Berlin is Germany’s capital city, with a vibrant history and tourist attractions to please almost any guest. In spite of its turbulent past, the city of Berlin has risen through the turmoil and become a significant cultural center known for its art and music as well as its historic landmarks. Stepping into Berlin is both a trip into the past, with monuments and museums, and a step into the future, with new age architecture and diverse cultural interactions.
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The Alte Nationalgalerie, also known as the Old National Gallery, is situated on a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site known as Museum Island and holds a collection of art exhibits ranging from neoclassical to modernist. After many failed attempts, the gallery finally opened in 1876 and housed a starter collection of 262 paintings that were donated years prior by the banker Johann Heinrich Wagener. The building was heavily damaged during WWII air raids, partially rebuilt in the late 1960s, and completely renovated in the early 2000s as an effort to re-establish Berlin as the political and cultural heart of Germany.
Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-66-42-42-42
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2.AquaDom At Radisson Blu Berlin
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Standing at approximately 82 feet high with a diameter of almost 40 feet, the AquaDom is claimed to be the largest cylindrical fish tank in the world. Located in the lobby of the Radisson Blu and maintained under the care of Sea Life Berlin, this gargantuan aquarium holds over 1,500 tropical fish from 110 different species. Guests who wish to visit this spectacle aren’t limited to viewing it only from the outside, as the engineers who designed and built it included an elevator that travels through the interior of the tank, giving guests a 360-degree view of the aquatic life and the specialized divers who maintain the tank on a daily basis.
Spandauer Str. 3, 10178 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-99-28-00
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3.Berlin Botanical Garden
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The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum covers an area of roughly 106 acres and contains approximately 22,000 plant varieties. Built under the guidance of the architect Adolf Engler between 1897 and 1910, the original purpose of the gardens was to preserve and present exotic plants returning to Germany from their worldly colonies. Featuring a variety of special exhibits, such as the Cactus Pavilion and the Pavilion Victoria, the botanical garden’s showcase exhibit, however, is their Great Pavilion. This pavilion is kept at a constant 86°F with a high humidity and hosts many tropical plants including a giant bamboo.
Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8, 14195 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-83-85-01-00
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4.Berlin Zoological Garden
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Located within Berlin’s Tiergarten district and opened in 1844, the Berlin Zoological Gardens offers one of the most inclusive collections of species in the world spread amongst the 86.5-acre lands. Boasting over 18,000 animals from over 1,300 species, this zoo is often known as the most visited zoo in Europe and the most popular zoo worldwide. The zoo can easily be reached by public transportation in the city of Berlin, and on average has more than 3 million visitors pass through its two entry gates every year. The zoo is open all year round and offers calendars, exhibit information, and special event information on its website.
Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-25-40-10
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5.Berliner Unterwelten - Subterranean Berlin
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To discover some of the darker history that once shrouded the city of Berlin, visitors can choose to visit the Berliner Unterwelten – Subterranean Berlin tour company for a rare look at wartime Berlin during WWII. Berliner Unterwelten allows guests to explore the – since recovered – abandoned subway stations, underground factories, air raid bunkers, underground hospitals, and other key essential components that allowed Hitler’s Berlin to sustain itself for so long during combat. There are also exhibits featuring tunnels that enabled East Germans to flee west during the Cold War, the underground pneumatic postal system, bomb and ammunition storage rooms, and much more. Some tours do have restrictions, so it is best to call ahead or visit the website for more information.
Brunnenstraße 105, 13355 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-49-91-05-17
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Once a symbol of a divided Berlin during the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate now stands as a symbol of peace and unity as one of Berlin’s most important monuments. The gate offered people in West Berlin an opportunity to see past the no man’s land “death-strip” and into East Berlin by climbing up to the observation platform. That same platform is where Ronald Regan delivered his stern command to Mr. Gorbachev, demanding that he “tear down this wall!” The Brandenburg Gate has stood since 1791 and has undergone many renovations since then, but its neoclassical design has remained through all of the preservation work.
Pariser Platz 1 10117 Berlin
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Originally built at the end of the 17th century and heavily expanded during the 18th century, the Charlottenburg Palace features a wide variety of attractions that enable it to be a major tourist destination. The grounds offer extensive walking paths, gardens, moats, small lakes, and even a carp pond, all of which have undergone many redesigns and reconstructions as different styles came into fashion over the years. The palace and grounds were heavily damaged during WWII air raids, but have since been restored to their former beauty. Much of the grounds are open to the public free of charge, but there are specific wings and parts of the palace that require an admission fee for entry.
