A friend of mine asked me this week for some tips for his week-long trip to Berlin, and when I’d got halfway through writing the email I realised just how much I love Berlin and thought I’d share my must-sees with everyone.
I first visited Berlin as a 14-year-old on a school exchange trip, and as luck would have it, I ended up being there for the week that included 3 October 1990: Reunification Day. My host family took me to the Brandenburg Gate for the midnight reunification and fireworks show, and I still get goosebumps just thinking about that night. And I still have a photo I took that night on display in my bookcase. (I’ll have to scan it sometime and post it).
So, you can imagine that this kind of start has led me to a bit of a love affair with what’s now (but wasn’t then) the German capital. Since then I’ve had numerous return visits but dream of living there for a couple of months to really soak up the whole Berlin thing. If you’re visiting, then here’s a brief list of what I consider the must-sees of Berlin:
- The museum at Haus am Checkpoint Charlie: basically everything related to the Berlin Wall fascinates me – I even wrote a one-act play in high school about the fall of the Wall – so this museum is a natural highlight for me. It’s scary to think about the reality of the Wall being so recent, but still worthwhile to see stuff like the various escape methods used; it’s sad to read about those who tried to escape but failed.
- The dome on top of the German parliament, the Reichstag – this glass dome on top is relatively new, and the spiral walkway takes you high up above the politicians, lets you see multiple views of yourself in the central mirrors and gives you a great perspective over Berlin. I’ve gone up twice and had to queue quite a while each time, so get there early (or possibly late – last entry is 10pm and it’s open until midnight).
- The Jewish Musuem – it’s a toss-up for me as to whether this or the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam is my favourite of all, but in any case, it’s fantastic. It’s not just the exhibitions (which are pretty interesting on their own) but the design of the entire complex – and especially the halls like Memory Void with its heavy iron faces. You have to see it to really understand it.
There’s so, SO much more to see in Berlin – I just opened one of my guidebooks which says there are 170 museums alone, and there’s a lot more to be seen in a city than just its museums. Walking (and eating or drinking) alone Unter den Linden; strolling through Tiergarten; checking what’s new at Potsdamer Platz; the list is endless. Basically my conclusion is this: you can’t go to Berlin and not have a great time.