Multicultural since its founding some 700 years ago, the alpha world city of Berlin is a hub for art, architecture, music, museums and creativity. It’s an exciting destination for curious travellers due to its historical legacy, many festivals and several downtown districts, each with their own style. Almost a third of the city is comprised of lakes, rivers, urban forests and landscaped gardens, with their cool, watery greenery contrasting with the city’s striking combination of ultra-modern and historic buildings. Berlin’s café society, buzzing nightlife, theatres and modern and classical music scene are all highlights of this popular visitor destination.Mitte district is the best place to stay for sightseeing, with its wide choice of accommodation well-priced due to an oversupply of hotels caused by the construction boom at the end of the Cold War. Five-star luxury is found in City West district near Alexanderplatz, with all the major hotel chains represented. If you prefer to stay within easy travelling distance of the major sights, the Park Inn Radisson Berlin is a good choice, and other popular districts include Prenzlauer Berg with its Hotel Adele and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg with its Upstalsboom Hotel. Visitors should check that their selected hotel is close to public transport options.
In spite of its WWII decimation, there’s plenty to see in the way of landmarks, museums and modern memorials of the East/West Berlin split.
- MitteThe historic heart of the great city, Mitte holds most of Berlin’s landmarks and heritage buildings as well as the famous Unter Den Linden boulevard, a part of East Germany until reunification. Also here are many of the city’s museums, Berlin’s imposing domed cathedral and the Brandenburg Gate, symbol of the city.
- The ReichstagWith its strong resemblance to a Renaissance palace, the massive 19th century German parliament building was host to Hitler and his Nazi followers and was the site of the famous renunifcation statement which led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
- Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall MemorialCheckpoint Charlie, the remnants of the Berlin Wall and the memorial to all those killed while fleeing East Germany are found on the borders of Mitte and Wedding districts. These iconic remnants of the Cold War are a must for visitors to Berlin.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearby
Eating out in multi-ethnic Berlin is both fun and cheaper than in most other European cities. Although international cuisine comes slightly modified to German tastes, there’s a great variety to choose from. Traditional German cuisine is meat-rich, filling, features the delicious German sausages and comes in large portions representing great value for money. Hakeschermarkt and Kastanienallee are both good restaurant choices and a fine choice of vegetarian eateries are set close to Berlin’s most popular beer garden, the Prater Garden. Ku’Damm and Tauentzienstrasse are still the city’s main shopping hubs, with Wittenbergplatz reputedly the largest of Continental Europe’s department stores, and upmarket Freidrichstrasse in former East Berlin is a shopaholic’s delight. Dozens of weekend flea markets take place across the city, with the largest at Strasse des 17, and the green spaces of Mauerpark and Arkonaplaz also worth a wander.
Berlin Tegel International Airport is the hub for international carriers offering flights from major European cities such as London and Paris, though most flights from Australia come into Frankfurt. The complex has no rail station, with onward transportation by express or local bus, hotel shuttle or taxi. By 2014, construction of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport should be completed, with Tegel due to close once all flights are transferred. Once in the city, its excellent public transport options will get you around in comfort via the subway, U- and S-Bahn commuter rail network, buses and trams. Taxis are easily booked or hired on the street, and most drivers speak English.