“Berlin. The beautiful and the ugly, the capital comprising two cities, a melting pot of cultures. Berlin is a global city and also one that stands with its doors open to the world, welcoming it and celebrating its diversity.“
Embedded in the federal state of Brandenburg, the city is located in the north-eastern part of Germany and is home to roughly 3.4 million Berliners.
If you explore Berlin from the main railway station or by taxi from the airport you will immediately be overwhelmed by the city’s formidable architecture. After crossing the river Spree that winds its way through the city, visitors find themselves at the Großer Tiergarten, a large public park, which accommodates the Federal Chancellery and the Reichstag, with its famous dome. Only a few meters further on one finds the symbol of Germany’s reunification – the Brandenburg Gate – which seems almost delicate by comparison. With every step taken through the city it is as if you arrive at a different place with a significant historical background.
Yet Berlin offers much more than just architecture and history - it is not one of the most popular city tourism destinations for nothing. Museums, festivals and shopping opportunities entice visitors to this diverse metropolis. And if that is not enough, you can hurl yourself into the nightlife and pick up the vibes of the city.
With that in mind, I've decided to put together 8 essential things to do in Berlin.
#1 Rent a Bike
I highly recommend for you to rent a bike while staying in Berlin since the city is rather extensive and but largely flat with lots and lots of dedicated cycle paths and plenty of green areas and rivers to cycle along. If the weather is good, it’s one of the nicest ways to see the city.
#2 Walk or Bike the Wall
It may seem a long time since the Berlin Wall came down and in fact the wall was largely demolished between June and November 1990. But it hasn’t disappeared completely: some sections of the wall still remain, adding to the city’s already fascinating range of sights and attractions. It’s no surprise, though, that the Wall is far from forgotten. A trail of cobblestones has been laid through the city plotting the course of the Berlin Wall resulting in a 155 km long bicycle and walking trail – the so called Berlin Wall Trail. On a fine day, it’s a fascinating way to explore Berlin and its cold war past.
#3 Visit Europe’s largest department store
Stop by at Alexanderplatz, on Friedrichstraße, because this is the right street for shopping. You can find almost every big name designer store here. An absolute must is visiting the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), Europe's largest department store, which offers a fantastic range for those with a larger budget. The KaDeWe is, at well over 100 years old, a true Berlin institution. Here you can find not only quite an impressive range of high-end designers, but also many upbeat, younger labels. Whatever your motivation, you have to visit the luxury food hall for the quintessential experience.
#4 Eat the classic Curry-Wurst
Curry-Wurst is the idiosyncratic combination of pork sausage, cut into slices, smothered with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder and then served with a bread roll or fries. This might sound a bit confusing, but it’s a culinary institution. One of the most famous places to eat the Curry-Wurst is the Konnopke’s Imbiss (on Schönhauser Allee), a sausage stand, which has been under original family management since 1930. Yes, they have been serving Curry -Wurst since the 30’s. Try it. It’s delicious!
#5 Visit the Berlin Zoo
Spend some time outdoors: The Berliner Zoo is the oldest one in the whole of Germany, having opened way back in 1844, after King Friedrich Wilhelm IV moved 850 animals from his royal collection to the new garden. It is located in Berlin's Tiergarten and is considered to be the most visited zoo in Europe as well as one of the most popular worldwide. The architecture of the buildings is breathtaking and the Animals are definitely worth it. it’s a must for animal lovers from all over the globe.
#6 Visit Checkpoint Charlie
Having been the best known border crossing point between East and West Berlin, this checkpoint is a symbol of the Cold War. It was a loophole where hundreds of citizens escaped East Berlin. Besides the Checkpoint Charlie in the “Mauermuseum” (called “Haus am Checkpoint Charlie”) you can look at documentation of the time during the division and see some of the most spectacular vehicles built for escapes.
#7 Walk through the Brandenburger Tor
Walking from the Zoologischer Garten towards the city Centre via the big famous Unter den Linden-street, the Brandenburger Tor provides a spectacular gateway to Berlin and its history. The Brandenburger Tor is one of Germany’s most visited landmarks and an icon of the city of Berlin. During its more than 300 years of history, it has played various roles. It has been a symbol for peace, war, victory, terror and war and since 1989 it stands for the reunification of Germany.
#8 Visit the Reichstag building
The Reichstag was built in the late 19th century for the German parliament. In 1999, after a turbulent history during World War II and the Cold War, it became once again the meeting place for the German government. Its reconstruction was completed in that year. My tip: visit the huge glass dome that was erected on the roof as a tribute to the original 1894 cupola, giving an impressive view over the city, especially at night.
Did I forget something? Please let me know your sightseeing tips for Berlin. Cannot wait to hear them.
all pictures via