Explore the diverse landscape of Berlin's capital
Berlin is perhaps one of the most fascinating cities in Germany. Covering nearly 341 square miles of Berlin you will find it has a unique landscape. With its many parks, lakes and wooded areas, it is sometimes easy to forget that Berlin is the capital of Germany. The history of this city has been celebrated for many years attracting tourists from all over the world. It is estimated that nearly 80% of Berlin was destroyed during the Second World War. Perhaps one of Berlin 's most famous landmarks is the Berlin Wall, the 'Iron Curtain 'which divided this great city into two halves between 1961 and 1989. The East was governed by communism while the West was allowed to develop in a capitalist democratic government. Even now, more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the differences between East and West are still visible.
Berlin is the largest City in Germany and has approximatley 3,400,000 inhabitants.
The City is made up of twelve distinct districts and each of these districts has its own individual charm. The districts are identified in more detail below.
The Brandenburg Gate is Berlin's most famous landmark in Mitte and is the emblem of the city. "Unter den Linden", the famous boulevard, leads from here to the Schlossbrücke bridge and each of the properties along it has its own story to tell. Humboldt University, the State Opera, the Comic Opera, the armoury and the Crown Prince's Palace are just a few of its best-known sights. The imposing group of grand classical buildings on Berlin Museum Island has been designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Alexanderplatz square with its cold yet impressive high-rise buildings remains the centre of East Berlin, dominated by the 365-metre television tower. Elegant Friedrichstrasse's boutiques and upmarket department stores are places to shop and browse. Exclusive and quirky shops, chic cocktail bars and bohemian courtyards crowd together in the Hackesche Höfe complex. The reconstructed Nikolaiviertel quarter has preserved the charm of a small 18th century town. Gendarmenmarkt, designed by Schinkel and considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, with its Concert Hall and the German and French Cathedrals, lies close to the prominent domed building of St Hedwig's cathedral. Potsdamer Platz at the heart of Berlin extends across the Mitte and Tiergarten districts.
In recent years, Kreuzberg has become a fashionable area but has not lost its bohemian feel. Kreuzberg's multi-cultural life is a particular feature of the city's most populous district, once a melting pot of different nationalities, groups on the fringes of society, and the alternative scene when Berlin was a divided city. When the Berlin Wall fell, the area suddenly found itself in the geographical centre of Berlin and its proximity to the upmarket Mitte district brought the advent of fashionable restaurants and cocktail bars.
In the 19th century, Prenzlauer Berg was a traditional working-class district with five-storey tenement blocks dominating the skyline. The area went into decline under the GDR regime and became a focus for opposition movements. Numerous protest services and peace vigils were held in its churches in 1989. In recent years, Prenzlauer Berg has taken the place of Kreuzberg as the centre of autonomous, alternative culture. Schönhauser Allee is its main thoroughfare and shopping street and the area around the water tower is the place to stroll and relax.
The Charlottenburg District is situated north of the famous Kurfürstendamm, one of Berlin's major shopping areas that developed in the West during the years that Berlin was divided. The Charlottenburg district has a number of famous landmarks, perhaps the best known being Schloss Charlottenburg, an elegant palace commisioned in 1695 by Queen Sophie Charlotte. This part of Berlin is also home to some fine bookshops, bars and restaurants, mainly around the Savignyplatz.
Wedding is a district in the borough of Mitte, Berlin, Germany and was a separate borough in north-western Berlin until it was merged with Tiergarten and Mitte in 2001. The former borough of Wedding included the district of Gesundbrunnen.
Wedding was the western terminus of one of the first refugee tunnels dug underneath the Berlin Wall. It extended from the basement of an abandoned factory on SchÃnholzer StraÃŸe in the Soviet sector underneath Bernauer StraÃŸe to another building in the west. Though marvellously well constructed and its secrecy maintained, the tunnel was plagued by water from leaking pipes, and had to be shut down after only a few days of operation. A section of the Berlin Wall has been reconstructed near the spot on Bernauer StraÃŸe where the tunnel ended. Two sections of wall run parallel to one another down the street with a strip of no man's land in the middle. A nearby museum documents the history of the Wall.
