From airports to Berlin
Berlin has two operational airports:
Tegel International Airport located in the north-west of the city is the main airport for international carriers (British Airways, Air France-KLM, United, LOT, etc.) and a hub for domestic flights on Lufthansa and Air Berlin. The original airport was designed as a hexagon but today two other terminals try to handle the flights of Air Berlin (most flights in Terminal C) and other budget carriers (mostly in terminal D). All flag carrier flights leave from the main terminal building A (Terminal B nowadays contains just the bus gates of Terminal A for Non-Schengen flights), and is also where all airlines lounges are. The airport might close on 2017 depending on the construction progress.
Buses from Tegel International Airport operate to Hauptbahnhof (bus TXL), and S+U Zoologischer Garten (buses X9 and 109) for the standard ticket fare . It takes around 45 minutes to Alexanderplatz - it is much quicker to get off at Hauptbahnhof or Zoologischer Garten and change to the S-Bahn (the bus ticket remains valid for this). (TXL takes less than 10 minutes to get to S-Bahn station Beusselstraße.) Caution! Do not take any train to the "Tegel railway (S-Bahn) station", which is not connected to the airport, but rather to the suburban village called Tegel. It is not possible to walk or to otherwise get easily to the airport from that station. The nearest train stations are Jakob-Kaiser Platz on the U-Bahn line U7, which is 5 minutes from the airport with bus X9/109, Kurt-Schumacher Platz on the U6, 10 minutes from the airport with bus 128, and Beusselstraße S41/S42 (the ring) connected to the airport with an express bus . Tegel International Airport does not have any railway station. Any indication to a Tegel railway station refers to the remote S-Bahn station, even if railway staff at stations in other cities might tell otherwise.
Various providers offer taxi and limousine service at Airport Tegel. As a normal paying guest, just take a taxi from the "official" stand. There is no chance getting a cheaper deal. Pay the official tariff, and persist on the taxi driver to switch on the meter. There is one caveat: Taxi clients may request a specific path to be used (e.g. use the freeway instead of city roads). Suggestions from drivers might lead you through an expensive detour. The magic formula to answer to all "tour suggestions" would be: "Please use the shortest way as you learned it at taxi school".
"Special deals" outside the meter are rare in Berlin. The Taxi service is extremely regulated here: Taxi driver unions and courts are - successfully - eager to ban any services which are not licensed according to the vigorous taxi licensing regulations from driving paying guests, and airport authorities will not allow any non-licensed car pick up clients at the terminals. Thus, there are no "deals" available at the terminals. There might be pre-booked limousine services available to businesses which frequently transfer people from the airport to the city.
Schönefeld This airport — formerly serving the capital of the GDR — southeast of Berlin is the base for most low-cost airlines (e.g. easyJet, Ryanair and Germanwings) and charter flights in addition to traffic from Eastern Europe.
The airport is served by the S-Bahn and regional trains. The station is a short walk, under a covered well lit walkway opposite terminal A/B. Trains run from here on the S-Bahn into the city until 1:30 AM so most late night arrivals will be covered. There are also less regular but faster regional trains that cost the same and stop at these major train stations too. In S-Bahn and regional trains between the airport (zone C) and the city (zone A,B), the public transport ticket (zones A,B,C for €3.20) can be used. Stamp the ticket to validate it before boarding.
Kiwitaxi (private and shared transfers). Kiwitaxi.com provides transfers in 9 classes of cars (from Micro and Economy to Minivan and Minibus 19pax). The main covered points are Berlin Tegel Airport, Schönefeld Airport Berlin, Warnemunde and Warnemunde Port.
Talixo (airport transfers, taxi and limousine prebooking). 24hs. Talixo offers taxis and limousines, often at much discounted prices, from Tegel International Airport and Schönefeld as well as city transfers.
Europe Shuttle (airport transfers & chauffeur services), ☎ +44 20 3318 1696 or +34 91 125 1008. 24hs. Europe Shuttle offers the airport taxi transfer from or to Tegel International Airport and Schönefeld International Airports to any destination.
Taxileader.net (airport taxi transfers with English speaking private driver), ☎ +44 20 3239 1595. 24hs. Taxileader.net offers a pick up at airport with driver waiting with your name on a signboard.
By train from Schönefeld Airport to Berlin
A ticket that will get you anywhere in Berlin will set you back a mere €3.20. Choose the ‘ABC’ single journey ticket (Einzelfahrschein).
Now here is the top tip for getting to/ from the airport quickly. A lot of visitors make the mistake of jumping onto the S-Bahn when they arrive. Now it is true that all the guide books advise this because the S-Bahn departs every 10 minutes or so. But it is a slow service that stops all the time and can, if you are travelling late at night, easily take you an hour to get to the middle of Berlin. A far better, quicker and more comfortable option is to use the Regional trains.
So… make sure you are taking an Express Train (RE7 or RB14) rather than the S-Bahn (S9 or S45).
These Express trains run to and from central Berlin (Mitte) every half hour from 5am-11.30pm and take approx 25 min to/from Alexanderplatz; 30 min to/from Berlin Hauptbahnhof and 35 min to/from Zoologischer Garten. There are two of these every hour (look for the RE7 or RB14) and, as of the time of writing (2014), they leave the airport station at 25 minutes and 55 minutes past the hour. The trains are big and comfortable and run a far quicker service.
