Berlin is renowned globally for ousting London as the capital of cool. With a maze-like Holocaust memorial right at the city centre, world-class opera houses, artisanal coffee shops and vivid art scene, Berlin is both glamour and grime.
Once headquartered by Nazis, later bombed to bits by the end of WW2 in 1945– the city was also divided between its allied victors into four zones which brought about the two Berlins: East and West. Consequently, the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 and finally breached in 1989.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall which heralds the reunification of East and West Berlin, and symbolically– the end of the Cold War.
And if you have a penchant for design and architecture, Berlin offers a long history of design that dates back to the Bauhaus – one of the most influential design movements during the 20th century.
With a population of 3.7 million and branded as a hub for innovation and creative industries, Berlin is ever evolving although the past still looms large in shades of grey–the muted coloured buildings in the East once ruled by the Soviet Union. The past is very much present wherever you go but keep your eyes peeled– the modern and open-minded metropolis is always full of surprises.
1. Brandenburg Gate and Museum
Ah, possibly the most famous and widely photographed landmark of Berlin. No trip to Berlin would be complete without posing in front of this monument that symbolises a peaceful and unified Germany. For photograph, head over during sunset when the neoclassical triumphal arch will be awash in golden light. Also, don’t leave without immersing yourself in the Brandenburg Gate Museum which will take you through the past three centuries of Berlin’s history using a mix of interactive and multimedia exhibits.
Ubahn station: Brandenburg Gate
2. Holocaust Memorial
A short stroll from Brandenburg Gate, you will find yourself surrounded by two thousand, seven hundred and eleven grey concrete slabs rising from the ground. The Holocaust Memorial located in the city centre is a remembrance of the Jewish community murdered during the Nazi reign (1933 – 1945), and it serves as a sombre reminder where prejudice and racism can lead.
U-bahn station: Brandenburg Gate
3. Berlin TV Tower
The unmissable tower (some called it a disco ball) which can be seen from any angle in the city was built in the 1960s. The Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) is the tallest structure in Germany, and the only television tower in Europe. For a quintessential Berlin experience, you definitely have to visit the TV Tower and perhaps, enjoy a drink or two at the bar. Tip: Skip the queue and enjoy the panoramic vistas from high with a fast track ticket here.
U-bahn station: Alexanderplatz
4. Berlin Cathedral
A work of art itself, the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) is a former royal church in 1905 that is steeped in trials and tribulations. The former building was severely damaged during the war. The current cathedral was completed and reopened in 1993, and is considered to be one of the outstanding Italian Renaissance architectural masterpieces. Presently, it is the largest house of worship located in the heart of Berlin, it also serves as a museum and a concert hall. Tip: Climb to the top of the dome to witness the urban sprawl.
U-bahn station: Hackescher Markt
5. Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery
The largest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall has turned into an open-air mural gallery since 1990. Over 100 murals were created by 21 international artists to depict the political changes in Germany at that time. The graffiti-laden walls aptly captured the freewheeling spirit of the German capital. Today, this is one of the most instagrammable spots in Berlin you wouldn’t want to miss!
U-bahn station: Warschauer Straße station
6. Checkpoint Charlie
If you were to visit East Berlin before the fall of the wall, this was the only entry point- and only foreigners and diplomats were allowed to pass through. The checkpoint epitomised the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, and have had plenty of nail-biting momentous events. Interestingly, the checkpoint was also one of the filming locations for James Bond in 1983.
U-bahn station: Kochstraße
When to visit?
Berlin is at its best in Spring, Summer and Autumn (Starting from May through September).
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