Charlottenburg Palace Spandauer Damm 10-22 14059 Berlin, Phone: +49-30-32-09-11
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"YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR" – These words once marked one of the most famous checkpoints separating East and West Berlin during the Cold War, written not only in English but also in French, Russian, and German as well. On a street that is nowadays filled with shoppers and tourists, Checkpoint Charlie was once surrounded by American and Russian tanks facing one another, poised to fire, at the height of tensions in 1961. This tourist destination is a must-see when visiting Berlin, as it stood the duration of the Cold War not only as a physical border and checkpoint, but also as the direct line between communism and capitalism, restriction and freedom.
Friedrichstraße 43-45 10117 Berlin
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© DDR Museum
Rated as one of Berlin’s most popular museums, the DDR Museum offers visitors a unique way to experience life in the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) through a variety of senses and sensations. This museum specializes in interactive exhibits, encouraging guests to touch, feel, and experience what life was actually like there and to better understand the past. The DDR Museum is a family-friendly destination that explores the concept of living under the Ministry of State Security through 35 different topic areas, each one designed to increase knowledge on various aspects of DDR life. Tickets can be purchased online, and extensive photo galleries can be viewed on the museum’s website.
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1 right on the river Spree, opposite the Berlin Cathedral 10178 Berlin, Phone: +49-3-08-47-12-37-31
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© Design Panoptikum
With a bizarre combination of eccentric lamps, obsolete medical technology, and retro technology combined with mannequin body parts, the Design Panoptikum will inspire a sense of awe and unnerve guests at the same time. Many of the exhibits are designed from once cutting-edge technology used in the film, aviation, medical, and other industries, showcasing bits of forgotten advancements in unique ways. The Design Panoptikum offers discounted rates for groups and children, is open 11am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday, and hosts a gift shop to enable visitors to take home with them a representation of the collection on a t-shirt.
Poststraße 7, Berlin 10178, Phone: +44-1-57-74-01-29-91
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11.East Side Gallery
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Located in a public space and accessible to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the East Side Gallery consists of 101 large format paintings that have been created directly on the former Berlin Wall. The gallery stretches over three quarters of a mile and celebrates the overcoming of the Iron Curtain in Europe, both with the former paintings done in 1990 as well as the current paintings finished in 2009. Visiting the East Side Gallery is free to the public, and averages more than 3 million visitors per year, making it a must-see item on many Berlin tourist itineraries.
Mühlenstraße 3-100, 10243 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-51-71-59
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Built in the 1960s by the former German Democratic Republic, the Fernsehturm, or TV Tower, was designed to exemplify the characteristics of socialism and communism in appearance while broadcasting GDR television programs to East Berlin. The spherical design of the tower was intended to remind citizens of the Soviet Sputnik satellites, and the tower was intended to be lit up in red, the color of socialism. A tower that once stood as a symbol of the Iron Curtain now offers tourists a spectacular view of the city, as well as a bar and restaurant with a 360-degree view.
TV Turm Alexanderplatz Gastronomiegesellschaft GmbH Panoramastraße 1A D-10178 Berlin, Phone: +49-3-02-47-57-58-75
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Gendarmenmarkt, in the Mitte district, is a pedestrian square that is the site of three architecturally grandiose buildings: the German and the French cathedrals and Schinkel's Konzerthaus (concert house). The pedestrian square itself dates back to 1700 and was founded by former Prussian royalty, while the trio of picturesque buildings that surround it were built later on in the 18th century. Modern day visitors will find the area surrounded by luxurious hotels and restaurants, and during Advent guests can experience a lively Christmas market and ice rink, weather permitting. As this is a pedestrian square, it is recommended that guests take public transit to arrive, as parking near the Gendarmenmarkt can be sparse.
Gendarmenmarkt 1 10117 Berlin
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14.German Museum of Technology
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Established in 1982 to exhibit an impressive collection of science and technical artifacts, the German Museum of Technology has expanded its horizons since originally being a primarily rail transport focused museum. Although the museum still boasts a large collection of locomotive engines, a history of rail transport, and various models to scale, the addition of the aviation and science wings has helped to round out the museum for greater guest enjoyment. The museum is hard to miss with its US Air Force Douglas C-47B "Raisin Bomber" perched on the roof, and guests will certainly want to visit the two windmills (one Dutch and one German), the brewery, as well as the water-powered forge on display
Trebbiner Str. 9, 10963 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-90-25-40
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15.Kaufhaus des Westens
© Kaufhaus des Westens
Kaufhaus des Westens, often shortened to KaDeWe, is a nearly 650,000-square-foot department store known to English speakers as the Department Store of the West. With a massive 380,000 articles on display, this shopping destination pulls in between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors a day, which isn’t surprising given that it is the second largest department store in Europe. Originally built in 1907 with less than half the size it currently is, KaDeWe has seen many renovations over the years, slowly bringing its square footage up to its current numbers. The store is currently divided into eight levels, all of which feature a distinct shopping destination.