And if you do find yourself on either the S9 or the S45 in error, don’t panic, you’ll make it in the end. The S9 runs every 20 minutes and if all goes smoothly, it will take you approx 30 min to/from Ostkreuz and 45 minutes to/from Pankow, while the S45 connects to the circle-line (Ringbahn) and also runs every 20 minutes.
The construction of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (German: Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg), is in sort of progress next to current Schönefeld airport. Opening will be not before 2017, after several opening dates had to be called of, recently an announced opening date at 27. October 2013 (instead of 3rd June 2012 as orignally intended). After the opening all air traffic in the Berlin-Brandenburg region will be bundled at BER while the Tegel and todays Schönefeld airport are going to be closed down. New airport will be open on second half of 2017.
Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is available), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English. If you ask for a short trip (Kurzstrecke), as long as it's under 2km and before the taxi driver starts the meter running, the trip normally is cheaper, €4. This only applies if you flag the taxi down on the street, not if you get in at a taxi rank. Also, some online services like Talixo facilitate online and in-app booking.
Check the Berlin route planner (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn and trams, or to print your personal journey planner. The route planer can also calculate the fastest door-to-door connection for you destination for any given day and hour. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have a detailed fare list on their web site.
If you don't know how to get somewhere, or how to get home at night, call +49 30 19449, the Customer Service of the BVG. There are also facilities in most U-Bahn and some S-Bahn stations to contact the Customer Service directly. In 2005 the BVG introduced Metro lines (buses and tram) that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All lines are marked with a big orange plate and a white M.
It's also worth noting that the house numbers do not necessarily run in one direction (up or down). On a lot of streets, the numbers ascend on one side and descend on the other. Especially on long streets, check the numbering scheme first: you can find the name of the street and the numbers on that block at nearly every street corner.
Different from what is usual in some English-speaking countries, in Germany, you would have to add the word for "street", "square", "park", etc. when you mention the name of a locality. The simple reason for this is that the annex defines the locality and is part of its denomination. Thus, they would not simply refer to "Kurfürsten" when talking about Kurfürstenstraße (Kurfürsten Street), as this could also mean "Kurfürstendamm", which is a different road at a different place. "Schloss", which simply means "palace", could refer to any of the palaces in Berlin, as well as to one of the two roads called "Schloßstraße", a shopping centre called "Das Schloss", or the "Schloßplatz" in the Mitte district.
Public transport ticketing
Berlin uses a zone system, but you are unlikely to need to go beyond zone A and B, except on trips to Potsdam or to the Schönefeld Airport (SXF). This is a very large area. The public transport system (U, S-Bahn, bus, tram, regional rail) uses a common ticket.
Standard tickets (€2.70 for A and B) are valid for any travel within two hours of validation, in a single direction, within the appropriate fare zones. There is no limit to transfers. For a single journey you can buy a cheap Kurzstrecke for €1.70, but this is only valid for 3 stops on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (six stops by bus or tram); no transfers are permitted. Reduced tariffs apply for children 6 to 14. Under 6 y/o ride free.
Several options are available for unlimited travel. Prices listed here are only for zones A and B: prices for A, B, and C cost marginally more. There are also tickets for B and C. Check the machines for the actual prices (these are current as of June 2016):
Single Ticket Berlin AB: €2.70, ABC (incl. Potsdam): €3.30, reduced: €1.70, ABC: €2.40.
Quadruple card "4 Fahrten Karte" (4 single trips AB bought at once for a reduced price) € 9.00, reduced: € 5.60.
AB Tageskarte (day card, valid until 3a.m. of the next day): € 7.00, ABC Tageskarte (incl. Potsdam): € 7.60.
AB 7-Tage-Karte (7-Day-Ticket): € 30.00, ABC 7-Tage-Karte (incl. Potsdam): € 37.20.
The Berlin CityTourCard : ticket valid for all public transport services in Berlin and a discount card for many tourist attractions; available in 3 different version 48 hrs € 17,40, 72 hrs € 24.50 and 5 days € 31.90; a folded leaflet with inner city map and an overview of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn railway networks of Berlin is included; buy the CityTourCard at any ticket counters, ticket machines of the BVG and S-Bahn Berlin, hotels in Berlin, at the Berlin airports or at the main station (Hauptbahnhof Berlin) or online.
The Berlin WelcomeCard available in 8 different versions: tariff zone AB only Berlin: € 19.50 / 26.70 / 34.50 for 2 / 3 / 5 days, tariff zone ABC Berlin, Potsdam and the surrounding area: € 21.50 / 28.70 / 39.50 for 2 / 3 / 5 days. Free travel with all methods of public transport for 48 hours, 72 hours or 5 days from the day of purchase; save up to 50% on more than 200 tourist and cultural highlights; Handy guide in pocket book format with insider tips and tour suggestions; City plan for Berlin and Potsdam and a Network plan for public transport. You can order the Berlin WelcomeCard in various sales points (berlin airports, main station, Hotels or online).
The Berlin WelcomeCard Museum Island: valid for 72 hours in the tariff zone AB: € 40.50, ABC: € 42.50 (2015) plus free admission to all museums on the Museumsinsel of Berlin (Old National Gallery, Old Museum, Bode Museum, New Museum and Pergamon Museum). A folded leaflet with inner city map and an overview of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn railway networks of Berlin is included. Buy the CityTourCard Museumsinsel in hotels, at the main station (Hauptbahnhof, Südkreuz, Zoologischer Garten, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße), berlin airports or online.
