Twenty-five years ago on the evening of November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The whole world watched as thousands of Berliners from both the East and the West streamed through the confined border crossing, climbed over the concrete walls and chipped away at the Wall as they unified their city that had been divided since 1961.
Today, Berlin has become a vibrant metropolis with a creative arts scene, inviting public spaces and stunning architecture. It has reinvented itself as a political, business and entertainment center; and a rediscovery of the waterfront is in full swing, as restaurants, nightclubs and cafes position themselves along the Spree River and the city’s many canals. Berlin has a unique and diverse character with a mix of culture and counterculture – a place where history, politics and social preferences collide with a charming effect.
Berlin Sightseeing Recommendations
For an introductory tour of the city, take Bus 100 or 200 between Bahnhof Zoo and Alexanderplatz—you’ll pass many of the city’s most famous sites. Return on the elevated S-Bahn for a different view. Walking tours are also an excellent way to gain insider knowledge about the city. Travel Maestro tip: The Berlin WelcomeCard (2 – 5 days, 18.50 – 31.50 euros) includes free public transport plus discounted entrance fees at various museums, sites and shows. Even better is the Berlin WelcomeCard Museumsinsel (3 days, 34 euros) that grants public transport and free entry (without waiting in line) to all museums on the Museumsinsel, plus 50% discounts at other major attractions. Purchase these cards at tourist-information offices, public-transportation offices and many hotels.
The Reichstag, with its glass dome, is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. The dome itself is worth a visit, but the views of the government quarter to the north and west, as well as Potsdamer Platz to the south, make a stop there really worthwhile.
From the Reichstag, it’s a short walk to the Brandenburg Gate and the historical boulevard Unter den Linden. From the Linden, take a detour down Friedrichstrasse, a shopping hub, and explore the area around neoclassical Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s loveliest plaza. Leipziger Strasse will take you back to Potsdamer Platz, a major commercial and entertainment center.
If the weather is good, head to the Tiergarten Park or one of the many outdoor cafes by the Spree River. But if the weather isn’t to your liking, Berlin’s 150+ museums will offer you refuge. Rain or shine, you shouldn’t miss the classical antiquities showcased on Museumsinsel, an ensemble of five museums on an island in the Spree River. Travel Maestro tip: Admission to the 17 state museums is free on the first Sunday of the month.
10 Things You Need to Know When Visiting Berlin
- Geographically speaking, Berlin is in central Europe. As the crow flies, the German capital is closer to Warsaw than it is to either Paris or London. It’s also closer to Prague than it is to Frankfurt or Munich.
- Berlin has one of the most creative street art scenes in Europe. Many graffitis, legal or not, sprayed on giant derelict walls in Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg have made it into coffee table books.
- Berlin is home to the largest department store in continental Europe, the Kaufhaus des Westens on Kurfurstendamm.
- Berliners are famous for their honesty and quick wit. Germans lovingly call the straightforwardness trait Berliner schnauze (Berlin nozzle). Expect to hear an opinion, well-researched or not. Berliners are famous for saying exactly what they think. It is a local custom that is never intended to be rude or disrespectful.
- The underground, train, bus and tram systems are excellent, with trains departing every few minutes to practically anywhere in the city center. Parking can be a real challenge, so avoid cars.
- Always have spare change handy, because nearly all public restrooms, even those in some fast food places or stations, require a small fee of about 0.50 – 1 euros.
- Don’t assume that your credit card can be used everywhere. Debit cards, especially the European EC cash cards, are often the only type of card accepted. It is wise to check in advance or to carry sufficient cash on you. Even in places that accept credit cards, you can often earn a 5% discount by paying cash instead.
- Make sure you enjoy a Sunday brunch in one of Berlin’s countless cafes. Sunday brunches are a real institution in Berlin and are an excellent way of absorbing the casual and intellectually stimulating vibe of the city.
- Do try Berlin’s specialty beer called Berliner Weisse, a light wheat beer that is served with a shot of raspberry or woodruff syrup.
- Do try Berlin’s most famous pastry, the “Berliner Pfannkuchen”. You’ll find this doughnut, stuffed with marmalade and topped with powdered sugar, in every Berlin bakery.
We think Berlin is well worth your time to extend a business trip or expressly plan a vacation to experience the vibe of this reinvented city. For help with your business or vacation travel arrangements, contact Covington’s knowledgeable travel advisors.
All images courtesy of Visit Berlin.
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