More than other 19th century working class districts, the original character of Wedding has been preserved. It is said to be a place to find the Schnauze mit Herz (big mouth and big heart) of the working class. However, the spirit is not exclusively German. The multicultural atmosphere is visible in the bilingual shop signs (German and Turkish, or German and Arabic). The buildings of Wedding are relics of European post-war Modernism. Many are monolithic housing blocks. Some old buildings survived the war and urban renewal and still have coal heating. Wedding did not experience the boom and gentrification of the '90s in Berlin.
Tiergarten (Animal Garden) is the name of both a large park in Berlin and a neighborhood within the borough of Mitte. Before German reunification, the borough of Tiergarten was a part of West Berlin. Before Berlin's 2001 administrative reform, Tiergarten was also the name of a borough, consisting of the current neighborhood of Tiergarten (formerly called Tiergarten-Süd) plus Hansaviertel and Moabit. A new system of road and rail tunnels running under the park is located in the neighborhood, and Berlin's new central station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, is located nearby in Moabit.
Among others, the Reichstag (parliament), the office of the German Chancellor and several embassies, as well as the residence of the German President, Schloss Bellevue, are located in Tiergarten. The Brandenburg Gate and the Potsdamer Platz are situated on its eastern border, which used to be the frontier between East and West Berlin. The Tiergarten also contains several notable sculptures and sites of interest, including the four-tiered Victory Column, the Bismarck Memorial and several other memorials to prominent Prussian generals, all of which were located in the ceremonial park facing the Reichstag before they were moved to their present location by the Nazis. In addition, the tree-lined walkways emanating from the Victory column contain several ceremonial sculptures of Prussian aristocrats enacting an 18th century hunt. At the Victory Column, located at the heart of the Tiergarten, the German Live 8 concert took place on July 2, 2005.
The Tiergarten was largely deforested after 1944 because it served as a source of firewood for the devastated city. In 1945, the Soviet Union built a war memorial along the Straße des 17. Juni, the Tiergarten's main east-west artery, near the Brandenburg Gate.
Wilmersdorf is an area of Berlin, formerly a borough but since 2001 part of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The Kurfürstendamm runs through the area. Wilmersdorf was a village near Berlin (Deutsch-Wilmersdorf) and was made a part of "Greater Berlin" in 1920. The borough with the name of Wilmersdorf included also the areas of Halensee, Schmargendorf and Grunewald.
Schöneberg inhabitants are known for their style, even if non-style is in, and have no trouble bridging the blatant lifestyle gap between Kreuzberg and Wilmersdorf. The whole area is full of places offering the best in modern living - or is it only trendy? Way-out shoes, exclusive antique shops, gracious interiors, elegant restaurants and erotic, innovative clothes.
One of the oldest and biggest dance temples is the Metropol at Nollendorfplatz. This includes the Loft, venue of legendary concerts, like Café Swing opposite. Genuine Schönebergers gather on Saturday mornings before 2 pm to go shopping at Winterfeldtmarkt and start the day amid the easy-going bustle wearing dark glasses after the long Friday nights. On the days when there's no market, inline skaters and various other kinds of boarders turn the flat expanse of the square into an arena. The surrounding cafés, Sidney, Berio and Belmundo invite you to a big leisurely breakfast. Habibi, one of the best falafel bars in the city, is also directly on Winterfeldtplatz. You can spend the whole day at Tim's Canadian Deli. Breakfast from 8 am, and later you can tuck into muffins, chicken wings, spare ribs, burgers and all those other tasty Canadian delicacies. But the place to get really soused is Green Door nearby. Watch out for the bouncers at the door!
Off the south side of the square, to the right in Hohenstaufenstraße is the scene pub Mutter. Further on in Goltzstraße is a whole array of pubs and cafés. After the Indian institution Rani you find the famous Café M, with Lux next door. They offer big cups of their highly popular café au lait at any time of day or night. Good cocktails are professionally mixed in Mr. Hu's Bar. And close by is Havanna with salsa, latino and hiphop on three dance floors. There's no lack of culinary delights here either: along with Indian food, there are snack bars for hot dogs, pizza, Tex-Mex and much more. It's well worth peeping into the side streets and strolling down Akazienstraße towards Hauptstraße - the network of cafés, restaurants and bars is getting more intricate all the time.
