Once known for the wall that divided it, the city of Berlin is now a unified, cosmopolitan city, known for its architecture, museums and festivals.
Easy to navigate via the light rail system, Berlin is divided into twelve boroughs, each with its own individual character. History buffs should head to the central Mitte district to explore some of Berlin’s best museums, including the Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum and the other grand institutions on Museum Island. Just a short walk to the east, the DDR Museum captures life under the East German Government.
Adjacent to the Mitte’s Tiergarten, see a monument to a dark chapter of German history in the somber Holocaust Memorial. It is a moving tribute to the Jews murdered during World War II. The Berlin Wall Memorial is just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) to the north. The parklands here include an untouched piece of the wall.
Berlin’s political changes and innovative populous and have given rise to a city which reads like a textbook of the world’s great architectural styles. Walk through the baroque Schloss Charlottenburg palace or admire the the Berliner Dom, a beautiful sandstone cathedral which has examples of of renaissance, gothic, neoclassical and baroque styles from throughout its history. The Reichstag, or German parliament building, is perhaps the ultimate in mixed styles. The original classical construction, now has a super modern glass dome sitting on top offering 360 degree views over Berlin. Don’t miss the neoclassical arches of the Brandenburg Gate, known as a symbol of peace and unity.
Along with its arts and cultural scene, Berlin has a variety of beautiful, spacious parks. Pack a picnic and head for the Tiergarten, Berlin’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with tree-lined paths and manicured lawns. The renowned Berlin Zoo opened on the Tiergarten’s grounds in 1844, and is home to hundreds of animals including giant pandas and polar bears.
Also worth a visit are the dynamic public squares, Alexanderplatz, and Potsdamer Platz. Site of Europe’s first traffic lights, Potsdamer Platz was destroyed in World War II and became a no-man’s-land during the division of Berlin. Recently the square has undergone an extraordinary redevelopment, transforming it into one of the most visionary public spaces in Europe. Here foodies can sample local delicacies like eisbein (pork knuckle), schnitzel and armer ritter, a German take on French toast.
Day trips from the city center are popular. Take a one-hour train journey to the historic town of Brandenburg an der Havel, with quaint pubs, restaurants and a picturesque lake. Those wanting to venture further can catch the train to Frankfurt an der Oder, separated from Poland by the Oder River.