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Berlin City Guide

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Berlin is a city of international culture and world-changing history, well known for diverse architecture, contemporary arts and music, festivals and night-life. For historical and cultural travel, lovers of history will find few other cities to beat Berlin. Spectacular Prussian heritage along with the many monuments and memorials associated with the Third Reich and World War II, Berlin also has one world’s finest collection of museums displaying some of the most important artefacts and objects from all corners of the earth.

Reasons to Visit Berlin

Street Art,

Walls & Memorials,

Close up of the limestone bust of Nefertiti showing her face.

Museums & Art Galleries,

… Festivals & Christmas Markets.

Interesting Things to Know About Berlin

Berlin is generally accepted to have been founded in 1237. Frederick I (1688 – 1713) was the first in a long line of rulers from the Hohenzollern royal family to rule the area, and declared himself the first king of Prussia in 1701. Kings from this family ruled in Berlin until 1918, first as electors of Brandenburg then as kings of Prussia and finally as German emperors. This is the royal dynasty largely responsible for the Prussian castles and palaces in and around Berlin (including Potsdam), as well as the museums on Museumsinsel.

Construction of the Berlin Wall began on 13 August 1961. Not only did the wall divide the city of Berlin (into East Berlin and West Berlin), West Berlin was surrounded by the German Democratic Republic or East Germany. What we call the Berlin Wall more than a single wall. It comprised a number of features, from iconic concrete wall with a rounded top at the west, the ‘death strip’ to the Inner Wall and the Restricted Zone in the east. All closely guarded by several watchtowers along the length. Although much of the wall was officially demolished following the fall of the GDR and the wall (9 November 1989) there are a number of places where fragments of the wall can be seen. A number of memorial sites around Berlin give an impression of what the Wall was physically like, as well as exploring the history and stories associated with this ‘Wall of Shame’.
You will see frequent mention of a statistic that Berlin has more museums than rainy days. Estimates for the number of museums ranges from 130 to just over 200. And of course, whatever the number, the number of rainy days is less. Why the confusion over the number of museums? Two reasons could help explain this. First, smaller, more experimental museums do not seem to last very long. In 2018 the Currywurst Museum closed its doors. And second, what defines a museum is not always straightforward. For some the Currywurst Museum was not a ‘museum’. Is the Lipstick Museum a museum then? Whatever the answers or the numbers, Berlin does have a lot of museums and art galleries. From the traditional to the quirky, the fascinating to the downright fun.
Berlin has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most people can name two of these, the collection of world-class museums on Museumsinsel and the Sanssouci palaces and parks in Potsdam. The third, and lessor known UNESCO listed site is a group of six housing estates connected to the Bauhaus Art School and some of the leading architects of German modernism. These Modernist housing estates were built in the 1920s when Berlin was a socially and politically progressive city with innovative housing policies.
Mid 2021, following years of controversy, the Humboldt Forum became the newest major cultural attraction in Berlin. This is the site of Berlin’s first castle-fort, erected in 1443. Considerably developed over the following years, it became an opulent Baroque palace for the Kings of Prussia and the German Kaisers. After being demolished following destruction during World War II, it became the GDR’s Palast der Republik. Because it was built using asbestos that too had to be demolished. In 2007 it was decided that the Baroque Berliner Stadtschloss would be partially reproduced, as the Humboldt Forum. Besides representing the Ethnological Museum and the Asian Art Museum, visitors can also see runs of the original castle in the basement excavated by archaeologists during the building of the Humboldt Forum.

What's On in Berlin 2024

The Berlin Cathedral lit up during the Festival of Lights.
Berlin Festival of Lights
October 2024
The iconic painting of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing on a remnant of the Berlin Wall.
35th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall,
9 November 2024
A Christmas tree standing in Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburg Gate, t night in the snow.
Berlin Christmas Markets,
14 November 2024

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Five Popular Attractions in Berlin

The iconic painting of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing on a remnant of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Wall

Museumsinsel And Dom

Museumsinsel

Berlin Tv Tower

TV Tower

Berlin Reichstag Dome Sunset

Reichstag

Sachsenhausen Arbeit Macht Frei

Sachsenhausen

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The Bode Museum on the Museum Island in Berlin, Germany.
Things to Do in Berlin
The Brandenburg Gate at night taken from within Pariser Platz.

5 Days in Berlin

Potsdam Sanssouci Palace

Day Trips from Berlin

Explore Berlin more deeply

What to See in Berlin

With the following thematic guides to sites and museums in Berlin, you can find further visitor information, as well as creating your own itinerary for your visit to Berlin. You can create travel lists (such as places you have been to, places you would like to visit) and/or an itinerary for your Berlin visit. These can also be shared with your friends and on social media. To see the further details and make use of our itinerary builder, you will need to login or register as a new user. Registering and using these features is free of charge.

Museums & Art Galleries

Whether your interests lie in the history of Berlin or beyond, you are spoilt for choice. A number of museums explore the capital’s turbulent past. Archaeology museums, tourist attractions in their own right, have collections amassed by the House of Hohenzollern as well as artefacts recovered by German archaeologists working at some of the most important archaeological sites around the world. Art lovers are as well catered for with some of the finest collections of images and objects from Byzantine times to the present.

Palaces & Castles of Berlin & Potsdam

As a capital since the 12th century Berlin, together with nearby Potsdam, has a number of castles and palaces. From the remains of one of the earliest castles in the basement of a 21st century reconstruction. To the grandeur of Charlottenburg Palace and the opulence of Sanssouci Palace, today visitors to the German capital can immerse themselves in the a rich history of Margraviates, Kingdoms and  Empires. Whether you’re a history buff with a deep interest in German history or just looking for a taste of Prussian royalty, the castles and palaces of Berlin and Potsdam will not disappoint. 

Memorials

Berlin has a dark and complex history, and one way that visitors explore this past is through the numerous memorials. These sites serve as powerful reminders of the people and events that have shaped the city and the world at large. From the iconic Brandenburg Gate to the poignant Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, there is no shortage of monuments and memorials to explore. Other notable memorials include the Soviet War Memorial, which honours the sacrifices of the Red Army during World War II. Whether your interests are history or human rights, or simply looking for a meaningful way to see Berlin’s past, the memorials offer a unique and moving experience that is not to be missed.

A plastic, pink rose is placed on the memorial platform at the site of the Grunewald deportation station in Belin.

Holocaust, WWII and the Third Reich

Berlin is still grappling with its role as the capital of a National Socialist Germany, which was responsible for World War II. Today, visitors to the city can explore certain remnants of the Third Reich and pay their respects at Holocaust sites. These include the Topography of Terror, which documents the history of the Nazi regime, and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, located just outside the city. Visiting these sites is a sobering reminder of the atrocities committed during this dark chapter in history, and a way to honour the victims and ensure their stories are never forgotten.

Cold War Sites

Perhaps the most well known and iconic Cold War historic site is the Berlin Wall. Despite official attempts to remove it, there are a number of places where original features of the Wall still survive. As do other parts of the Iron Curtain, such as the Marienborn border crossing on Autobahn 2. There is more to the Cold War than the physical barrier that divided East and West. Many towns and cities had Stasi offices and prisons, some of which are now museums and/or documentation centres. The Marienthal Bunker, intended to house the West Government in case of Soviet attack, is open to the public.

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