In the old working-class district south of Karl-Marx-Allee you can discover a nice neighbourhood. Lots of students have moved in here since 1991 or simply transferred over the Spree from Kreuzberg because rents in the old houses were quite low. If you like places with rather austere charm where style isn't so important and prices are rock bottom, Friedrichshain is just the right district for you.
Right by the Oberbaumbrücke, which offers a wonderful view across the Spree on both sides, is East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall (more than 1 km long). The artworks were created immediately after German unification - this is a piece of wall that was never painted in communist times. Here on Spreeufer is Speicher, an American-inspired amusement complex with discos and bars on 4 floors. A bit further to the east, directly under Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station, dance fans can swing a leg in Matrix.
Around the corner you can relax wonderfully after all that running around in the living-room atmosphere of Karel Duba. Just a few steps away is Non Tox, where the weekend parties are full of subversive musical contrasts.
The district Tempelhof is mainly made accessible by the metro line U6 and the S-Bahn (Suburban railway) line S2 that travel through the district and the inner city up to the north until the state Brandenburg.
The Antik-Stuben in the Kunigundeneck in the Kunigundenstraße with the appendant gallery “Kunst und Genuss” (German for: Art and Enjoyment) is a mix of bar, restaurant, flea market and art gallery.
The Ullsteinhaus is considered a landmark of Tempelhof. Back then the building opposite the Tempelhof harbour at the Teltowkanal was the residence of the Ullstein publisher for publishing and printing purposes. During the Third Reich the building has been renamed into “Deutsches Haus” due to its Jewish origin. After the middle of the 1990's it has been extended by a new building. Today the Ullsteinhaus includes mainly diverse service enterprises.
Lichtenberg is situated in the heart of the former east Berlin. It pleases residents with the advantages of both, its geographical position close to the city centre and the spacious atmosphere of a suburban area. The zoological park Friedrichsfelde with its 160 hectare ranks among Germany's biggest ones; the neighbouring castle is designed in the style of a Dutch mansion. The park area was originally designed by Lenné in 1816 and is home to the Tierpark since 1955. To the northwest of the Tierpark the Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery) Friedrichsfelde is situated, on which Käthe Kollwitz rests in peace. On this cemetery there are many interesting and sometimes pompous graves, that remind of well-to-do Berliners of the past.
Treptow is connected superbly to the city-train net: the lines S3, S41/42 (ring train), S6, S8 and S9 open up the district, regional trains stop at train station Schöneweide. South of Treptow there is Schönefeld airport just outside the city's border. The narrow, longish district between Köpenick and Neukölln is one of Berlin's favourite jaunting target: the vast Treptower Volkspark and the Plänterwald forest permit a near-to-centre nature experience. The recovery area on the Spree river is to be reached by city-train as well as by steamer. Treptower Hafen, a marina, is one of the main landing stage for Berlin's sightseeing ships.
In the Treptower Volkspark the monumental, in Stalinistic architecture designed Soviet Memorial recalls a sunken era. The Bridge of Hearts guides you to the "Insel der Jugend" (Island of Youth). Persons and institutions who engage for the dreams and hopes of children are honoured here with blue hearts which are embedded in the bridge. The giant sculpture, 30 meters in height, of the "Molecule Man" in the Spree points to the newly raised office centre "Treptowers" facing Volkspark. In Archenhold observatory, whose 21 meter large lens telescope is the world's longest, Albert Einstein presented his relativity theory to the public. A visit in Adlershof, where writer Anna Seghers resided, kann pay off: the modern research and science centre WISTA with its futuristic buildings as Photonic Centre and the former television centre of the GDR attract the science- and technique-devotee.