There is also a Monatskarte which is good for a month - either a calendar month (e.g. March) or a 30 day card (e.g. May 15 to June 14). At the airport information booth near the baggage claim exit they will direct you outside where there is a ticket booth and you can buy whatever card you want. For the months card it costs 77 euros for zone AB. You don't have to validate it each time you get on any or all of the public transportation (tram, bus, U & S Bahn, Regional express train). You are given a little transparent plastic folder to keep it in (dates are on the card) and you show it only when asked. On the bus you show it to the driver.
Small group day ticket (AB: € 16.90) for up to five persons. If you are traveling more than two trips a day, this ticket is cost-effective for three persons and above.
All tickets are available at vending machines at U- and S-Bahn platforms. English and other European languages are available. Payment is mostly by local bank cards, coins and banknotes. VISA and MasterCard are accepted if you buy your tickets from a manned ticket counter at Tegel airport. Ticket machines may not take banknotes bigger than 10 euros. If you need assistance most larger stations have staffed ticket counters where you can ask questions and buy tickets. Single tickets and day tickets can be bought from bus drivers. Buses will accept cash, and make change for tickets. Hotels may sell tickets as well.
In some places like Zoologischer Garten and Eberswalder Straße, people will rarely try to sell used tickets to you. Be aware that you can go only one direction with a single-journey ticket (check the validation stamp and be careful as this could also be a pickpocket trick). Don't pay more than half the price.
There's an experimental ticket-less service called Touch&Travel , allowing you to track your journey using your smartphone and pay for it by direct debit from a German bank account.
You need to validate your ticket using the machines on the U- and S-bahn platforms or in the bus. The machines are yellow/white in the U-Bahn and the bus, and red on S-Bahn platforms. Validation simply means the machine prints a time stamp onto the ticket. Once validated, a ticket which is still valid will not have to be re-validated before each single trip. Unlike other metro systems, the Berlin U- and S-Bahn systems rely on honesty. You can not pay for a ticket, and get on a train. However, whilst it might be tempting to try to avoid buying a ticket, be advised that plain-clothed inspectors do patrol the trains frequently. They will stand at the front of the car and ask everyone to pull out their tickets for inspection. There is a €40 civil fine (€60 from 1 July 2015) if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket, but the glares you will get from other paying passengers may be worse. That fine is legally construed as a contractual supplemented transport fee, and not as a criminal sanction, which allows the transport authorities to collect those fees at many jurisdictions abroad - and this is actually being implemented. Such fines have successfully been collected in the United Kingdom and in the United States (together with additional lawyers' and courts' fees).
If you need to get around the city quickly, take the S-Bahn. Especially the Ringbahn that goes all around Berlin in a circle lets you get to other parts of the city really fast. If you're looking for the way, use BVG.de, that site includes Buses, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Tram and even ferries. You can simply enter departure address and arrival adress to see the optimum connection, it's an excellent service. An option to reach Schönefeld airport is to use U-Bahn line 7 until the terminal station Rudow and then take the bus.
In the center, most S-Bahn lines S5, S7, S75 run on an east-west route between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz via the stops Warschauer Straße, Ostbahnhof, Jannowitzbrücke, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Bellevue, Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg. Other lines run along a circle track around the city, most notably the S8 and the S41, S42, S45, S46 lines, and there's also a north-south connection S1, S2, S25 from Gesundbrunnen through Friedrichstraße and Potsdamer Platz to Südkreuz or Schöneberg.
Regional trains run along the same central east-west connection, but stopping only at Lichtenberg or Karlshorst, Ostbahnhof, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Zoologischer Garten, Charlottenburg and Spandau , as well as other lines connecting north-south from Jungfernheide or Gesundbrunnen through Hauptbahnhof, Potsdamer Platz and Südkreuz to Lichterfelde-Ost. Long distance trains mostly run to Hauptbahnhof, often with one or two extra stops at other stations.
The Berlin U-Bahn (subway/metro) is something to behold; it is so charmingly precise! There are no turnstiles to limit access, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checker you will be fined €60, so it is probably not worth the risk. All U-Bahn stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.
Detailed maps can be found in every U-Bahn station and on the trains. Don't be confused by the alternative tram maps. U-Bahn stations can be seen from far by their big, friendly blue U signs. Together with the S-Bahn (which is administered by Deutsche Bahn and mostly runs aboveground), the U-Bahn provides a transportation network throughout greater Berlin that is extremely efficient and fast. On weekend (Friday to Sunday), as well as during the Christmas and New Year holidays, all U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines (except line U4) run all night, so returning from late night outings is easy, especially given the average start time of most 'parties' in Berlin (11PM to 1AM). During the week there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from appr. 1AM to 4:30AM, but metro trams/buses and special Night Buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour from 12:30AM to 4:30AM.
The trams (Straßenbahn) are mostly found in East Berlin, as in West Berlin the tram lines were removed to facilitate more vehicular traffic. If you don't have a ticket already, you can buy one inside the tram.
Two types of tram service are available. Metrotrams frequent more often as well as by night. Tram routes not so identified stop more frequently and may even include picturesque single-track rides through forested areas far east of the Mitte district.
