Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
One of Berlin most iconic landmarks is the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). In the course of German history, the Brandenburg Gate has played many different roles. It reflects the country's turbulent past and its peaceful achievements like no other landmark in Germany.
During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate stood between East and West Berlin and was the sad symbol for the division of the city and Germany.
When the wall fell in 1989 and Germany was reunited, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol for untied Germany.
Reichstag in Berlin
The Reichstag in Berlin is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. A fire here in 1933 allowed Hitler to claim emergency powers, leading to his dictatorship. It was also here his empire collapsed as the Russians raised a flag above its ruined dome on May 2nd, 1945.
When the historic building was remodeled in the 1990s, it was adorned with a modern glass. Visitors can ride up to the top of the building and look down through the dome to literally watch politics in motion. It also offers a stunning view of the Berlin skyline.
The best time to visit the Reichstag is in the late afternoon or evening: The lines are usually shorter, and the view from the glass dome at sunset is spectacular. It is necessary to book your free visit ahead of time, but this can easily be done online.
The Berlin Reichstag is also the only parliamentary building in the world that features a public restaurant, Restaurant Kaefer. This elegant eatery and its roofgarten are located on the top of the Reichstag, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner at reasonable prices – breathtaking views included.
Museum Island Berlin
Berlin's Museum Island is home to five world-class museums which cover everything from the famous bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti to European paintings from the 19th century. This unique ensemble of museums and traditional buildings on the small island in the river Spree is even a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Don’t miss the Pergamon Museum, which houses the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of the Ancient Near East, and the Museum of Islamic Art. The highlights of the Pergamon Museum are the original-sized reconstructions of archaeological buildings: Pergamon Altar (closed for renovations until 2023), Market Gate of Miletus and the Gate of Ishtar. These exceptional artifacts make it one of the most visited museums in Germany.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of Germany’s most impressive and moving monuments to the Holocaust. The architect Peter Eisenmann designed this massive sculpture park, which is laid out on a 4.7 acre site between Potsdamer Platz, Tiergarten and the Brandenburg Gate. The centerpiece of the memorial is the “Field of Stelae”, covered with more than 2,500 geometrically arranged concrete pillars.
You can enter and walk through the unevenly sloping field from all four sides and wander through the strong columns, all slightly different in size, evoke a disorienting, wave-like feeling that you can only experience when you make your way through this gray forest of concrete. The free underground museum holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.
Berlin's East Side Gallery
Berlin's East Side Gallery is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. After the wall fell in 1989, hundreds of artists from around the world, among them Keith Haring, came to Berlin to transform the grim and gray wall into a piece of art. They covered the east side of the former border, which had been untouchable up to then, with more than 100 paintings and turned the into the largest open-air gallery in the world.
Unter den Linden Boulevard
Stroll down the grand boulevard of Unter den Linden in the historic heart of Berlin which stretches from Museum Island to the Brandenburg Gate. The street is lined on both sides by noteworthy historical statues and buildings, like Humboldt University, State Opera, State Library, German Museum of History and embassies.
Berlin Jewish Museum
Berlin’s Jewish Museum chronicles Jewish history and culture in Germany from the Middle Ages to present-day. The extensive exhibition is great - but it is mostly the building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, which leaves a lasting impression on its visitors. The striking architecture is defined by a bold zigzag design, underground tunnels connecting the three wings, irregularly shaped windows, and ‘voids’, empty spaces stretching the full height of the building - the architecture makes palpable the feelings of those who were exiled and lost.
Berlin’s urban heart beats at Hackescher Markt, an area brimming with cafes, cool shops, and art galleries. Start at Hackesche Hoefe, an ensemble of historic courtyards, which is the largest enclosed courtyard area in Germany. They are filled with one-off shops, theaters and Kinos (cinemas).
The area is becoming increasingly commercial and tour groups frequently make their way through the narrow alleyways, but it remains a charming and historic site. Look for lesser-known attractions like the tiny Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt which wages secret opposition to the Nazi party or the art shop above Kino Central.
For some more stylish retail therapy, check out the surrounding streets Weinmeisterstrasse, Alte Schoenhauser Strasse and Rosenthaler Strasse - all home to cool boutiques with local designer fashion, books, accessories, vintage, jewelry and shoes.
Berlin's Tiergarten used to be the hunting grounds for the Prussian kings, before it was transformed into the city's largest park in the 18th century. Today, the green heart of Berlin is bordered by the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate on the eastern side, Potsdamer Platz and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe on the southeastern edge, Berlin's Zoo in the west, and Bellevue Palace, residence of the German President in Berlin on the northern rim of the park.
On 600 acres, you can enjoy leafy paths, small creeks, open-air cafes and biergartens. In the center of the park, you’ll find the golden Victory Column, a 230 feet high monument commemorating Prussia’s victory over France in 1871.
View from Berlin's Victory Column
The slender Victory Column in the midst of Berlin’s park Tiergarten is known as the Siegessäule, or less formally "Golden Else" or "chick on a stick". Berlin's incredibly long boulevards mean you can see her from miles away and she is a glimmering symbol for the city.
To see out from this view point, you have to climb 285 steep stairs to reach the open-air viewing platform which is set right below the giant goddess – but you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking vista of the surrounding park and Berlin.