Berlin is a city of richly textured history. The sites that have shaped world history in the past century seem endless here. Berlin’s multiplicity is beguiling. The inviting harmony of elegance and experimental grit is interlaced into the laid-back coffee culture in the day and the illustrious partying after dark. History buffs eager to feel the energy of the past, fashion-lovers dying to shop the latest lines, party animals after techno, cocktails or world-class music, and even writers seeking inspiration: they all fall in love with Berlin and its irresistible energy.
1.Walk the East Side Gallery
Once the Berlin Wall, a concrete barrier that both physically and ideologically divided the city of Berlin. Now, a 1.3km stretch of art that unites and serves optimism to citizens and visitors alike. The East Side Gallery is the longest open-air gallery in the world and was begun immediately after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 by over one hundred international artists. Vibrant paintings comment on the political changes of Germany and beyond during the period. Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss, depicting Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev smooching, is the walls most renowned work. Another painting usually surrounded by eager camera lenses is Birgit Kinders’s iconic East Germany vehicle the Trabant breaking through the wall, named ‘Test the rest.’
2. Sip cocktails with a zoo view at Monkey Bar
Monkey Bar earns its name for its position overlooking the monkey house in the Berlin Zoo. If its primate entertainment isn’t enough to grab your attention, then its laid back vibe, eccentric cocktails and panoramic views over the city will. Monkey Bar sits on the 10th floor of the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, a contemporary and quirky hotel with a deconstructed lobby, with a vintage car and modern art, to entertain you during your short wait. Head to the Monkey Bar for sundown, and there most likely will be a short wait, because of its balcony views and prize for Europe’s best hotel bar. The bustling bar never feels overcrowded however, as customers perch on colourful sofas and vibrant cushions lining the wooden steps seats and relax listening to the music. The all glass restrooms allow you the unique experience of watching zoo monkeys go about their business whilst you go about your own.
3. Pay tribute to lost Jewish lives at the Holocaust Memorial
An imposing site of remembrance and warning, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe sits in the centre of the city. Following a competition, New York architect Peter Eisenman was selected to design the memorial and it was ceremonially opened in 2005 to pay respect to the millions of Jewish citizens who were murdered under the Nazi reign. Eisenman filled a 19,000 square metre space with 2711 concrete slabs of different sites that creates abstract shadows and contorted views of the area. The openness and unusual spatial structure invites visitors to take a moment to confront the horrors of the past and the prospects of the future to come.
4. Visit the symbolic Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is a monument symbolising over two hundred years of Germany history. Erected between 1788 and 1791, and designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, the gate was ordered by Prussian King Frederick William II as a key entry point to the city of Berlin. The gate was topped with the “Quadriga” statue, the goddess of victory, driving a chariot pulled by four horses. Napoleon Bonaparte dismantled the statue and shipped it back to Paris, it remained here until Prussian soldiers reclaimed it after Napoleon’s defeat. Once restored, it became a symbol of Prussia’s military victory over France with an added extra iron cross. The monument is famous site for political speeches, in particular it was here that on 12th June, 1987, Ronal Reagan commanded “Mr Gorbachov- tear down this wall!”
5. Explore the political seat of Germany
The Reichstag is the current house of German parliament and an internationally recognisable symbol of democracy. Tours are regular and the panoramic views from the glass dome roof are unbeatable. The Reichstag is a real example of eco-architecture, as it’s highly self-sufficient in its production of energy. The shape of the glass dome allows the natural lighting and ventilation to serve the building and sustain itself.
6. Eat Berlin’s leading currywurst at Curry 36
German fast food is served at its finest from Curry 36. The little stall serves up the delicious steamed and fried pork sausage covered in ketchup and curry. Grab a beer, a currywurst and some chips and watching the bustling city go about their day (or night, Curry 36 is open until the early hours). They even serve vegan currywurst now.
7. Picnic like royalty at the Charlottenburg Palace
The Charlottenburg Palace provides a breath of fresh air from the city flurry. Built in 1699, for Sophie Charlotte, the first Queen consort it Prussia, it is one of Germany’s most magnificent palaces. The luxurious décor and art can be explored on an easy tour, or relax in the delightful gardens with a summer picnic.
8. Delve into history on Museum Island
Museum island is an ensemble of five museums built on a small island in the Spree River in Mitte. The whole area was awared UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1999 and is an impressive and diverse display of historical architecture. The collections held on the island span six thousand years of human artistic endeavour. The Bode Museum juts out from the most northern tip of the island, appearing like a ship’s bow ploughing into the river, and houses an impressive sculpture and numismatic collection. Often a favourite of the five, the Alte Nationalgalerie was the first museum to open after Germany’s reunification and it houses one of the largest collections of 19th Century sculptures and paintings in the country. It’s designed to resembled a grand classical temple and is an elegant building for a photograph backdrop. The other three museums are: the Altes Museum, housing ancient Greek and Roman antiquities; Neues Museum, housing prehistoric and Egyptian works of art; and the Pergamon Museum, with Greek, Roman and Babylonian antiquities as well as impressive monuments.
9. Join the line at Burgermeister
Ever been served a burger from a toilet block? We didn’t think so. Burgermeister is a unique, and incredibly popular, fast food joint located under the elevated U-Bahn tracks in an ornate green, century old public toilet. Pull up a stool and tuck into the best-loved ‘Meisterburger’, a meat patty layered with caramelised onions, bacon, BBQ sauce and mustard.
10. Cool off in a floating urban swimming pool
Then Badeschiff, or ‘bathing ship’ is one of Berlin’s gems that’s often missed by visitors. In the tradition of old river swimming pools, the cold clean pool rests in the Spree with stunning views of the television tower and Berlin’s skyline. The Badeschiff has a sandy beach for relaxing, a beach bar serving beers and cocktails and usually a bbq grilling up smokey delights. On a warm summers day people play beach volleyball on the sand and bathe in the refreshing water. The most charming quality of the Badeschiff is its ability to feel completely urban whilst also offering the relaxing beach vibes of hammocks and soft sand.
11. Guzzle beer in an authentic garden setting
Berlin’s traditional beer gardens provide the perfect setting to unwind from a busy day. Steins of beer and traditional food are served up in each beer garden and hordes of people line the wooden benches and chatter about their weeks. The Prater is Berlin’s oldest beer garden, packed with benches and surrounded by densely leafed chestnut trees. As night falls, the enchanting fairy lights lining the trees add to the historical romance of the garden.
12. Stay up late
Berlin’s nightlife is famous for its diversity and infectious spirit. Everyone is a seeking a good time and the city offers this in a multitude of ways. Rooftop cocktails, classical music, super techno warehouses, cabaret, beer halls and basement clubs. Berlin’s weekends have no time limit, the city doesn’t switch off as the sun rises and the party continues in full force… if you can keep up.
13. Get lost in the winding city streets
This may seem an odd recommendation in a city crammed with historical sites, art galleries and museums that are asking to be explore. However, much of Berlin’s charm comes from its less-wandered neighbourhoods and their laid-back character. Getting lost in Friedrichshain will inevitably lead to some outstanding vintage shopping and warming coffee culture. Wandering Kreuzburg with no purpose will lead to unforgettable foodie spots lining the canal and the neighbourhood streets. An amble through Charlottenburg can guarantee impressive architecture and tasty ice cream spots. The beauty is in the surprises that crop up on Berlin’s every corner.
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Why have you fallen for Berlin? Let us know in the comments below.