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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin © Thomas Wolf

Berlin Travel Guide

For many, Berlin is the epitome of all that is great in German culture and this captivating city, a treasure trove of cultural attractions, is also at the heart of the global interest in Germany's turbulent history: 

Historically, Berlin is one of the most fascinating cities in the world and many people travel here primarily because they are curious about the dark mystique of the capital under Hitler, and the legacy of the Berlin Wall, which featured so prominently in the Cold War imagination. The city has been resurrected as an artistic, vibrant place, and has rapidly regained its pre-war reputation for being a party city. A holiday in Berlin attracts both sophisticated fun-lovers and voracious culture vultures, with a great balance between cultural treasures and exciting modern attractions. Visitors can pass through historic sites like the famous Checkpoint Charlie, take a tour around the iconic Reichstag, or marvel at the splendours of the Charlottenburg Palace, with its impressive collections of art and beautiful gardens.

Berlin's famous cabarets and nightclubs are in full swing, and its opera and concert venues seldom miss a note; the nightlife in this special city will not disappoint. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities in the many great retail streets and malls, and foodies will be similarly delighted by the selection of quality restaurants in Berlin.

Best time to visit Berlin

Berlin is famed for its long, sunny summers (June to late August) and this is the best time to visit, when outdoor cafes in the parks and gardens (especially the Tiergarten) come alive with events. However, Berlin's cultural delights, like museums and galleries, make it a year-round destination. Even in winter, often the least popular season to travel in Europe, the Berlin Christmas Markets and New Year's celebrations make it a rewarding time to visit. Read more on Berlin's Climate and Weather.

What to see in Berlin

-Visit the Allied Museum for an eye-full of interesting war memorabilia.

-Wander along the Berlin Wall's Eastside Gallery admiring the colourful art created in the name of freedom and brotherhood.

-Marvel at the magnificent Berlin Cathedral.

-Take your eyes for an adventure at the Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery.

What to do in Berlin

-Stroll through the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

-Explore ancient worlds in the breath-taking Pergamon Museum.

-Take the kids to the endlessly popular Berlin Zoo-Aquarium.

-Shop in the exciting atmosphere of the Potsdamer Platz.

Beyond Berlin

Berlin is a great base from which to explore northern and central Germany and in the unlikely event that visitors exhaust the attractions of the city they can make use of Berlin's status as an efficient transport hub to travel further afield. The city of Dresden, which suffered terrible destruction during the war, is one of the most popular destinations in Germany and is within easy reach from the capital. Hamburg is also one of the biggest draws to Germany and attracts millions of visitors every year. A little further north is the picturesque town of Lubeck with its remarkable 13th-century architecture. Coastal gems like Sylt also make for fun excursions.

Getting there

There are flights to Germany from cities all over the world and the most popular airport is Berlin-Tegel Airport, situated a convenient five miles (8km) northwest of the centre of Berlin. Another option is to fly into Berlin Schönefeld Airport, which is situated in the area of the city previously designated as East Berlin, and is 11 miles (18km) southeast of the city centre. Berlin Schönefeld is often cheaper and a good alternative for budget travellers. Get more information on Airport's in Berlin.

Did you know?

-Berlin is the most multi-cultural city in Germany.

-Berlin has about 1,700 bridges, more even than Venice.

-The first set of traffic lights in Europe went up in Potsdamer Platz.


Overview


For most of the latter part of the 20th century, Berlin has stood as a symbol of the division between East and West, split by the infamous wall erected to separate the socialist sector from the democratic district. When the Berlin Wall was pulled down in 1989 the city discovered that it suddenly had two of everything, most notably two very distinct societies separated both socially and economically. The past decades have seen Berlin embracing unification and rebuilding itself as an exciting and efficient modern European capital.

More than 100 streets have been reconnected, and signs of the Wall's existence have all but disappeared. Years of division are still reflected in the new city's architecture, however, with a modern city of skyscrapers, retail centres and urban developments in the West contrasting with the remains of the pre-war city in the East. For nearly 30 years the Wall sealed off the imposing Brandenburg Gate from the West, but now traffic passes through it freely. Similarly, Alexanderplatz, which was one of the main centres of 1920s Berlin, and later post-war East Germany, has once again become one of the city's focal centres. The site of the infamous Check Point Charlie, with its threatening monitoring tower erected to ensure no one crossed over from East to West, is now a museum, and while the tower no longer stands, visitors can see the East Side Gallery, a surviving chunk of the real Wall, now decorated riotously by street artists.

Apart from its unique historical status, Berlin is once again a vibrant centre for the arts, with many museums, galleries and theatres. At the Kulturforum visitors will find a number of impressive museums and concert venues from the spectacular Berliner Philharmonie concert hall to the complex's Picture Gallery, which houses a vast collection of European paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries. Berlin also boasts a fantastic nightlife, and while tastes have changed since the height of the cabaret halls of the 1920s and 30s, there is a vast array of venues catering to all sorts. Berlin's calendar is also packed with festivals and parties, from the Christopher Street Day gay and lesbian parade in June to Jazz Fest Berlin in November. All this contributes to an ever-evolving city that makes a holiday in Berlin an exciting and attractive prospect.

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