At first sight Berlin seems to be an ultra-modern party destination, which has long ago forgotten its divided existence and stormy history.
Night owls will feel at home amidst the numerous neon signs of the entertainment establishments, while the fans of architecture and design will find ateliers and galleries that will definitely meet their taste. However, the truth is that here in the German capital you are living in the history. In fact, the two faces of the city can really make a perfect combination.
Here are the most important attractions in Berlin, which definitely require more than just a weekend:
Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) – Stretches of the wall are still preserved to remind about the past that should never repeat. Part of the wall can be seen at Potsdamer Platz, while close to Spree River, in its eastern part, the wall is painted by modern artists expressing different messages. This section of it is known as the Gallery.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum (Mauermuseum) – The museum documents the events that led to the construction and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attempts of the citizens of Berlin to cross it. Nowadays you can walk freely through the zone where in the past those who tried to cross the border were executed and reconsider the meaning of the term freedom. The museum is open every day (even during the holidays) from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. The entrance fee is EUR 12.50.
Reichstag building – The parliament, or the Bundestag, holds its sitting here. The dome of the building offers a beautiful view to the city, while inside, behind the glass walls, you will see a photo exhibition dedicated to the history of the Reichstag.
Potsdamer Platz – This is one of the most popular squares in the central part of Berlin. It is named after the city of Potsdam, located close to the capital. Until 1989 the Berlin Wall used to pass through the square but after its fall many new buildings were constructed at this place. Nowadays the square is known for its theatres, cinemas, modern trade buildings and skyscrapers.
Kollhoff-Tower – This is one of the skyscrapers at Potsdamer Platz, offering a wonderful view to Berlin from its panoramic balconies – the Panoramapunkt, located on the 24th and 25th floors. You will reach them with the fastest elevator in Europe, which moves at 9 m/s. Once up there you can enjoy the incredible view with a cocktail in your hand.
Brandenburg Gate – Its image is probably the first thing that pops up in your mind when you think of Berlin. The gate was built in 1788 as the official entrance to the city. On its top there is sculpture of a chariot drawn by four horses, ridden by Victoria, the goddess of victory. The monument is really impressive during the night when it is brilliantly lit up.
TV Tower (Fernsehturm) – On a clear day here you can enjoy a magnificent view to Berlin stretching over 40 km. You should better visit it early in the morning or late in the evening as during the rest of the day the queue of visitors waiting for the elevator leading to the top of the tower gets very long.
Unter den Linden Boulevard – Literally the name of the boulevard means Under the Linden Trees due to the fact that the branches form a tunnel over the pedestrian zone, filling the air along the entire boulevard with the sweet scent of the linden trees – a nice natural idyll amidst the urban environment. The boulevard leads to the Brandenburg Gate and crosses Spree River close to the Berlin Cathedral.
Berlin Cathedral – Its dome is 114 m high and it is adorned with stained glasses with flower patterns. You can go up there and feast your eyes on the splendid view to Berlin. The Baroque interior of the cathedral is really impressive. Inside you can also see a huge organ. In front of the cathedral there is a garden with a fountain where you can have a rest.
Alexanderplatz – Be a real Berliner and schedule a meeting in front of the fountain or under the clock at this square. The TV Tower is here, too. The clock shows the time in each time zone in the world. It has a specific construction and does not look like an ordinary clock. Under the World Time Clock you can see a model of the Solar System. It was built in 1969. At the Alexanderplatz square you can also find modern trade centres, stores, cafes and restaurants.
Charlottenburg Palace – This is the biggest palace in Berlin. It was built in the XVII century by Frederick I of Prussia as a summer residence of his wife Sophie Charlotte. Inside, in the huge ballrooms and halls you will see furniture, paintings, and porcelain collections that belonged to the royal family. Don’t miss to take a walk in the big garden.
Museum Island (Museumsinsel) – After you cross the bridge over Spree River you will find yourself on this small island in the central part of Berlin. There are several museums here, as well as the Berlin Cathedral and beautiful parks where you can have a rest after the long museum tour.
Old Museum (Altes Museum) – This is one of the museums on the Island. It houses an art collection of the Prussian royal family. The building is designed in neoclassical style by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. His inspiration for the building came from the ancient and classical Greek architecture.
Natural History Museum (Museum für Naturkunde) – Dinosaurs, fossils, glass vessels storing thousands of fish species. Here you can learn about different stuffing and storing methods, see an exhibition dedicated to the universe and the Solar System, and get detailed information about our planet. You will be really impressed yet in the very first hall of the museum, which presents three huge dinosaur skeletons. There are also models of the planets, as well as of the Earth's crust.