Tauentzienstraße 21-24, 10789 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-12-10
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16.Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
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Stretching across 4.7 acres of land are 2,711 concrete slabs in a grid on a sloping field, designated a Holocaust Memorial to all the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This somber memorial is the work of renowned architect Peter Eisenman as well as engineering firm BuroHappold, and officially dedicated 60 years after the end of World War II, in May of 2005. The memorial is located very near to the Brandenburg Gate and the former Berlin Wall, occupying a space that was once known as the death-strip during the Cold War. There is an information center located on site containing the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, sourced from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.
Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-63-94-30
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17.Museum Fur Naturkunde
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Containing more than 30 million zoological, paleontological, and mineralogical specimens, the Museum of Natural History, the largest natural history museum in Germany, has been open to the public since 1810. Although the museum contains a vast amount of knowledge and exhibits, it has become best known for two pieces of its collection specifically. The first is a mounted skeleton of Giraffatitan brancai, standing nearly 44 feet tall, which holds the world record for largest dinosaur specimen of its kind. The second is the centrally located exhibit containing a specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica, a fossil discovered in 1871 that suggests a clear link for the evolution of reptiles to birds.
Invalidenstraße 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-20-93-85-91
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Originally built to completion in 1855, the Neues Museum suffered severe damage during World War II bombing raids and wasn’t reopened to the public until 2009. During the renovation, the building’s original architecture and facades were carefully preserved, while the scars of war were not hidden, but instead worked into the design to help create its unique style. The museum houses an Egyptian collection of artifacts, a papyrus collection, artifacts from the stone age, various prehistoric artifacts, as well as items from early history. The museum is part of Museum Island and is connected to various other museums through a series of underground passageways.
Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-66-42-42-42
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Built to house monumental buildings such as the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Pergamon Altar, and the Market Gate of Miletus, the Pergamon Museum is situated on Berlin’s Museum Island and is the most visited art museum in Germany. The museum is primarily divided up into three parts; the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Middle East Museum, all of which contain their own unique art, artifacts, recreations, and history. The Pergamon Museum does offer a rotating exhibits and special offers, and information for both can be found on their website or by contacting them by telephone.
Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-66-42-42-42
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Potsdamer Platz in modern times is an important public square in the center of Berlin, but the history of the square tells a very different story. Traceable back to 1685, the origins of the square are believed to be as a landing site for many refugees from France. Over the course of its history, Potsdamer Platz went through many changes, oftentimes being restricted from common folk, other times being conquered, and eventually being absorbed into the growing city of Berlin around 1871. During World War II the square was completely destroyed, and during the subsequent Cold War it was left in ruins, as the Berlin Wall bisected part of the square. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Potsdamer Platz was one of the first official border crossings between former East and West Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz, 10785 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-06-88-31-50
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© Prinzipal Kreuzberg
Prinzipal Kreuzberg is one of Berlin's classiest nightclubs, evoking the decadent ambiance of the 1920s in an intimate bar and cabaret environment. Patrons enter the bark through an unmarked speakeasy entrance within the city's Kreuzberg neighborhood, which leads to a low-lit retro-style bar space that serves up delicious cocktails created with homemade syrups and bitters. Popular cocktails such as the Potion of Sykei and Monroe's Kiss highlight unique ingredients such as egg, fig vermouth, and blue cheese, with an extensive list of fine international spirits also available for purchase. Throughout the week, the bar hosts jazz music performances and DJ sets. On the weekends, classic burlesque shows are featured.
Oranienstraße 178, 10999 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49 30 61627326
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22.Spiegelsaal In Clärchens Ballhaus
© Spiegelsaal In Clärchens Ballhaus
Located in a side wing of Clärchens Ballhaus, a modern-day music venue and restaurant, lies a room that will remind guests of the spirit of a long-lost era, the Hall of Mirrors. This mirror-covered ballroom was reopened to the public in 2005 after being shut down due to intense damage caused during World War II. The Hall of Mirrors is still decorated with all the flourishes of 1920s Berlin, including a chandelier, stucco-decorated ceilings and walls, and ballroom-style mirrors that encourage guests to reflect on the past. The hall is typically now used for special dining events, often accompanied by time period appropriate live music performances.
