of the museums. During that period all museums are open until 1am in the night and special shuttle busses convey visitors from one museum to the next. The bus shuttle and the entrance fees are all included in the fee for the long night of the museums, enabling one to inexpensively visit many museums in a short time.Recreation
not only offers a variety of sights, but also has many interesting ways to spend your free time. During the summer several lakes await you with nice sandy (but usually crowded) beaches. The Strandbad Wannsee is especially popular. If you are looking for something special try out the Badeschiff, this is an old towboat which now just lies in the river Spree and was rebuilt into a swimming pool. There is also a bar and often parties take place here. Aboard the ship, you can swim in the river Spree without actually swimming in the river itself. If you prefer swimming in a real lake, take a swim in the Müggelsee or in the also very popular Wannsee
Berlin also has many parks which are popular meeting places in the summer. At the Dahlem Botanical Garden you can discover the floral world in just one day and enjoy the extensive lawns as well as 13 arboretums. The garden was founded in the 17th century by the Kurfuerst and was more centrally located at the time. Since the original garden was too small, the garden moved to Dahlem
approximately 100 years ago. Another recommendation is the Marzahn Recreational Park. The Park was founded in 1987 to commemorate the 750th birthday of Berlin. In recent years various little gardens were established in the Park, such as the Chinese Garden, the Balinese Garden and the Oriental Garden. Due to the division of Berlin the city now also has two zoos. The zoological garden Berlin is centrally located near the Kurfuerstendamm, The aquarium, which can also be seen separately, is especially worthy of a visit. Another really special aquarium is the Sealife Center with the aqua dome. In the Sealife Center you can see fish, anemones and lobster in an environment which imitates their natural habitats. You will therefore see mainly fish that live in European waters, but there are exceptions. The Aqua dome belongs to the Sealife Center and is a big elevator which travels through a big aquarium. The elevator is situated in the lobby of the Radisson SAS adjacent to the Sealife Center.
Do you want to see Berlin from the water? You can. Berlin has more bridges than Venice and you can see many of them during a boat trip on the river Spree. A special Bridge Tour is offered by the Rederei Riedel. Boats depart from the little shipyard near the S-Bahn station Jannowitzbrücke. During that particular trip you will not only see many bridges, but also gain a different perspective on many aspects of Berlin. Or, if you prefer a birds-eye view of Berlin, there are plenty of possibilities to do that. In Treptow
you can fly with a water plane over the city. Sightseeing flights are also offered by the Air Service Berlin, departing from the Tempelhof airport with the Rosinenbomber, a nostalgic plane which got its name in the postwar period when American soldiers helped Berlin with the air bridge. The Rosinenbomber (“raisin bomber” in English) was used to deliver food to the people in West Berlin. If you are in the mood for a balloon flight, go to Potsdamer Platz and take a trip with the Hi-Flyer.
In need of relief, relaxing and something unusual? Try out the Sultan Hamam Berlin, an original oriental bath.Festivals and Events
you are in Berlin you can be almost sure that something is going on in the city. Each year starts with a huge party at the Brandenburger Tor on New Years Eve, with many people joining in the New Years Eve festivities. Are you curious about all the different cultures and nationalities that live in Berlin? At the Carnival of the Cultures you will meet Berliners who originate from many diverse countries. It is a huge street festival that lasts for three days, one day offering a big street parade, whilst on the other days you can join in the fun with a market and several concerts.
The Sandstation Festival takes place annually near the new railway station each summer. Artists from all over the world form beautiful sculptures out of sand and these sculptures even survive rainy weather surprisingly long. A list of all recurrent festivals in Berlin can be found here.Food and Drink
is a city with immense cultural diversity, which one can also sense when exploring the local restaurants. There are plenty of places to eat and drink, providing something for everyone. If you want to try some typical Berlin food, visit the Altes Zollhaus.
Of course Berlin has a Hard Rock Café where you can eat, drink and buy the famous merchandise. If you want to eat some delicious Thai food, head to the Thai Inn near Alexanderplatz or to the Good Time, which offers Thai and Indonesian cuisine. Both restaurants offer delicious food in a wonderful atmosphere.
A really special fast food shop can be found at the three branches of the Soupkultur. As the name says, various soups which are cooked daily by the owner herself, are on offer.
Do you want to enjoy your food without seeing it? Visit the Dark restaurantNocti Vagus. Here you are served by blind staff in complete darkness. Have fun while finding out what you are trying to eat. It is not easy when you cannot see your cutlery or even the glass of wine.
Trivago already has more than one hundred restaurants, which you can find here, in its database.Shopping
has a lot to offer and much of it is provided at the numerous shopping malls and shopping streets. There are several shopping malls all over the city. The Potsdamer Platz Arkaden is centrally located and includes department stores such as H&M, Esprit or Saturn. There are also a few places to eat. The Galeries Lafayette is a huge French department store located in Friedrichstraße. The KaDeWe, situated right in the heart of the City West and just a stone's throw away from the shopping street Kurfuerstendamm, is one of the oldest and biggest department stores in Berlin. It is said that you really find anything there. The food market of the KaDeWe is especially famous for its excellent offerings.
If you want something special from Berlin, go shopping in the Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg or in the small stores around Hackescher Markt. You can be sure to find something unique.
Stores in Berlin are usually open until 8pm, but recently the closing times were changed and so you can “shop till you drop” in shopping malls until 10pm or even 12pm.Around Berlin
If you want to leave all the hustle and bustle of the city behind you and see something of the Berlin hinterland, there are many places to visit. Close to Berlin is Brandenburg’s capital Potsdam. You don't even have to take a train, as the usual S-Bahn travels to Potsdam for a low fare.
A bit further from Berlin but nevertheless worth a visit is the Tropical Islands. In a huge hall, actually built to be the home of the Cargo lifter, you will find a huge tropical garden with a beach and plenty of warm water to swim in. You can even stay overnight as there are plenty of tents for rent and a show is staged every evening to entertain the visitors.Webtipps
The Official website of Berlin not only shows all the sights but also provides information about festivals, detailed info about all museums and public transportation.
On Wikitravel Berlin you can catch up on much information about Germany’s capital. If you are interested in history, statistics and background information, the article about Berlin at Wikipedia would probably be of much interest to you.
All those who claim they have already seen everything in Berlin should take a look at the website about Berlin’s Hidden places.Places to stay
after a long day full of sightseeing? No need to worry, there are more then 500 places to stay and sleep in the city.
If you do not want to spend much money but nevertheless stay in a centrally located place you should visit one of Berlin’s Hostels. Located close to the Kurfuerstendamm and the zoo is the A&O Hostel. Another big hostel is the Generator Hostel which is situated in Berlin-Lichtenberg next to an S-Bahn station.
Berlin also has many unusual hotels to offer. If you are looking for something special, choose one of the designer hotels such as the Honigmond Garden which has (behind its rather dull looking façade) a fantastic garden and unusual rooms, each one differently designed than the others.
At the Centrovital Berlin Therme Sports you can enjoy the silence next to the Spandauer sea and also treat yourself to a wide range of wellness facilities.
Do you desire some real luxury? Then the Adlon is the place for you. This famous hotel was rebuilt in the nineties and offers luxury at its best adjacent to the Brandenburger Tor. The Ritz Carlton is also considered one of Berlin’s most glamorous and prestigious hotels.
Berlin also has a wide range of 3 stars hotels to offer, and they can be found here.