Berlin - Things to See

Berlin - Things to See

Berlin stands at the intersection of a storied history and a strikingly diverse contemporary culture. While World War II inflicted significant damage on the city's prominent landmarks, they have undergone extensive reconstruction since. Nevertheless, as a poignant reminder of its past, some buildings still bear the visible scars of war, such as bullet holes.

Present-day Berlin presents a stark contrast, offering a wide array of experiences for all. From renowned clubs to museums, verdant parks to contemporary art, the city caters to diverse interests. In this post, I will highlight the essential places to explore, whether you're a first-time visitor or a recent resident in Berlin.

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For anyone travelling alone, if you intend to socialise while also exploring the city, we'd highly recommend to book a local guided tour being part of a small group.

Museums

Berlin is home to numerous museums covering a wide range of topics, from history and art to science and technology. Some of my personal recommendations are

Pergamon Museum

© asisi / Tom Schulze

This museum is renowned for its impressive collections of antiquities, archaeological finds, and architectural reconstructions.

Why should you visit?

  1. Historical Significance: The Pergamon Museum is located on Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Berlin. The island is a cultural and historical hub, and visiting the Pergamon Museum allows visitors to explore the broader context of Berlin's rich heritage.
  2. Architectural Marvels: Pergamon Museum is home to impressive architectural reconstructions, most notably the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate. These structures offers unique opportunity to experience ancient monuments on a grand scale.
  3. Ancient Greek and Roman Art: The Pergamon Museum boasts an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome, showcasing the artistic and cultural achievements of these civilizations. The Pergamon Altar, in particular, is a masterpiece of Hellenistic art.
  4. Ancient Near Eastern Art: The museum features a rich collection of artifacts from the Ancient Near East, including the Market Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate. These exhibits provide insights into the architecture and culture of ancient civilizations.
  5. Islamic Art: The Museum of Islamic Art within the Pergamon Museum presents a remarkable collection of Islamic artifacts, including textiles, ceramics, and architectural elements.

Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology)

Anyone interested in the history of technology and its impact on society must visit this museum. Technology of today couldn't be where it is today because of the inventions and innovations of the past.

© Deutsches Tecnhikmuseum

Why should you visit?

  1. Transportation Collection: The museum has an extensive transportation collection that includes vintage cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trains, and airplanes. This is a treat for automotive and aviation enthusiasts.
  2. Industrial Revolution Artifacts: People can see artifacts from the Industrial Revolution, including early steam engines and machinery. These exhibits offer insights into the transformative period that shaped the modern industrialised world.
  3. Communication Technology: The museum explores the history of communication technology, showcasing the evolution of telecommunication devices, broadcasting equipment, and information technology.
  4. Energy Technology: Learn about the history of energy production and consumption, from early steam engines to modern renewable energy technologies. The museum highlights the role of technology in shaping energy landscapes.

Computerspielmuseum (Computer Games Museum)

If you would like to travel back in time to connect with Media and Games, this is the place to go.

© Computerspielmuseum

Why should you visit?

  1. Retro Gaming Experience: The museum features a collection of retro gaming consoles, arcade machines, and classic games, providing a nostalgic experience for those who grew up with early video game systems.
  2. Cultural Significance: Video games are not just entertainment; they have become a significant cultural phenomenon. The museum explores the cultural impact of video games, including their influence on art, music, and popular culture.
  3. Gaming Consoles and Computers: The museum displays a diverse collection of gaming consoles, personal computers, and gaming peripherals. It's a great opportunity for tech enthusiasts to see the evolution of gaming hardware.
  4. Game Design Insights: Visitors can gain insights into the world of game design, understanding the creative process behind some of the most iconic video games. This can be particularly interesting for those interested in the intersection of technology and art.

East Side Gallery

If you're in Friedrichshain, chances are high you will run into this Gallery. This is the biggest open air gallery in the world with the work artists from many different countries.

Why should you visit?

  1. Remnant of the Berlin Wall: The East Side Gallery is a preserved section of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It stands as a powerful symbol of the city's history and the division between East and West Germany.
  2. Historical Significance: The gallery reflects the tumultuous period of German reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The artworks on the wall capture the hopes, dreams, and challenges faced by people during this transformative time in history.
  3. International Artists: The East Side Gallery brings together art from a diverse range of international artists. Each mural tells a unique story and reflects the artist's perspective on themes like freedom, unity, and the consequences of division.

Monuments

Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)

Probably, one of the most popular structure in Berlin. Period!

Why should you visit?

  1. Historical Symbolism: The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic symbol of Berlin and Germany's history. It has witnessed significant historical events, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War, making it a powerful representation of the city's resilience and unity.
  2. Architectural Grandeur: The gate is a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. Its design, inspired by the Propylaea in Athens, features a series of Doric columns, a chariot sculpture, and intricate reliefs. The gate's aesthetic appeal makes it a captivating landmark.
  3. Reichstag and Tiergarten: The Brandenburg Gate marks the entrance to the Tiergarten, Berlin's central park, and offers a picturesque view toward the Reichstag building. The combination of these landmarks creates a scenic and historically rich setting.
  4. Symbol of Unity: The gate has played a significant role in Germany's reunification. In 1989, during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of unity as East and West Germans celebrated their reunion at this historic site.

