Berlin is the capital city and one of sixteen states of Germany. With a population of 3.4 million within its city limits, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city and the eighth most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, comprising 5 million people from over 190 nations. Geographically embedded in the European Plains Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one third of the city´s territory is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.
The impressive and symbolic Brandenburg Gate that lay forlorn for so long in the no man's land behind the Berlin Wall, is now once again renovated and accessible, along with the newly reconstructed Pariser Platz that links the gate to the beautiful Unter den Linden Boulevard. The gate is Berlin's only remaining city gate, built of sandstone between 1788 and 1791 with 12 Doric columns according to a design by C.G. Langhans. Six columns support a 36-foot (11m) transverse beam, similar to the propylaeum of the Acropolis in Athens. The massive gate is topped with a stunning statue of the Goddess of Victory facing east towards the city centre (this was added in 1794). The gate is closed to traffic, as is the adjacent Pariser Platz, a gracious square that was once surrounded with beautiful buildings sadly destroyed in the Second World War. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall new buildings have been built, however, to designs closely following those of the originals.
Museum Island is the name of the northern half of the Spreeinsel, an island in the Spree river in the centre of Berlin (the southern half of the island is called Fischerinsel (English: Fishers' Island)).
The island received its name for several internationally renowned museums that now occupy all of the island's northern half (originally a residential area dedicated to "art and science" by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841). Constructed under several Prussian kings, their collections of art and archeology were turned into a public foundation after 1918, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), which maintains the collections and museums today.
The Reichstag building in Berlin was constructed to house the Reichstag, parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire supposedly set by Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, who was later beheaded for the crime. That verdict has been a subject of controversy over the years. The National Socialist Party (NSDAP) used this event as casus belli to begin a purge of opponents of the Nazi Party in Berlin and to ban the Communist Party of Germany. Marinus van der Lubbe was officially pardoned by the German state in January 2008, 75 years after his conviction and execution. In 1967 a Berlin court had symbolically changed the sentence of van der Lubbe to an eight-year prison term and in 1980 the same court had lifted the sentence altogether. In 1981 a West German court overturned the conviction of van der Lubbe on the grounds that he was insane, however campaigners pressed for full state pardon on account of van der Lubbe having been convicted by a Nazi court. The full state pardon of van der Lubbe was made possible by a law passed in Germany in 1998. This exoneration is symbolic and will not lead to compensation for van der Lubbe's heirs.
The building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after the reunification of Germany in 1990, when it underwent reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it became the meeting place of the modern German parliament, the Bundestag.The Reichstag as a parliament dates back to the Holy Roman Empire and ceased to act as a true parliament in the years of the Nazi regime (1933–1945). In today's usage, the German term Reichstag or Reichstagsgebäude (Reichstag building) r
efers to the building, while the term Bundestag refers to the institution.
The infamous border crossing point in the wall dividing West and East Berlin has now become a shrine to the wall's memory with the addition of a museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. For nearly 30 years, between 1961 and 1990, Checkpoint Charlie in the Friedrichstrasse was the only crossing point between East and West Berlin. The soldier's post can be visited, and tourists can be photographed under the border sign.
The East Gallery
The remains of the infamous Berlin Wall have now become the largest open-air art gallery in the world. The longest section of the wall, which has been preserved, stretches from Ostbahnhof station to the Oberbaumbrucke, and has been given over to graffiti artists from around the world. A total of 118 artists from 21 countries have exerted their skills on the 4,318-foot (1,316m) long section of the wall, and this collection has become a Berlin landmark and a tourist attraction. Best known paintings are Dimitri Vrubel's Brotherly Kiss and Gunther Shaefer's Fatherland. The gallery is billed as an international memorial for freedom.
Although relatively new the Jewish Museum in Lindenstrasse has already gained an international reputation for its significant architecture and unique exhibitions that bring history alive. The bulk of the museum is housed in a windowless and doorless steel-clad, silver building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, sited alongside the yellow Baroque edifice of the Berlin Museum. Visitors enter the Jewish Museum through the Berlin Museum to explore the exhibition rooms, which are clustered around a main axis void, designed to signify the empty and invisible aspects of Jewish history.
One of the most popular art galleries in Berlin is housed in a train station. The historic Hamburger Bahnhof, built in 1846 at the Tiergarten, was badly damaged during the Second World War, but has been restored and reopened, with some modern elements added to the architecture, as an exhibition venue for an extensive contemporary art collection. The former station now offers 107,639 square feet (10,000 sq metres) of space filled with works by the likes of Andy Warhol, Josephy Beuys and Roy Lichtenstein. The basis of the exhibition is the Marx private collection, but there are changing exhibitions and good examples of the Italian Transavanguardia and minimalist art on show too.
