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Berlin, Germany

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Did You Know … ?

  • Berlin was divided for its first 500 years; it was two trading towns: Colln and Berlin.
  • Forests and lakes cover close to 25% of the city’s total area.
  • Berlin, at 341 acres, covers nine times the area of Paris.
  • During the 11-month 1948-49 Berlin airlift, the Allies transported 2.3 tons of goods to the western sector.
  • The refugee camp in Berlin-Marienfelde assisted 1.35 million East Germans.

The (un)divided city

For the early 21st century tourist, Berlin is the city that was once divided but now is not. It also is the city with a lot of sleek, cool new city center construction. This glass-and-steel modernity is not universally loved, but the forward-leaning designs add an extra dimension to a city that already had a lively mix of architectural styles and attractions of interest to visitors.

One attraction, the Berlin Wall, is gone, or most of it is. Visitors can still find remnants. The wall cut Potsdamer Platz in two, but with the wall gone, much of the city’s modern redevelopment — and the part tourists seek out — is centered on this historic plaza at the heart of the reunited city.

For contrast, an itinerary generally includes historical structures, some of which survived World War II’s devastation; others were reconstructed. The focal point for this sightseeing is the Reichstag, the parliament building dating from 1894 and located in the government quarter in the former East Berlin.

The Brandenburg Gate, another iconic Berlin sight, sat in the shadow of the wall in a no-man’s land in the East. Today, it is again the starting point for a stroll on Unter den Linden, a famed boulevard distinguished by stately buildings dating from the 1700s of Frederick the Great — and by some less-appealing reminders of the decades when East German communists determined the boulevard’s fate.

Unter den Linden leads past Bebelplatz, whose stately 18th century buildings were restored after World War II, to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to five outstanding museums constructed between 1828 and 1930. The Berlin Cathedral is on the island, as well.

Berlin boasts more than 170 museums and 300 art galleries plus, for real culture vultures, three opera houses, several symphony orchestras and more than 150 theaters and stages of all stripes.

The German capital also is home to a lively entertainment scene where visitors can find cabaret, jazz, musicals, vaudeville and revues in abundance. It is a city that attracts the younger artsy crowd, both as residents and visitors. Finally, it boasts roughly 7,000 pubs and restaurants.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Visit Bebelplatz, site of the first Nazi book burning. The plaza’s buildings, restored after World War II, have been joined by the Bibliothek, a sealed, empty underground library. Keeping to the theme, include the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and one of the city’s Jewish cemeteries on your itinerary, too.
  • Eat eisbein, which is pig knuckle. Or try other specialties, not always that challenging to contemplate.
  • Climb the 270 steps to the dome of the Berlin Cathedral for a view of central Berlin. Attend an organ concert here, too, in summer. For more sweeping views, try the higher observation platform (at 666 feet) on the Fernsehturm TV tower.
  • Cycle in the Tiergarten, formerly a royal hunting ground. Nude bathing is permitted in some areas of the park, too.Alternatively, jog or cycle on Tempelhofer Feld, i.e., the grounds of the former Tempelhof airport.
  • If visiting in a cold winter, ice skate on frozen lakes such as the Neuer See in Tiergarten and Schlachtensee in Zehlendorf. And, if the timing is right, party at Brandenburg Gate on New Year’s Eve.
  • Berlin boasts clubs and pubs galore. Make a (long) night of it checking out the entertainment, sampling the beers or dancing into the wee hours.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a walking tour. Or do some sightseeing on public transportation by riding bus No. 100 or 200 between Bahnhof Zoo and Alexanderplatz, then return on the elevated S-Bahn.
  • Spend time inside the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, and go up into its glass dome in daylight or, if you prefer, after dark.
  • See a cabaret show while in Berlin.
  • Look for remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall. There are a few, some turned into memorial sites or pieces of art. Also, visit the Berlin Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie.
  • Spend a couple of hours at the Jewish Museum, noted for its striking architecture (thanks to Daniel Libeskind) as well as thought-provoking exhibits.
  • Recall a time when Berlin was a capital for royals. Make a day trip to Potsdam’s Sanssouci Park, or stay in the city and visit the baroque Schloss Charlottenburg.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Stay at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin. If that is not in your budget, drop in for a coffee — or a spa treatment — and have a look at this historic property (built in 1907, destroyed by fire and rebuilt, then reopened in 1997). Michael Jackson’s baby-swinging incident occurred here.
  • See the bust of Nefertiti at the Neues Museum (New Museum); also, make the rounds of other museums on Museumsinsel (Museum Island), such as the Bode and the Pergamon.
  • Stroll the historical boulevard, Unter den Linden, named for its trees.
  • Walk down Kurfurstendamm and into the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was left in ruins as a reminder of war’s destruction.
  • Line up spa treatments or sauna time at any of several hotels or other facilities. Or make that a Turkish bath.
  • Take advantage of the choices for classical music provided by three opera houses and several symphonic orchestras. Or, focus on entertainment in a big way by attending the Berliner Festwochen (Festival Weeks) in September, where choices include opera, theater and concerts.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult visitBerlin at www.visitberlin.de/en or choose another language.