Why you need to visit Berlin, Germany, even though I didn’t really like it
March 27, 2017
Why I didn’t really like Berlin, Germany
I guess the question at hand is, why you need to visit Berlin, Germany. Well, this is usually the part of the post where I insert some descriptive adjectives that tell you how vivacious and dynamic Berlin, Germany is. I would then go on to implore all travelers to journey to Berlin, where they can experience this city’s infectious beauty first hand. But as the title of this post so aptly explains, I just did;t really like Berlin, Germany. So I feel like I would just be flat out lying to you if I just sat hear and mindlessly extolled all the positive attributes that this city has to offer.
Yes, Berlin is a city rich in historical and cultural icons that I would be remiss not to mention. I mean, from the vestiges of the Berlin Wall to the Holocaust Memorial to the Brandenburg Gate, this city offers a dynamic array of attractions that are worth a visit. But if this all true, then why didn’t I like it? Even reading this myself, I’m kind of like, “Damn, Berlin sound amazing.” Well, I guess the answer is, I don’t know. Maybe I was in a bad mood, maybe I had my period, maybe I hated the people I went on the trip with, maybe I met the only rude people in Germany, etc. Who knows. It could be any and all of these reasons. And it sucks because I really wanted to like Berlin. My grandmother was from Germany and so I grew up on Marzipan and Liverwurst, so I really wanted to like Berlin, but it just wasn’t my thing.
But don’t let my experience prevent you from going!!! Berlin is a distinctive capital that not only has a diverse array of attractions, but has a duality of character that reflective in this city’s division between the East and West, by the Berlin Wall. There is a duality of spirit here that is steeped in the complex and heartbreaking separations of the past. Just meandering through the neighborhoods of the city, one can see the stark differences in East and West culture, that are reflected in the city’s historical architecture. And while the wall did come down on November 9, 1989, traces of the past still remain and are worth exploring. So while I do feel like a jerk for not liking Berlin, I can’t help how I feel and would never want to be dishonest. But that will not prevent me from allowing you to enjoy this city. That’s why, although I did not like Berlin, I want to provide you with a bucket list of things to see and do in this historical, German capital.
Why You Need to Visit Berlin, Germany: A Bucket List of 9 Things to See and Do
1. Brandenburg Gate –
Missing the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, is kind of like missing the Eiffel Tower in Paris; you just don’t do it. This iconic symbol of Berlin is a must see for anyone visiting Germany’s capital. Completed in 1791 as the royal city gate, this must vi
sit, landmark site in Historic Mitte, was a symbol of German division and has now become a symbol of German reunification.
Currently, the Brandenburg Gate stands over Pariser Platz, a beautifully proportioned square that is adjacent to a series of banks, a hotel and the US, British, and French embassies. Try and visit in the evening when this gate frames a stunning sunset in the background. Free walking tours are also available and meet in front of the gate; offering an in-depth exploration and explanation of all the historical sites in the area.
Metro Stop: Brandenburger Tor (S-Bahn)
Cost: Free. Open to the Public.
Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany
2. Reichstag –
Seriously, this German Parliament building has born through it all (burned, bombed, buttressed by the
Berlin Wall), and yet, it still stands as the pride of the German government. Perhaps the most identifiable and iconic feature of this building is the glittering glass dome that transforms into a mirror clad, central cone that is used as a solar powered heating and cooling system for the entire building. Walking along the circular ramp of the dome, provides a breathtaking, 360-degree view of the city itself. At the top of the building, be sure to pick up a free audioguide to learn more about the exciting history of this building, as well as the inner workings of the parliament itself.
Metro Stop: Brandenburger Tor (S-Bahn) or the Reichstag/Bundestag bus stop that is served by the 100 and M85.
Cost: Free but advance registration is required (you can register online here)
Hours: Lift ride 8am-midnight, last entry 10pm, Visitors’ Service 8am-8pm Apr-Oct, to 6pm Nov-Mar
Address: Platz der Republik 1
3. Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) –
Arguably one of the most infamous aspects of the city, the Berlin Wall stood , from 1961 – 1989, as a
tangible example of how the Cold War divided not just Berlin, but the entire world into the Communist East and the Democratic West. Today, sections of the wall still stand as a testament to the divisiveness of the past. The wall also memorializes all those who tried to cross the wall and lost their lives, in their desperate quest for freedom.
