Sightseeing in Berlin
Berlin has a veritable banquet of grand structures, historic landmarks and evocative monuments to feast your eyes upon. A great number of the city’s most impressive sights are focused on the atmospheric Mitte district, which was once part of East Berlin in the dark, divided days of the Wall.
Thankfully though, today the area is a thriving scene of regeneration, something that will particularly strike you at the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Built in 1791, the huge Corinthian-style columns of this neoclassical monument dominate the open square that surrounds it. Visit at night and you’ll see the bullet-ridden stonework (from World War II) lit up in a golden glow, topped by the famous mint-green statue of a horse-drawn chariot.
As the capital of Germany, Berlin is still the political pivot of the country, a fact you’ll see when you visit the famous Reichstag Building. This grand building was given a new lease of life with its shimmering glass dome designed in 1993 by Norman Foster. Wander its spiralling walkways and then marvel at its mirror ball centre.
Berlin is unafraid to face up to its fiercely political history too. Chunks of the graffiti-strewn Berlin Wall still stand as an oppressive reminder of the city’s past. And of course, a visit to Checkpoint Charlie is essential to gain a true understanding of how strict border controls broke down relations between East and West.
For a more spiritual revelation, it’s well worth seeing the Berlin Cathedral. Located on the pleasingly pleasant Museum Island, the mint domes and dusky stonework stand out on the Berlin skyline.
Activities in Berlin
Spend time in Berlin and you’ll soon realise it cements its status as a city of enlightenment, especially at the inspirational Museum Island. Surrounded on all sides by the River Spree, this pleasant slice of land features five of the city’s most famous museums – the Pergammon, Bode, Altes, Neues and Alte Nationalgalerie all reside here. Together, they house some of the world’s most astounding pieces, including the colossal cobalt blue and gold Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the huge bas-reliefs of the Altar of Zeus at the Pergammon. That’s not forgetting the angular Nefertiti Egyptian bust at the Neues, and the huge sculpture collection at the Bode.
With more than 160 museums spread across the city, Berlin can certainly lay claim to being a capital of culture. Yet one with a slightly more recent historical focus is sure to capture your attention – the DDR Museum casts a sharp spotlight on the paranoid atmosphere of old East Germany. You’re invited to get involved in the interactive displays, testing covert ‘bugs’ and even wandering inside East German living rooms, cinemas and prison cells.
Berlin is a thrillingly modern city of art too. There are no less than 400 art galleries to be admired here, spanning the ages from Prussian masterworks at the Alte Nationalgalerie to the ultra-contemporary pieces of the Hamburger Banhof. The expansive, glass-encased design of the Neue Nationalgalerie is fascinating to see of itself, alongside the many modern art works inside.
Family fun in Berlin
Thanks to its modern outlook, Berlin has a brilliant range of activities to engage all ages. This is particularly the case at the Potsdamer Platz. Doubling as both a historic Prussian square and a revived pedestrian area, Potsdamer Platz is now the site of an incredibly high viewing tower, Panoramapunkt and an entertainment complex known as the Sony Center. Take a ride with the kids in the Panoramapunkt’s lift – rising more than 8m per second, it is Europe’s fastest elevator! Children will love the laser-lit dome of the Sony Center too, as it houses a huge IMAX theatre and a colourful Legoland. Tired mums can visit the Arkaden shopping centre for some retail therapy as well!
There are plenty of exhibits focused on nature that will ignite the interest of children too. Visit the huge Berlin Aquarium and you’ll be greeted by an exotic range of sea creatures in incredibly modern surroundings. Expect to see the ghostly spectres of jellyfish, bright tropical species and even giant pythons!
The Natural History Museum also has an awe-inspiring number of collections. The kids are certain to be wowed by the Brachiosauraus fossil – it’s the tallest dinosaur skeleton in the world!
But if you prefer to see animals alive and in full bloom, you may prefer to visit the Tierpark Zoo. Nestled within the woodlands of the Tiergarten park, this well-kept zoo houses an extensive number of exotic creatures, including elephants, tigers, lions, pandas, polar bears, seals and more!
Romantic breaks in Berlin
There are plenty of moments for quiet reflection in Berlin, making it just perfect for a romantic escape within a thriving cityscape. Wander hand-in-hand along the achingly beautiful boulevard known as Unter den Linden. Directly translated as ‘under the lime trees’ this pretty street is lined with leafy trees in every shade of amber, green and gold. This car-free thoroughfare passes many famous sights for you to admire together too, such as the Museum Island, Crown Prince’s Palace, and Berlin State Opera.
Even more idyllic, the Tiergarten is sprawling parkland densely forested with the shady coverings of thousands of incredibly tall oak and elm trees. Pick a spot by its eternally calm lake and enjoy a relaxing picnic together. Then explore the park further to discover the glittering golden statue of the Victory Column and the stately, imposing figures of the Bismarck Memorial.
But it doesn’t have to be all about sightseeing – just strolling around the city together is a real delight. This is especially true of the arty Prenzlauer Berg district, where you’ll enjoy quirky coffee shops and a bold approach to fusion cuisine at trendy restaurants. The Kurfürstendamm district will be the ideal place to treat each other while you’re in Berlin, as it boasts chic boutiques and designer labels on its upmarket shopping streets.
Berlin boasts incredibly efficient U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro and railway systems. It’s certainly the fastest and most cost effective way to get around this sprawling city. If you plan to travel around, it’s definitely worth picking up the WelcomeCard pass – it entitles you to 72 hours unlimited travel on bus, tram, underground and railway systems. Plus you’ll get some museum discounts thrown in for your money too!
Museum pass Berlin
On the subject of passes, the rather unimaginatively titled Museum Pass Berlin will give you admission to a staggering number of Berlin’s biggest attractions for three consecutive days. Amazingly, you need only visit a few of the attractions included to get more than your money’s worth!
If you love sport, the Olympic Stadium of Berlin is well worth a visit. A masterpiece of modern design, its huge bowl-like structure can hold almost 75,000 people and it was the stadium of the 2006 FIFA World Cup final.
- Please – Bitte
- Thank you - Danke schön
- Good morning - Guten Morgen
- Good evening - Guten Abend
- Good night - Schönen Abend noch
- Excuse me - Entschuldigen Sie
- I don't understand - Ich verstehe das nicht
- Do you speak English? - Sprechen Sie Englisch?
- I can't speak German - Ich kann nicht Deutsch sprechen.
- Do you know where ... is? - Wissen Sie, wo ... ist?