Tips When You Travel Berlin
• Since Berlin has an excellent and extensive public transportation network, there is no need for a car. However, if you are driving in to Berlin from another city, I would recommend picking a hotel that offers parking. That way, you can leave your car behind when you travel Berlin.
Hint: I stayed at the Landmark Eco Hotel in Berlin. If you like traveling with goliath-sized suitcases, this is not the place for you.
• Avail of the Museum Pass to access the majority of Berlin’s museums. I used this pass to visit Museumsinsel (Museum Island):
- Neues Museum (New Museum)
- Bode Museum
- Altes Museum (Old Museum)
- Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery)
Fo buying your pass, visit https://www.visitberlin.de/en
Opening Hours of the Berlin Museumsinsel are as follows:
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 6pm
- Thursday: 10am – 8pm
- Monday: 10am – 6pm (only Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum)
- Masala | Indisches Restaurant Berlin
You cannot travel Berlin without seeing the Berliner Dom. With its iconic green cupola and gilded cross, the Berliner Dom is the largest church in Berlin, as well as one of the largest Protestant churches in Germany.
Originally built in the 15th century, the cathedral underwent a Italian-Renaissance transformation in the early 19th century. At the time, the grandiose of the Berliner Dom rivalled that of Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. A distinct example of the opulent tastes of the period are the marble and onyx altar, the ornate mosaics, the finely sculpted statues, and the gold artisan work.
The Berliner Dom was once the royal church of the Hohenzollern dynasty, the Prussian monarchy as well as the German Emperors. Today, it is a house of worship, a museum and a concert hall, all rolled into one.
Built somewhere after 1250, Marienkirche is one of the oldest churches in Berlin’s urban history. The spatial architecture and red colored Brick Gothic style is reminiscent of town churches in Germany back then.
Note: I recommend checking out the fresco “Dance of Death”. Located in the tower of the Marienkirche, the fresco dates back to 1484, the year when a plague epidemic hit Berlin. While I didn’t have the chance to see the fresco, it is a wonderful piece of historic art that perfectly captures the emotional brevity of those turbulent times.
Another interesting feature of the Marienkirche is the Neptunbrunnen. The fountain was built in 1891 and was originally located at Schlossplatz. After the demolition of the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) in 1951, the Neptunbrunnen was removed and eventually moved to its present location near Marienkirche in 1969.
East Side Gallery
Located on the banks of the Spree in Friedrichshain, the East Side Gallery is the longest intact section of the Berlin Wall. Nearly a mile long, it is also the world’s largest open air gallery, with more than 100 murals painted by artists from all over the world. As a result, the East Side Gallery is a “Denkmal” or heritage-protected landmark in Berlin, and has received more than 3 million visitors every year.
Since 2000, restoration work is being done on a huge scale as two-thirds of the East Side Gallery has fallen victim to natural wear like erosion, as well as despicable human acts like vandalism and graffiti. As a conscious traveler, please be respectful of historic artwork and landmarks as you travel Berlin.
Some iconic artworks you can find along the wall include:
- Fraternal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel
- Trabant by Birgit Kinders
- It’s Happened in November by Kani Alavi
- Der Mauerspringer by Gabriel Heimler
The Führerbunker or Leader’s Bunker was an air raid subterranean shelter located near the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, between Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor to be precise. It was the last of the Führer Headquarters (Führerhauptquartiere) used by Adolf Hitler during World War II.
Today, a parking lot marks one entrance to the Führerbunker or Leader’s Bunker. You can find it at the crossroads between Gertrud-Kolmar-StraBe and In den Ministergärten. However, you will not see any signs or plaques around Berlin marking the Führerbunker. This is a symbolic gesture by Germany to not memorialize Hitler’s life or anything that belonged to him.
Built between 1884 and 1894, the Reichstag is a silent witness of Berlin’s tempestuous history. The building was first destroyed by arson in 1933, and then by bombing during World War II. It was not until 1999, that the Reichstag once again became the seating house of government or the Bundestag.
Take advantage of the free tours of the Reichstag’s roof terrace and dome:
- Tickets have to be booked in advance.
- Opening hours of the Reichstag are from 8am to midnight. Last entry is at 9:45pm.
- Tour goers have to line up at the Berlin Pavilion, where they will go through a security check.
- A valid passport or identity card is required for entry into the Reichstag.
- Free audio guides are available on the roof terrace which guide you through the history of the Reichstag.
- You are also treated to panoramic views of Berlin at the top.
Checkpoint Charlie was the third checkpoint, after Helmstedt-Marienborn (Alpha) and Dreilinden Drewitz (Bravo), by the Allies between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Like the other two checkpoints, Checkpoint Charlie gets its name from the NATO phonetic alphabet.
Checkpoint Charlie is also famous for a tank confrontation between the Americans and Soviets on October 1961. It also served as an escape route for many fleeing East Berlin.
The Rotes Rathaus or “Red Town Hall” derives its name from the red bricks that make up its facade. Built between 1861 and 1869, the Rotes Rathaus is the seat of the Governing Mayor and the Senate of Berlin.
After sustaining severe damages during World War II, the Rotes Rathaus was reconstructed in the following years. During the Cold War, the East Berlin magistrate held its sessions here. In 1991, the Rotes Rathaus became the seat of government for a reunified Berlin.
