City tips: Berlin could be my favourite European city

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.

Brandenburger Tor Berlin

The iconic Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) in Berlin

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.

The 3 best places to see in Berlin

Comments

  1. I was also impressed by Berlin and went to the Berlin Wall Museum and Jewish Museum by myself. Wonderful because I could take my sweet time going through. The cleanliness of the streets also struck me and there are fab restaurants. The legal prostitutes were a little creepy though…

  2. James, you’re absolutely right, and that fortunate coincidence sealed my love of Berlin (and Germany!). It was very strange because the trip was in planning before the Wall had even come down. I stayed with a West Berlin man and his East Berlin wife so it was particularly special for them.

  3. That is quite remarkable fortune that you were in Berlin on Reunification Day. It’s a great city to revisit because it is constantly changing.

    I first went in 2000. The day I got there I took a photo of the Brandenburg Gate, then that afternoon they started putting scaffolding around it to finally restore it from WWII damage. I returned in 2006 to see the impressive new Hauptbahnhof.

  4. Great to see that people from all over the world like the city I was born and raised in and great to know you all have such good memories connected to Berlin.
    I was born in the Eastern part and we moved over before the wall came down, so I kinda know both sides and the development this city went through is amazing.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Stefan, that must have made for an interesting childhood – I bet you have some interesting stories to tell. Yes, we all love your city! Might see you there sometime 🙂

  6. This is one of the few great European cities I have yet to visit…thanks for the info and looking forward to getting there some time

  7. Thanks Catherine, you definitely have to check it out some time – I promise it’ll be worth it!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I went to Germany for 2 weeks last winter. I visited a good friend in Bremen for the first few days. Then I went to Cologne and down to Bavaria. While I was in Bremen I really wanted to see Berlin. It’s a 3 hour train ride away and I really didn’t have much room in my agenda for an extended visit to Berlin, so I went for a “day trip” to Berlin, which realistically was only about 5 hours, with 6 hours of train riding (3 there, 3 back to Bremen). But I am so glad I did. I know it isn’t long enough to really soak in a city at all, but I got to see the Brandenburg Gate, which I have always wanted to see. I also went up the Reichstag Dome and went to the Pergamon Museum. I walked down Unter den Linden and ate currywurst. A short, sweet look at only a tiny fraction of Berlin. Sabina.

    • So glad you enjoyed your short stay in Berlin, Sabina, and I agree that a day trip is better than none, and it sounds like you got a good taste of it in a short time – and can always go back!

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