So, you’re looking for a destination for your next quick getaway? Look no further than Berlin, Germany. Historic yet modern; good value and glamorous; bustling but serene. Berlin has something for everyone and all budgets, all-year round, writes Fiona Paterson.
But with so much to see, where do you start? Here’s a quick guide to the top attractions you don’t want to miss and some handy tips for getting around the city.
Berlin’s Classic and Essential Attractions
1) Brandenburg Gate This stoic eighteenth-century monument is one of Germany’s most famous landmarks and an impressive feature of Pariser Platz in central Berlin. Now a symbol of European peace and unity, it is situated amongst a number of embassies and hotels, and marks the top of a long straight road to Alexanderplatz (also worth visiting) past many of Berlin’s central features and shopping centres.
2) Reichstag Originally constructed to house the Diet of the German Empire, the Reichstag, following reconstruction by British architect Norman Foster, is now occupied by the German parliament (Bundestag). The Bundestag is located within the Reichstag; an impressive chamber built underneath a glass structure for light, which can be toured and denotes the history of Germany and the Reichstag as an audio-guided tour and is well worth exploring (must be booked in advance).
3) Holocaust Memorial and Museum Also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, this vast and grounding structure is located a short walk from the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. Given the enormity of this structure, many people miss the underground museum, the entrance to which is on the east side of the memorial. An audio-guided tour is available where you can explore some of the personal stories and history of the concentration camps.
4) East Side Gallery Home to many popular works, the East Side Gallery is one of the longest remaining stretches of the original Berlin Wall, now entirely decorated with various pieces of art; many of these have been restored since their original creation. To catch the majority of the wall, take the train to Warschauer Straße and walk along the wall to the Ostbahnhof station to take you back to the centre.
5) Checkpoint Charlie The most famous crossing point through the Berlin Wall when it separated East and West Berlin. Informational points, historical actors and some spot-on photo opportunities lie just to the south of central Berlin.
6) Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island Self-explanatory; literally an island sporting the Berliner Dom and a host of museums – a beautiful walk on the way to the east side of central Berlin, even if you don’t visit any!
How to get around (and how not to)
1) A lot of the attractions around central Berlin are within walking distance of each other, and you should walk to take in the gorgeous architecture and ambience of the city. Grab a city centre map or download an app to help you get around without spending money!
2) Where it can’t be walked, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains are your best bet – super cheap and very direct, they’re similar to the London over and undergrounds. Tickets can be purchased at self-service machines but must be separately validated before boarding; tickets may be inspected at any time and a hefty fine applies if you forget to validate or do not purchase a ticket. Like in any major city, keep your personal belongings close by!
3) Berlin has a number of great neighbourhoods surrounding central Berlin – the trains are fast and regular to the centre so you can save money by booking a hotel a bit outside of the centre. See more of Berlin, such as the shopping district in Kurfürstendamm, and save those pennies for picking up some souvenirs instead.
4) Jaywalking is illegal (essentially crossing the road before the green man says so) in Germany and you can be arrested for it! Sacrifice those extra few seconds and wait it out – Berlin’s nice to look at when you are standing still anyway!
5) Germany operates mandated ‘quiet hours’; being too drunk in public or playing loud music after 10pm can warrant an arrest so be mindful of your neighbours whether you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or renting an apartment.
For more information on safe travel, Germany and passport advice see the FCO Travel Advice website
Written by Fiona Patterson.