A panoramic shot of Potsdamer Platz redevelopment of East Berlin and the integration of the previously separate East and West sectors of the city. Photo by Mihael Grmek.
Things to Do
Germany’s parliament building, the Riechstag’s roof, with the glass Foster dome in the centre. Photo by Matthew Field.
Berlin was bombed flat during the last great war so old buildings and monuments are limited mostly to a few survivors and some huge restoration efforts.
Unter den Linden avenue is the throbbing spine of the city, running from the River Spree to the Brandenburg Gate (small picture top left). Berlin is multicentred but this is a classic starting point for new tourists and offers many attractions nearby.
The Bundestag (Germany’s Parliament) is at home in the Reichstag building, a fabulous Norman Foster glass-dome rebuild, finished in 1999, one of Berlin’s top attractions which can be visited free with no prior reservation. . . however, the queues are massive and it may take 2 hours to get inside unless you go very early or book a table at the Kafer restaurant – on top of the Reichstag – for any meal including breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. With your reservation you are entitled to enter the building via the line-free entrance West C to the right of the main entrance.
The rooftop terrace provides superb 360 degree views of Berlin. Behind Norman Foster’s masterpiece pieces of the Berlin Wall are still visible.
The Chinese Garden in Berlin Marzahn park. Photo by Jochen Jansen.
Other examples of stunning new architecture are the Sony Centre, Debisstadt – the hyper modern Daimler/ Chrysler complex and the New National Gallery.
Berlin’s main Cathedral is impressive and fully restored, while you can get a drink and another great view from the top of the fairly hideous TV Tower in Alexanderplatz.
Gendarmarkt square is old and beautiful, while Potsdamer Platz, bohemian Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg are a fascinating mix of tatty old and spectacular new, with cultural happenings aplenty.
A café in Tiergarten park. Photo by Schlaier.
Inner City Transport
– River/canal cruising is one of the most relaxing ways to see some of the sights and water tours are plentiful.
– The overground, ultra-efficient S-Bahn (rail) can give visitors a grand overview of the area on the cheap, from the affluent Nikolassee to the miserable Lichtenberg via many of the big sights.
– Yellow double-decker buses are a great way to see the city from a high seat for a low price, particularly the bus route 100 which cruises many of the greatest sights between Zoo Station and Alexanderplatz. Route 200 is almost as good.
– The U-Bahn is the excellent underground (metro) service, with no turnstiles but cruising ticket-inspectors.
– The city is bike friendly with few hills and apparently 860km of dedicated cycle paths; there are city bike rental locations scattered around, as well as bike shops and varied bike tours available.
Discount transport ticket options include a Berlin Tourist Card covering various zones, various attractions, various systems and various numbers of days! Also on offer are Berlin WelcomeCard and Museuminsel card with differing priorities.
For rides to and from the airport try Airport Transfers Berlin.
The Festival of Lights at/on Berlin Cathedral. Photo by Thomas Wolf
Dec 31-Jan 1, Brandenburg Gate, New Year celebrations.
February, Transmediale. ‘A platform for artistic and critical reflection on the role of digital technologies in present-day society. ‘
Easter week, Berlin Opera Festival.
May, Carnival of Cultures, Kreuzberg district. Four exotic days of cross-cultural parades, dance, music and artists.
End of June, Christopher Street Day. A monster Gay Pride parade with mad costumes and a wild street party.
Early July, F**k Parade. Anarchy rules during this political event backed by a heavy beat.
early July, Classic Open Air Berlin. Classical music in the open Gendarmarkt.
Mid July, Love Parade, Berlin – the wackiest of local festivals, a weekend of ecstatic body-baring by 1. 5 million techno- ravers.
July, Heimatklaenge Festival. Five days of folk music from Europe.
Early Aug, Klassiktage Berliner Schlossern, 10 days of classical music in the city’s finest old buildings.
Most of August, Tanz im August (Berlin International Dance) – a wide range of innovative, international dances.
All August, Berlin Festival Weeks. More exceptional classical music in various venues.
Late October, Wigstockel, crossdressers unite.
All December, Christmas markets.
Finding good hotels in Berlin for a good price is not a problem as the post-wall construction boom led to significant oversupply of places to stay. More to the point is where in Berlin is most convenient for you.
For short tourist holidays in the city the Berlin-Mitte area offers best access to main attractions and sights (e. g. Friedrichstrasse), though the best selection of hotels are actually in City West (e. g. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf).
At the low end travellers need to look for hostels (typically backpacker places) or pension (B&B).