We arrived in Berlin on a very special date for the city: the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as the 75th anniversary of the so-called Night of Broken Glass (or Progromnacht), when the Nazi wave of violence against Jews began. We met our German friend Julie (whom we met months before already back in Natal, Brazil through Couchsurfing) in Berlin. Therefore, we were really lucky as those days were the last ones of our World Tour and we were too tired to plan any itinerary. Julie told us, three days would be enough to get to know just about 5 % of everything Berlin has to offer. So, during those days we were in town, she took us to see the most important things which I wrote down in this post and added some other sights that we couldn’t visit due to the lack of time, but should be visited in the city.
Berlin is a city full of historical scars, but very fascinating, multicultural and open to the alternative. Taking a historical walk through the city is fundamental to get to know and understand the city that had and has a fundamental role for the World, especially the West. Julie took us to the places that are directly connected with the war, the holocaust and the wall. She explained to us that not a lot of people remember these facts as much as the Germans themselves, and that they do so in order to stop history repeating itself.
Alexanderplatz is one of the most important squares in central Berlin. It is quite big and busy and there are some of the main subway stations in the city. It is a good starting point to get to know Berlin. In this square is the Urania-Weltzeituhr, a clock that shows the time of the most diverse time zones and the Berliner Fernsehturm or simply the TV Tower, one of the highest buildings in Europe (368 meters) and from where you can have a beautiful view Of Berlin by 360 degrees. It is the tallest building of public access in Europe.
Opening hours: 10 am to midnight
Price: Depending of the time you want to go between 17,50 and 22,00 euros. Here on the blog, you can buy the tickets via Ticket Bar.
Berliner Dom (Cathedral of Berlin)
The Berlin Dom is the largest church in the German capital and the main temple of the evangelical church in Germany. Built between 1895 and 1905, the cathedral is located on the so-called Museums Island in the district Mitte. In fact, Berliner Dom was never a cathedral, in the real sense of the term, since it was never a bishop’s residence.
The visit to the Cathedral includes the baptistery, the matrimonial chapels, the imperial staircase, the crypt and the dome. From the top of the dome it is possible to have a panoramic view of Berlin’s center.
Visiting hours: 9 am – 7 pm
Admission fee: adults 7 euros/ reduced 5 Euros (children, students, unemployed, severely disables, refugees and groups of >20 people)
With an adult ticket, you can take three children less than 18 years along free of charge.
The Island of Museums or in German Museumsinsel, is actually an island on the river Spree, in the center of Berlin. The island got such a name as there are five museums: Pergamon Museum, Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum. In addition to Berliner Dom and the Lustgarten square. In 1999, the island was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Pergamon Museum has three important collections: Classical Antiquity, Ancient Orient and Islamic Art. It is the most famous and most visited museum in Berlin. Altes Museum (Old Museum) was the first public museum in Prussia when it opened in 1830. During the war it was destroyed and rebuilt in the 1960s. The permanent exhibition of this museum features Greek and Roman art and sculptures. Neues Museum (New Museum) was also completely destroyed during the Second World War and remained a ruin until 1999. The reconstruction took 10 years and in 2009 the museum was reopened. The museum exhibits Egyptian collections, from prehistory and ancient history. The most famous piece of the museum is the Nefertiti. The Bode Museum was reopened in 2006 and offers three collections: the sculpture collection (sculptures from the early Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century), the Byzantine Art Museum (items from the Byzantine and Roman empires from the 3rd to the 15th centuries) and the Numismatic Cabinet, complemented by a gallery specifically for children. The Old Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie) presents a collection of 19th-century art from the period between the French Revolution and World War I, from classicism to separatism.
Opening hours: 10 am – 6 pm (Thursday until 8 pm)
It is possible to purchase tickets for the museums separately or purchase the Museum Island card. The card costs 18 euros for adults. Children under 18 years enter for FREE.
Reichstag is the mansion of the German Parliament. They started to build the building in 1884. In this building the republic of Germany got proclaimed.
During the years of war, the palace was destroyed, being reconstructed between 1961 and 1971 in a simplified form, without the dome which exploded in 1945.
Between 1994 and 1999, the Reichstag was redesigned and expanded as a modern parliament building, retaining its extensive historical dimensions and glass dome, which at first generated controversy, but today is one of the symbols of Berlin.
The dome and the terrace are open only for registered visitors. You can register already online at least 2 days in advance. Registration must be done at the site: https://www.bundestag.de/en/visittheBundestag Or it is possible to register at the same day or a day in advance at a local shop near Reichstag. For registration and visiting Reichstag you need to bring your passport.
