A first-time visit to Berlin will be an absolutely incredible experience, filled with mix of history, culture and gorgeous sights. It’s a city that intrigues yet embraces us visitors with open arms. A place that keeps many stories on the surface for you to see: the stories of the East and West Berlin, the stories of the past, the present and the future, stories of former tragedies and modern tolerance. Today’s Berlin is a melting pot of serious business, artistic expression, hipsters, incredible parties and a ton of beer!
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Berlin:
Where Unter den Linden intersects with Ebertstraße stands what may be Germany’s most recognisable sight. Brandenburg Gate is a neoclassical monument that has witnessed the history of Berlin since the 18th century.
It is a symbol of separation between East and West Berlin, and probably one of the most significant landmarks in the city. Be sure not to miss this historical spot and the photo opportunities it brings!
East Side Gallery
Premised as an international memorial for freedom, this massive stretch of the Berlin Wall has been commissioned, featuring over 100 different paintings from artists all across the world, including the colourful Some heads by Thierry Noir.The lasting image depicts GDR leader Erich Honecker and General Secretary of the Communist Party Leonid Brezhnev locked in a kiss.
Painted by Dimitri Vrubel in 1990, it was restored by the artist in 2009 as part of an ongoing fight to preserve the most famous images in the face of erosion and tagging.
Museum Island & Berlin Cathedral
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Museum Island on the Spree is an ensemble of five world-beating museums.
These are the Altes Museum, Alte National Galerie, Neues Museum, Bode-Museum and the Pergamon Museum.
This little district, and the wider notion of a museum as a venue for public edification, is a product of the Enlightenment and plans were set in motion in the early 19th century.
The museums were also an opportunity to show off the richness and sophistication of the Prussian royal collections and the fruits of its 19th-century victories.
Along side, the Berliner Dom, the Berlin Cathedral is in the exuberant Historicist style and was finished in 1904. Berlin Cathedral sustained damage in the Second World War when the lantern in the dome was destroyed. Luckily the building never collapsed and has become another allegory for Berlin.
Restoration began in the 1970s and took until 1993. Through the portal there’s a profusion of goldwork, mosaics, sculpture and a mosaic hewn from marble and onyx by the 19th-century architect Friedrich August Stüler.
The intersection of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße is the site of the legendary border crossing between East and West Berlin.
This very place was almost the scene of a catastrophe in 1961 when American and Soviet Tanks stood off against each other for six days at the end of October.
Later, in 1962, it witnessed the death of Peter Fechter, a teenager shot trying to cross from East to West.
The name comes from the phonetic alphabet (Charlie meaning C), as Checkpoint Charlie was the third such border crossing set up by the allies in the city.
Not far from the Brandenburg Gate is the solemn and powerful memorial to the holocaust, designed by the New York architect Peter Eisenman.
Replacing the “death strip of the Berlin Wall”, memorial has 2,711 concrete blocks of varying heights, in a grid pattern. Because of its unusual undulating design the place have a wavelike form.
The memorial encourages you to interact, reflect while making you feel uneasy and confusing in a space where there is no order.
Believe it or not, “Ostalgie”, or nostalgia for the German Democratic Republic, is a thing in the former East Germany.
The DDR Museum opened just across the Berlin Cathedral in 2006 and is a complete repository for German Democratic Republic. It is great place to witness the good, the bad and the downright kitsch.
Among all you can also see the decor/furnishings inside a typical “plattenbau” flat and experience to drive a Trabant.
Across 27 themed spaces, there’s memorabilia from the Free German Youth, records from East Germany, reproduction of a classroom. No to forget, also information about the Stasi and their efforts to pry into the lives of citizens.
Bonus – Flea Markets
Berlin has endless amount of flea markets and one of the most popular of its kind is at Mauerpark. It offers you a great range of vintage stuff such as clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, bikes, vinyls, and much more. It’s also a favorite spot for locals where you can easily meet both Berliners and tourists every Sunday.