I’m a bit weird when it comes to writing about Berlin, Germany. There are so many things to do in Berlin and I’ve visited the city four times already now, and yet I’ve never properly written about it. I had a list of things to do in Berlin in winter here, a list of things to do in summer there… So I finally decided to gather all that information into one big post. It’s a work in progress, so bare with me!
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(Because this is one long post!)
Berlin in winter: my introduction to the city
In February 2007 I went to Berlin for the very first time. My university friend Elise and I had just finished our winter exams and were ready to let off some steam.
Cooling down wasn’t a problem in Berlin, as it was a freezing -10°C when we got there. That’s cold as it is, but it’s definitely cold when you’re visiting open squares where the wind keeps on touching your face in a not so gentle way. I think we were cold 90% of that trip, but we also immediately fell in love with the city. There’s just so much to do and so much to see. We didn’t take a lot of pictures because of the cold, but here’s a look at the places we’ve visited:
Alexanderplatz is a large public square in the Mitte district of Berlin. You can easily spot it from anywhere in the city because it’s where the Fernsehturm, the television tower, stands. There are plenty of shops along the square, but the main tourist attraction here, apart from the tower, is the Weltzeituhr or the World Clock which shows the current time in different cities around the world.
The Neue Wache on the famous Unter den Linden street was built for the troops of the Prince of Prussia, but has been a war memorial since 1931. The exact name and “content” of the memorial changed as that ârt of Berlin was occupied by the Sovjets, turned into the DDR and later was reunited during the German Unification. It currently holds a copy of a sculpture of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz called “Mother and her Dead Son”.
One of the places we visited was the Reichstag, the German Parliament. We had high expectations because the line outside was pretty long and we read in a guidebook that the Reichstag had a museum part where you could see what the old offices looked like.
Well, it wasn’t really worth the wait in line and no sight of the museum part… To enter we had to go through a security check and then we could go up in small groups with an elevator that brought us to the top part of the building, which had a shiny structure in the middle that you could walk around.
Note: a couple of years later Elise moved to Berlin for a few months and told me that there’s a terrace on top of the Reichstag in summer and that it’s much nicer up there with a cool drink in the sun.
When visiting Berlin, you should definitely go to Charlottenburg. You can get there by subway and the palace gardens are great for a walk. I really should go back when the weather’s better, although I do think the fog adds a certain (spooky) ambiance to the place.
We went back to Berlin a couple of years later in summer. I must say I preferred the warmer temperatures:-)
More things to do in Berlin
1. Enjoy the view over the city from the rooftop of the Reichstag
2. Go to a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic
3. Get your culture on at Museum Island
4. Take a stroll through Tiergarten Park
5. Become silent at the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe
6. Feel the history at the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburger Gate)
7. See the past meet the present at the Eastside Gallery, a remaining part of the Berlin wall covered in graffiti.
8. Pay your respect at the memorial for war victims Neue Wache
9. Feel the vibrancy of Kreuzberg, an alternative neighborhood full of street art and bars.
10. Take the subway to Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace). Take a picnic to enjoy in the gardens with view on the palace.
11. Tempelhof airport was turned into a park after I’ve last been to Berlin. I’m sure it’s a must-see.
12. There’s no way you can skip the Jewish Museum. Anyone would go silent here.
13. Visit the Stasi Museum to be taken back into time. The former headquarters of the East German Secret Police display cameras hidden in suitcases and other surveillance techniques.
14. Check out what time it is in the rest of the world on the World Time Clock on Alexanderplatz.
15. Walk along Unter den Linden, a famous East Berlin street with historical landmarks on both sides.
16. Admire the amazing graffiti you can find everywhere in the city. Check out these great photos of street art of Berlin from Justin.
Some general tips
Visit the Museums
The Museum Island is the home of the five important city museums, two that must be seen are Neues Museum – the Egyptian museum and Pergamonmuseum – the archaeological museum. There are numerous other fascinating structures here dating far back in history to the BC era that you can walk through.
Go to Grunewald
This is Berlin’s biggest forested area. Be sure to pack a picnic basket and relax away from the bustle of the city. Take a dip in the lake or take a bike or a horseback ride here; its sure to be a tranquil experience. It also has some relics from the World War.
Walk through Mauer Park
As a visitor you must walk the Mauer Park and eat at the flea market or get good a good bargain for some nick nacks or just enjoy the evening musical fiesta here.
Enjoy the view
The city’s architecture is a mix of the World War days and the modern skyscrapers. You must go up one of the tall building of the city and enjoy this mix; the Fernshturm and Panoramapunkt offer some panoramic views from the top.
The city has numerous museums. The DDR is an interactive one that gives you the feel of old Germany. The Jüdisches Museum and Neue Synagogue gives you a tour of the Jewish history. The Bauhaus Museum houses artefacts from recent time and is also an art school.
Walk the wall
Though most of it was demolished in 1990, no trip to Berlin is complete without visiting the wall. See Checkpoint Charlie and learn about its importance in the Cold War.
Eat it all
Well remember to eat your heart out if you visit Berlin, Currywurst is a local German pork sausage that’s a must try and so is Falafel which are deep fried chickpea balls – famous with the Turkish population. There are several bars and restaurants to feed your taste buds too.
See a movie in the open
A unique experience is seeing a movie at dusk at The Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz or Friedrichshain Open Air Cinema; they show movies dubbed in English. And with the popularity of the places be sure to get here early to grab a good seat.
Where to stay in berlin
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
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