Berlin is the capital of Germany as well as the central city of one of Germany’s 16 states. It is a cosmopolitan city with more than 3.5 million inhabitants and definitely a place that has a lot to offer. This metropolis has a long history that combines the new and old. Best of all, Berlin is home to numerous museums and historic monuments not to mention it’s extraordinary culture and nightlife.
Where to Stay?
Until 1989, the city was divided into two parts. West Berlin, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany and East Berlin, the capital of the German Democratic Republic. The Wall was taken down between 1990 and 1992 and Berlin was reunited. Only fragments of the wall are left behind to be visited by tourists. Still, the division bought about a unique structure, with no single city center.
So where are you going to stay? The city is spread out on large territory. There are certainly a lot of options when it comes to accommodation. Your probably looking for a location that allows you to explore the most exciting places, sit back and relax and join the party when you feel like it. Some of these places can be very heavy on the budget but here are the best neighborhoods:
- Kreuzberg – a formal part of west Berlin, the neighborhood comes with lots of Oriental, especially Turkish and Lebanese influences and lots of beautiful old streets.
- Mitte – an artsy neighborhood that combines elegance with creativity and gives home to some really great cafes and eateries, too.
- Friedrichshain – the best place if you want a room somewhere central as well as the opportunity to explore Berlin’s famous nightlife.
Where to Eat?
If you are in Berlin, you must definitely try the currywurst with French fries called Pommes and the doner. The wurst is a special German sausage that usually comes with mild curry sauce. You can try in it many excellent places, Curry 36 being among the most famous on the Western side. Konnopke’s Imbiss is another one of the most appreciated places and can be found in the Eastern part.
Who has the best doner? What’s a Doner you say? A Doner is a Turkish sandwich-like meal that comes with roast meat, vegetables and various sauces, usually served in bread or pita. One excellent place to try this is Mustafa in Kreuzberg. Be prepared though, you will have to stand in a long line to get your kebap. It is that good and that popular, indeed.
Wiener Schnitzel and Kasespatzle are two other specialties you should try in Berlin. Wiener Schnitzel is a thin, but usually very large slice of veal that gets breaded and fried. Kasespatzle, a kind of pasta covered in various types of local cheese is also yummy. One of the best places to try them is Lebensmittel Mitte. This restaurant serves classic German dishes that come with a modern and innovative twist in taste and garnishing.
When it comes to drinks, beer is certainly something you should try. Every restaurant and brasserie has a different beer on tap and socializing is much easier with a large glass of frosty beer in front of you.
What to Do?
Berlin has lots of attractions in store for any visitor. If you are interested in sightseeing and visiting historic buildings, you can either book a one-day or longer sightseeing tour with a local tour operator. You can also decide to design your own itinerary and follow it either by combining walking and public transport which is perfect in Berlin. You can also rent a bike.
Alexanderplatz, is the central square in Mitte and one of the city’s major attractions. It was enlarged and renovated several times when it belonged to the German Democratic Republic and it now combines beautiful historic buildings with modern architecture. The Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate as well as the most well-known crossing point between the East and the West, the Checkpoint Charlie are also historic monuments that are worth seeing.
If you are more interested in the arts, Museum Island is certainly something that you should not miss. Situated in Berlin’s heart, this unique ensemble gives home to the Old Museum, the New Museum, the Old National Gallery, the Bode Museum as well as to the German State Opera.
If you would like to get away from the city, the Berlin Zoo is great fun and an excellent destination for families, individuals and couples as well.
City Explorers Tip
If you are looking for a relaxing afternoon off the beaten tracks, there is an extraordinary café called the Buchkantine just one street away from the river Spree. The café has great coffee and it also offers the visitor the opportunity to thumb through the books on display while they listen to soft jazz. On Sundays, from 8pm, you can watch detective movies in the cafe, too.
A Day Off the Beaten Path
You need to be well-fed to be able to make the most of your day in Berlin, so start by having a delicious breakfast or fruhstuck, as they say in German. German patisserie shops make the most amazing bread and pastries and most of them serve various cured meats and cheeses to go with your roll or bun.
When you feel ready to move and visit a location that is usually not included into the mainstream tourist guides, Templehof, the formal airport, holds lots of surprises for you. It is a huge ensemble of buildings, including the airport building itself which was built by the Nazis and is one of the buildings from that era that was preserved. A lot of people come here to rollerblade or to fly kites and it is an excellent place for relaxation.
If you are looking for a more natural environment, you can visit the city’s huge animal park called Tierpark. Everyone has heard about the world-famous Berlin zoo, but not everyone knows that Berlin has an alternative, too, a park with enclosures so large that they don’t feel like enclosures at all. The trip there starts from Alexanderplatz. Take the line 5 of the U-Bahn, one of the city’s underground railway lines and go east through Friedrichsfelde – the train will take you not only to an amazing park, but also back in time.