Auguststraße 24, 10117 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-3-02-82-92-95
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Inside of the Treptow-Köpenick district lies an abandoned amusement park that hasn’t been open to visitors since 2002. The Kulturpark Plänterwald was built by the GDR government in 1969, and until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it was the only constant entertainment park inside of East Berlin. After the fall of the wall, the park changed owners and was reopened in 1991, and over the course of the next 11 years went through a series of redesigns and changes while having less and less returning customers. Entry to the park is closed to the general public, but the unique and odd rides and various attractions can still be seen through the fences.
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© GNYP Gallery
GNYP Gallery is one of Berlin's hippest art galleries, owned and operated by namesake curator Marta Gnyp and her business partner Giovanni Springmeier. The gallery is open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays during the afternoon hours or by special appointment throughout the week. Exhibitions showcase the works of contemporary artists at all stages of their careers, ranging from emerging artists to established luminaries on the European art scene. Artists represented by the gallery include Kour Pour, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Gina Beavers, Otto Ford, and Zachary Armstrong. All gallery exhibitions and shows strive to encourage worldwide audiences to engage with current artistic and political themes with relevance to the community.
Knesebeckstrasse 96, 10623 Berlin, Phone: +49 (0) 30 31 01 40 10
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Well after the unification of Germany in 1871, the need for a large building for all of the members of parliament to meet eventually arose, giving birth to the Reichstag Building in 1894. The building served as a meeting place for the German parliament until February 27, 1933, when the building mysteriously caught fire and was abandoned until being captured by the Soviet Army in 1945. However, during the Cold War the building lay in ruins until its modern reconstruction and revitalization in 1999, and its first official meeting was held on April 19th, 1999. The Reichstag now ranks as the second-most visited tourist attraction in Germany, offering a large glass dome with 360-degree views of the city as well as the chance to look in on a German parliament session. Things to Do in Germany
Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin, Germany, Phone: +49-30-22-73-21-52
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25 Best Things to Do in Berlin
- Alte Nationalgalerie, Photo: Courtesy of Bernd Kröger - Fotolia.com
- AquaDom At Radisson Blu Berlin, Photo: Courtesy of anathel - Fotolia.com
- Berlin Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Xavier Allard - Fotolia.com
- Berlin Zoological Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Stefan Hummel - Fotolia.com
- Berliner Unterwelten - Subterranean Berlin, Photo: Courtesy of Linas Kardasevicius - Fotolia.com
- Brandenburg Gate, Photo: Courtesy of Patryk Kosmider - Fotolia.com
- Charlottenburg Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Noppasinw - Fotolia.com
- Checkpoint Charlie, Photo: Courtesy of asafaric - Fotolia.com
- DDR Museum, Photo: DDR Museum
- Design Panoptikum, Photo: Design Panoptikum
- East Side Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of Laiotz - Fotolia.com
- Fernsehturm, Photo: Courtesy of kamasigns - Fotolia.com
- Gendarmenmarkt, Photo: Courtesy of rh2010 - Fotolia.com
- German Museum of Technology, Photo: Courtesy of fuxart - Fotolia.com
- Kaufhaus des Westens, Photo: Kaufhaus des Westens
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Photo: Courtesy of De Visu - Fotolia.com
- Museum Fur Naturkunde, Photo: Courtesy of Hunta - Fotolia.com
- Neues Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Henry Czauderna - Fotolia.com
- Pergamon Museum, Photo: Courtesy of pio3 - Fotolia.com
- Potsdamer Platz, Photo: Courtesy of davis - Fotolia.com
- Prinzipal Kreuzberg, Photo: Prinzipal Kreuzberg
- Spiegelsaal In Clärchens Ballhaus, Photo: Spiegelsaal In Clärchens Ballhaus
- Spreepark, Photo: Courtesy of daskleineatelier - Fotolia.com
- GNYP Gallery, Photo: GNYP Gallery
- Reichstag Building, Photo: Courtesy of hanohiki - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Noppasinw - Fotolia.com
The Bierpinsel, also known as the Beer Brush, is an iconic example of the mid 1970s Berlin architectural brutalism craze. Rising approximately 155 feet off the ground, the Bierpinsel was originally designed to look like a tree and was filled with restaurants and a nightclub. However, after a series of bankruptcies and short periods of closure, the Bierpinsel now sits vacant. The building can still be viewed from the outside when visiting the Steglitz neighborhood, and its vibrant colors and prominent size are sure to catch the eye of many tourists.