Berlin: an amazing global city famous for its culture, politics, media and science, as well as home of world-renowned universities, orchestras, museums and entertainment venues and host for many sporting events. From summer roof terraces and beach bars to winter Christmas markets, shopping or sightseeing, with museums open at any time of the year, Berlin offers you many attractions to visit and a lot of fun things to do. That’s why you may need a short list of things that you cannot miss, if you stay for few days.
Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
Of course, when you think about Berlin you think also at this famous and enormous gate that dominates the Pariser Platz. This 18th-century neoclassical monument was built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after the (temporary) successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution and it’s nowadays one of the best-known symbols of Germany.
Reichtag building (Reichstagsgebäude)
This historical building was constructed to house the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) of the German Empire. Opened in 1894, it hosted the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged because of a great fire. After World War II, the building fell into disuse. No attempt at full restoration the building was made until after German reunification on October 3rd, 1990, when the architect Norman Foster agreed to work on its reconstruction. It was only after its completion, in 1999, that the building became once again the meeting place of the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer)
Everybody knows the historical facts that brought to the construction of this guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The Wall cut off -by land- West Berlin from East Berlin, located in the East Germany: after the World War II, what remained of pre-war Germany was divided into four occupation zones each one controlled by one of the four occupying Allied powers -the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union. Even if the Wall was demolished in 1989, for many years after reunification, people in Germany talked about ‘cultural differences’ between East and West Germans, sometimes describing them as “Mauer im Kopf” (the wall in the head). Nowadays what remains of the Wall hosts the East Side Gallery: this open-air gallery consists of a series of murals painted directly on a 1316 m long remnant of the Berlin Wall, located on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
Museum Island (Museumsinsel)
The Northern part of this island in the Spree river, just in the central Mitte district of Berlin, hosts the complex of internationally significant museums such as the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum – that contains the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon – and the Humboldt Forum, which is going to open soon in 2019 in the Berlin Palace and is also going to incorporate the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Museum of Asian Art.
Fernsehturm (Television Tower)
This amazing tower was constructed between 1965-69 by the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and stands just in front of Alexanderplatz in Berlin-Mitte. With its height of 368 metres (including antenna) it is the tallest structure in Germany, and the second-tallest structure in the European Union. This building – also known as “Fernmeldeturm 32” – serves as a viewing tower with observation deck and includes on the inside a bar and a rotating restaurant! One of the most interesting things is that, after the German reunification, it changed from a politically charged, national symbol of the GDR into a citywide symbol of the reunited Berlin. At the same time, thanks to its modern design, it has frequently been used as a trademark and nowadays it is identified worldwide with Berlin and Germany.
This is a large public square – as well as being a transport hub – in the central Mitte district of Berlin, just near the Fernsehturm. It was named in honor of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, who came to Berlin on October 25th, 1805, by order of King Frederick William III of Prussia. In the 1920s, together with Potsdamer Platz it was at the heart of Berlin’s nightlife and in the 1960s, it was turned into a pedestrian zone and enlarged as part of the German Democratic Republic’s redevelopment of the city centre. Since German reunification, Alexanderplatz has undergone a gradual process of change with many of the surrounding buildings being renovated. It’s actually one of the best open spaces to visit in Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
(Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas)
This monument is also known as the Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal) and it’s a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It consists in a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field, which was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. Stelae are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. The site construction began on April 1, 2003, and was finished on December 15, 2004, but it was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II. Just two days later the memorial was opened to the public.
Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom)
This is the the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church and it’s located on Museum Island in the Mitte borough. It’s interesting to notice that the Berlin Cathedral has never been a ‘cathedral’ in the actual sense, since it has never been the seat of a bishop. In 1940, the blast waves of Allied bombing blew part of the windows away and because of the bombs combustible liquids, which entered the roof lantern, the Dom was set on fire. Then the lantern burnt out and collapsed into the main floor. Between 1949 and 1953, a temporary roof was built to enclose the building and just in 1975 the reconstruction started. In 1980, the baptistery and wedding church was reopened for services, while the restoration of the nave was begun in 1984. On 6 June 1993, the nave was finally reinaugurated.
Located in a enormous and beautiful park in Postdam, Sanssouci is the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The palace was designed/built by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff between 1745 and 1747 to fulfill King Frederick’s need for a private residence where he could relax: and the name of the palace itself indicates this, because it derives from a French phrase (sans souci), which translates as “without concerns”, meaning “without worries” or “carefree”. The building contains ten principal rooms and it was built on the brow of a terraced hill at the centre of the park. What is really curious to know is that the influence of King Frederick’s personal taste in the design and decoration of the palace was so great that its style is characterised as “Frederician Rococo”.
Berlin Zoological Garden (Zoologischer Garten Berlin)
Opened in 1844, the Zoological Garden covers 35 hectares (86.5 acres) and is located in Berlin’s Tiergarten, as well as being the oldest and most famous zoo in Germany. With about 1,380 different species and over 20,200 animals, this historical zoo presents one of the most comprehensive collection of species in the world. Together with its aquarium – a much more recent structure opened in 1913 and in addition to fishes and other aquatic life, it is home to most of the zoo’s reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates – , the zoo is the most-visited in Europe, with more than 3.3 million visitors per year from all over the world, and one of the most popular worldwide. Regular animal feeding is an attraction too. The zoo is open all year long and can easily be reached by public transportation as the Berlin Zoologischer Garten railway station is one of Berlin’s most important stations.