One of the top ten most popular attractions in Berlin, the Fernsehturm can be seen from various points of the city. Standing 368 meters in height, the Fernsehturm is the tallest structure in Germany, and the second tallest in the European Union.
This iconic TV Tower has come to symbolize both Berlin and Germany. In 1979, the Fernsehturm was designated monument status which was further emphasized after the reunification of Germany.
Built for King Frederick Wilhelm II in 1788, the Brandenburg Tor is modeled after the Acropolis entrance in Athens. Once upon a time, Prussian kings, Napoleon and Hitler marched through this gate. A symbol of division in the past, this neoclassical gate is today a symbol of a united Germany.
The Brandenburg Tor is one of the most photographed landmarks in Berlin. What makes this structure truly majestic is the statue of Quadriga, the goddess of victory driving a chariot pulled by four horses.
Berlin Victory Column
The Berlin Victory Column, also known as the Siegessäule, was designed after 1864 to celebrate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. By the time its construction was completed, Prussia had also secured victory in the Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War. In light of these victories, a bronze sculpture of Victoria was added to the top of the Berlin Victory Column.
The Berlin Victory Column is surrounded by a street circle as well as is connected to four tunnels. For a fee of € 3.00, you can climb up to the observation deck which offers stunning views of the Tiergarten and the Soviet War Memorial. If you can manage climbing 285 steps set in a steep spiral suitcase. 🙂
Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin
Since 1907, the luxury Hotel Adlon has been one of the most famous hotels in Europe, captivating guests from all over the world. Located next to the Brandenburg Tor, this living legend was modeled after American hotels like the Waldorf Astoria. During this time period, European hotels were transforming themselves into lavish haunts of the wealthy upper class and aristocracy. Berlin was keen on being at par with rival metropolitan cities like London and Paris.
Hotel Adlon suffered extensive damage in 1945 during World War II. The current building opened in 1997, and its design is inspired by the original.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews
Also known as Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, the grid of 2,711 concrete blocks is spread over an area of 19,000 square meters. The memorial is a powerful commemoration of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Third Reich.
You can learn about the history and personal stories of the victims in the underground visitor center. There are short biographies, diaries, photographs and film footages, all recounting the horror, torture and systematic extermination conducted by the National Socialist Party.
Named after the Pergamon Altar, the museum is one of the top places to visit in Berlin. The Pergamonmuseum is home to artefacts from all over the Ancient East, including Asia Minor, Iran, Egypt and the Caucasus.
Some of the highlights of the Pergamonmuseum include:
• Ishtar Gate of Babylon
Constructed in 575 BCE, it was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon. Painted in striking hues of blue with reliefs of dragons and lions, this remarkable structure is without a doubt Pergamonmuseum’s numero uno attraction.
• Pergamon Altar
This monumental altar of Zeus from Pergamon, near modern-day Izmir, Turkey, is a magnificent example of Greek Hellenistic art.
• Roman Market Gate
Built in 2nd century AD in Miletus (Aydin province in Turkey), the huge marble structure is evidence of the wealthy trading activities of this Greek city.
Berlin’s Neues Museum houses European and Egyptian Prehistory and Early History collections. That amounts to nearly 9,000 exhibits depicting the cultural transformation of our ancestors from around the world.
Some of the highlights of the Neues Museum include:
• Nefertiti Bust
The most valuable possession of the Neues Museum is the stucco-coated limestone bust of the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti. Photography is prohibited.
• Barbarian Treasure Trove
Archaeologists discovered these objects from the bed of the River Rhine. They are thought to be part of a bounty, plundered during the 3rd century AD.
• Berlin Gold Hat
This ornate golden headdress dates back to the Bronze Age, and is estimated to be around 3,000 years old.
The Bode Museum of Berlin is home to a sculpture collection from the late 18th century, as well as artefacts from the Numismatic Collection and Byzantine Art.
Some of the highlights of the Bode Museum include:
The Coin Galleries contain a total of 500,000 coins, making it one of the world’s largest collections. There are 150,000 coins from Greece and Rome, 160,000 coins from the European Middle Ages, and 35,000 Oriental-Islamic coins.
• Pazzi Madonna
This rectangular stiacciato marble relief sculpture dates back to 1420, and is the work of Donatello.
• Virgin with Child
Glazed terracotta work by Luca della Robbia from the year 1450.
The works of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Etruscans are displayed at the Berlin Altes Museum, including jewelry, coins and pottery.
Some of the highlights of the Altes Museum include:
As you enter the Altes Museum, you are greeted by a rotunda filled with antique sculptures and caskets.
• Etruscan Art
The Altes Museum has the world’s largest collection of Etruscan art outside Italy, including the famous house-shaped urns from Chiusi and the clay tablet from Capua.
• Treasure Vault
The treasure consists of jewelry made of gold and silver, as well as cut gemstones.
A collection of Romantic and Impressionist classics, the Alte Nationalgalerie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum structure itself is designed in the Prussian Classicism architectural style.
Some of the highlights of the Alte Nationalgalerie include:
• Adolph Mensel
Look for world-class artworks like ‘The Balcony Room’ and ‘Iron Rolling Mill’.
• Alexander Calandrelli
His bronze equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm IV is found in front of the museum.
• Johann Gottfried Schadow
Look for his double statue, sculpted for Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia.
Popular Day Trips from Berlin
• Sanssouci Palace and Park, Potsdam, Germany
• Dresden, Germany
• Hamburg, Germany