- Capital and largest city in Germany, with a population of 3.5 million.
- Located in the north-east of the country, on the river Spree.
- A city of monumental historical significance, Berlin was split into East and West after the Second World War. The infamous Berlin Wall did not come down until 1990, when East and West Germany were finally reunited.
- With its high quality of life, Berlin is a center of culture, art, design, politics, and science.
- Nicknames: the Millennium City.
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: German.
- Best time to visit: from April to October.
- Arriving via airport: Tegel Airport is the current main airport of Berlin, located just 8 km north-west of the city center. To reach the city from Tegel, you can take the bus #109, #128, or the X9 express bus. To reach the city from the (smaller) Schonefeld Airport, you can take the S-Bahn (suburban train) lines S49 and S9, as well as other Express trains. The bus or underground ticket costs €2.40.
- Note: Berlin Brandenburg Airport is still under construction, and is intended to replace Schonefeld and Tegel airports. Estimated completion date: second half of 2017.
WHERE TO STAY
Berlin is a rather expensive city, so make sure you do your research when it comes to finding accommodation. Keep in mind that the public transport is excellent – even if you don’t book a hotel in the center, make sure it is near a U-Bahn or S-Bahn station. Many good hotels are located south of the Zoological Garden – near Kurfurstendamm and Lietzenburger streets. Near the center of town, hotels can be found south of the Unter der Linden Boulevard, along Potsdamer, Leipziger, and Friedrich streets.
- Berlin has an excellent transport system, with plenty of stations and connections to get you anywhere within the city. There are 3 fare zones in Berlin: the city center, city limits, and nearby communities. The U-Bahn is the Berlin metro, and the S-Bahn is the above ground train system with lines that stretch to outside of town. There are also buses and trams.
- Tcket prices depend on many factors, such as the length of the journey. A short trip costs about €1.40, while a single trip in AB areas is €2.40. A day ticket for AB is €7.00.
- Look into the Berlin Welcome Card tourist pass, which offers unlimited transportation in the city along with discounts at hundreds of attractions and restaurants. A 2-day pass is €18.50. 3-day and 5-day passes are also available for €24.50 and €31.50, respectively.
- Tip: if you flag a taxi from the street (not at a taxi stand), you can ask the driver for a Kurzstrecke – essentially, a flat €4.00 fare for short distances (roughly 2 km).
- Drinking age is 18, no official last call (many places stay open all night).
- Note: Berlin is one of the world’s top nightlife destinations, with something for everyone. Known as a mecca for trance and electronica, the city knows how to party.
- Top areas for nightlife: Schoneberg, Torstrasse, Augustrasse, Osthafen, Kollvitzplatz, and Oranienstrasse.
- Clubbing in Berlin: the city’s bouncers are famous for the entrance policies, and many club goers get rejected every night. Play cool, don’t look like a tourist, and do not dress up nice (just wear normal clothing). It’s a bit out of the ordinary, but that’s the way things are here. Best to have a German speaker with you, if at all possible. If you do get rejected, no big deal – don’t start a scene. Just go to another club.
- Another Berlin clubbing tip: don’t go clubbing before midnight. The party really doesn’t get going until then.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Start at the Tiergarten, a large green area right in the middle of city that is filled with monuments and landmarks. The symbol of the city, Brandenburg Gate, dominates the east side of the park. Built as a city gate, it rebuilt in the 18th century to be a triumphal arch and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the country.
- Covering a large expanse, the Zoological Garden is the oldest zoo in Germany and has over 1,500 species of animals. Close to the zoo is the Europa-Center, a historical building complex known for its tall tower.
- Marvel at the beautiful silhouette of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. A touching sight, the monument stands in memory of the original church (damaged from bombings in World War II).
- The oldest palace of Berlin, the Charlottenburg Palace features baroque and rococo interior decorations, belvedere, mausoleum, pavilion, and a theatre.
- Berlin Cathedral is located in the northern part of the Spree Island, close to the museums. The northern tip of Spree Island is home five museums in a unique complex: the Old Museum (Altes Museum), Old National Gallery, the New Museum (Neues Museum), Bode Museum, and the Pergamon Museum. History buffs and art lovers will not be disappointed!
- Other unique and interesting landmarks of Berlin include: Jewish Museum, Alexanderplatz, St. Mary Church, Unter der Linden Boulevard, Friedrichswerder Kirche, Reichstag, Bellevue Palace, and Gendarmenmarkt.
- Note: very little remains of the Berlin Wall.
- Tip: there are many organized sightseeing tours available. Try exploring the city by bicycle or Segway.
- A proper walking tour within the Tiergarten could easily take you a whole day, with so many attractions and monuments in one large area.
- Starting from the Brandenburg Gate, follow along the Unter der Linden Boulevard. Continue past Museum Island, finishing at the Alexanderplatz.
- Take a day trip out to the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. Take the time to explore the area on foot, while pausing to marvel at its many natural and cultural wonders.
- Walk along the path of the former Berlin Wall.
- Germans are very polite and reserved people, and expect visitors to behave accordingly.
- Don’t forget to leave a tip for good service in taxis and restaurants (10% should be enough).
- There are a great number of events and festivals that take place in Berlin every year – check ahead of time to see if you can catch something going on.
- Germans are crazy about their beer, and for good reason! Try the local brews, and you won’t be disappointed.
- Where to find good cheap eats: look for stalls and cafes serving traditional German delicacies. Don’t leave town without trying some authentic sausages (wurst), schnitzel, and meatballs.
- Dangerous areas: Berlin is generally very safe, provided you keep to the tourist parts of town. Unsafe areas are in the farther parts of the eastern city – avoid the neighbourhoods of Lichtenberg, Neukoeln, Marzahn, Prenzlauer Berg, and Moabit.
RECOMMENDED BERLIN GUIDE BOOKS
- Rick Steves Snapshot Berlin
- Frommer’s Berlin day by day
- National Geographic Walking Berlin: The Best of the City
Recommended trip duration: 4-5 days