Interested in travelling to Berlin and need some help planning?
Luckily for me, I had an amazing host who turned out to be the best city guide one can ask for! We had just a few days in Berlin but were able to explore the rich history and modern culture of this fascinating city. Here is a list of my favourite sights from the West to East side. Enjoy!!!
1. Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
Starting off in the Western side of the city, our first stop was to the most iconic landmark of Berlin – the Brandenburg Gate. It is a symbol of the turbulent history of Germany but also a national symbol of peace and unity in Europe. Built in the 18th Century, this magnificent structure was so named as it marks the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg. However it is now the entry point to the Unter den Linden (meaning “Under the Linden trees”), the renowned boulevard that leads one to the Palace Bridge near Museum Island. Make sure and visit early as this landmark gets quite busy with tourists but it sure is a great place to start off your Berlin tour.
A short walk from the Brandenburg Gate, through the Unter den Linden, and you will come across the Regierungsviertel, which is the Berlin government quarter with the Reichstag at its center. The is Reichstag functioned as the seat of the German parliament from 1894 to 1933, when it unfortunately was set a fire, but then it was reopened in 1999 to house parliament. We sat in the park of the quarter and admired this impressive building with its glass dome and proud German flag displayed on top.
We then may our way to the Holocaust Memorial, which was designed by a US Architect (Peter Eisenman) and opened in 2005 to commemorate the murder of six million Jews at the hands of Hitler during WWII. We explored the many paths in between the 2,711 concrete slabs of the memorial which were designed in a wave like motion to create a feeling of instability which we clearly felt.
It meant a lot for me to visit this memorial, especially as many of my forefathers were Jews whom were lucky enough to escape Poland during WWII. I knew very little of my family history but visiting this tribute intrigued me into learning more about the Holocaust. During our stay in berlin, we visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. I was uneasy at the idea of visiting a concentration camp but the knowledge I gained from the experience was invaluable and I highly recommend making a stop here if you can!
4. Checkpoint Charlie
Next on the list was Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”). Located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße. It was the most well-known of the three crossing points (Alpha, Bravo and Charlie from the phonetic alphabet) along the Berlin Wall during the Cold War from 1961 to 1991. Checkpoint Charlie became the most famous checkpoint as it was the only crossing for foreigners to get to the East side and back again safely. This point was the key symbol of the Cold War, characterising the separation between East and West. It appeared in several movies and novels as it was the site for a few East vs West stand offs (with massive tanks) between the Soviets and Americans. Even though Checkpoint Charlie was removed during the German reunification, it is still a site where characters dress up in the appropriate uniforms and re-act the period. During our visit, we could not help but notice the very ironic landmark on what was the American side of the crossing point – the McDonalds!
My favourite part of our Berlin tour was the stop on Museum Island! Branded as a sanctuary of art and science since the 1870s, it is a great place to get lost in history and beauty as you admire the gorgeous architecture and vast collections of the island’s five museums! Here is a quick brief on the Five Museums on Berlin’s Museum Island:
- Altes Museum (First museum on the island designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in 1830 and has an ancient art and sculptures collection and a gold treasury).
- Pergamon Museum (most visited museum in Berlin with over 1 million visitors a year)
- Bode Museum (Built between 1887-1904, it has an extensive collection of sculptures, treasures of Byzantine Art and the Numismatic Collections)
- Neues Museum (Built in 1841 but damaged during the war, it reopened in 2009 to house selected objects from the Egyptian Museum, such as the beautiful Nefertiti sculpture)
- Alte Nationalgalerie (Modelled on the Acropolis of Athens, this museum houses 19th Century art such as the Classicist, Romantic and Impressionist styles)
This UNESCO National Heritage Site is full of wonder and takes you on an archaeological journey of discovery throughout the ages.
While wondering around Museum Island, we stumbled upon the magnificent Baroque styled – Berliner Dom! This is the short name for the “Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church”. It is Berlin’s main cathedral built in the 18th Century as the protestant counterpart to the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This splendid architectural work shows that there is more than just Museums on the island.
7.East Side Gallery
Our last stop on the Berlin Itinerary, was the longest lasting open air gallery and international memorial for freedom – East Side Gallery. Of the 155km long Berlin Wall, some parts were preserved such as this 1316m long section. In 1990, artists were invited to paint this part of the wall and now it consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world. There were just so many unbelievable pieces of work, it was so difficult to pick a favourite! Let me know which artwork if your favourite!