Berlin Travel Guide
England takes pleasure in London, the U.S. loves New York, France is slightly narcissistic about Paris, and once again, Germany proudly claims Berlin. More than two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city is basking in a cultural renaissance that is marking everything from museums to fashion, food and nightclubs. That's not to say that this city has forgotten its dark past; in fact, powerful attractions like the Murdered Jews ... continue»
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The best time to visit Berlin is May through September when the weather is ideal for café sitting, park lazing and leisurely city strolling. Winter, on the other hand, is freezing literally: Temperatures tend to range in the 20- to 30-degree Fahrenheit range. However, this might be the best time for budget travelers to score deals on airfare and hotel rates.Best Times to Visit Berlin»
Berlin is one of the largest cities in Europe, about nine times the size of Paris, so traversing this gigantic metropolis in a limited period of time can seem quite daunting. Attractions are spread out along the old political boundaries of east and west Berlin, with most of the popular Berlin attractions on the city's west side. But you shouldn't count out the east just because it's a bit less tourist-heavy; that's all the more reason to take a look.
Accessible via the Klosterstraße, Brandenburger Tor and Potsdame Platz U-Bahn stops.
Perhaps the most central of Berlin's districts, Berlin Mitte contains some of the most famous German landmarks; it was a pivotal locale for several of the 20th century's most important -- and oftentimes, devastating -- global events. Covering a large swath of the city, the Mitte district can be broken down into several smaller neighborhoods.
Several attractions, such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Tiergarten and the shopping street, Friedrichstrasse, hover near the Unter der Linden, Berlin's main boulevard. Just south of the Brandenburg Gate is the famous Potsdamer Platz public square, perhaps the most commercial evidence of Berlin's post-war development. Here you'll find the Sony Center, one of the largest buildings in Berlin and home to several offices, museums, restaurants and a movie theater. Also south of the Brandenburg Gate is one of the more arresting sites in Berlin Mitte: the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a 4.7-acre site in the middle of the city.
Just north of Unter den Linden is the famous Reichstag (Parliament Building), the imposing renaissance-style government building constructed as a parliamentary house in the late 19th century. East of Unter den Linden is the famously tacky Fernsehturnm, a 1,200-foot TV tower in Alexanderplatz that some have lovingly dubbed Telespargel (television asparagus).
Friedrichshain & Kreuzberg
Friedrichshain is accessible via the Weberwiese, Frankfurter Tor and Warschauer Straße U-Bahn stops; Kreuzberg is accessible via the U-Bahnhof Prinzenstraße and U-Bahnhof Hallesches Tor U-Bahn stops.
East of Mitte, the Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg boroughs offer many more iconic sites of World War II and the Cold War. In Kreuzberg, you'll find Checkpoint Charlie, the former border gate that marked the American sector of Berlin after World War II. Checkpoint Charlie remains a significant tourist spot today, as well as the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint Charlie Museum), dedicated to chronicling the events that happened around the checkpoint, including many Berliners' attempts to reach the American zone from the east. Also in Kreuzberg is the Topography of Terror museum, a collection of photographic and textual evidence of Gestapo and Nazi brutality mounted on the walls of former government buildings.
Some of Berlin's most eclectic elements are housed here, too, including the city's thriving gay scene, artists and even Little Istanbul, the enclave of Turkish immigrants who comprise some of Berlin's vast immigrant population. For nightlife in these neighborhoods, be sure to check out Friedrichshain's Boxhagener Platz, a small park adjacent to several popular bars and restaurants.
Accessible via the Sophie-Charlotte-Platz, the U-Bahnhof Richard-Wagner-Platz and Kurfürstendamm U-Bahn stops.
Southeast of Tiergarten in the borough of Charlottenburg, you'll find the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the famous church turned anti-war memorial after it was bombed by the British in 1943. Only the spire and entrance hall remains, but a new house of worship was built alongside it in 1961; together the two churches are yet another stark reminder of Berlin's violent history.
Here, you'll also find the Schloss Charlottenburg, one of the largest and oldest palaces in the area. Yet another famous architectural landmark is the Olympiastadion, a Nazi-era stadium that played host to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
Accessible via the Pankow U-Bahn stop.
For a glimpse at the rapidly gentrifying Berlin, head to this district in the northeast. Filled with Bohemian cafés and nightclubs that party until 5 a.m., Pankow is frequented by students and local artists. Travel writers especially recommend Kastanienallee and Oderberger Strasse, two streets with small boutiques and cafés perfect for people watching.
In general, pickpocketing tends to be a Berlin tourist's main safety concern. Watch out for pickpockets on public transportation, especially during rush hour and at major tourist attractions.
Prostitution is legal in Germany, and Berlin also employs quite a thriving prostitution business. However, visitors should be aware that a percentage of the city's prostitutes are victims of human trafficking, which the government is trying to clamp down on.
The best way to get around in Berlin is via the U-Bahn underground trains or S-Bahn regional, elevated trains, which are both a part of the city's extensive BVG public transportation system. You can even take the U-Bahn from Berlin-Tegel Airport (TXL), located a mere five miles from the city center. As with every big metropolis, driving is discouraged: heavy traffic and scarce parking are the main culprits. For a bit of exercise, you can also rent a bike and peddle along the city's bike lanes and through the parks. Metered taxis are abundantly available, and these can be hailed on the street or scheduled ahead of time.Getting Around Berlin»