Berlin Travel Guide
Germany today is one of the most prosperous and influential countries in the world, and its capital, Berlin, is rich with history, culture, and art, making it an ideal European travel destination. Most people are familiar with the city’s fragile twentieth-century history. During World War 2, Berlin was the headquarter of the infamous Nazi regime, and site of the final major offensive by the Soviets, known as the “Battle of Berlin”, which effectively ended the war in Europe. During the Cold War, Communist East and Capitalist West Berlin were split up by the Berlin Wall – the ultimate symbol of the “Iron Curtain” that had fallen between Eastern and Western Europe, and by extension, the whole globe.
Nowadays, thanks to its economic success and quirky ambiance, the city has transformed into a liberal haven, attracting all sorts of people – from bohemian creative artists and free-thinkers to entrepreneurs and immigrants – to live among native Berliners, all aching to call this beautifully diverse city their home. Visitors will be astonished by its vibrant nightlife, rich history, excellent public transport network, and trendy dining options.
Don’t know where to start? This Berlin travel guide will walk you through some of the Off-The-Beaten-Path options when exploring Berlin:
– Brandenburg Gate: One of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks, this historical place has immense significance. Once a symbol of national division during the Cold War, it now stands as a reminder of peace and unity.
– Reichstag: This opulent, grand building was constructed as a parliamentary site. The rooftop glass dome offers an opportunity for a magnificent view of the government district in Berlin.
– Potsdamer Platz: This important intersection in the center of Berlin is a symbol of the impressive modernization of the city. The square features ample opportunities for shopping, nightlife, and dining.
-Alenxandre Platz: Considered as the center of the city. This is an extensive open square and transport hub in the focal Mitte area of Berlin. Berliners regularly call it Alex. You’ll basically find everything here, from big fashion brands to Turkish street food.
-Checkpoint Charlie: The famous Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. The post you see today however is nothing more than a replica, and most people don’t know this point was just one of three checkpoints. The others named Checkpoint Alpha and Bravo, are not nearly as famous.
But enough mainstream touristic stuff’ let’s delve into some more original highlights of Berlin:
Remnants of the city’s rich past are immediately apparent to visitors, and history buffs will thrive in the atmosphere that Berlin provides.
– Berlin Wall: Of course, the city’s most defining monument is a must-see. Many sections of the Wall that once separated East and West Berlin still remain, particularly at the East Side Gallery. More than 100 worldwide artists decorated this stretch of wall with their art. If you’re looking for a taste of the city’s rich history, this is the best place to start. For the more active travelers, there is also a Berlin Wall Cycling Route.
– Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus: The former Nazi Ministry of Aviation and the Headquarter of the Luftwaffe. Incredibly, it survived the allied bombings of Berlin relatively untouched, and following Germany’s defeat in WW2, it served initially as the headquarter for the Soviet forces, then it was turned into the GDR Council of Ministers. At the time of its construction in the mid 30’s, this grandiose structure was the largest office building in Europe.
– Märkisches Museum: This museum lies in Köllnisher Park, located at the historical center of the city. Built from 1899 to 1908, its beautiful Gothic and Renaissance architecture will astound you. The museum houses 42 rooms, 4 million artifacts, and treasures dating back to the Stone Age. Exhibits cover everything from the Brandenburg Gate to the theatrical and literary history of the city.
– Charlottenburg Palace: One of the few sites that reflect the old grandeur of the ruling Hohenzollerns (1415 to 1918). This opulent baroque structure is full of festival halls, richly decorated apartments, and collections of fine porcelain and paintings. On a warm day, take a stroll through the royal park grounds after enjoying the palace treasures.
– Kulturforum: Ranking among the globe’s finest and most comprehensive collections of European art. Over 1500 paintings in 72 galleries span 5 centuries of European history.
Berlin at Night
– Friedrichshain Nightlife: Berlin is a notorious party-city, so if you’re looking to take advantage of the vibrant nightlife, the Berghain and Panorama Bars are perfect. World-class spin-masters play different genres including minimal techno and house. Strict door policy, so be warned. Dance the night away while appreciating the city’s unique music scene.
The warm summer months, lasting from May until around September, are when the city is buzzing with life, and the perfect time to hit those open air parties and street festivals abound. While the Holiday season, mainly around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, carries its own delights, so enjoy the seasonal markets, fireworks, and hot wine sold by street vendors.
A Taste of Berlin
From wacky street food to specialty gourmet dishes, Berlin offers a wide array of delectable cuisine. The city is a foodie’s delight! A cultural haven, boasting award-winning chefs, fantastic gourmet restaurants, regional cuisine and countless global cooking styles.
Want to get off the beaten path and avoid the tourist traps? Searching for some of the unique, quirky culture that the city provides? Here are some things to check out:
-Liquidrom: This futuristic German spa allows clientele to relax, floating in a pool of salt water, simultaneously chilling to some underwater techno! The building’s exterior cutting edge architecture looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie. Modern facilities include saunas and spas, but the main attraction is the giant floating pool, where you can take a dip while surrounded by fancy light shows and electronic music.
– Squat Cinema: Visit a secret cinema, Kino Durchfenster, by climbing through a window in one of Berlin’s famous squats. The movie theater is unmarked and unassuming, so only the savviest of tourists find it. The programming itself is not set, so every day’s movie is a surprise. If you’re up for an adventure, this intriguing hidden gem will be heaps of fun.
–Garden at Prinzessinengarten: Also known as the princess garden, this was launched as a pilot project back in 2009. Situated at Moritzplatz in Kreuzburg, this reclaimed area was once a wasteland but is now one of Germany’s most successful urban gardening projects. Visitors with an itchy green thumb can get involved in some gardening and learn about ecology in Germany before visiting the small cafe.
The infamous “Berliner Schnauze” may cause some culture shock at first. The sense of humor of local Berliners may appear be a bit biting and coarse, and the general attitude may seem gruff or outlandish to tourists. However, don’t let it slow your pace or catch you off guard. Berlin is a wonderfully diverse, permissive place.
From walled city to world leader, Berlin is emblematic of the incredible strides Germany has made on the global stage. The public transport system is extensive, making travel within the city easy and convenient, and speaking of which I highly recommend getting the Welcome Berlin Card to get cashless access of all types of local transport and great discounts on loads of attractions around the city. There are countless opportunities to spend your time doing what you love! So what are you waiting for? Visit Berlin and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.
Recommended Things to do in Berlin
– Berliner Unterwelten (Berlin Underworld) : Had a fantastic 3+ hours on The Dark World Tour exploring some of Berlin’s last remaining WW2 underground bunkers with our extremely knowledgeable and entertaining guide from Berlin Unterwelten, the Society for the Exploration and Documentation of Subterranean Architecture. Get ready for lots of chilling tales, fascinating stories and historical facts, and see Berlin from a totally different perspective through this exceptional experience.
– Discover Berlin Tour: A few outstanding hours exploring awesome Berlin with this comprehensive, informative and fun tour. This tour simply gives you the best of Berlin while giving you an overview of its history and all its main sights as well as a taste of the local culture, jamming 800 years of history in just a few hours!
– Original Berlin Pub Crawl: If you want to get a taste of Berlin’s world-famous quirky nightlife, you cant go wrong spending a night with these guys. Party all night with a fun international crowd, friendly guides and a good mix of bars and clubs. All in all great value for money.