«Berlin Index p4 Berlin History p5 p6 Neighbourhood Districts The Big Sights p9 Eating/Drinking p 13 p 15 Bars/Clubs Arts/Entertainment p 18 ...»
The Big Sights p9
Eating/Drinking p 13
Arts/Entertainment p 18
Shopping/Fashion p 21
Sport/Leisure p 22
Useful Words and Phrases
Berlin City Guide
Berlin is not packed with sights or particularly
beautiful – but what Berlin is –
is artistically more exciting, more vibrant and
diverse than any other capital in the world.
Rather than steeped in tradition this international cultural hotspot embraces innovation and looks to the future. Berlin is entertainment central – dance, art, fashion, design and music are dynamic forces, and no other city has so many bars, cafes, and clubs in such a concentration...there is no official closing hour.
The city has had a turbulent and troubled past, and the symbols of modern history can be seen across the city. When the Wall came down in 1989 young West Berliners moved into the Eastern districts and partied hard for a few years. The hedonistic creative independent spirit remains. Reunification in 1989 kick started Berlin’s rejuvenation – construction boomed and the city continues to evolve. Endlessly innovating Berlin never stands still.
With just under 3.4 million inhabitants – Berlin is Germany’s largest city – but it is very un-German. The Germans’ reputation is conservative and humourless, yet its capital is - to quote from the film “Cabaret”- all about “divine decadence”. Berliners are said to be “Berliner luft” - “anything goes”.
Berliners don’t suffer fools gladly and are straight talking – to the point of being blunt – open and edgy, although they undermine this unfriendly attitude with a dry sense of humour and wit. Berlin does however display some German traits – there is an extremely well-run and efficient public transport system and the traffic runs freely.
Since reunification Berlin is becoming a cosmopolitan city again – almost 500,000 (18% of the city) non-Germans live in the city representing 182 nations. Turks are the biggest group and Turkish culture and food is a substantial influence in neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg.
It’s a youthful city – 57% of residents are under 44 - with a large student population of approximately 150,000 who attend 3 major universities. German students are older than students in the rest of Europe and don’t usually graduate until their late 20s. The cost of living is cheaper than Paris or London and the average professional salary is around 2000 – 5000 euros a month.
History Berlin is a former capital of Prussia, the Weimer Republic and the Third Reich. During WWII Berlin remained staunchly anti-Hitler.
Immediately after the second World War Berlin was divided into 4 sectors and then later into 2 – East and West Berlin. The East was under the control of the communist Soviets whilst the West came under Western Allied rule.
The Wall which physically divided the city for 28 years was built in 1961.
1244 First recorded mention of Berlin
1701 Frederick 111 proclaims himself King Frederick 1 of Prussia 1806 Napoleon enters Berlin 1871 Berlin made capital of German Empire – ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm 1 and Prime Minister of Prussia – Prince Otto von Bismark 1918 German Republic established 1933 Hitler becomes German Chancellor 1939-45 By the end of WW11 Berlin lies in ruins.
Berlin is divided by the Western Allies 1949 Germany is divided into the Federal Republic and communist German Democratic Republic, with Berlin stranded in the GDR.
1962 JF Kennedy makes his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
1989 Collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the removal of the Wall.
Neighbourhood Districts Although it was cut off by the wall for 30 years East Berlin was always the real centre and today is once again the heart of Berlin.
Mitte Formerly on the Eastern side Mitte is the city’s historic centre, and today is also the centre culturally, politically and commercially.
Government buildings, many museums and theatres are based here. South Mitte is where to find the big sights and grand avenues, whilst North Mitte is more bohemian. The historic Jewish quarter The historic Jewish quarter and the area around Hackescher Markt and Scheunenviertel are lined with narrow streets and pedestrian passageways which are home to cafes and galleries. The areas around Zionskirchplatz and ultra- cool Kastanienallee are the city’s most happening nightlife districts.
Prenzlauer Berg The most picturesque residential area – this is former East Berlin at its most charming. It’s home to artists, actors and young families as well as a thriving café quarter.
