Germany has been a place people have travelled to for years for may reasons. Recently friends have gone to Berlin and here are the highlights from their trip.
The seat of the German Parliament is also one of Berlin’s most famed landmarks. From “mysteriously” burning down in 1933 (the Nazis blamed the Commies and vice versa) to being abandoned, then wrapped in a million square feet of fireproof polypropylene fabric by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and finally being capped with a fancy transparent dome designed by Sir Norman Foster, the building has enjoyed its fair share of ups and downs.
Guided tours (lasting 90 minutes) are available when Parliament is not sitting (advance reservation only) and other guided tours are offered daily at 9am, 10.30am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5pm, 6.30pm. Booking a tour is a good way to avoid the horrendous queues that almost always form outside. You can also consider a lunch or dinner at the rooftop restaurant (reservation recommended +49 (0)30 22 62 990). Note that the dome will be closed to visitors from 7 to 11 July and from 21 to 25 July.
Address: Platz der Republik 1
Contact: 00 49 30 22 73 21 52; bundestag.de
Opening times: daily, 8am-midnight (last admission 10pm)
The Unesco heritage Museum Island comprises five conveniently adjacent museums, all located on an accessible “island” along the river Spree. Each museum is a destination in its own right and deserves at least half a day to explore. The Pergamon Museum has vast treasures from the Ancient Near East and Islamic art, though the Pergamon Altar, north wing and gallery of Hellenistic art are closed to the public until 2019 due to refurbishment; the Neues Museum holds Egyptian, prehistoric and classical treats, while the Bode Museum has an outstanding sculpture collection. Combination tickets are available for all five museums.
Address: Museumsinsel, Berlin 10117
Contact: 00 49 30 26 64 24 24 2; smb.museum
Opening times: these vary from museum to museum, and are complex; see website
Admission: see website
Checkpoint Charlie and The Mauer Museum
Interested in the Cold War? Checkpoint Charlie was the main entry point for visitors wanting to cross the infamous Iron Curtain to East Berlin during the division of the city. It was also the spot where, in 1961, US and Russian tanks literally lined up to face each other in what the world believed could be the start of another war. Built with its original “look” in mind, the attraction comes with border guards outside and a museum featuring tales of escapees (would-be and successful) plus a range of memorabilia and interesting exhibits.
Address: Friedrichstrasse 43-45
Contact: 00 49 30 25 37 25 0; mauer-museum.com
Opening times: daily, 9am-10pm
Admission: €12.50 adult, €9.50 concessions, under-6s free
Jewish (Jüdisches) Museum
Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum is a must-see in Berlin, both historically and architecturally. The zig-zag zinc-clad building has been thoughtfully designed and its contents cover more than 2,000 years of Jewish history (from the Roman era to the present day), arranged in 14 different rooms and areas. The building also has five vertical voids, walls of dark concrete, a spectacular glass courtyard and an equally angular new archive was added in 2012. Guided tours are available and the kosher café-restaurant is very good.
Address: Lindenstrasse 9-14
Contact: 00 49 30 25 99 33 00; jmberlin.de
Open: Mon, 10am-10pm; Tue-Sun, 10am-8pm; entry allowed until one hour before closing times
Admission: €8 adult, €3 concessions, under-6s free
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Peter Eisenman’s hugely controversial 2,700 concrete slabs (stelae) are arranged in a neat grid spread across 200,000 square feet of prime Berlin real estate near the Brandenburger Tor. They’re deliberately built at varying height to give visitors a sense of disorientation and confusion, but it’s the vast underground information centre (located in the south-eastern corner) which really leaves you reeling.
Address: Cora-Berliner-Strasse 1
Contact: 00 49 30 26 39 43 36; holocaust-mahnmal.de/en
Opening times: memorial, 24 hours everyday. Information centre, 10am-7pm (last entrance 6.15pm); closed Mondays (except official holidays). Apr-Sept: Tue-Sun, 10 am-8 pm (last admission 7.15 p.m.); Oct-Mar: Tue-Sun, 10 am-7 pm (last admission 6.15 p.m.)
Germany’s oldest zoo (1844) occupies a generous corner of the Tiergarten park. It is home to more than 15,000 animals, giant pandas included – many (but not all) in large, open natural areas. The zoo also features Europe’s most modern birdhouse, with more than 550 species, and the adjacent aquarium (added in 1913, separate charge) has 9,000 species of fish, amphibians, creepy crawlies and other fascinating creatures.
