Welcome to Berlin
Berlin is the largest city in Germany and attracts the most visitors, from within Germany, and abroad. Since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the city has undergone a renaissance, revitalising the lifestyle, and vibrancy of the unified country's capital. Many of the buildings badly damaged by the aerial bombings during World War II have been restored, while others remain as a reminder of those dark war years of 1939 to 1945.
Berlin Travel.com is a guide to all you can see and experience in this dynamic city. Please enjoy our site, and email us with any suggestions.
What to do in the city
Well the first thing you must do is visit the Berlin Wall, or what is left of it before it was largely torn down in 1989. The perimeter along which the Wall once stood is now symbolised by a series of bricks installed in the pavement, and is an ideal venue for a walking excursion. You can see how the city was divided into East Berlin and West Berlin. Some sections of the wall still remain in the city east alongside the River Spree. There is also a commemoration museum dedicated to those who tried to escape East Berlin but met their death in doing so. This is known as the Berlin Wall Memorial. Another must see is the Brandenburg Gate (pictured above) which was the scene of that famous speech by U.S. President John F. Kennedy, and one of his succesors Ronald Reagan, who demanded that the Wall be torn down.
How to Get There
You can fly into the city's Berlin-Tegel International Airport, whose code is TXL. There are two main airports servicing Berlin, this is by fat the largest and most used. Tegel International has four terminals, (A, B, C and D). Terminal A contains the boarding gates for all flag carriers servicing the airport, and it is in this terminal that all the airport lounges and shopping areas are found. Terminal B contains boarding gates which take passengers via bus to various aircraft, and Terminals C and D are used promarily by regional and local budget carriers.
There is however a major redevelopment occurring of the Berlin-Schonefeld International Airport (whose code is SXF), which presently predominantly services low-cost carriers. On completion of the redevelopment, slated for 2011, this airport will take over as the main airport in Berlin.
The city has two main airports because of its Cold War history, when the city was split between two different countries. Lufthansa offers direct flights to Berlin from all over the world, and almost every major city in Europe and Africa. From the Middle East Etihad, Emirates Air and Quatar Airlines offer direct services from all major cities, especially Dubai, which is a regional travel hub.
There are scores of upmarket (four and five star) hotels in Berlin, hundreds of midrange hotels, hostels and backpackers accommodations available throughout the city. As tourism is a major activity, accommodation options abound, and cater for visitors in all price ranges. The city's top hotels can be expensive, especially during peak season. Midrange hotels however are more affordable, and if you're on a budget it would be best to look to a hostel or a bakpackers complex.
General tourism information
The official Web site for Germany Tourism, known as "Germany - The Travel Destination" can be accessed here. For the section specifically devoted to Berlin click here. This is how the official Web site describes the country:
Experience new things, have fun and relax.Vibrant cities with amazing architecture, fabulous shopping and pulsating nightlife. Enchanting medieval villages and traditional wine villages with friendly festivals and regional specialities. Picturesque countryside which is perfect for walking or simply relaxing in. Castles, palaces and abbeys that are the epitome of German romanticism. Fun & sport, wellness & relaxation. A land of a thousand possibilities.
For a map of Germany click here.
Many of the visitors to Berlin come to see the Museums, Art Galleries, Churches and other Landmarks. The following descriptions of these attractions are provided by courtesy of Wikitravel:
Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people 16 years of age or older - usually €6 to €8 (a day ticket with which one can also visit the other state museums is the only thing available and doesn't count for special exhibitions) for the big museums. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. However, the state-run museums grant free entrance four hours before closing every Thursday. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass 'Museumspass' SchauLUST-MuseenBERLIN for €19 (reduced €9.50), which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the approximately 70 state-run museums and public foundations. Most museums are closed on Mondays; notable exceptions include the Altes Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which are open daily.
A selection of important museums include:
- Museumsinsel Literally "Museum Island", this area is best known for the vast Pergamon-Museum, which houses an extensive collection of ancient Greek, ancient Middle-Eastern and Islamic art and architecture. Other museums which belong to the Museum Island are the Altes Museum (with the Egyptian and the antique collection), the Alte Nationalgalerie (with mainly German paintings of the 19th century) and the reopened Bode-Museum with its fantastically presented sculpture collection and Byzantine art. The Neues Museum is under restoration and will open in 2009, it will harbour the Egyptian collection then.
