Top things to do in Berlin
You’ve probably seen how much I love Germany, for the least I have seen -Hamburg. But I also spent a weekend in Berlin, in October 2013.
There are many things to do in Berlin, such a large choice, due to all its history I would say. Berlin is a wonderful city, and I absolutely loved it. Here are some of the best things you can’t miss out when visiting Berlin.
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
The Brandenburg Gate is a majestic neoclassical triumph arch, dating from the 18th century, and which is one of Germany’s most visited landmark. It is Berlin’s icon, and it has had many roles throughout history. It has been a symbol of peace but also war and terror, because of WWII events. As of today and since 1989, it stands as a symbol of the reunification of Germany. This gate has often been a site for major historical events, as it is right near the Brandenburg Gate that John F. Kennedy gave his “I am a Berliner” speech and where Ronald Reagan affirmed America’s support to Berlin and its people.
–> I recommend that you go see it by night, as it looks even better when illuminated, and it will be less crowded.
Alexanderplatz and its surroundings
Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin.There, you will be able to see the Park Inn Berlin and the World Time Clock, a continually rotating globe showing the time around the world. You will also find many historic monuments around this square.
1. The Fernsehturm, or the Berlin TV Tower. It was built between 1965 and 1969 by the administration of the German Republic. Being the tallest structure in Germany, this TV Tower is a symbol of Berlin. It has an observatory desk from which you will have a breathtaking view over Berlin.
–> I haven’t gone up the tour, but if you can, I recommend that you do it. You can either buy your tickets directly at the tour or online, which will avoid you to stand in line.
2. The Neptunbrunnen, or the Neptune Fountain. This fountain was built in 1891 at his original location at the Schlossplatz. It has been removed from there when the former Berliner Stadtschloss was demolished, and was moved in 1969 to its current location between Saint Mary’s Church and the Rotes Rathaus. When it comes to its design, the Roman god Neptune is in the center and the four women around him represent the four main rivers of Prussia, from when it was built: the Elbe, Rhine, Vistula and Oder.
3. The Rothes Rathaus or Red City Hall is Berlin’s town hall. It is where the governing mayor and the government reside. As you may noticed, its name comes from the building red clincker bricks. The Rathaus was built between 1861 and 1869 in a north Italian Renaissance style. During WWII, the Rothes Rathaus served as the town hall of East Berlin, but then the administration of reunified Berlin officially moved there after the German reunification.
–> I very much like this Rathaus, mainly due to its special color and look. It think it is a great building.
4. The Marienkirche, or St Mary’s Church. Although we do not know exactly when it was built, it is assumed that it dates from the early 13th century. This church was originally a Roman Catholic church, but it has now become a Lutheran Protestant church since the Protestant Reformation.
Museum Island is where five internationally significant museums are located. Among them are the following:
- The Altes Museum (Old Museum), which houses the antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museum.
- The Neues Museum (New Museum)
- The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) which holds a collected of 19th century art.
- The Bode Museum, later called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, which exhibits the sculpture collections and late Antique and Bizantine art.
- The Pergamon Museum, which contains reconstruction of historic buildings.
In this museum complex, there is also the Lutsgarten or Pleasure Garden. Throughout history, this park has been a parade ground, a place for mass rallies and a public park. You will see there many people doing multiple things such as reading, studying, playing music etc.
The Berliner Dom or Berlin Cathedral is an Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegial Church. It is such a beautiful and imposant building, and I would definitely see myself seating in Lutsgarten facing the Berliner Dom as a way to relax.
The Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) has been the main memorial sites for the victims of war and tyranny since 1993. This memorial got severely damaged by bombs from WWII, but after 1960 once it got restored, Neue Wache served as a memorial to the victims of fascism and militarism. After the German reunification, it became the “Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny.” The statue in the center represents the Mother and her Dead Son.
The Holocaust Memorial, officially named the Monument to the Murdered Jews in Europe, is located near the Brandenburg Gate and not far from where the ruins of Hitler’s bunker is buried. This memorial is a space made up of 2,711 concrete slabs that have no dates or names, nothing.
The Marx-Engels Forum is a public park located in the central Mitte district of Berlin. The two statues represent Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, hence the name of the park. Marx and Engels were the authors of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 and were the founders of the communist movement, to which ideology the GDR was dedicated. This Marx-Engel Forum is now a tourist attraction.
Checkpoint Charlie has been the main and best known crossing point between East and West Berlin, making it a symbol of the Cold War. It was the place where Soviet and American tanks faced each other during Berlin crisis of 1961. Checkpoint Charlie is now a tourist attraction and The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum opened two years after the wall was erected.
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is what remains of the Berlin Wall after it fell. It is now an international memorial for freedom and the world’s longest open air gallery. After the fall of the Berlin wall, in 1990, thousands of artists from all around the world immortalized the Berlin wall itself or themselves with paintings on the East side of the wall. There are over 100 paintings including the famous kiss of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev.
–> I have walked along the East Side Gallery and I can tell you: it is such a strange feeling. I mean, this wall is so symbolic and bears so much history that it is crazy to actually see remains of it. But I love street art, and all these paintings are awesome. They vehicle strong messages and are so inspiring.
Why I love Berlin
When I think of Berlin, I always think of the History. I mean it was the center of the Nazi era due to the Berlin wall and Germany’s separation between East and West. But still, I was amazed with all the History in this city, and I loved it. Being French, I feel like France and Germany have such a close history that it touches me. I was glad to get to see all of this, including the memorials, since I think it is important to remember what happened and to realize how much we evolved since then.
P.S.: Besides History, Berlin is an artistic and hipster hub with a great party scene! But I will write another article and get into that in more details 😉
Have you ever been to Berlin? What is your favorite thing to see there?
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