Berliner Fernsehturm (TV Tower)

© Johnny McKenna

Why should you visit?

  1. Panoramic Views: The Berlin TV Tower offers unparalleled panoramic views of the city. From the observation deck, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree vista, taking in iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building, and the sprawling cityscape of Berlin.
  2. Architectural Landmark: The TV Tower is a prominent symbol of Berlin and an iconic example of East German architecture from the Cold War era. Its unique spherical structure and height make it a distinctive and recognizable landmark on the city skyline.
  3. Revolving Restaurant: The TV Tower features a revolving restaurant, Sphere, located at a height of about 207 meters. Visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink while experiencing a gradual 360-degree rotation, offering changing views of the city below.
  4. City Lights at Night: The TV Tower is particularly enchanting in the evening when the city lights come alive. A visit during the night allows for a different perspective, showcasing Berlin's illuminated landmarks against the backdrop of the night sky.

Reichstag

Why should you visit?

  1. Historical Significance: The Reichstag is a symbol of Germany's tumultuous history, having witnessed key events such as the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi era, and the reunification of East and West Germany. Its historical significance makes it a must-visit landmark.
  2. Architectural Grandeur: The Reichstag is an architectural masterpiece. Renowned architect Norman Foster's redesign after German reunification preserved the historic facade while introducing modern elements. The iconic glass dome, added during the renovation, is a symbol of transparency and openness.
  3. German Parliament (Bundestag): The Reichstag is the seat of the German Bundestag (parliament). Visitors have the opportunity to witness democracy in action by observing parliamentary sessions and committee meetings, fostering an understanding of Germany's political processes.
  4. Glass Dome Experience: The glass dome atop the Reichstag is open to the public. Visitors can ascend the dome for panoramic views of Berlin, providing a unique perspective on the city's landmarks. The dome's design symbolizes transparency and allows natural light to illuminate the parliamentary chamber below.
  5. Sustainable Building: The Reichstag is a model of sustainability. The redesign by Norman Foster incorporated energy-efficient technologies, making it an environmentally friendly structure. The building's commitment to sustainability aligns with modern values.

Parks

Berlin is known for its abundance of green spaces and parks. Summers are often spent by locals enjoying the sun having BBQ with their friends and family in parks.

Tiergarten

Probably one of those places where I spent most of my time. This sprawling lush green area spans across hectares and there are tons of activities to do inside the park. A few lines wouldn't do justice to this so I would share a separate piece on this park alone.

Why should you visit?

  1. Expansive Green Oasis: Tiergarten is one of the largest urban parks in Berlin, providing a vast and peaceful escape in the heart of the city. Its expansive greenery, walking paths, and open spaces offer a retreat from the urban hustle and bustle.
  2. Historical Significance: The park has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Originally a hunting ground for the Prussian royalty, Tiergarten has transformed into a public park over the centuries, witnessing the city's evolution.
  3. Iconic Landmarks: Tiergarten is home to several iconic landmarks, including the Victory Column (Siegessäule), a monument built to commemorate Prussian military victories. Visitors can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city.
  4. Lakes and Water Features: The park features several lakes and water features, adding to its scenic beauty. The Neuer See and Lützowufer are popular spots for leisurely walks, picnics, and enjoying the waterfront.

Tempelhofer Feld

Just try to comprehend this. This park used to be an airport. 🤯

Why should you visit?

  1. Historical Significance: Tempelhofer Feld is the former Tempelhof Airport, which played a significant role in Berlin's history, particularly during the Berlin Airlift. The airport's vast open space holds historical importance, and remnants of the airport infrastructure can still be seen.
  2. Expansive Open Space: The site is one of the largest urban parks in the world, providing an expansive area for outdoor activities. The wide-open fields are ideal for activities such as jogging, cycling, rollerblading, and kite flying.
  3. Cycling and Skating Paths: The park features well-maintained cycling and skating paths, making it a favorite spot for those who enjoy recreational biking or rollerblading. The flat terrain and spacious paths provide a comfortable environment for such activities.
  4. Barbecue Areas and Picnic Spaces: Tempelhofer Feld is equipped with barbecue areas and designated picnic spaces. This makes it an excellent location for a leisurely day out with friends and family, enjoying outdoor meals and gatherings.

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Berlin is a huge city from European standards and the best thing is the vast network of bike lanes in the city. It's very bike friendly and I can suggest to explore the city using that. Here's one of our recommendations for doing it in a group.

Closing Thoughts

This post briefly touches on the Museums, Monuments & Parks to see while in Berlin but that doesn't mean the places not mentioned here are not worth the visit. These were some of my personal favourites but does not cover all of them. I'll share more in another piece. 🙂

Until then, Ciao!

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