Friedrichshain The most Eastern feeling district with the Stalin era Karl Marx Allee running through it. The choice for young radicals and bohos is around Simon Dach Strasses and good for nightlife is the industrial area on the bank of the River Spree. Home to a huge student population, it’s one of the cheapest areas in Berlin and has dozens of lo-fi but lively bars. The residents have an annual water fight with their neighbours from Kreuzberg.
Kreuzberg Capital of Turkish Berlin and packed with donar kebab cafes. The area was traditionally home to radicalism and is still popular with the alternative crowd.
The more conservative and affluent areas are around Bergmannstrasse, which retains its Prussian era cobbled streets and buildings, and where antique shops and boutiques attract visitors. The edgier area is around Schlessisches Tor – famed for indie music bars and rock venues which line the Oranienstrabe.
With its riverside bars the up and coming district is Treptow.
Schoneberg Largely a residential district with many of the buildings dating from the 19th century with ornamental facades and balconies. The area is home to a chic thirty-something population. There is a popular twice weekly farmers’ market.
The gay district stretches along Motzstrasse and Fuggerstrasse.
Tiergarten Centred around the huge Tiergarten park. This important district contains the diplomatic quarter, corporate skyscrapers and the new entertainment and commercial centre - Potsdamer Platz. The Platz complex was conceived as a showpiece to mark Berlin’s reunification. It consists of 3 different precincts – Daimler City – which surrounds an open square and is home to a shopping mall and entertainment venues; - the Beisheim Centre – which contains luxury apartments and 2 five star hotels; and the architecturally spectacular steel and glass Sony Centre – with shops, restaurants and cinemas circling an open plaza.
For a birds-eye view of the Potsdamer Platz - as well as great views over the rest of Berlin - take what’s claimed to be the fastest lift in Europe to the observation deck of Panorama-Point, at the top of the Kollhof building.
Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf Smart and well-heeled – this is Berlin’s West end, with a far more established cultural scene than the transient bar scene that defines the Eastern districts.
After reunification the young took over the Eastern districts and that became – and continues to be - the happening side of the city. But recently youth culture has started to trickle back to West districts like Charlottenburg and club and bar openings are on the increase. The area is home to Berlin’s busiest shopping district – along the Ku’dam – and home to KaDeWe- Berlin’s Harrods.
Savignyplatz is the place for affluent chic shopping and eating.
SCHONEBERGThe Big Sights The Wall Not very much of the Wall remains. But along Mühlenstrasse in Friedrichshain a 1.3km section is preserved as an open-air gallery – known as the East Side Gallery. It features over a hundred murals painted by dozens of international artists as a symbolic celebration of reunification. The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer in the Northern Wedding district is a small graffiti-free stretch of the Wall which has been preserved by the authorities. A visitor centre has information about the Wall years, while a chapel is dedicated to the 80 or so victims that died trying to cross it. The most famous symbol of the divided city is the Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in Kreuzberg, located next to the site where the famous border-crossing stood.
East Side Gallery Muhlenstrasse www.eastsidegallery.com Admission: Free Gedenkstätte Bernauer Strasse 111 www.the-berlin-wall.de or www.berlinermauer.de Opening: Wed-Sun 1000-1700 (visitors centre) Admission: Free Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie (Mauermuseum) Friedrichstrasse 43-45 D-10969 Tel: (030) 253 7250 www.mauer-museum.com Opening: Daily 0900-2200 Admission: charge Reichstag The home of the Bundestag – the German parliament since 1999. British architect Norman Foster was commissioned to transform the original 19th century building – and has done so by keeping the historic façade but adding a stunning glass dome which is meant to symbolise the transparency of democratic government. The walk through the dome gives visitors sweeping views of the city and a view of the decision-making chamber of the government when it’s sitting.
Guided tours of the Reichstag also take place when parliament is not sitting.
Deutscher Bundestag Platz der Republik 1 Tel: (030) 22 73 04 31 www.bundestag.de Opening: Daily 0800-2400 (last admission 2200).
Admission: Free Brandenburg Gate One of Berlin’s most recognisable landmarks, the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), stands at the Western end of Pariser Platz. Once a Cold War symbol the gate now epitomises German reunification. Built in 1791 it is the only one surviving of the original 18 city gates. The sculpture of the winged goddess of victory driving a horse drawn chariot at the top of the columns was stolen by Napoleon and kept in Paris for some years, but eventually returned to Berlin in 1814 by a Prussian general.
