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Why Go To Berlin

England takes pleasure in London, the U.S. loves New York, France is slightly narcissistic about Paris and, following suit, Germany proudly claims Berlin. More than two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city basks in a cultural renaissance that boasts everything from museums and fashion to food and nightclubs. But that's not to say that this city has forgotten its dark past; in fact, attractions like The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Topography of Terror and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum are evidence of its steadfast reverence. And yet, Berlin is on the upswing. An afternoon of people-watching at a lively cafe or an all-night dance fest at a hip club will provide you with the proof.

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Best of Berlin

Berlin Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Berlin is May through September, when the weather is ideal for cafe sitting, park lazing and leisurely city strolling. Winter, on the other hand, is freezing: Temperatures tend to range from 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this might be the best time for budget travelers to score deals on airfare and hotel rates.

Weather in Berlin

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
37.2
28.6
39.6
29.3
47.3
34.3
55.8
39.6
66
48.2
70.9
54.1
74.7
57.7
74.5
57.4
65.8
51.1
56.1
43.5
44.8
36
39.9
31.3
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
1.67
1.31
1.59
1.46
2.12
2.7
2.19
2.29
1.78
1.47
1.72
2.18
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit Berlin

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Don't risk it: Stamp your ticket All public transportation tickets must be stamped at the platform, bus or tram before you begin your journey. Tickets that are not stamped are considered invalid and are subject to a fine of 60 euros upon inspection.
  • Pack a phrasebook Berlin is a friendly city, but knowing a few German words will help you exponentially. For example, bitte is "please," and danke schön is "thank you."
  • Don't plan your shopping spree for Sunday Many shops (with the exception of those in airports and railway stations) are closed on this day.

How to Save Money in Berlin

  • Visit in the winter Bundle up and enjoy this central German city in the winter. You'll have to face some frigid temperatures, but the superb deals on flights and hotels may make it worth it.
  • Party in Berlin East You should take advantage of the city's bumping nightlife, but you don't have to pay a fortune to do so. Nightlife venues to the east of the city are generally more affordable than those in the west.
  • Buy a Berlin WelcomeCard Visitors can enjoy not only free transportation by subway and bus with the Berlin WelcomeCard, but also discounted tickets to major attractions. You'll also receive a free map of Berlin with your purchase.  

Culture & Customs

East and West Berlin were historically united after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Since then, Germany has experienced a vast economic and cultural revitalization that has propelled it to become one of the most powerful countries in Europe – and the world.

Although Germany's official language is German, you'll find that some Berliners are proficient in English, too. Still, you can't go wrong learning a few German words: Guten tag or hallo for "hello," bitte for "please" and danke for "thank you."

Punctuality and order are two characteristics highly prized by German culture, so be on time to any business meeting or formal engagement. When in a restaurant, do not leave your money on the table after receiving the check. Hand the money to the waiter and ask for your change. Tips are already included in your bill, but if the service was exceptional, it's customary to tip an extra 10 to 15 percent.

Berlin's official currency is the euro (EUR). Since the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates often, check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.

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What to Eat

Berlin's food options are wide-ranging, with an abundance of traditional German cuisine, a thriving ethnic food scene and even healthier, vegetarian options. Still, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to nosh on authentic dishes Berlin is known for. 

A variety of sausages – everything from bratwurst to bockwurst (pork and veal) to the unique currywurst (sausage covered with ketchup and curry powder) – are ever-popular, as are staples like Wiener schnitzel (flattened, breaded, fried veal). German cuisine relies heavily on pork – so much so that you'll find eisbein (pork knuckle) served with potatoes and sauerkraut. Pop over to Zur letzten Instanz, the oldest restaurant in Berlin, for some traditional eats. It is one block off the Klosterstraße U-Bahn station. 

Berlin also has a large Turkish influence (more than 200,000 Turks call the city home) and that's spilled over into the gastronomy. For a look at a variety of delicacies, check out Turkish Market along the banks of the Landwehr Canal in the Neukölln neighborhood (hop off the U-Bahn at U Kottbusser Tor or Schönleinstraße). Additionally, be sure to try a döner kebab sandwich, which was first introduced by Turkish immigrants (urban legend says it was invented in Berlin). The dish includes a special bread filled with thin slices of beef (or chicken or lamb ... take your pick) and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a yogurt-based sauce. You'll find these sandwiches at numerous street vendors all over the city. 

Finally, no trip to Berlin is complete without some (or lots) of bier (beer). Beer is a big part of German culture; the legal drinking age for fermented beverages is 16 (or 18 for distilled alcohol). Germany also takes the quality of its suds seriously. There are a number of regulations, known as Reinheitsgebot (literally translated to "purity order"), that limit the number of ingredients used in the brewing process to only malt, hops, yeast and water. There are biergartens all over the city, but one of the most beautiful, Cafè am Neuen See, is found in TiergartenDon't forget to say prost or zum wohl (cheers and bottoms up, respectively). 

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Safety

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. Also, visitors should be aware that prostitution is legal in Germany, and a percentage of Berlin's prostitutes are victims of human trafficking.

Getting Around Berlin

The best way to get around 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 5 miles from the city center, and from the secondary airport, Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF), about 13 miles southeast of the city center. Most visitors prefer flying into the more central Berlin Tegel Airport, but plenty of travelers choose to use the budget airlines that fly through Berlin Schönefeld.  

The city also offers an extensive bus and tram lines. Although service is significantly slower, travelers can take advantage of the Berlin WelcomeCard, which offers unlimited rides on bus routes and rail lines. 

As with every big metropolis, driving is discouraged: heavy traffic and scarce parking are the main culprits. For a bit of exercise, you can rent a bike and peddle along the city's bike lanes and through the parks. Metered taxis are also abundant; they can be hailed on the street or scheduled ahead of time.

Learn about Neighborhoods in Berlin

Entry & Exit Requirements

United States citizens can visit Berlin for 90 days without a tourist visa. A passport that is valid six months beyond your planned departure date is required for entry. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. State Department's website.

Photos

Berlin
Berlin
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Berlin has a rich history and a vibrant culture. 

Matthias Makarinus/Getty Images

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