Address: Hardenbergplatz 8
Contact: 00 49 30 25 40 10; zoo-berlin.de
Opening hours: Opening times: January 1-February 27 daily, 9am-4.30pm; February 28 – March 26 daily, 9am-6pm; March 27 – September 24 daily, 9am-6.30pm; September 25 – October 29 daily, 9am – 6pm; October 30 – December 31 daily, 9am-4.30pm. The Zoo closes at 2pm on December 24th and the ticket office always shuts an hour before closing time
Napoleon’s army “borrowed” it, Ronald Reagan called for Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” from behind it, and Jacko held a baby from a balcony near it. If there were a prize for Berlin’s most recognisable attraction, it would be the Brandenburger Tor. The best way to enjoy it is to stroll towards it via Unter den Linden, Berlin’s take on the Champs-Elysée, taking in the chestnut trees and the run of shops, glamorous theatres and excellent museums along the way. As well as a Room of Silence on the north side, built specifically for visitors to rest and reflect, there is now a dedicated and surprisingly hi-tech museum to explore (030 236078436, brandenburgertor- museum.de, admission €8/£6).
Address: Pariser Platz, Mitte
Contact: 00 49 30 25 00 23 33
Opening hours: day and night
Who said days out had to be cheerful? Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, built in 1936, was the first camp to be established by Heinrich Himmler, after he became Chief of the German Police. The design was conceived by SS architects as the ideal concentration camp setting and became a model for other camps. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned here between 1936 and 1945, with tens of thousands more dying of starvation, forced labour, disease and systematic extermination. Thousands more died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp at the end of April 1945, all of which is well documented inside the camp, parts of which have been rebuilt.
After its liberation, the Soviet secret police turned it again into a prison camp, issuing untold death and misery for another five years. Note that the museums, archive and library are closed on Mondays, but the open-air exhibitions and the visitor information centre remain open.
Address: Strasse der Nationen 22, D-16515 Oranienburg
Contact: 00 49 3301 200 0; visitors service 00 49 3301 200 200 ; stiftung-bg.de
Opening times: March 15-October 14 daily, 8.30am-6pm; October 15-March 14 daily, 8.30am-4.30pm
Just 30 minutes from the capital, Potsdam makes a great day trip. The capital city of Brandenburg (it was the residence of the Prussian kings until 1918), it is located right on the river Havel and boasts the remarkable Schloss Sanssouci, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany; Babelsberg, the oldest large-scale film studio in the world; Schinkel’s Roman Baths; and the ultra-charming two-street Dutch Quarter, which contains distinctive Dutch houses fashioned from red brick.
On Sundays, the park is turned into a huge open air flea market where artists sell their crafts, people sell their used stuff and a variety of food stalls cater for all the other needs. On all other days (the sunny ones, mind you) the park is crowded until the wee small hours of the morning, with the usual barbecue/drinking/guitar-playing people.
Apart from the flea market, there is outdoor karaoke. Yes – somebody once decided to carry a karaoke machine plus screen and speakers to the arena-like part of the park, and everybody who’s willing to pay 1 Euro for using it will be allowed to sing to a very supportive crowd. If you are searching for real rarities on the flea market, come early!
Address: Mauerpark, Bernauer Str. 63, Berlin
Berlin’s Central Park- Tiergarten
What used to be the hunting grounds for noblemen of the Holy Roman Empire was turned into a huge park in the 19th century (without losing any of its size). The Tiergarten is the green lung in the middle of the city and there’s more than enough space for everyone. And yes: Most of former Westberlin is on its other side.
Apart from enjoying all that green, there’s a lot to discover at Tiergarten, like a path lined with gas lanterns from all over Europe; sculptures and monuments scattered throughout the park, and in the far western part you can look at animals in the Berlin zoo for free. End your hike with a beer in the Schleusenkrug in the far western end. There’s also lots of maps of the area inside the park so you can’t get lost.
Address: Tiergarten, Str. des 17. Juni, Berlin
Berlin’s Bazaar-BiOriental Market
Some might be tempted to call certain areas of Neukölln/Kreuzberg “Little Istanbul” because of its significant area of turkish population. One certainly can’t help thinking of being in an authentic bazaar, walking across this fascinating, always packed street market – though it has the typical Berlin touch.
Vegetables, clothes, spices, street musicians, antique stuff – whatever you name, you’ll find it here on the waterside of beautiful Landwehrkanal. The name BiOriental refers to the many turkish and arab stalls as well as to the many offers of organic food. You should try to negotiate prices – many sellers are enjoying a good haggle.
Address: BiOriental Market, Maybachufer, Berlin
Opening Times: Tu: 11:00-18:30, Fr: 11:00-18:30
Walking up the shiny dome of the German parliament is one of the best opportunities to enjoy a free panoramic view of central Berlin. On top of Germany’s centre of political power you have great looks of e.g. Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz and the Holocaust Memorial.