Although buses are the slowest form of public transport, the yellow double-decker buses are part of Berlin's transit landscape and they will take you to almost anywhere in Berlin. Besides the normal metro buses, there are also express buses (indicated by an X), but these don't halt at every stop.
Tourist route - busline 100
The most famous bus line, especially for tourists, is bus route 100 or 200, which leaves from Zoo Station ("Berlin Zoologischer Garten") or, if you want to go the other way round, Alexanderplatz. This crosses most of historic Berlin, including many of the sites listed here. For the price of a city bus ticket or daily pass, it's possible to see many of the landmarks of Berlin from one of these yellow double-decker buses. Sit up top as it's easier to see the Bundestag, as well as the many historic buildings on Unter den Linden. If you're lucky, you'll get the legendary bus-driver who delivers a commentary (in Berlin-accented German) on the trip. Line 200 takes nearly the same route, but it goes through the modern quarters around Kulturforum (Philharmonie, museums) and Potsdamer Platz. Either ride is a must for any visitor to Berlin.
Cycling is another great way to tour Berlin.
Berlin has no steep hills and offers many bicycle paths (Radwege) throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). These include 860km of completely separate bike paths, 60km of bike lanes on streets, 50km of bike lanes on footpaths, 100km of mixed-use pedestrian+bike paths, and 70km of combined bus-bike lanes on streets. Bicycles are a very popular method of transport among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic. Seeing Berlin by bicycle is unquestionably a great way to acquaint the traveller with the big tourist sites, and the little sprees and side streets as well. Although it's good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many bus stops. You can create your own bicycling maps online, optimized by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favourite surface.
Even if you are a tourist, be careful of other tourists in very "touristy" areas. Many of them do not know the concept of bicycle paths (Radwege). Once they stay in your way, do not expect them to understand that they have to move, or what a bicycle bell ring might mean, and rather plan for a workaround. Ask fellow tourists to stay clear of marked bicycle paths for their own safety. In general, get acquainted with the basic rules of the road, but do not necessarily expect everyone else to act according to them. Particular attention should be given to motor vehicles on your left which are about to turn right.
Tours and Rentals: Bicycle rentals are available in the city, although the prices vary (usually from €7.50). In addition, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) placed many public bicycles throughout the city in 2003. In 2011 they have been changed to a station-based system, where you can sign up using a credit card and unlock bicycles, to be checked into any station within the city. They charge either per minute or per day (€9-15). They are installing more and more stations, but as of Sept 2012, still none in Neukölln. If you are not familiar with searching your own way through the city or you want more explanation of the sights you visit, you can get guided bike tours (with bike included) on Berlin Bike. Alternatively, there is a bicycle sharing site that allows users to pay whatever they can to rent out bikes for as long as they wish - BikeSurfBerlin.
Most places have a rental charge that begins at €8 with the majority at €12 a day - they are excellent value and freedom to see the big city and all the art on streets and buildings everywhere. There are lots of bike paths and drivers know to look for bicycles.
There are no legal restrictions on shopping hours Mondays through Saturdays. However, closing times depend on the area, the standard seems to be 8PM, though it can be earlier in remote areas. Most of the bigger stores and nearly all of the malls are open additionally until 9 or 10PM on certain days of the week, often between Thursday and Saturday.
Sunday opening is by law limited to about a dozen weekends per year, often in combination with large events, watch for announcements in the shops and local media. Some supermarkets located at train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstraße, Innsbrucker Platz and Ostbahnhof) are open late and also on Sundays. Many bakeries and small food stores (called Spätkauf) are open late at night and on Sundays in busier neighborhoods (especially Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain). Also turkish bakeries open on sundays.
The main shopping areas are:
Ku'Damm and its extension, Tauentzienstraße remain the main shopping streets with flagship stores of many international brands. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) at Wittenbergplatz is a tourist destination in its own right, not least for the vast food department on the 6th floor. It's reputedly the biggest department store in Continental Europe and still has an old world charm, with very helpful and friendly staff.
Friedrichstraße is the upmarket shopping street in former East Berlin with Galeries Lafayette and the other Quartiers (204 to 207) as main areas to be impressed with wealthy shoppers. The renovated Galeria Kaufhof department store at Alexanderplatz is also worth a visit.
Other shopping streets in suburbs include Schloss-strasse (Steglitz), Wilmersdorfer Strasse (Charlottenburg), Schönhauser Allee (Prenzlauer Berg), Carl-Schurz-Strasse (Spandau) and Karl-Marx-Strasse (Neukölln).
Large Shopping Malls with well over 100 shops, food court are for example the Alexa (Alexanderplatz/Mitte), Potsdamer Platz Arkaden (Potsdamer Platz/Mitte), Mall of Berlin (Leipziger Platz/Mitte), Gesundbrunnen-Center (Gesundbrunnen Station/Wedding), Gropius-Passagen (Britz), Linden-Center (Hohenschönhausen, Spandau-Arkaden (Spandau), Schloss (Schloss-strasse/Steglitz), Forum Steglitz (Schloss-strasse/Steglitz), Ring Center (Friedrichshain).
The main upmarket shopping area for the alternative, but still better-off crowd is north of Hackescher Markt, especially around the Hackesche Höfe. For some more affordable but still very fashionable shopping there is Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with a lot of young designers opening shops, but also lots of record stores and design shops. Constant change makes it hard to recommend a place, but the area around station Eberswalder Straße, Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg and Torstrasse in Mitte, around Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg, around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain and Eisenacher Strasse in Schöneberg are always great when it comes to shopping.