- Deutsches Historisches Museum, Unter den Linden 2, Tel. +49 30 203040. German historical museum covering everything from pre-history right up to the present day. One can spend many, many hours here!
- Jüdisches Museum, Lindenstraße 9-14, Tel. +49 30 25993 300. 10AM-8PM. Jewish Museum. Learn about the history of Jews in Germany. Permanent exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history, changing exhibitions and impressive modern architecture by Libeskind. There is a small unrelated Jewish Museum at the Oranienburger Straße Synagogue.
- Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, Tel. +49 30 266 2951. At the Kulturforum. Thousands of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th century. Works from Dürer, Raffael, Tizian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens.
- Neue Nationalgalerie, Potsdamer Straße 50, Tel. +49 30 266 2951. At the Kulturforum. Art from the 20th Century. This museum often houses temporary exhibitions during which the permanent collection is usually not on display.
- Museum für Naturkunde. Near the main railway station. Natural science museum with a big collection of dinosaur skeletons, fossils and minerals. Reopened after restoration in late 2007.
- Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie. This museum is situated at the most famous historical checkpoint between the two Germanys.
- Museum of European Cultures. The biggest of its sort in Europe. At the museum district of Dahlem.
- Ethnological Museum. Again one of the world's most comprehensive museums. At the museum district of Dahlem. Well worth a visit for its splendid collection of Pre-Columbian archaeology! It now includes the:
- Topography of Terror. This open-air museum documents the terror applied by the Nazi regime. It consists of excavated prison cells located directly under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
- DDR Museum Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 1, 10178 Berlin. This small museum just over the river from the Berliner Dom. Really interesting with all the displays in German and English, it gives a good insight into life in the former GDR.
- Musikinstrumenten-Museum Tiergartenstraße 1 (am Kulturforum), 10785 Berlin. This museum is part of the Staatliches Institu für Musikforschung PK and has an amazingly wide range of historic and unusual instruments on display.
- Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin. Interesting exhibition charting the development of European hospitals from the 14th Century to the present day.
- Ramones Museum Berlin. The Ramones Museum Berlin pays tribute to the Punk band The Ramones. It displays more than 300 unique and original Ramones memorabilia.
Private art galleries
As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not-so-crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg). A directory listing of all Berlin's art galleries can be found on The Art of Berlin: Complete Berlin Art Gallery Directory
Art Center Berlin Friedrichstraße, Friedrichstraße 134, Tel. +49 30 27879020. Four floors of exhibitions with a relatively good variety of genres and artists. A very nice oasis of calm from the busy Friedrichstraße.
- boxoffberlin (a/k/a bob), Zimmerstraße 11, Tel. +49 30 44701555. Exhibitions of Berlin Artists. Bob is also a shop for Berlin-Design-Souvenirs and a Café.
- Galerie Eigen & Art, Auguststraße 26, Tel. +49 30 280 6605. One of the most famous German art galleries, home to the Neue Leipziger Schule (Neo Rauch et al.)
- loop -- raum fur aktuelle kunst, Jägerstrasse 5, 10117. Known for being the "incubator" of future famous Berlin artists. Primarily featuring sculpture video, and painting.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
There are some historically interesting and architecturally remarkable churches which include the following:
- Berliner Dom— The biggest and most impressive church in Berlin, built at the turn of the century (19th/20th) as an expression of imperial power. Located next to the museum island. Entrance is 5 Euros, and you can climb on top of the dome for a beautiful view over the Berlin center.
- The Twintowers of the Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) and the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral) face each other at the Gendarmenmarkt in Central Berlin, flanking the Konzerthaus.
- Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche— Highly symbolic church, dating back to 1891-95, with two modern buildings designed by Egon Eiermann in 1961, a hexagonal bell tower and an octagonal worship hall, aside the ruins from World War II.
- Marienkirche— Located near Alexanderplatz, this is not only the highest church tower in Berlin (90 m), but also one of the oldest churches left in the historical center of Berlin (which is totally torn down in this area). Entrance is free and inside are many treasures from the old days.
