Berlin is Germany’s capital and is one of the 16 federal states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany. With a population of 3.5 million and 4.5 million if you include the neighbouring suburbs it is Germany’s largest city. Berlin is coming into its own again as a cosmopolitan capital of one of Europe’s wealthiest nations.
When is a good time to Go to Berlin?
Berlin has a temperate oceanic climate, meaning is lovely most times of the year; the summers are pleasant with average temperatures in the low and mid 20’s Celsius, spring and fall are in the low teens, while during the winter months, the temperature generally falls below freezing. Each season has its own charm but Berlin is a rather windy city and we recommend wind-stopping jackets especially during the shoulder periods.
Many will say the best time to visit is in the summer between June and early September, when the streets are bustling with people and activities.
Best Things to do in Berlin
There are a tremendous number of exciting things to do, from visiting historical sites to cultural attractions. There are tours available, however we are explorers and always do so on our own. Here’s a list of local attractions we really enjoyed.
The Reichstag is home of the German national parliament. The building’s glass cupola (the dome that symbolize the reunification of Germany) sits directly above the debating chamber. A mirrored cone at its centre directs light into the Reichstag, increasing the building’s energy efficiency and affording visitors a view of the parliamentary proceedings below. The dome itself can be visited by prior registration and is reached by two large steel ramps that curve up towards it in the form of a double helix.
Without doubt; the Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s most famous attraction – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. Built in 1791, it was just one of many old city gates around the city of Berlin which, at that time, was still a manageable size. The decorative Pariser Platz was laid at the foot of the gate and is now home to many of the city’s important buildings, for example, the Hotel Adlon with its wealth of history and the Akademie der Künste (Academy of the Arts) and also situated nearby is the American embassy.
Extending 3.5-kilometres from the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Breitscheidplatz to Berlin’s elegant Halensee neighbourhood, the affectionately termed Kurfürstendamm is the most expensive address in the capital city and home to the most exclusive brands. This long avenue is considered the Champs-Élysées of Berlin and is sure to appeal to anyone who loves to shop. Europe’s biggest department store, the legendary, KaDeWe is also situated on the extension of the Ku’damm, on the street known to locals as the Tauentzien (short for Tauentzienstrasse).
Also located there is the Zoo Berlin, Germany’s oldest zoo.
Berlin Wall Memorial
The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) is located between the districts of Wedding and Mitte on Bernauer Straße, consisting of the Memorial to the Victims of the Wall, a Documentation Centre and the Chapel of Reconciliation. The surviving section of the wall and watchtower enable visitors to get a real feel for the reality of the border facilities.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, located in Mitte on a stretch of the former “death strip” where the Wall once stood one block south of Brandenburg Gate, commemorates the up to six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. It consists of a 4.7 acre site covered with 2,711 rectangular concrete slabs or “stelae“, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 7 ft 10 in long, 3 ft 1 in wide and vary in height from 7.9 in to 15 ft 5 in. They are organized in 54 rows going north to south, and 87 heading east to west at right angles but also set slightly askew. Also on the site is an underground “Place of Information” that holds the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims
For fans of author John le Carré’s “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” no visit to Berlin is complete without a visit to Checkpoint Charlie, which was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.
Berlin has a vast array of museums; in fact there are approximately 170 museums and public foundations. The five museums on the famous Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, form the world’s largest museum ensemble. Berlin has major exhibitions with art works from across the ages – starting with masterpieces from the classical and modern world on Museum Island, including the legendary bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti in the spectacularly restored Neues Museum (New Museum).
The world-famous MuseumIsland comprises five museums presenting a panorama of art and history, from ancient cultures to nineteenth-century painting. Across the city, you can look forward to a wealth of stunning museum collections, modern and contemporary art, spoken word and cutting-edge theatre, three opera houses and music from classic to experimental.
The Pergamon Museum world famous for its archaeological holdings, attracts around one million visitors every year, making it Berlin’s most popular museum.
The Bode Museum houses an extensive collection of sculptures from the medieval period to the late eighteenth century, as well as treasures from the Museum of Byzantine Art and the Numismatic Collection. The museum is located at the northern tip of Museum Island. In summer, the opposite bank of the river with its wonderful view is a popular place to meet and relax.
The Neues Museum has an outstanding selection of pieces from the Egyptian Museum, the Papyrus Collection, the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, and the Collection of Classical Antiquities. The famous bust of the Ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti is the showpiece exhibit in the Neues Museum.
The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) not only shows painting and sculpture from the neoclassical period through Romanticism to the Biedermeier period (1815-1848), but also Impressionist and early modernist art. The collection includes works by such renowned artists as Caspar David Friedrich, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Adolphe Menzel, Karl Blechen and Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The gallery is also home to Johann Gottfried Schadow’s Princesses Luise and Friederike, regarded as the most beautiful sculpture by a Prussian artist
The Altes Museum (Old Museum) was opened in 1830 as the first museum on Museum Island. Today, the museum is home to a permanent exhibition showcasing the arts and sculpture from classical antiquity, from ancient Greece to the Roman Empire, including portrait busts of Caesar and Cleopatra. An especial highlight is the collection of Etruscan art, the largest outside Italy.
If you’re a foodie like we are, take full advantage of some of the Berlin’s sensational restaurants. Berlin’s food craze while its culinary scene is really boiling over and well worth exploring.
More to see
There are many more interesting things to explore and experience; the above are merely some of our highlights.
How many days do you need to visit Berlin?
Berlin is a great city that has a lot more to see here than just the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and one of the largest cities in the Europe. It’s a diverse city filled with world-class museums, beautiful squares to wander through, and a huge collection of historical sites to visit. A comfortable visit to Berlin can be achieved in about 4 days assuming that you’re reasonably active as there are many things to see and do.
Is Berlin Safe for Tourists?
Berlin is no more dangerous than North American cities, and like everywhere else, you should take reasonable precautions like you would at home. Don’t flash your wallet and money, don’t go with strangers, and stay out of areas that are less than desirable. We felt quite safe even while out later into the evening.
Getting Around Berlin Getting around Berlin and to and from the airport is quite easy. Berlin has an extensive and efficient public transportation system so getting around by bus and train is really super easy. Additionally you can utilize cabs and Uber.