For nice and trendy second-hand clothing and accessories visit Elementarteilchen - Second Hand für Frauen in the upcoming district Berlin-Wedding (Di-Sa 12-16, Amsterdamer Str. 4, Seestr. U6). For cheap books, a nice choice is Jokers Restseller in Friedrichstraße 148 (tel +49 30 20 45 84 23) where there is a wide variety of secondhand books. For souvenirs, have a look just in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche; these shops sell almost the same items as others, but are cheaper, but not all the staff speaks English. You can also get cheap postcards there (from €0.30 while the average price for normal postcard is €0.50-0.80). For collectible stamps go to Goethe Straße 2 (Ernst Reuter Platz, U2), where you can find a Philatelic Post Office from the Deutsche Post. They generally speak English. For alternative souvenirs (design, fashion and small stuff from Berlin designers and artists), go to ausberlin near Alexanderplatz; it's a bit hidden at the other side of Kaufhof at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
You can find dozens of flea markets with different themes in Berlin (mostly on weekends), but worth checking out is the big one at Straße des 17. Juni:
Straße des 17. Juni, between Ernst-Reuter-Haus and S-Bahn: Tiergarten.
Mauerpark, on Sundays, next to Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark in Prenzlauer Berg (U-Bahn: Eberswalder Straße).
Arkonaplatz, on Sundays, close to Mauerpark, so it can be combined with it.
Boxhagener Platz, on Saturdays/Sundays.
Maybachufer - Flowmarket
Art-marked at Zeughaus next to the Museumsinsel, on Saturdays/Sundays.
Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people 18 years of age or older - usually €6 to €10 for the big museums. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. Children under 18 years free. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass Museum Pass for €24 which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the approximately 55 state-run museums and public foundations. Most museums are closed on Mondays; notable exceptions include the Neues Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which are open daily. Museumsportal Berlin, a collective web initiative, offers easy access to information on all museums, memorials, castles and collections and on current and upcoming exhibitions.
A short list of important museums (for a more detailed list check the district articles) are:
Museumsinsel . Literally "Museum Island", this area is best known for the vast Pergamon-Museum, which houses an extensive collection of ancient Greek, ancient Middle-Eastern and Islamic art and architecture (€13 just for the museum in December 2011), Photography is allowed but be careful of what you lean or rest on, the staff is fussy!
Other museums which belong to the Museum Island are the Altes Museum (with the Egyptian and the antique collection), the Alte Nationalgalerie (with mainly German paintings of the 19th century) and the reopened Bode-Museum with its fantastically presented sculpture collection and Byzantine art. The recently reopened Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection, Neanderthal and other prehistoric archaeological finds, and some of the treasures unearthed at Troy. This is the only museum on Museums Insel that requires a timed entry ticket. It's best to get a timed ticket online ahead of time as time slots fill up quickly.
Kulturforum located close to Potsdamer Platz is another cluster of cultural buildings, museums among them. Some of them are Gemäldegalerie - thousands of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th century, works from Dürer, Raffael, Tizian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Rubens; Neue Nationalgalerie (closed during renovation), designed by Mies van der Rohe, with art from the 20th Century (there are also temporary exhibitions during which the permanent collection is usually not on display) and Musikinstrumenten-Museum a part of the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung PK that has an amazingly wide range of historic and unusual instruments on display.
Museen Charlottenburg – Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace, Belvedere with Porcelain Manufactory (KPM), Mausoleum, New Pavilion), Museum Berggruen, Bröhan Museum, Museum Scharf-Gerstenberg
Museen Dahlem – in the district of Dahlem three museums are located: Museum of European Cultures - the biggest of its sort in Europe. Ethnologisches Museum - again one of the world's most comprehensive museums (Well worth a visit for its splendid collection of Pre-Columbian archeology!). Museum of Asian Art .
Deutsches Historisches Museum in the Zeughaus, Mitte, Unter den Linden 2, . German historical museum covering everything from prehistory right up to the present day. One can spend many, many hours here!
Museum für Naturkunde, Mitte, Invalidenstraße 43, . Near the main railway station. Natural science museum with a big collection of dinosaur skeletons, fossils and minerals. Reopened after restoration in late 2007.
Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Moabit, Invalidenstraße 50-51, Museum for Contemporary Art located in former train station. Big halls filled with artworks made since 1960s.
Jüdisches Museum, Kreuzberg, Lindenstraße 9-14, . Jewish Museum. Learn about the history of Jews in Germany. Permanent exhibition on two millennia of German-Jewish history, changing exhibitions and impressive modern architecture by Daniel Libeskind. There is also a small unrelated Jewish Museum at the Oranienburger Straße Synagogue.
Berlinische Galerie, Kreuzberg, Alte Jakobstraße 124-128, is the city museum for modern art, architecture, and design. The museum is just around the corner from the Jewish Museum.
Technikmuseum Few branches, most interesting at Trebbiner Straße 9 (Kreuzberg), about midway between Gleisdreieck and Möckernbrücke U-Bahn stations. Steam trains & engines, aircraft & flight, ships & sailing, and much more.
Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer), Gesundbrunnen/Mitte, Visitor Center: Bernauer Straße 119, Documentation Center: Bernauer Str. 111 – The central memorial site of German division, located in the middle of the capital. – Open-Air Exhibition and Memorial Grounds: All year round Mo. - Su. 8am - 10pm, Visitor Center and Documentation Center: Tu. - Su. 10:00am - 6:00pm. The outdoor grounds are open daily 08:00–22:00. Admission free. – Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station S1, S2, S25, Tram M10 –
Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie . This museum is situated at the most famous historical checkpoint between the two Berlins. Admission: 12,50 EUR.
Topography of Terror , Kreuzberg – This open-air museum documents the terror applied by the Nazi regime. It consists of excavated prison cells located directly under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
DDR Museum, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 1, . A small museum just over the river from the Berliner Dom. It can be extremely crowded and it's a small place. All the displays are in German and English, gives a good insight into life in the former GDR.
Story of Berlin Kurfürstendamm 207-208i, close to the Uhlandstraße metro, the last stop on the U1. Museum in the centre of a mall. In addition to the history (including the World Wars), culture, transportation, architecture and an exhibit of life in the city since medieval times, it is unique to feature an authentic cold-war era bunker. The 20 minute tour is included in the cost of the entrance ticket, and is at the top of each hour, alternating in German and English.
Stasi Museum At the northeast corner of Frankfurter Allee and Ruschestraße is a complex of buildings housing hospitals and clinics. In the communist era, all these buildings belonged to the Stasi with their massive apparatus for spying on East German citizens, including opening tens of thousands of pieces of mail every day. Now just one of these buildings is used as museum of the Stasi. It is almost impossible to find from the street address since the number is out of sequence with the rest of the street. Walk up Ruschestraße from Frankfurther Allee. On the right side of the street, there is a small sign for the Stasi Museum at the entrance to the clinic complex. Walk in and go straight ahead to the far end of the car park.
Private art galleries
As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not-so-crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg). You can find a list of all the exhibitions and gallery openings as well as a map on Berlin Art Grid A directory listing of all Berlin's art galleries can be found on The Art of Berlin: Complete Berlin Art Gallery Directory .
Art Center Berlin Friedrichstraße , Friedrichstraße 134, Tel. +49 30 27879020. Four floors of exhibitions with a relatively good variety of genres and artists. A very nice oasis of calm from the busy Friedrichstraße.
Galerie Eigen & Art, Auguststraße 26, Tel. +49 30 280 6605 . One of the most famous German art galleries, home to the Neue Leipziger Schule (Neo Rauch et al.)
loop -- raum fur aktuelle kunst , Jägerstrasse 5, 10117. Known for being the "incubator" of future famous Berlin artists. Primarily featuring sculpture video, and painting.
There are some historically interesting and architecturally remarkable churches which are the following:
Berliner Dom— The biggest and most impressive church in Berlin, built at the turn of the century (19th/20th) as an expression of imperial power. Located next to the museum island. Entrance is €7, and you can climb on top of the dome for a beautiful view over the Berlin center.
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche— Highly symbolic church, dating back to 1891-95, with two modern buildings designed by Egon Eiermann in 1961, a hexagonal bell tower and an octagonal worship hall, aside the ruins from World War II.
Marienkirche— Located near Alexanderplatz, this is not only the highest church tower in Berlin (90m), but also one of the oldest churches left in the historical center of Berlin (which is totally torn down in this area). Entrance is free and inside are many treasures from the old days.
Nikolaikirche— The oldest church in Berlin, dating back to the beginning of 13th century (at least the stones next to the ground). Does not serve as a church. Changing exhibitions inside, €5.
St. Hedwigs Kathedrale— Domed Church located at Bebelplatz/Unter den Linden, the oldest (mid 18th century) and one of the biggest Catholic churches in Berlin, interior was redesigned in a modern style in the 1950s - but still many treasure chambers in the basement.
New Synagogue (Neue Synagoge) Oranienburger Straße – Today the building houses the Centrum Judaicum foundation which opened in 1995, an institution for the preservation of Jewish memory and tradition, a community congregation centre for study and teaching. Until the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938 when the Synagogue was attacked by Nazi thugs and heavily damaged, Jewish citizens had enjoyed full equality and civic rights, enshrined in the 1850 Prussian constitution.
Franziskaner Klosterkirche— Located in the eastern section of Berlin near Alexanderplatz, the lesser-known "Franciscan Abbey" church is a ruin of an early gothic style abbey which sustained heavy damage from Allied bombers in 1945. Left in a roofless and ruined state as a reminder of the cost and horrors of war, the Abbey now serves as a museum and open-air exhibition space for art, sculpture, and theater productions.
Landmarks with observation decks
While Berlin has relatively few high-rise buildings, there are several monuments with observation decks. Probably the most famous of all is the TV Tower near Alexanderplatz, the tallest tower in Germany and second highest in Europe.
Berliner Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz. This TV tower is Germany's tallest construction at 368m high. The observation deck is 204m above ground. Priced at €12.50 (or €8 for kids <16) as of 2012. Be wary of the weather changing; the fog can come in during the rather long queues and you may not be able to see anything at the top when you eventually reach it. There is a rotating restaurant at the top spinning 360 degrees in just 30 minutes and a bar in the observation deck. You need to buy tickets from the ticket office, then join a separate queue to get into the tower. As of June 2013, the last elevator up is at 23:00 and the last down at 23:30.
But there are also other great observation desks, the main ones are listed below (for others have a look in the district pages).
