Berlin

Berlin

Berlin is Germany’s capital and the largest city in the country. It has one of the most turbulent histories of any European capital but has emerged as one of Europe’s most popular destinations in recent years. There is a lot of history and art here, and Berlin has become very popular with students and young artists, writers, and creatives who have become the city’s new immigrants. While I dislike the “industrial” look of the city (I like pretty, old buildings!), the art, history, and nightlife cannot be beat. Berlin is an old city with a young heart and one of the most fun, coolest, most diverse and eclectic cities in Europe. There’s a constant sense of motion here.

Brandenburger Tor

A symbol of division during the Cold War, the landmark Brandenburg Gate now epitomises German reunification. Carl Gotthard Langhans found inspiration in Athens’ Acropolis for the elegant triumphal arch, completed in 1791 as the royal city gate. It stands sentinel over Pariser Platz, a harmoniously proportioned square once again framed by banks, a hotel and the US, British and French embassies, just as it was during its 19th-century heyday.

Reichstag

It’s been burned, bombed, rebuilt, buttressed by the Wall, wrapped in fabric and finally turned into the modern home of the German parliament by Norman Foster: the 1894 Reichstag is indeed one of Berlin’s most iconic buildings. Its most distinctive feature, the glittering glass dome, is serviced by a lift and affords fabulous 360-degree city views. For guaranteed access, make free reservations online, otherwise try scoring tickets at the Reichstag Service Centre for the same or next day.

Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer

For an insightful primer on the Berlin Wall, visit this outdoor memorial, which extends for 1.4km along Bernauer Strasse and integrates an original section of Wall, vestiges of the border installations and escape tunnels, a chapel and a monument. Multimedia stations, panels, excavations and a Documentation Centre provide context and explain what the border fortifications looked like and how they shaped the everyday lives of people on both sides of it. There’s a great view from the centre’s viewing platform.

Museumsinsel

Walk through ancient Babylon, meet an Egyptian queen, clamber up a Greek altar or be mesmerised by Monet’s ethereal landscapes. Welcome to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Berlin’s most important treasure trove, spanning 6000 years’ worth of art, artefacts, sculpture and architecture from Europe and beyond. Spread across five grand museums built between 1830 and 1930, the complex takes up the entire northern half of the little Spree Island where Berlin’s settlement began in the 13th century.

Potsdamer Platz

The rebirth of the historic Potsdamer Platz was Europe’s biggest building project of the 1990s, a showcase of urban renewal masterminded by such top international architects as Renzo Piano and Helmut Jahn. An entire city quarter sprouted on terrain once bifurcated by the Berlin Wall and today houses offices, theatres and cinemas, hotels, apartments and museums. Highlights include the glass-tented Sony Center and the Panoramapunkt observation deck.

Holocaust Memorial

Inaugurated in 2005, this football-field-sized memorial by American architect Peter Eisenman consists of 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete columns rising in sombre silence from undulating ground. You’re free to access this maze at any point and make your individual journey through it. For context visit the subterranean Ort der Information whose exhibits will leave no one untouched. Audioguides and audio translations of exhibit panels are available.

Schloss Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg Palace is one of the few sites in Berlin that still reflects the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern clan that ruled the region from 1415 to 1918. Originally a petite summer retreat, it grew into an exquisite baroque pile with opulent private apartments, richly festooned festival halls, collections of precious porcelain and paintings by French 18th-century masters. It’s lovely in fine weather when you can fold a stroll in the palace park into a day of peeking at royal treasures.

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