Trabi-Safari – The emblematic Trabant car has not disappeared from the streets of Berlin, just on contrary, it became a fascinating means of transport that you can rent for the day. A trip through Berlin in a classic Trabant car, painted in pink, tiger prints, or any other funny colour – a really exotic experience, indeed!
Musical Instrument Museum (Musikinstrumenten Museum) – Here you can examine more than 3,500 instruments from the XVI century onward. In addition, you can also listen to the music produced by many of them on audio records, which are available as part of the exhibitions.
Tiergarten – This is the biggest park in Berlin, located over no less than 520 decares! The Berlin Zoo is sheltered here, as well as President’s residence, the Potsdamer Platz, and the Victory Column. It is a perfect place for a picnic, to go jogging or roller-skating, or simply take a walk amidst the fresh greenery, flower paths and beautiful fountains.
Berlin Zoo (Zoologischer Garten Berlin) – This is one of the biggest zoos in the world with around15,000 different species! Giraffes, elephants, pandas, hippopotami, giant turtles, lions, and whatnot… You can even touch some, like the penguins, for instance. The zoo opened doors back in 1844, which titled it the oldest zoo in Germany.
Jewish Museum – It traces the history of the Jews in Germany from the mid-centuries onward, in a very interesting way. Interactive screens, games teaching curious facts, small drawers hiding traditional or religious items, such as photos, paintings, pieces of art and of the everyday life, films and audio presentations. The building of the museum is a real masterpiece of the architecture with its unusual zigzag forms.
Gendarmenmarkt Square - Here you can find the German Cathedral (Deutscher Dom), the French Cathedral (Franzosischer Dom), and the Concert Hall (Konzerthaus), which form the architectural face of the square. At the German Cathedral you can learn much about the German democracy, while at the French Cathedral you will get acquainted with the Huguenots, who sought asylum in Berlin. The Concert Hall is the home of Berlin’s symphony orchestra. It was built at the place of the former National Theatre, which was destroyed during the war.
Hackesche Höfe – A complex of eight restored German buildings and their adjacent courtyards that are interconnected. Nowadays they are modernised and have turned into a centre of fun and culture, as well as of residential and business premises. Hackesche Höfe shelters many entertainment and catering establishments, stores, restaurants, cinemas, galleries, residential and business institutions. For more information visit the official website - www.hackesche-hoefe.com.
Victory Column (Siegessäule) – The monument is located at the Tiergarten Park. It is 67 m high and has a golden statue on its top, which is called the “golden angel”. Well, it is not exactly an angel but yet it has big golden winds. The statue weights 35 tons. Up at the top there is an observation deck, which you can reach following tens of stairs and then enjoy the splendid view to Tiergarten.
Red City Hall (Rotes Rathaus) – Building’s name is inspired by the red bricks it is made of. On the top of its clock tower there is pole waving Berlin’s flag with the bear, which is a symbol of the city. In front of the entrance to the City Hall you will see the Neptune Fountain.
Christmas punch – Want to warm yourself up while walking in the snow? When in Berlin in December you should not miss trying this traditional drink, which is offered everywhere along the festively decorated streets and markets. Red wine, rum, orange juice, clove, cinnamon and black tea – this mixture will leave a sweet Christmas scent in your memory.
Stollen – This traditional German fruit bread is seen everywhere in Berlin at Christmas time! It reminds about Easter cake but it is much richer in fruits, buts and fragrant spices.
Leberknödel soup (Leberködelsuppe) – This is one of the most popular soups in Germany – clear calf bouillon with calf’s liver noodles. Hurry up and don’t let it cool!
Shopping in Berlin – Kurfürstendamm Avenue, or simply Ku'damm, has many shops offering clothes, souvenirs, shoes, toys, jewellery and others. Bergmannstrasse Street, in Kreuzberg, is rich in all kind of shops, with an accent on the art. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), on the other hand, is the biggest department store in continental Europe and it has something for everyone. Berlin also shelters the only branch of France’s Galeries Lafayette department store chain outside the country, with stores of world fashion designers, perfumes, cosmetics, a hypermarket, and so on. Here you can learn more about the vintage shops in Berlin.
Nightlife in Berlin – Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg quarters offer the best night fun places. Bergmannstrasse Street in Kreuzberg is full of clubs, bars and discotheques. Here you will find the popular Yorckschlösschen jazz and blues club. More beach bars, restaurants and clubs are found along the Spree River, offering not only entertainment and fun but also nice views to the river scenery.