Reichstag building - Bundestag – The German Parliament building, near the Brandenburg Gate, was renovated by Sir Norman Foster and reopened in 1999 with a spectacular new glass dome, which offers a great view of Berlin. Visitors may book free tours of the building and enter with confirmed reservation at scheduled times through the north portal. Due to continued terrorist threats, individual visitors now need to register in advance to visit the glass dome and terrace. Book well in advance as individual entry is limited to a daily maximum.
Berliner Funkturm— 150m high lattice tower with open-air observation deck 124m above ground. The only observation tower on insulators! Located in the Western fair district, outside the city centre.
Siegessäule (Victory Column), Tiergarten. (€3, May 2013) An old (1865-1873), 60m high monument with panoramic views of the very centre of the city. Unfortunately there is no elevator, so be prepared for 285 steps. The statue of Victoria on the top is the place where the angels congregate in the famous film Der Himmel über Berlin by Wim Wenders. It has also become something of a symbol for the annual Love Parade techno music festival.
Kollhoff Tower, Potsdamer Platz . The fastest elevator in Europe takes you approximately 100 meters high. Daily 10:00-18:00. Tickets €5.50, discounted €4.
Berlin does not attempt to hide the less savory parts of its history: a visit to the Topography of Terror (Kreuzberg, Niederkirchnerstraße 8), for example, provides interesting but sobering insights into the activities of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years (1933-1945). Many of the walking tours also discuss scenes both of Nazi activity and of Cold War tension and terror.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe .
Opened in the spring of 2005, this gigantic abstract artwork covering an entire block near the Brandenburg Gate, including an underground museum with extensive details on the Holocaust and the people who died during it. The blocks start out at ground level on the outer edges of the memorial, and then grow taller towards the middle, where the ground also slopes downwards. 3.5 million visitors in the first year make it one of the most visited memorials in Berlin - and it's worth it, as it's one of the most impressive memorials in Berlin.
Berlin Wall— A large stretch of intact Wall can be found to the east of the city center along the River Spree in Mühlenstraße near the Oberbaumbrücke.
Known as the East Side Gallery , it is a section of the wall that is preserved as a gallery. This can be easily reached from Ostbahnhof or Warschauer Straße. It has many beautiful murals, politically motivated and otherwise. Another place to try is near the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum, currently under reconstruction. Two small pieces are also in Potsdamer Platz and in its neighbourhood at the corner between Ebertstraße and Bellevuestraße).
Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) . (Tram M10, U-Bahn Bernauer Straße U8 or S-Bahn Nordbahnhof S1, 2, or 25, follow the signs in the stations - wall is Mauer in German). Often missed by tourists but an absolute must for anyone interested in this part of the city's history. It's a memorial to those who died crossing so you won't, fortunately, get the tackiness of the Checkpoint Charlie area; instead you will be left with a haunting feeling of what life with the wall may have been really like. The monument itself is a gigantic wasted opportunity, blank and featureless. The inscription on the outside, declaring it a monument to the victims of the "communist reign of violence", has sparked emotional debates and angered many local residents. The documentation center across the street on Bernauer Straße is excellent although most of the documentation is in German. The viewing platform gives you a tiny hint of the true scale of the Wall and how terrifying the "no man's land" between the two sections of walls must have been. When the documentation center is closed, both walls can be visited. There is some space between the concrete plates which allow you to look at the area between the walls. There are also several small holes.
The Memorial is on Bernauer Straße which itself is a street with a great deal of Wall history: the first recorded Wall-related death of the notorious Peter Fechter was here, as was one of the famous tunnels and the famous photograph of the GDR border guard leaping over the barbed wire. Various monuments can be found along the entire length of the street, documenting nearby escape attempts and tunnels; captions are in German, English, French, and Russian. The Memorial itself is a complete section of 4th generation wall - both inside and outside sections, and you can peer through from the east side to see the remains of the electric fence and anti-tank devices in the death strip. It really helps you understand what an incredible feat it was to get from one side to the other -- and why so many died doing it.
Memorial site opening times: Daily, 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Documentation and Visitors‘ Centre opening times: Tuesdays – Sundays, 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
Checkpoint Charlie— Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, is no more.
Formerly, it was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin that permitted foreigners passage. Residents of East and West Berlin were not allowed to use it. This contributed to Checkpoint Charlie's mythological status as a meeting place for spies and other shady individuals. Now the remains of the Berlin Wall have been moved to permit building, including construction of the American Business Center and other institutions not given to flights of John Le Carré-inspired fancy.
At the intersection of Zimmerstraße and Friedrichstraße (U-Bahn Kochstraße U6) is the famous "You Are Leaving the American Sector" sign. The actual guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie is now housed at the Allied Museum on Clayallee. For a more interesting exhibit go to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. This is a private museum with kitschy memorabilia from the Wall as well as the devices GDR residents used to escape the East (including a tiny submarine!).
Checkpoint Charlie gained its name from the phonetic alphabet; checkpoints "Alpha" and "Bravo" were at the autobahn checkpoints Helmstedt and Dreilinden respectively. Checkpoint Charlie's atmosphere was not improved at all on 27 October 1961 when the two Cold War superpowers chose to face each other down for a day. Soviet and American tanks stood approximately 200 meters apart, making an already tense situation worse.