Admission is free.
Opening hours: 8 am till midnight.
Address: Platz der Republik 1
Siegessäule (Victory Column)
The Obelisk or Column of Victory, in German Siegessäule, marks the victory of ancient Prussia over Austria, Denmark and France in the war that occurred between 1864 and 1871. The building is almost 67 meters high and at its top stands a 5-meter statue of the goddess of victory. An observation platform from where it is possible to have a beautiful view of Berlin is 45 meters high and to get there you need to climb 285 steps.
Opening hours: from 1 April to 31 October, from Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm.
From 1 November to 31 March, from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 5:30 pm
Admission: 3 euros.
Underneath the streets of Berlin there are many subterranean passages and bunkers, remnants of the war period. One of these former bunkers is located at Gesundbrunnen metro station and can be visited on a tour with a lot of information on the various systems of tunnels and underground passageways under the city on four floors. This was one of the most interesting tours we did in Berlin, as it also shows the other side of the war, that of the non-Jewish Germans, who hid in these bunkers during the bomb attacks.
Tour 1 which tells the story of the war starts at 10 am. It takes about 1h30.
Tickets can be purchased at the south side pavilion of Gesundbrunnen Underground Station (U8), opposite the Kaufland Shopping Center.
Address: Brunnenstraße 105, 13355 Berlin
Admission fee: 10 euros.
Berlin Wall Memorial
The Berlin Wall Memorial stretches for 1,4 km along Bernauer Strasse, the old border strip. The memorial is the last piece of the Berlin Wall which was preserved and where you can see how it looked like in the late 1980s. The memorial is part of the Berlin Wall Foundation and is open air with free admission.
Some parts of the memorial museum are closed on Mondays, but you can visit them from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm.
East Side Gallery
It is the most famous part of the Berlin Wall which is painted with various images. The East Side Gallery is the largest open-air gallery in the world at 1,316 meters. It was painted directly on the wall between February and September 1990, after the wall was opened and it got renovated in 2009. In total there are 101 images that were painted to commemorate the fall of the wall and some of them are in a way a protest of the artist against war and other walls on this earth.
The Brandenburg Gate is the most famous symbol of Berlin, built between 1788 and 1791. During the period of the Berlin Wall, it was the symbol of the city’s division and today it is a symbol of unity.
The gate’s architecture was based on the Propylaea, of the Acropolis of Athens, in neoclassical style. The sculpture at the top of the gate was constructed in 1793 and over the years has been changed three times. After the defeat of Prussia in 1806, Napoleon took it to Paris. But with the victory of the Alliance, it was recovered 8 years later.
A good tip is to visit the gate during the day but to return at night to see it in its shining beauty with all the surrounding lights.
Memorial of the Dead Jews in Europe (Holocaust Memorial)
Next to the Brandenburg Gate is the impressive Memorial of the Dead Jews in Europe, known as the Holocaust Memorial. It is one of the most exciting places in Berlin. An open area of 19,000 square meters with 2,711 concrete blocks, 2,38 m long and 0,95 m wide and a varying height from 0,2 m to 4,8 m, representing the Jews killed during the Second World War.
The memorial, however, is not just the block sculpture. Underneath the blocks is the memorial museum, called an information center. The exhibition is located on 900 square meters and there is a room with the all names of the Jews killed by the Nazis.
The visit is free. There are also tours with paid guides which cost 4 euros.
Opening hours: April-September, Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 8 pm. October to March, from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 7 pm. Last admission 45 minutes before closing time. Closed 24 to 26 December.
Avenue Unter den Linden
The Brandenburg Gate is on the avenue Unter den Linden, which is the main one in East Berlin. On this street you can also find the State Opera House, the Russian Embassy, the Historical Museum, the Humboldt University, the Guggenheim Museum in Berlin and the Berliner Dom. The avenue is worth visiting during the day and at night as well.
Kurfürstendamm or Ku’damm is the main avenue of West Berlin, a shopping street that developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time of the Berlin division, the center of West Berlin operated in this region.
In this avenue are stores of luxury and popular brands.
In addition to architecture, art and history, Berlin offers a huge cultural life and is supposed to be the city which never sleeps as the nights are endless here. During one of nights we went partying in Soda Berlin (http://www.soda-berlin.de/en/)
We didn’t stay enough days in Berlin to get to know everything we wanted, but it was enough to connect with the city which deserves many more visits.
Translation to English by Juliane Boll
You may also like:
Enjoy your summer in Berlin – on sunny AND rainy days