This vibrant square is the heart and soul of the 'New Berlin', which has emerged since the fall of the wall in 1989. The original square was once one of the busiest junctions in Europe with a major train station sited on it. However after damage during the Second World War and being cut through by the divisive wall, it became a decayed wasteland. Since the fall of the wall, however, a building boom has been taking place around the Potsdamer Platz, which now boasts an exciting mix of restaurants, shopping centres, hotels, a casino, theatres and cinemas that draws both Berliners and tourists seeking good food and recreation. Focus of the square is the 22-storey Debis Haus, designed by Renzo Piano, featuring an atrium with cathedral-like dimensions, and its neighbouring Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, a shopping mall with an Imax cinema. The Sony Centre is the most recent addition, consisting of seven buildings around a light-flooded arena, which also houses Berlin’s popular Film Museum. The Kollhoff building features a panorama platform, reached by Europe’s fastest express elevator, which offers views of the city.
Legoland Discovery Center
The newly opened LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is the first indoor LEGOLAND in the world and provides an interactive journey through a land of colour, creativity, learning and play. There is a fun factory, where real LEGO bricks are made, a 4-D cinema show, opportunities for visitors to make their own creations, Miniland Berlin, a themed ride and much more all under one roof.
The Story Of Berlin
One of Berlin's most popular attractions, the unusual exhibition recounts the history of the German capital city from its foundation until the fall of the Wall. The Story of Berlin is divided into 25 themed rooms and pays attention to the feelings, thoughts and living conditions of common Berliners. One of its main attractions is the nuclear bunker that was built during the Cold War in the 1970s. Guided tours are available every hour.
Said to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, the Gendarmenmarkt is certainly one of Berlin's most impressive squares that was created as a market place in the 17th century. During World War II most of the buildings were destroyed, but have since been returned to their former glory. The square is dominated by the beautiful Konzerthaus (concert house), which is home to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, as well as the twin churches of Deutscher Dom and Franzosischer Dom, the identical German and French Cathedrals. Gendarmenmarkt is also host to Berlin's best Christmas market and various concerts. Surrounding the plaza are a number of cafes and restaurants.
Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest palace in Berlin, an 18th-century baroque structure that was originally constructed as the summer home for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Elector Frederick III who became the first Prussian king. The splendid interiors are festooned with art masterpieces, while the surrounding gardens contain a mausoleum, pavilion and the Belvedere, which houses the porcelain museum.
The Berlin Cathedral was built between 1895 and 1905 and is a magnificent basilica that stands on the site of several earlier structures. Inside, the crypt contains over 80 sarcophagi of Prussian royals, while other areas of interest are the pulpit, the organ, and the stained glass windows. Visitors can climb the dome, which is decorated with intricate mosaics.
This huge museum has three main departments, the Antiquity Collection, Islamic Art Museum and the Middle East Museum that house parts of reconstructed monumental buildings transported from original excavation sites from ancient lands. The Antiquity Collection contains the Pergamon Altar from the second century BC, as well as the Market Gate of Miletus from Roman antiquity. The main attraction in the Islamic Art Museum is the Mshatta façade originating from a Jordanian desert palace, while the Middle East Museum boasts the Ishtar Gare and the Procession Way of Babylon, as well as the throne room façade of Nebuchadnezzar II.
Berlin may not be known as a shopper's paradise, but don't be fooled; it can give even the most seasoned of power-shoppers a run for their money. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping sprees, ranging from the overly expensive to the humble wares of the city's flea markets, antique markets, cheap bargain stores and everything in between.
Luxury designer boutiques can be found lining the streets at the west end of Kurfürstendamm and in Friedrichstrasse. All the different shopping precincts have their own distinctive style and the best boutiques are often tucked away in backstreets or quiet courtyards.
The main shopping districts are the Kurfürstendamm, Breitscheidplatz and for some bargains, a quick stroll in the Budapestststrasse and Tauenzienstrasse could prove worthwhile. One of the trendiest shopping streets is the Schönhauser Allee with countless independent shops dotted along its thoroughfare offering the latest fashion and young independent designer labels which can be snatched up for a song.
A sales tax (VAT) of 16% is levied on most goods and services in Germany. Most major stores are open from 9.30am to 8pm daily and between 9am and 4pm on Saturdays. All stores are closed on Sundays, except for small stores in the main train stations.