It’s not only about the view from above. The construction of the dome was a masterpiece done by star architect Norman Foster. The 360 mirrors integrated in the dome reflect the light and illuminate the parliamentary chamber below. If you choose the right time for your visit you can watch their meetings from above. In order to get up you have to register online (www.bundestag.de) or at a temporary building close to the southern entry. Don’t forget your ID card.
Address: Reichstag Dome, Platz der Republik 1, Berlin
Opening times: Mo-Su: 08:00-00:00
“Hey, wanna see a huge fishtank” – might as well serve as a very outworn pick-up line, yet in this case we are indeed talking about a huge fishtank. 25 metres high, 12 metres wide and hosting about 1.500 fish. Plus an elevator on its inside.
The good thing about this is: You don’t have to visit Sea Life for it, but you can just walk into the building – the Radisson Blue in this case – and have a look at it. Elevator ride excluded of course. If you really are keen on riding the elevator, you might want to check out http://www.visitsealife.com/Berlin/en/plan-your-visit/aquadom.aspx
Address: AquaDom, Spandauer Straße 3, Berlin
Formerly this iconic bridge marked the border between East and West and there was a time when it was closed to all civilians. The Cold War parties sometimes exchanged spies here. Today the bridge separates the districts of Kreuzberg and can be crossed by many means of transport (cars, metro, bike or walking).
Berlin counts 916 bridges (that’s more than twice as much as Venice) and this is arguably the most beautiful one. It´s situated at a scenic spot of the river Spree and makes for taking perfect pictures to both sides of it. Every summer Kreuzbergers and Friedrichshainers throw rotten tomatoes at each other in a vegetable battle between the two districts.
Address: Oberbaumbrücke, Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin
Located in former East Berlin, this is Germany’s tallest building with 368 metres. The TV tower is the icon that locals most associate with their city (more than Brandenburg Gate) because you can see it from almost everywhere in the city centre. Although they do not go up many times because it is quite expensive.
If you are willing to pay 12,50 € you are definitely rewarded with the greatest scenic view over the city. The restaurant on top of the TV tower is also quite expensive, but a unique experience: Tables are set on a spinning plate that turns around its axis for ever-changing panoramic views. When it was completed the atheist regime didn’t invite the architects to the inauguration because the tower’s sphere reflects a cross in the sunlight.
Address: TV Tower, Panoramastr. 1A, Berlin
Opening times: Mo-Su: 09:00-00:00
Graffiti Wall of fame
Berlin is full of graffiti and most locals see it not as a nuisance but rather as an art form. In this piece of wall you see some of the most prominent icons literally drawn together in one place. The graffiti is set on the walls of Friedrichshain arthouse cinema Intimes. You can easily pass a day in Berlin walking around and spotting creative and funny works of street art – from huge wall-filling paintings to endless tags in the most improbable of places. But in case you’re out of time or feeling lazy, be sure to get a good share of it here.
Among the weirder icons you can spot is a picture of Adolf Hitler desperately in need of a toilet.
Address: Graffiti Wall of Fame, Niederbarnimstraße 15, Berlin
This beautiful building next to a popular park is one of the epicentres of the alternative art scene in Berlin. Once a hospital, now it accommodates galleries and studios for artist groups. There are rotating exhibitions by internationally acclaimed artists, many of which are free. Berlin is full of art galleries and exhibition spaces, but Bethanien has a special history. From the 1970s on squatters, citizens’ initiative groups and historic building conservationists fought against its demolition and helped to make it an open cultural and artistic space.
Between May and September you can watch arthouse movies in an open air cinema in the inner courtyard.
Address: Kunstquartier Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, Berlin
Opening times: Mo-Su: 12:00-19:00
Abandoned Spy Station- Teufelsberg
Located in the Grunewald Forest the abandoned Spy Station has great views of Berlin, some amazing street art and interesting history. Teufelsberg is one of the most unique spots in Berlin. The spy station was made in the 20 years following World War 2 on top of 75 million tonnes of rubble moved from Berlin. The forest is also great for hiking. The Spy station has some amazing photo opportunities, so its great for photographers. Also check out the huge Sand dune near by called the ‘NSG Sandgrube’. Take the S9/ S75 to Heerstraße, or S1 to Grunewald and walk through the forest from there. 7 euro entry. 15 euro for tours on Saturday and Sunday at 1pm
Address: Abandoned Spy Station – Teufelsberg, Grunewald, Berlin
Opening times: Mo-Su: 12:00-16:00