In the past century, Berlin has undergone more identity shifts than Bob Dylan. To many people, Berlin evokes unfortunate images of World War II, a huge grey wall of socialism or stereotyped images of Bratwurst. The truth is that Berlin is THE city of the 21st century.
Often the conflict between Old Berlin and New Berlin overwhelms visitors, so this short introductory guide aims to lay out a few must-see spots within walking distance of each other. Your trip will most likely start at the new Hauptbahnhof (central train station), which sits near the German parliament building (Reichstag), Angela Merkel’s office in 2019.
An excellent way to get over the jet lag is to wait on the solid line to go up to the glass cupola in the building, which provides an excellent panoramic view of the city. After the Reichstag, you can walk to the Brandenburger Tor and admire the statue on top of the Gate. Next to the Gate is the Adlon Hotel, it became more famous for Michael Jackson’s baby-dangling escapades than for its glamorous guests, or the fact that Queen Elizabeth II owns a part of the hotel.
On a nice and sunny day, this area is great to sit and have a drink in one of thousands cocktail bars Berlin has to offer. If you are hungry, Berlin is famous for both its sausages and Döner kebabs, which have been brought to Germany by the substantial Turkish (not so) minority. After a Döner and some snapshots, the next thing to do is walk down Unter den Linden in the direction of the Fernsehturm (TV tower) and Alexanderplatz. At the Fernsehturm you can stand in a long line except you booked ahead online a fast track ticket.
Then you will get the opportunity to go up the 368 meters by a fast elevator and see the entire city. Once up, you can eat at the city’s highest restaurant, which actually revolves 360 degrees approximately every 30 minutes. Prices are a way higher than at the ground. Find here tickets for the Fernsehturm and other Berlin attractions.
There are plenty of quality shops and cafes in the area of Under den Linden, including the large Dussmann Kulturkaufhaus at Friedrichstraße (a book, music, and media store). Unter den Linden intersects with Friedrichstraße, which is near the historic Museuminsel (literally: Museum island and really more of a peninsula). Don’t miss out the Berliner Dom (Evangelical Cathedral) that opened its gates for the first time in 1750.
No trip to Berlin is complete without an adventure out there on the Museum Island, especially to see the priceless antiquities at the Pergamon. Free audio guides are available there in many languages, so even if you are not a classics expert, you will become one! Since Museuminsel is formed by the river Spree, a pleasant way to spend the afternoon is on one of the many boat tours offered by many companies. Find your boat tour here!
A popular spot now is also Neukölln, the new Kreuzberg. Don’t worry, if these names confuse you. It’s the hot spot districts that tend to change every 5 years clockwise. Some party areas like around the Warschauer Straße at the riverside of the Spree welcome your inner and outer party animal. Actually, there are several clubs in every district.
On Oranienburger Strasse you will find arts and culture like almost everywhere in the city. But here is also one of the redlight districts of Berlin. Not as “organized” and large as in Amsterdam or Hamburg.
Anarchistic squats continuingly fight against the government like at the Rigaer Straße in Friedrichshain by occupying apartments. The area around the Simon-Dach-Straße features bars, galleries, theatres, and a hidden and secret cinema. During the day it is free to enter and browse or purchase from the galleries of the many local artists who display here.
It’s a Bar-Capitol: over 500 bars are welcoming customers every day. Here there is an official list of Bars in Berlin.
Berlin has its own charm, do not get upset upon difference.