It is impossible to walk through Berlin without finding a pub, a bar, a theatre, a cinema or a disco, where people meet to spend their leisure time and evenings. Life is buzzing in every single quarter of this fantastic capital. Because of the variety of spots it is a Sisyphean task to name them all. We decided to divide our nightlife section by districts, and even then it is a hard piece of work to give you quite a good overview.
Summarized western Berlin has four focal points for pubs and bars: Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg is for conspicuous goodtimers, Kreuzberg drinkers normally include political activists and punks, the area around Nollendorfplatz (northwestern part of Schöneberg) and Winterfeldtplatz is the territory of sped-out all-nighters and the pushing-on-forty crew. Central Schoneberg bars are on the whole more mixed and more relaxed.
In the eastern part of the city there is also a number of real cosy and even exciting new cafes and bars. Check out both Berlin Mitte and Friedrichshain Section. In Prenzlauer Berg quarter you will find a lot of nice pubs in and around Knaackstrasse. And alst but not least the area around Oranienburger Strasse, where you also will find the "Tacheless" is paved with nice cafes and pubs.
To find out what's on when, buy one of the listings magazines tip, Zitty or Prinz. These magazines are written in German but I found an English language magazine published in Berlin (called "EXBERLINER") that has all the listings for cinema, gigs, concerts etc. Also great articles on what's happening locally and current topics.
Karneval der Kulturen
In 2009, this festival had close to 1.5 million attendees. The Carnival of Cultures started in 1996 to pay homage to the large amount of internationals in Berlin. You will find most any type of art here, from music to paintings. The idea behind the Carnival is to welcome every culture with open arms and promote the importance of diversity.
This is not a club for just anyone. The "Kitty" was opened by a pornography film maker from Austria in 1994. To be blunt, this club has been both praised and shunned, as it allows sexual intercourse (hetero- and homosexual) in the establishment. With a very strict dress code, if you fit the criteria and can handle the scene, you are definitely going to get an other-worldy feeling from this popular techno night club.
Built in 1786 for the prince of Prussia, the Schloss Bellevue is a château that has housed the German president since 1994. In the past, it has served as a summer home, a museum, a primary home, and a guest house. It is located in the city center, in northern Tiergarten Park next to the beautiful Spree River.
Berlin has developed a highly complex transportation infrastructure providing very diverse modes of urban mobility. 979 bridges cross 197 kilometers of innercity waterways, 5,334 kilometers (3,314 mi) of roads run through Berlin, of which 73 kilometers (45 mi) are motorways. In 2006, 1.416 million motor vehicles, were registered in the city. With 358 cars per 1000 inhabitants in 2008 (570/1000 in Germany), Berlin as a German state and as a major European city has one of the lowest numbers of cars per capita.
Long-distance rail lines connect Berlin with all of the major cities of Germany and with many cities in neighboring European countries. Regional rail lines provide access to the surrounding regions of Brandenburg and to the Baltic Sea. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the largest crossing station in Europe. Deutsche Bahn runs trains to regional destinations like Nuremberg, Hamburg, Freiburg and more. It also runs the Airport express, as well as trains to international destinations like Moscow, Vienna, and Salzburg.Berlin is known for its highly developed bike lane system. 710 bicycles per 1000 inhabitants are estimated. Around 500,000 daily riders accounting for 13% of total traffic in 2008. The Senate of Berlin aims to increase the number to 15% of city traffic by the year 2010. Riders have access to 620 km of bike paths including approx. 150 km mandatory bicycle paths, 190 km off-road bicycle routes, 60 km of bike lanes on the roads, 70 km of shared bus lanes which are also open to bicyclists, 100 km of combined pedestrian/bike paths and 50 km of marked bike lanes on the sidewalks. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe and the Deutsche Bahn manage several dense urban public transport systems.
Berlin has two commercial airports. Tegel International Airport (TXL), the busier, and Schönefeld International Airport (SXF) handled more than 21 million passengers in 2008. Together they serve 155 destinations in 48 countries (summer 2009). Tegel lies within the city limits, whereas Schönefeld handles mainly low-cost-aviation and is situated just outside Berlin's south-eastern border in the state of Brandenburg.
Berlin's airport authority aims to transfer all of Berlin's air traffic in November 2011 to a newly built airport at Schönefeld, to be renamed Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. City authorities aim to establish a European aviation hub with a gateway to Asia.