Berlin is not your Busch Gardens Germany. Forget Oktoberfest with its lederhosen and buxom beer maids. Punk rock meets Eastern Bloc: that’s Berlin.
#1 Bomb accommodations – pun intended
Half of Berlin features centuries-old architecture, and the other half, blown up in 1945 by heavy bombing in World War II, had been replaced by solemn communist buildings reminiscent of East Germany. Try to stay in a place with some history. We stayed in a restored palace, with grand doors the height of the ceiling and frescoes adorning the walls.
#2 Nazi History
As much as Berlin’s art and fashion scene has taken center stage in recent years, there is no denying that it was the epicenter of Nazi Germany, where the movement started. It’s a great place to see infamous history in 3D, such as visiting Hitler’s bunker.
3. The Berlin Wall
Even after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was split between East and West, with the Berlin Wall going up to divide the country. Tales of intrigue have surrounded us for decades, regarding the Stasi and German spies. In the 80s we watched in delight as the Berlin Wall fell, to unite a country. Make a point to visit the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie.
#4 A must-dine destination
Dine where Beethoven and Napoleon dined, sit on wood-carved thrones and most importantly, enjoy delicious food. Zur Letzen Istanz serves a cuisine that’s hearty and traditional, yet somehow cutting edge. Everything was delectable.
#5 Brandenburg Gate
Take in the views at Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 1700s, it’s an architectural marvel and the site endless history. Built on orders from the Prussian King Frederick, it used to be the entrance to Berlin when it was a small, walled city. Both Napoleon and the Nazis stormed the gates, among many others.
Don’t miss Alexanderplasse, the large, open-air gathering place that goes beyond the local stores. There are outdoor beer gardens serving a wide variety of ales and booth vendors offering exquisite samples of homemade cheese and sausages. There are rides for adults and children alike, and are sturdier and more beautifully lit than the pack-and-go carnival variety. The strong immigrant population is a boon to the area, and highly evident at their booths, where they sell their native wares, from spice mixes to handmade leather shoes.
#7 Modern Berlin
Though I must admit not having much time to do this, be sure to check out the galleries and boutiques of Berlin’s burgeoning art and fashion scene. This article will help steer you in the right direction.
I’d say this no matter WHAT city in Germany you’re in, but my advice would be to GET OUT. Rent a car and drive on the Autobahn to live out your childhood fantasy.
#9 Castles, because Germany
And while we’re on the subject of leaving Berlin, I must mention that Saxony is nearby. Take a day trip to the countryside, and better yet, castles! What’s a trip to Germany without taking in a good castle? We went to Rochsburg, and it did not disappoint.
#10 Exploring the outskirts
And don’t underestimate the amazing countryside outside Berlin where you can visit tiny country hamlets. The ancient buildings, the curious neighbors that all know one another, and the wonderful regional dishes they offer. And I’m not above a clown-shaped bologna!