For an insightful look at the history of the Berlin Wall, visit this outdoor memorial, which extends for 1.4km along Bernauer Strasse. Here, original sections of the Wall are integrated into the memorial, as well as vestiges of border installations and escape tunnels. A chapel and a monument are also on the premises and serve as a touching tribute to the political divisions that separated friends and family, of the same nation, for over twenty years. The use of multimedia stations, panels, and a Documentation Centre, help explain what the wall was like and how this edifice transformed the everyday lives of people living on both sides of it.
Metro Stop: Bahnhof Nordbahnhof (S-Bahn) or Bahnhof Bernauer Straße/Bahnhof Naturkundemuseum (U-Bahn)
Hours: Visitor & documentation centre 10am-6pm Tue-Sun and open-air exhibit 8am-10pm daily
Address: Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer Bernauer Straße 111
4. Museumsinsel – Be forewarned that this site is only for the museum lovers in the audience because roughly translated, this word means, “Museum Island”. As the name suggests, this island is home to five of the most magnificent museums in Berlin, all of which were built between 1830 and 1930. Its is only fitting that these artifacts of the past are preserved on Spree Island, the very place where Berlin was first settled, in the 13th century.
Today, you can visit this island and seamlessly walk through an assortment of cultures and eras, since the impressive relics here span a time frame of nearly 6,000 years. Whether you love art, architecture, sculpture, or artifacts, this island has it all (and then some. Just think a real life version of Night at the Museum).
And the best part is that each museum has it’s own area of historical expertise, so you can pick and choose the set of antiquities that most appeals to you. The Altes Museum, presents Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, while behind it, the Neues Museum displays a fantastic Egyptian collection (You have to see the bust of Queen Nefertiti! So cool), with a pre- and early history section that is worth exploring as well. The Alte Nationalgalerie is a major art gallery that houses some of the finest, European masterpieces of the 19th-century. And while all these museum’s are fantastic, the most popular, by far, is the Pergamonmuseum, which displays monumental architecture from a multitude of ancient cultures. Lastly is the Bode-Museum, on the island’s northern tip, which is famous for its medieval sculptures (I skipped this one because I am not huge into sculpture).
Tram Stop: Georgenstr./Am Kupfergraben stop (M1 line) and Monbijouplatz stop (M1 line)
Cost: Day tickets for all 5 museums are €18 for adults, €9 concession, and free for children under 18.
Hours: Vary by museum (Check the website here)
Address: Am Lustgarten 1 10117 Berlin BE
5. Holocaust Memorial –
Opened in 2005, this chilling, football-field-sized memorial, stands as a tribute to all of the Jews that were murdered during the Holocaust (Try and ignore all the adolescents taking shameless selfies, and focus on the true weight of what is before you). Created by American architect Peter Eisenman, 2711 coffin-like, concrete columns rise in silence, from the depths of the undulating ground.
I suggest you take time to walk through this maze of death and let the impact of this sombre memorial hit you. The silence hear is truly deafening as each column reminds of you of all the souls lost to this enormous tragedy. If you visit on a Saturday, arrive around 3 pm for a free English tour.
Once finished with the memorial, I suggest that you visit the subterranean Ort der Information, whose haunting exhibits make you feel the full emotional weight of this tragedy. You will first encounter a graphic timeline of Jewish persecution, during the Third Reich, that is followed by a series of rooms that expose the fate of several individuals and families alike. Be sure not to miss the darkened Room of Names, which is a heart breaking tribute to all the lives lost in the Holocaust. In this room, the names, birthdays, and death dates of each Jewish victim, are projected throughout the room, while a solemn voice reads their short biography; a truly sad but necessary reminder of past events that we do not wish to repeat. This exhibit is an intensely personal and emotional experience, that translates each of the victims from an enormous statistic (6 million lives lost), into a single person, with a unique life, name, and story (Bring tissues because this experience is powerful but tremendously sad).
Metro Stop: Brandenburger Tor or Potsdamer Platz stop (S-bahn) or Potsdamer Platz, Mohrenstraße, or Brandenburger Tor (U-bahn)
Cost: Free (Audioguide is €44 for adults and €2 concession)
Hours: The memorial is open 24 ours a day. The information centre is open between 10am-8pm Tue-Sun Apr-Sep, and until 7pm Oct-Mar (Final entry is 45 minutes before closing).
