12 Most Wunderbar Reasons to Visit Berlin
I went to Berlin in 2003 to speak at an e-learning conference. My happiest memory was of the best hotel room I have ever had, with the largest, comfiest bed and greatest bathroom. I only got to see a few bits of Berlin outside my hotel, but I did get dinner at the Reichstag in the newly reconstructed building — a total “Wow!” moment.
Here are some things I could have done, and of course, some things I actually did on my fleeting visit.
1. Visit the Reichstag
Renewed by Norman Foster in 1999, this building represents the new Berlin of unification. It features a wonderful central dome with a winding internal staircase, reminiscent of the Guggenheim museum in New York. The dome is no longer open to anyone without prior registration, but the roof has great views and an audio tour.
2. The Fernsehturm
This is one of the tallest towers in Europe and is visible throughout most of Berlin. You can go to the observation floor and get your bearings from day one, and really enjoy looking down on the city from all sides. Most interestingly? You can get a bird’s eye view of the differences between the architecture of the East and West in the avenues, which stretch away from the tower. This is best done whilst sipping coffee in the revolving restaurant.
3. The Brandenburg Gate
This is an iconic landmark that is also featured on the German euro coins. It lies in the city centre at the junction of Unter den Lind. I was able to enjoy it when I passed by in a very touristy horse-drawn carriage. It is a former city gate, and was once part of a series which you came through to get into Berlin.
4. Visit the wall and Checkpoint Charlie
Although the Berlin Wall has been demolished, you can still go on guided walks. Checkpoint Charlie is a tourist centre with information and huge display boards telling the story of the wall. The walk along that remains of the wall has a one mile stretch called the East Side Gallery. It is dedicated to art and has paintings made on the East side, from when the wall came down.
5. The Bauhaus Museum
Walter Gropius drew up the plans for this lovely building, which has a permanent exhibition of furniture, ceramics, photographs, sculptures, and art works. You can take a tour of the collection every Sunday at 3pm, and enjoy a more thorough immersion into all things Bauhaus. Or simply visit the shop and buy yourself something special.
6. The Kulturforum and Gemäldegalerie
The Kulturforum is a museum complex featuring several wonderful art galleries. The Gemäldegalerie museum has a collection of early European paintings, including great paintings by Rembrandt. The Neue Nationalgalerie was designed in the 1960’s by Mies van der Rohe and is an art piece in its own right. This museum has a great collection of expressionist art and is home to 20th century paintings. If you like midnight art, go and visit during the Long Night of the Museums when you can amble through until 2 a.m.
7. The Berlin Philharmonic
See one of the greatest symphony orchestras in its home setting, another architectural masterpiece–this time in yellow with a mid century interior featuring great acoustics.
8. Friedrichshain Open Air Cinema
Get here early to bag a deck chair and relax in the open air. Have a drink in your hand as you watch the sun going down while watching a film–often in English–with other Berliners.
9. Schloss Charlottenburg
A summer retreat for Queen Sophie-Charlotte, this palace and its gardens has a golden gallery for Midas himself (really for Frederick the Great) inside and beautiful, classical gardens outside. Enjoy some fresh air and stroll through with someone or several people you care about, and take a picnic for a rest from the hustle and bustle of the city.
10. Fast food
I have to admit, I did get one of the Currywurst from Konnopke’s Imbiss on Schonhauser Allee, which has been serving them since 1930. They do a veggie version as well, but nothing beats chunks of pork sausage covered with ketchup and curry paste with fries. Omm nomm nomm.
11. Hackescher Markt
There are some lovely old buildings here and a cultural and commercial centre with clothes shops. The famous nightlife with great clubs in the area is well worth a visit, too. There is a weekly market on Thursdays and Saturdays in the square.
12. JazzFest Berlin
If you’re like me, a jazz music lover who’s daughter even plays jazz, this is a must. If you are around when it is going on–jazz lover or no–go anyway, as it is one of the world’s great jazz festivals. Hosted in a myriad of venues and showcasing diverse music from around the world, jazz music can be heard in small clubs or large venues, like the Berlin Philharmonic.
Berlin has so much to offer and is such a wonderful city. It would be a shame to miss it in any trip to Germany (or for that matter, Europe!). I cannot really do more than offer a snapshot, but go see for yourself–then tell me what I missed.
Have you been to Berlin? What would you like to see if you went there? Tell me in the comments!
Feature image courtesy of Svenwerk via Creative Commons.