Located in the north east of the country, Berlin sits on the banks of the river Spree. Geographically the city lies on the European plain, a flat and fertile area of land that extends all the way to Russia. This influences the climate of the area, providing cool winters and warm summers, with high levels of rain keeping the vegetation rich and the river in full flow.
Perhaps surprisingly for a populous urban area of around 3.7 million people, Berlin is a very green city with over a third of the metropolitan area comprising of gorgeous parks, gardens and forests.
What to see
There is so much to see and do in Berlin that you could live here all your life and still find new surprises. From historical sights to cutting edge architecture and culture, this city has it all. Below you can find some of the most popular and exciting attractions in the city, but don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track and discover your own favourites.
1. Brandenburg Gate
One of the most iconic sights in the world, this neoclassical monument needs to be seen to be believed. The best time to visit the Brandenburg Gate is at night, when stunning illumination will help you capture a picture postcard shot.
2. Berlin wall
No visit to Berlin can be complete without a trip to the site of the remaining Berlin wall. From 1961 to 1989 this imposing structure split the city in two, both physically and ideologically, separating West and East Germany. Surprisingly there is very little left standing of the wall today, though remnants are dotted throughout the city.
Perhaps the best place to visit the wall is at the East Side Galley, here a 1.3km section remains that has been converted into the world’s largest open air gallery. Come and marvel at iconic pieces such as the ‘Fraternal Kiss’ and ‘Tolerance’.
3. Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was an allied crossing point between West and East Germany during the Cold War. Featured in many spy films and books, today visitors can pay a small fee to have a novelty picture taken with actors dressed in US military garb. While the attraction can be ticked off your bucket list in 10 minutes or so, it remains an important part of the city’s history and should not be missed.
4. Museum island
Set in an island in the middle of the river Spree sit 5 of the finest museums in modern Germany – Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum. This UNESCO world heritage site is a must for any culture vultures, but even casual historians will enjoy the voyage of archeological discovery, spanning through antiquity to modern times.
5. Holocaust memorial
Created in memory of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi regime, this stunning memorial offers a tranquil place to pay your respects to the fallen. Comprising of 2711 grey concrete blocks, this unique structure designed by Peter Eisenman has been praised by design and architectural organisations the world over.
One of Berlin’s finest parks is the perfect spot to while away a summer day in the city. Spread out over 520 acres the park is most famous for providing the home of Berlin Zoo, but also contains lakes, picnic benches, BBQ spots, Soviet era monuments and well maintained English gardens.
7. Berlin TV Tower
For the best views of the city head to the Berlin TV tower. As well as enviable panoramic views you can also enjoy a meal at the Sphere restaurant, but be sure to book well in advance as this is exceptionally popular. At 368m tall, you’ll be able to spot the tower wherever you are in the city. The best time to visit is sunset, but if you’re keen on beating the crowd to this popular attraction then arrive for the opening time at 9am.
The Reichstag is the site of the German parliament, and while still fully operational, visitors are able to tour the iconic building. The free tour is hugely popular, so be sure to book in early to secure your place.
9. Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror is a museum covering the site of the head office of the Gestapo and SS during the Nazi regime. Exhibitions within the museum change regularly, but with over a million visitors last year alone, this step back in time cannot be missed.
10. Berlin Zoo & Tierpark
Berlin has actually two stunning zoo’s. Zoologischer Garten in the West and Tierpark in the East. Both are well worth a visit.
Best time to visit
There is never a wrong time to visit Berlin, as every season has something unique to offer. However, the undeniable charm of the December Christmas markets is a huge lure for tourists, and one of the busiest times for a trip to the city. With several large traditional German Christmas markets shopaholics will be in their element. At Charlottenburg Castle Christmas market, over 150 vendors and street performers come each year offering traditional food, craft and hot gluhwein. It’s impossible not to get into the festive spirit.
Typical regional dishes
Cooking in the Brandenburg region typically consists of hearty traditional food, cooked and prepared in a simple way. Although you can find contemporary delicacies from across the globe, be tempted to try the rich and delicious local cuisine. This warm and filling food is perfect after a long and busy day of sightseeing.
Königsberger Klopse is another popular traditional dish comprising of meat dumplings served with a creamy lemon juice and caper sauce. For an authentic dessert be sure to try the famous Berliner Pfannkuchen, large deep fried pastries made from yeast dough and filled with jam or cream.
Hackepeter is a very popular snack that consists of rare pork with fat, salt, pepper and onions. Absolutely delicious!
Bouletten are basically large and more flat meatballs. They are usually eaten with mustard.
Currywurst with Fries is what you will find at basically every corner. The tasty fried Currywurst ist covered in Ketchup with some curry powder on top. Try it!
Hoppelpoppel is a dish favoured by locals, often combining leftover meat, onions, potatoes and eggs. This dish is popular at hostels and offers a cheap and delicious meal that will prepare you for a night out on the town.
If these traditional foods are’t your thing, in recent years the city has developed a name for its contemporary Turkish cuisine, with popular street foods such as Döner Kebabs and Falafel becoming very popular.
Where to stay
Berlin has a huge range of accommodation options to suit every budget, from cheap and cheerful hostels to world class five star hotels. Some of the highest rated establishments from across these categories have been included below to help you in your accommodation search.
Low cost – The Grand Hostel in Berlin offers exceptional value for money and has been rated the best hostel in the city. Not only are you guaranteed to have fun here and meet likeminded people, but the main city sights such as Checkpoint Charlie and the Jewish Museum are only 10 minutes’ walk away. With prices from around £50 a night for a private room, a trip to Berlin is more affordable than ever.
Mid cost – The Park Inn by Radisson at Berlin Alexanderplatz is renowned for its great location, facilities and service. Located in the heart of the city right next to the Berlin TV tower, this hotel places you right in the centre of the action. With the excellent reputation of an international hotel chain and rooms starting from around £70 a night, the Park Inn is a great choice for your city break.
High cost – If you’re looking for a little bit of luxury the Ritz Carlton will help you spend your trip in style. This world class five star hotel offers guests an excellent central location, indoor swimming pool, highly acclaimed bar and the ‘best breakfast in Berlin’. Rooms don’t come cheap at over £200 a night, but if this is a special occasion then you deserve to treat yourself!
Berlin is easily accessible via the international airports of Berlin Schonfeld and Berlin Tegel, the world famous autobahn network and reliable national and international rail transport. Getting around the city itself couldn’t be easier, with a state of the art subway system open around the clock.
Shop till you drop in one of the city’s premier shopping areas at Kurfürstendamm street. This popular street contains high end German department stores such as KaDeWe, Peek and Cloppenburg. If you only have limited time be sure to check out the KaDeWe, with over 60,000 square metres of floor space this shopping paradise has been rated as one of the best department stores in the world. The extensive food court on the top floor boasts an incredible array of produce from around the world.
If your budget only stretches to the high street the recently opened Mall of Berlin is just the ticket, with 270 stores offering a wide range of well known brands.
Berlin nightlife is renowned for its excitement and eccentricity. This is a city that seldom sleeps, with most clubs not even getting busy until 1am, so be sure not to head out too early.
The Puro Sky Club is situated on the 20th floor with a spectacular 360 degree panorama of the city. With an eclectic mix of music from 80’s house to hip hop, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your taste.
If you’re into rock and indie music be sure to check out the Duncker Club in the north of the city. This small venue packs a large punch, having hosted several legendary punk bands. It’s also one of the cheapest spots in the city for drinks.