Unter den Linden/Strasse des 17 Juni Admission: Free
Judische Museum (Jewish Museum) The striking zinc-clad exterior of this Daniel Libeskind designed memorial to 2000 years of Jewish history in Germany is centred on a distorted Star of David – the symbol of Judaism. The walls of the museum rise in an angled zigzag that form an
interpretation of the star. Rather than windows, irregular gashes cut through the zinc cladding.
Lindenstrasse 9-14 Kreuzberg, Tel: (030) 2599 3300 www.juedisches-museum-berlin.de/ Opening: Tues-Sun 1000-2000(last entry 1900), Mon 1000-2200(last entry 2100) Admission: Charge Schloss Chalottenburg Built in 1695 as a summer residence for Queen Sophie-Charlotte, the wife of King Friedrich 1, this Palace is a slice of Prussian history. The Palace has splendid baroque gardens which are great for summer walking and a variety of buildings in the grounds – each with their own admission fee. It’s easiest to go for a combined ticket which allows access to the main Palace, the New Wing of state apartments which house a collection of 18th century French art, and the Pavilion with a collection of works by Van Gogh, Klee, Cezanne and Picasso.
Schloss Charlottenburg Spandauer Damm 20-24 Tel: (030) 320 911 www.spsg.de Opening: Old Palace: Tues-Sun 0900-1700, New Wing: 1100-1700 ;
grounds open daily 0600-2100 (summer); daily 0600-2000 (winter) Admission: charge Kulturforum (Cultural Forum) Located in the West of the city, the Kulturforum is a complex of museums, concert halls and libraries, housed in mostly modern buildings. There is a chamber music hall, the Musikinstrumenten-museum - dedicated to musical instruments, and the Philharmonie concert house, home to the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, considered to be one of the best concert halls in the world. (In May 2008 a fire damaged part of the roof of the concert hall, check locally to see if the concert schedule is affected). The Gemäldegalerie (Painting Gallery) is Berlin’s largest museum and houses a stunning collection of 13th- to 18th-century masterpieces, whilst the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) based in a building by Mies van der Rohe, contains 20th century art as well as German Expressionist and Realist art. The complex also features a sculpture garden.
Philharmonie und Kammermusiksaal Herbert-von-Karajan-Strasse 1 Tel: (030) 2548 8999 (ticket hotline) www.berlin-philharmonic.com Opening: Shows generally Fri-Sun 1600 and 2000 (depending on programme);
guided tours daily 1300 Admission: Charge, guided tours are free.
Musikinstrumenten-museum Tiergartenstrasse 1 Tel: (030) 254 810 www.sim.spk-berlin.de Opening: Tues, Wed, Fri 0900-1700, Thurs until 2200, Sat and Sun 1000-1700 Admission: charge, free Thurs evening.
Gemäldegalerie Kulturforum, Matthäikirchplatz 4-6 Tel: (030) 266 2951 (information) www.smb.spk-berlin.de Opening: Tues, Wed and Fri-Sun 1000-1800, Thurs 1000-2200 Admission: Charge, free Thurs evening.
Neue Nationalgalerie Kulturforum, Potsdamer Strasse 50 Tel: (030) 266 2951 www.smb.spk-berlin.de Opening: Tues, Wed and Fri-Sun 1000-1800, Thurs 1000-2200 Admission: Charge, free Thurs evening.
Eating/drinking Traditional German food does not have a gastronomic reputation, but in Berlin international influences have resulted in a thriving world food scene and getting good food – at any time of the day - is not a challenge.
Street food here is sold from stalls known as Imbiss who serve up the classic Berlin snack – currywurst – a hotdog sausage smothered in curried ketchup. Because of Berlin’s large Turkey population, the donar kebab – which it’s claimed was invented in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg in the 70s - is offered on at almost every Berlin street.
Berlin delivers many Vietnamese and pan-Asian restaurants and Italian is hugely popular – around half the city’s restaurants are Italian. Finding the traditional heavy meat based traditional German dishes like pigs trotters and cabbage is becoming more difficult but they can still be found in restaurants serving tourists around Berlin’s old quarter - Nikolaiviertel.