Address: Cora-Berliner-Strasse 1
6. Potsdamer Platz –
The renovation of this vibrant, urban center was one of the largest building projects of the 1990s. But the hard work of international architects Renzo Piano and Helmut Jahn paid off since this plaza has become one of the most vibrant areas in the city. An area that was once unkempt and divided by the Berlin Wall, has now been revitalized with such spectacular, modern architectural delights as the glass-tented Sony Center and the Panoramapunkt observation deck. Take some time to meander through this area and absorb the vivacious spirit of the area’s many theaters, museums, and cinemas.
7. Kulturforum –
This cultural epicenter of Berlin is home to the Gemäldegalerie, an art gallery that houses the world’s finest, and most comprehensive collection of European art. With 1500 paintings and 72 galleries to explore, this museum will take some time to wander through (it’s about 2km long), so wear extra comfy shoes!! And even if you’re not a huge art enthusiast, I would still visit and just head straight for the Rembrandt Room (Room X), where some of this Old Masters finest works are displayed. The paintings of such iconic artists as Titian, Dürer, Hals, Vermeer, and Gainsborough (to name a few), are all featured here, making Gemäldegalerie a delight to explore; truly a buffet of creativity to satiate the mind and spirit.
Metro Stop: You can walk (15 minutes) from the Potsdamer Platz stop (U-Bahn or S-Bahn Lines)
Hours: Closed Mondays. Tue, Wed, Fri 10-6, Thu 10-8, and Sat+Sun 11-6.
Cost: Adult tickets are €10 and Concession tickets are €5
Address: Stauffenbergstraße 40 10785 Berlin
8. Schloss Charlottenburg –
Charlottenburg Palace is one of the few areas of Berlin that still reflects the opulence and grandeur of the Hohenzollern family, which ruled from 1415 to 1918. This exquisite, baroque-style palace is adorned with opulent, private apartments, lavish festival halls, ornate porcelain collations, and a series of French style paintings from several, 18th-century masters.
And while the entire complex is a true delight, the Palace’s most beautiful rooms are in the ostentatious, private chambers of Frederick the Great.. This wing of the palace contains such highlights as the White Hall banquet room, the Golden Gallery, and the paintings of Watteau, Pesne. Also not to be missed are the apartments of Queen Luise, the wife of King Friedrich Wilhelm III, which are studded with lavish chandeliers, meticulously crafted furniture and silk wall coverings
The palace park is also lovely, with sprawling parks, shady walkways, flower beds and well -manicured
lawns. In your wanderings, be sure to explore the Belvedere, which houses a multitude of porcelain masterpieces that are absolutely divine. Additionally, just across the carp pond, there is a Mausoleum that houses the remains of Kaiser Wilhelm I and his wife, among others.
.Special Note: Each building charges separate admission; so it’s best to purchase a day pass (the charlottenburg+). The palace does get busy, so icome early on weekends and in summer.
Metro stop: Jungfernheide stop (S-Bahn Line. Turn left twice and walk up the steps. Then go over the bridge that leads to the palace gardens.)
Hours: Vary by building so check out their site here.
Cost: Day passes for all four buildings are €12 for adults and €9 for concession.
Address::Spandauer Damm 10-22 Berlin, Germany
9. Fernsehturm –
This TV tower was built in 1969, to demonstrate,to the world, the GDR’s incredible building prowess. Today, this site has transformed into an iconic symbol of Berlin that, at 368m high, stands as Germany’s tallest structure. On sunny days, this structure provides stunning, panoramic views of Berlin, from 203m in the air. You can also dine at the upstairs restaurant, which rotates at a rate of one revolution per hour. Ticket lines can be extremely long, so buy tickets online.
Metro: Across from Alexanderplatz stop (S-Bahn)
Hours: Open daily, 9am-midnight Mar-Oct, 10am-midnight Nov-Feb, last ascent is at 11.30pm
Cost: Adult tickets are €13 and children’s tickets are €8.50,
Address: TV Turm Alexanderplatz Gastronomiegesellschaft mbH Panoramastraße 1A D-10178 Berlin