- Nikolaikirche— The oldest church in Berlin, dating back to the beginning of 13th century (at least the stones next to the ground). Does not serve as a church. Changing exhibitions inside, entrance free.
- St. Hedwigs Kathedrale— Domed Church located at Bebelplatz/Unter den Linden, the oldest (mid 18th century) and one of the biggest Catholic churches in Berlin, interior was redesigned in a modern style in the 1950s - but still many treasure chambers in the basement.
- Friedrichswerdersche Kirche— Nice church located near Unter den Linden/Museum Island, finished in 1830 by Schinkel - English Neogothic style. Nice exhibition inside (neoclassical statues and an exhibition about Schinkel's life and work upstairs), entry is free.
Outside of the Reichstag Dome
While Berlin has relatively few high-rise buildings, there are several monuments with observation decks. Probably the most famous of all is the TV Tower near Alexanderplatz, the tallest tower in Germany and second largest in Europe, which has a rotating café at the top spinning 360 degrees in just 30 minutes! 40 seconds is all it takes to reach the top by lift. But there are also other great observation desks, the main ones are listed below (for others have a look in the district pages).
- Reichstag— The German Parliament building, near the Brandenburg gate, was renovated by Sir Norman Foster and reopened in 1999 with a spectacular new glass dome, which offers a great view of Berlin. Be prepared for long lines (sometimes 1 hour) and an extensive security check. Free entrance thru the West portal, 8AM-midnight, daily. Visitors may pre-book free tours of the building, avoid standing in line for the dome, and enter with confirmed reservation at scheduled times through the north portal.
- Berliner Funkturm— 150 meter high lattice tower with open-air observation deck 124 meters above ground. Only observation tower on insulators! Located in the Western fair district, out of city center.
- Berliner Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz. The TV tower is Germany's tallest construction: 368 meters high. Observation deck 204 meters above ground. Costs €9,50 as of Nov 2008. Be wary of the weather changing; the fog can come in during the rather long queues and you may not be able to see anything at the top. There is a restaurant and a bar in the observation deck. You need to buy tickets from the ticket office, then join a seperate queue to get into the tower.
- Siegessäule (Victory Column), Tiergarten. An old (1865-1873), 60 meter high monument with panoramic views of the very center of the city. Unfortunately there is no elevator, so be prepared for 285 steps. The statue of Victoria on the top is the place where the angels congregate in the famous film "Der Himmel über Berlin" by Wim Wenders. It has also become something of a symbol for the annual Love Parade techno music festival.
- Kollhoff Tower, Potsdamer Platz. The fastest elevator in Europe takes you approximately 100 meters high.
- Europa Center, Zoologischer Garten. Shopping center with a panorama floor at the 20th floor (90 meters). In Budapester Straße, overlooking Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church. Entrance is €4 or €2 if you show a receipt from one of the restaurants in the Europa Center.
- Europe Centre-Berlin Window— 100 meter high building in Berlin City West with a breathtaking 360 degrees view over the capital. An elevator takes you to the 20th floor.Upstairs you can have a drink if you'd like. 4,50 EUR for adults, 3 EUR for seniors, students and groups.Daily 10am-6pm. Tauentziestrasse 11, next to Saturn Market(enter on the first floor)
A staple in Berlin is currywurst. It's a bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder. You can find them all over Berlin by street vendors. It's a must try when in Berlin. Two renowned Currywurst stands are "Konnopke's Imbiss" below Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2 and "Curry 36" opposite the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg (only two stops south of Checkpoint Charlie). Both of these offer far friendlier service than many of Berlin's more upmarket eateries.
Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes. Vegetarians can eat quite well with a little bit of research and menu modification even if Berlin seems like a carnivore heaven with all the sausage stands. Many kebab restaurants have a good selection of roasted vegetables and salads. Falafels are also tasty and suitable for vegetarians.
All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down -- it's not that common to accept credit cards in some parts of the city. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and Mastercard; all other cards will only be accepted in some upmarket restaurants.
One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and even the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though, The "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe since several administrative and religious buildings are located here.
For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukolln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebap restaurants. (Berlin was the birthplace of the Döner Kebab about 30 years ago.) Prices start from 1,50 € for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.
Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists and students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further. Up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.
For more information:
Foder's Travel Guide