I absolutely adore Berlin. This beautiful, strong and historic city has a gritty, grainy, alternate underbelly that makes it ever so appealing. In Berlin, you’ll find heartbreaking war memorials, bizarre cafes, an amazing assortment of cuisines, loads of museums and some of the coolest street art in the world sitting side by side. You can read more about my love affair with Berlin here.
Here’s a few of my top picks from my visit and how I spent Four Days In Berlin.
Standing staunchly, it’s green dome visible against the sky, the Berliner Dom is a pretty special cathedral. It’s uniquely identifiable when walking around the city and it’s as impressive indoors as it is out. Specifically, the giant organ is quite astounding and although it is mostly silent these days, the sight of it alone is one to behold. There’s also some very gaudy, fancy memorials containing the remains of past royalty in wonderfully elaborate coffins.
Topographie des Terrors
Information overload alert! The Topographie des Terrors is free and full of Nazi Germany history – from the rise of the party right up to the Nuremburg trials. This is a place where hours could be spent, so be conscious of the time if there’s a schedule. The exhibition is fascinating and gives a really comprehensive understanding of what happened in Germany, however be warned that it’s heavy going and can be a little overwhelming.
Autumn is really the best time to wander the Tiergarten of Berlin. Crunchy golden-brown leaves swallow shoes with every step only add to Germany’s answer to Central Park. As I walk through the park, cyclists whirr past and families walk behind their children playing and running through the leaves. It’s a peaceful and reflective place and one to linger in a while.
The last remaining strip of the entire Berlin Wall stands solemn and grey. From a viewpoint above, visitors can look down to see the full set up complete with the “death strip” – a foreboding stretch of sandy gravel where potential escapees were often shot down as they tried to escape.
Palace of Tears
A much better museum/checkpoint experience than the way too touristy Checkpoint Charlie, this East Berlin border crossing contains incredible stories of escape and horror during the Cold War era of divided Berlin. The building itself is designed with all the Soviet functional architecture of the era and the exhibits are moving, well presented and informative. There’s no pic for this one, kidlets, as cameras are not permitted inside the exhibit.
A walk through the Jewish Quarter of Berlin is poignant and devastating. Memorials to the mass-murdered and persecuted Jews are subtly placed throughout the area and buildings stand proud to the sky, riddled with bullet and shrapnel holes. The New Synagogue is a feature, with it’s blue and gold dome recognisable against the clouds, a stark reminder of how this magnificent building was very nearly completely destroyed by the Nazis many years ago.
I’m pushing it a little bit as Sachsenhausen is actually in Oranienburg (about an hour’s train trip from Berlin), but it is absolutely worth the trek a little out of town to fully be able to comprehend the horrors of the concentration camp system put in place by the Nazis and then continued by the Soviets. Armed with only a camera and an audioguide, experiencing Sachsenhausen shook me to my absolute core.
East Side Gallery
Talk about turning tragedy and oppression into creativity and power. The East Side Gallery is a long stretch of the Berlin Wall absolutely covered in murals and artwork. Some of the art is wacky, some is political and some is joyful. This wall makes a statement. It’s clear that after a difficult and oppressive past, Berlin’s future is one of colour, freedom and expression.
What would a trip to Berlin be without stopping by the most iconic of city sights, the majestic Brandenburg Gate? The famous green chariot used to be one of many around the city, but now it’s a lone figure marking the entrance to the city. Early mornings are best to avoid the mass crowds.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
One of the starkest and most moving memorials I’ve ever visited, this square of grey concrete slabs seems endless and infinite. Wander reflectively throughout the different sized rectangles and ponder the utter human tragedy that was faced by so many in Word War Two. A visit underneath the memorial to the Information Centre is overwhelmingly sad, but in a very beautiful touch, it focuses in on the individual stories of the persecuted people. Here they are treated as people, rather than a collective or a number.
Urban Adventure Walking Tour
What better way to see and understand modern day Berlin than a walk with a local through some of the most significant and historic areas of the city. I strolled through the what used to be East Berlin, past the many Berlin museums, the Jewish area, the Ramones cafe, the bullet addled buildings and the many Jewish memorials along the way before arriving at the Berliner Mauer. You can book your Urban Adventure in Berlin here.