U8 underground connects Neukölln with the city centre, the ring train (S41/42) with the western and eastern districts; U7 opens up the whole district up to the city border in the South. The northern part of Neukölln is dominated by well-preserved and populous old building quaters and resembles in many ways the neighbouring Kreuzberg. One of Berlin's most vivid squares is Hermannplatz which is adjoined by Karl-Marx-Straße, a popular shopping avenue. Here you also will find Germany's probably most unconventional opera house, the Neuköllner Oper. Just a few steps ahead is Rixdorf, one of the most beautiful and relaxed downtown old-building-quarters. Rixdorf also hosts a gem of urban history: the Böhmisches Dorf (Bohemian village) around Richardplatz. Amidst of the metropolis the character of this village has been preserved in an over 250 years old architecture, crowned by the legendary and still economically successfully run forge in the middle of the square. Neukölln's southside is completely different: canals and waterways, the castle Britz, the beautiful Garden of Britz (Britzer Garten, location of the National Garden Exhibition of 1985) and remote one-family-house settlements can be found here. The Hufeisensiedlung ("horseshoe settlement") of Bruno Taut in Britz is well known by fanciers of architecture.
U9 underground, S1 and S25 city-trains connect Steglitz to the city centre. Car drivers reach downtown as fast as Berlin's surroundings via Schlossstraße, and on its south-west extension "Unter den Eichen" to Berlin's surroundings. Tempelhof airport is close.
Steglitz' mixture of close-to-centre quarters, exclusive residential areas, suburbs and green is typical for Berlin's South. The district's axis is the Schlossstraße, one of the city's major shopping avenues. Around the clinker building of the old and the tower block of the new townhall there is an independent, vital centre with restaurants, cinemas and the Schlossparktheater; the sightseeings like the pretty Wrangelschloss palace with its small park, nowadays used for cultural events, concentrate here. The Botanical Garden, home of more than 20,000 different species, hosts exotic plants within its big glass greenhouses also in the wintertime. Parts of the bourgeois, urban Friedenau (see also Schöneberg) belong to Steglitz. In the South there is Lichterfelde with its city mansions from the 19th century, whereas the district's West is coined by the Freie Universität.
City-trains S7 and S1 hook up the favoured jaunting target to the city centre superbly; Dahlem is traversed by the U1 underground. Wannsee, terminus of the S1, is also a long-distance station.
Zehlendorf, Berlin's classical exclusive residential area, allures the metropolitans to summer resorts like Wannsee lake and Grunewald forest – there's hardly any Berliner who does not dream of a comfortable mansion in Berlin's most genteel district with its scenic landscape on the Havel river. The opportunity to sightsee an especially beautiful villa is provided by a visit to the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin on the Wannsee shore, where writers of international rank are hosted regularly. The glamour of past times can be felt in the Max-Liebermann-Villa at the Wannsee, where the famous painter lived until his death in 1935. Nearby, a splendid mansion was the scene of an eldritch conference. In January 1942 in the House of the Wannsee Conference, the Nazis resolved up on the most disgusting crime ever: the "final solution of the Jewish question", the systematic assassination of the European Jews.
The romantic paradise of the Pfaueninsel (peacock island), where peacocks stroll freely through scenic gardens, artificial ruins and a fairytale castle, can only be reached by ferry. Not only Wannsee lake attracts swimmers and vacationers: it is particularly the small lakes like Nikolassee, Krumme Lanke or Schlachtensee that offer calmness in idyllic surroundings. Museum village Düppel with its traditional farm houses enables a trip to the past.
On the way to Potsdam you will find one of Berlin's most picturesque places: at the classicistic summer residence of Glienicke Lenné and Schinkel have shaped the castle's park, a terrific garden. The famous Glienicker bridge towards Potsdam was an impermeable border until 1989. This bridge is best known for trade-offs of agents during the Cold War.
Closer to the city centre is Grunewald, where the in Bauhaus style realized Brückemuseum exhibits paintings by the expressionist artists group "Die Brücke" (the bridge). The museums in Dahlem with the collections of mainly Asian art and the Ethnologic museum rank among Berlin's most important exhibition places besides Tiergarten's Kulturforum and Museum Island in Mitte. InDahlem there is also the Freie Universität (the Free University) that brings students and a young lifestyle to Zehlendorf. The campus university, founded as an alternative to the Humboldt university in the former East-Berlin, is idyllic situated here in the southwest of Berlin. The new library "Berlin Brain" in the main building, designed by Lord Norman Foster, is a fascinating example of contemporary architecture.