Either a weekend, 3 days, 4 days or a week! Berlin is worth the visit. Better a couple of hours than nothing at all. We usually go for the weekend and we´ve experienced the summer, autumn and the Christmas time. Berlin is big, so you probably won´t be able to see it all in just 2 days, but with a bit of planing you can still see a lot. It´s definitely a city which you have to visit at least once – but it might take you more than a weekend visit to understand all the historical events and how all that has influenced today´s situation.
For me – this is Berlin! There is something MODERN (the big cube), something OLD (the old building at the back) and something that used to be old but it´s going to become something new. Nowadays there are cranes all over the city, the whole place is like a huge building site. Many tourists especially in the summer, many new residents and students from other parts of Europe and many foreigners buying apartments and renting them out. It seems like the place to be for art /music students and everyone seeking for a relaxed atmosphere. There is culture, there is history, there is LIFE! It seems like everyone want´s to live there. Lucky for us, it´s only 2hrs drive from us 😉
And this is Berlin also – STREET ARTISTS everywhere. Most of them are young music students who are trying to make a bit extra money. I just love it, they are everywhere and music is coming from every corner of the city. Okay, some of them are probably not students anymore, but who cares!
Driving into the town is not a problem, but later on you will better discover the city on foot, by bus or in a combination with the UNDERGROUND system. A bicycle is always a good choice also!
Berlin is BIG. If you intend to see everything on foot, you are about to do some serious walking and your feet will hurt in the evening. We used to do it like that before Lu was with us and also when he was still in the stroller. Now that he walks, this is impossible. The last time we were there I took Lu on one of those SIGHTSEEING BUSES. They are everywhere and they mostly have similar stops and loops. The tour that we took led us around the town and took about 2 hours. It was a really nice sunny September day so it was a perfect chance to catch some sun. I think I was only one time on such a bus and that was in London ages ago. But I must say it´s a great thing to do – you get first hand information, you can get on and off at all of the major sites (which is really convenient considering the size of the city) and the price is not that high (around 20€ for adults, depends on the company).
Okay so what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Berlin? I always think of the WALL. The story is looooong, but to make it short – in 1961 the Berlin Wall was built to physically divide capitalist West Berlin and communist EAST GERMANY. With the rising of the Wall many families & friends were separated and were suddenly not able to meet again. There were a few official checkpoints so that some people could go on the other side. For 28 years the Wall was a symbol of the Cold War and when it came down in 1989 there were large celebrations all over the World. People could not believe they were free to cross to the other side and we all saw the emotional pictures and videos of their reactions. In 1990 THE EAST AND WEST GERMANY REUNIFIED officially into a single German state. The Wall still stands on some sections around the city.
EAST SIDE GALLERY
The East Side Gallery is located on a 1,3 km LONG SECTION OF BERLIN WALL and is an international memorial for freedom. In 1990 artists from all over the world made 105 paintings on one side and created one of the world´s largest open air galleries. The paintings all somehow express hope for a better world. It´s a must see when you are in Berlin!
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the Berlin Wall BORDER CROSSING POINTS between West and East Berlin. The site still stands there today and has become a big tourist attraction. Replica of the old guard house stands in front of a mast with an image of a Soviet soldier on one side and an US soldier on the other side. All around this point there are small shops with Soviet and other SOUVENIRS from those times. Take care at buying all the fur stuff – there have been reports that those were made in China, from dogs fur.
MUSEUMS & CHURCHES
Here the museums are so important, they have their own island! On the RIVER SPREE which runs through the town, you will find the “Museum Island”, with the following museums: New Museum, Old National Gallery, Bode Museum and Pergamom Museum. Around the town there are many more and you could really spend two days just going in and out of museums and galleries.
There are many HISTORICAL BUILDINGS in Berlin, amongst which also many churches. My absolute favourite is the protestant KAISER WILHELM MEMORIAL CHURCH (also known as the “Gedächtniskirche”). The church is located on the famous Kurfürstendamm and it was BADLY DAMAGED in a bombing raid in 1943. The damaged spire of the old church stands there today as it was after the bombing and it´s considered an important reminder of World War II. Its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall.
The KURFÜRSTENDAMM (also known as Ku´damm) is one of the most famous AVENUES in Berlin. The 3,5 kilometre long avenue is lined up with trees and it is considered the Champs-Elysees of Berlin – on the broad boulevard there are countless shops, hotels, bars and restaurants. This is also the home of many FASHION DESIGNERS BOUTIQUES, so you really have something to see just by window-shopping!
KaDeWe DEPARTMENT STORE
KaDeWe is short for KAUFHAUS DES WESTENS, which would mean on English Department Store of the West is the largest department store in Berlin and with its over 60,000 m² space also the largest in Continental Europe. If you have time, do get in – especially in December when everything is decorated, it looks really impressive.
There is a special CULINARY FLOOR and the last time we were in Berlin we were so lucky to catch the special event “SLOVENIAN WEEKS” where they presented some of the culinary specialities and products from my homeland, Slovenia. Living abroad is not always easy to buy specific food that you were used to eat at home and this was a great chance to stock up on some home delicacies!
This neoclassical TRIUMPHAL ARCH in Berlin is one of the most known landmarks of Germany. On the site there used to be a former city gate which marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. The Gate also marks an entry to the boulevard Unter den Linden (“under the linden trees”) which led to the former royal Prussian city palace. Brandenburg Gate is often a site for important historical events and is considered a symbol for peace and unity.
MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE
Also known as the HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL is a 19,000 m² site consisting of 2,711 concrete blocks arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. They are of different lengths and heights. The site was opened to the public in 2005, 60 years after the end of World War II. It really is an impressive place.
In recent years, since the transfer from Bonn to Berlin, GERMAN BUNDESTAG has developed into a major visitor attraction. You can visit the the dome and the roof terrace of the Reichstag Building – there are great views on the parliamentary and government district from up there.
Sometimes, AIMLESS WALKING is just what you need to do – and you discover some interesting sites you didn´t even know they exists. I´m sure Berlin has much more to offer than you can possibly see in a couple of days, that´s why every time we are there, we see something new.
Berlin currywurst – amazing how much glory a SAUSAGE WITH KETCHUP & CURRY POWDER gets, but it´s all true. Trying out different Curywurst is a must in Berlin – something I personally never did. But, they all say it´s good so there must be something on it. There are many stands and small restaurants where you can have one and they say each has its own secret recipe for the sauce (the sauce is very important to Germans in general). Bon apetit!
BERLIN WITH KIDS
Berlin is a great place to take your kids to – if they are smaller they might enjoy the ZOO and run around in the parks, a bit bigger ones might be interested in visiting some of the MUSEUMS, you can take them on a boat tour or use the “HOP ON-HOP OFF BUS” – Lu found the bus ride so interesting, he didn´t want to go off it! You can also rent a boat or go swimming on a hot summer day. There is also a so-called BABY CINEMA at Babilon Mitte – the idea is, parents with small kids & babies can go to watch a movie with their little ones – the sound volume is reduced, you can take a pram inside, the lights are dimmed and there are changing tables. There are many different restaurants and cafes, so you can try out some more exotic foods. Take care that the distances are quite big and there are many construction sites at the moment, so the stroller ride might be a bit of a challenge in some parts.
Nothing beats breakfast or brunch in the sun while you watch the lively streets of Berlin!
I think we have over 10 pics with Lu and the BEARS which are located all over Berlin. The kids just love them!