20 Jul Berlin
Welcome to Berlin
From the ashes of its turbulent history in the 20th century, Berlin has risen to become one of the world’s most liberal and secure cities. When one looks at Berlin now, it is difficult to understand that during the Cold War, barriers separated the city for over three decades.
I was always hesitant to go to Berlin, as it reminded me of my history lessons at school of the Berlin war, leaving an image in my head of a war-torn country. But finally, visiting here, I was pleasantly surprised to see many students, artists and writers embracing this fascinating city. There’s a lot to see in Berlin as it’s a huge city, so spend more than a weekend here to appreciate the history and art.
How To Get There
Its quite expensive to take a cab from the brand-new, sparkling Berlin Brandenburg Airport to the city centre., so I recommend taking the slower S-Bahn 9 train, the FEX Airport Express, the Deutsche Bahn RE7, or the RB14 to Hauptbahnhof station in the heart of Berlin.
Downloading the app for Berlin’s public transportation provider, Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, before you visit is recommended if you intend to utilize the city’s public transportation system. Purchase a day pass, valid for usage on any 24 hours of public transportation. The Berlin Welcome tourist card offers discounted admission to attractions and public transit; purchase it online to save money.
Once you are in the city, it is pretty easy to navigate and using the U Bahn (subway system) is very convenient as trains come regularly (every few mins in peak times). Trams and buses are readily accessible as well.
Places Of Interest
The Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Berlin and most well-known historical site (Brandenburger Tor). It was historically an old city gate rebuilt around 250 years ago and still stands proudly today. It used to represent a divided country but now reflects peace and harmony.
Berlin Cathedral is of great history and incredible architecture that dates back to the 15th century. Today the church serves the Protestant community in Berlin. Worth visiting this beautiful building, and if you get the opportunity to attend a concert here, you will be truly mesmerized by the sound of its historic organ.
Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm)
Berlin’s TV Tower is the city’s most visible landmark soaring 368 metres into the sky and the highest building in Europe open to the general public. Purchase skip queue tickets to experience spectacular 360-degree panoramic views across the city.
The Rebuilt Reichstag
Reichstag is the German parliament distinguished by its clear glass dome and is one of Berlin’s most frequently visited sights. Although it is free to enter, you do have to make a reservation in advance and present your passport on entry. Enjoy majestical views of the parliamentary and government district and, of course, Berlin’s sights from the dome. From the interior exhibitions, learn about the parliament’s history. Click here for online registration.
There is a rooftop restaurant east of the dome, which opens daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm and again from 7.00 pm to midnight. Reservations can be reserved by calling +49 (0)30 226-29933 or emailing: [email protected].
The Berlin Wall Memorial
To stop its residents from emigrating to West Germany, East Germany partitioned the city in 1961, giving rise to the Berlin Wall until 1989, the most emblematic symbol of the Cold War. The Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum, which features displays of the 1.5 million refugees that went through Berlin, is among the best day trips from Berlin highlights. The 1.3km stretch of the Berlin Wall features over 110 paintings from many artists all across the world.
Topography Of Terror
This history museum housed the S.S. and the Reich Security Main Office during World War II. Here you will see documents and explicit photographs that depict the horror of the crimes of the Nazi regime throughout Europe during WWII. It also consists of excavated prison cells located under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Admission is free.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Pergamon-Panorama is an attraction created by Yadegar Asisi, who lived in West Berlin after 1978, that takes visitors into the 1980s of the day-to-day life of Berlin in the shadows of the Berlin Wall. Explore the exhibition room from 1961 to 1989, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, which takes you back in time to get a sense of its reality.
In the 1920s, Potsdamer Platz was the busiest European city and epicentre of shopping and entertainment, later destroyed during World War II after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After German reunification, it became the most prominent building site in Europe and transformed into a “new Berlin,” the best destination for shopping, dining, and cultural events.’
Have you ever noticed the Green & Red Man with a hat on traffic lights that tell you when to stop and go as you cross the streets of Berlin? And ever wondered about the story behind the ‘Amplemann‘, which means ‘little traffic light man‘, symbolizing a pedestrian crossing in Germany?
From the 1900s, cars and speed became more dangerous as the population grew and people started looking for technical solutions. The first experiments with light signals failed dramatically, but by 1924, Berlin’s first traffic light system came into operation at Potsdamer Platz, the busiest intersection in Europe. In 1961, just after the Berlin Wall was erected, traffic psychologist Karl Peglau created the Green & Red Man with a hat, which today is symbolic. Many souvenirs are now available as a memory of your trip to Berlin!
Mall of Berlin
The Mall of Berlin at Leipziger Platz offers around 300 shops, restaurants, and leisure facilities to stroll through this elegant shopping centre, so you can shop until you drop into the city’s heart.
Where To Stay
Berlin being so vast, deciding where to stay can be the most challenging when planning a trip. Mitte is cosmopolitan with many attractions, considered the best place to stay for first-time visitors. Friedrichshain, known for its many bars, nightclubs, pubs, and cafes, is another area to experience an alternative lifestyle. Charlottenburg, west of central Berlin, is great for shopping and attending cultural events. Prenzlauer Berg East Berlin is a trendy neighbourhood ideal for families and higher-end living. Click here for accommodation options.
Where To Eat
Berlin has a diverse range of food and eateries, from Vietnamese to Turkish, with an abundance of traditional German dishes, especially sausages, known as “wurst“. Stews, potato dumplings and sauerkraut are also popular conventional choices. Generally, eating out in Berlin is affordable.
Currywurst consists of cooked or grilled sausages cut into small pieces and served with tomato sauce and curry powder accompanied by fries and German rolls; try Konnopke’s or Burgermeister’s. Another delicacy of Berlin is the Wiener Schnitzel, usually the safest choice for anyone unfamiliar with Berlin food. Try Schnitzelei. Wanting to eat pork knuckle for a classic delicacy served with sauerkraut or a variety of traditional German food, it’s worth venturing out to Restaurant Marjellchen.
Once divided, Berlin has bounced back as one of Europe’s most liberal cities. Known for its rich history, architecture, museums, nightlife, and beer gardens, something for everyone, it is a city you will be pleasantly surprised with despite its black history.
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