Tempelhof airport was used in the Berlin Airlift (Berliner Luftbrücke) in 1948-49; in 1951 a monument was added to commemorate the airlifts over the Berlin Blockade. The airport was featured in movies like Billy Wilder's "One Two Three". The terminal building is still fascinating; the halls and neighbouring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe, are still known as the largest built entities worldwide, and was described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as "the mother of all airports".
Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the west is the historic zoo that has been a listed company since its foundation. It's an oasis in the city and very popular with families and schools.
Berlin Zoo. The largest range of species in the world. The zoo lies directly in the heart of the City West (opposite Bahnhof Zoo at Hardenbergplatz) and is especially famous for Knut, the polar bear cub born in captivity in late 2006 and died in March 2011. The zoo also had the only giant panda in Germany, but he died in August 2012. The Elephant Gate (Budapester Straße) is the second entrance next to the Aquarium and a traditional photo stop for most visitors because of the architecture. The zoo costs 13 euros, or 10 euros if you have a student ID.
Aquarium. Part of the Berlin Zoo, located at Budapester Straße in an historic building. Still the largest aquarium in Germany and a host to an amazing variety of fish, crocodiles etc. One of the best places on a rainy day with children. There are separate admission charges for the zoo and aquarium. The aquarium has an entrance from the zoo and an entrance from the street.
Tierpark Berlin. Located in Friedrichsfelde, the Tierpark is more spacious than the historic Berlin Zoo and has been open for some 50 years. The compound also comprises a small château with its adjacent park.
Go on a Tour of Berlin - the Mitte and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Berlin Tour by public bus line 100 and 200, (From S+U-station Zoologischer Garten to S+U-station Alexanderplatz). BVG-Ticket: €2.70 or dayticket: €6.70.
Ticket B City – Tours by architects in Berlin, . Showing the city of Berlin on hand-picked architectural routes. Led by selected architects in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish. Anything is possible - tours from the water, on land or in a helicopter. They arrange your special tour on contemporary architecture in Berlin with many exclusive visits to the interiors of buildings and unforgettable experiences.
The Berlin Experts, . Offers daily in-depth walking tours of Berlin's architecture, history, and culture. All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Especially popular is the Deconstruction/Construction Tour which provides an offbeat perspective of contemporary Berlin. They also offer special tours for cruise ship passengers.
Vive Berlin Tours, . A cooperative of experienced tour guides offers several walking tours, most notably free tours to the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen and a "Third Reich Tour" that cooperates with the 1936 Olympic Stadium.
Stern und Kreisschiffahrt, . By far the biggest boat company in Berlin. They offer tours on most lakes.
Yachtcharter Werder, . Offers the possibility of a long term stay on the waterways of Berlin and the surrounding federal state Brandenburg.
Admission Free Berlin, . Website giving a daily overview about free sights, parties and cultural events in Berlin.
Tempelhofer Freiheit, . Offers tours in the former legendary Tempelhof airport Terminal. The english tours start on Saturdays, at 3.p.m., on Sundays at 10.30 a.m. Special arrangements (special topics : architecture, history of the Third Reich, Berlin airlift or special languages : Russian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Polish and Dutch ) can be made for special tours .
Berlin kompakt, . Offers tours on special topics : The Reichstag and the government in Berlin, Media in Berlin, Berlin Wall and the cold war,The Third Reich in Berlin, Historical cemeteries of Berlin, Russian Berlin... The tours are offered in German, English, Russian and Chinese
City Sightseeing Berlin, . Offers private driven and Berlin walking tours: 3 - 4 hours Berlin city sightseeing tours, combination Berlin tour and river cruises, Berlin nightseeing ... The new Berlin, Berlin Wall border walk ... Certified, multilingual Berlin tour guides in most languages
Bearpit Karaoke, Mauer Park, Prenzlauer Berg, . One of the most popular ways to spend a Sunday summer afternoon and a must-watch if you are in Berlin from April-October (weather permitting). From 3pm to 7pm, anyone who fancies it can take part in open air karaoke cheered by thousands of tipsy spectators.
Numbered Trees, . Almost every tree has a number plate attached to it. If you have a good look at a Berlin tree you’ll find a mysterious number tag on each and every one of them. Berlin has the biggest register, where all the information about 440.000 city trees is saved.
Pick up a copy of Exberliner , the monthly English-language paper for Berlin to find out what's on, when and where. It provides high quality journalism and up-to-date listings. If you understand German, the activity planners for the city, zitty and tip , are available at every kiosk. Be prepared to choose among a huge number of options.
Berlin has many great parks which are very popular in the summer. Green Berlin operates some of them.
Tiergarten is Berlin's largest park. In the summer and on weekends you will see loads of families with their barbecues. (S5, S7, S75 „Tiergarten“ or “Bellevue“, U55 „Bundestag“, Bus 100, 200, M41, M85).
Viktoriapark (Kreuzberg) offers superb panoramic views across south Berlin. National monument by Schinkel on top of it. (Bus 140 „Kreuzberg Wasserfall“).
Tempelhofer Park Once an Airport, but that closed in 2008. It's now open to the public. You can do all kinds of activities on the former runways, like flying a kite or driving a skateboard. The park is large at 303 hectares (3,030,000m²).
Schlossgarten Charlottenburg is inside the area of the Charlottenburg Palace, but the green area of the park is free, so you can go there to have a walk even if you are not interested in the palace. It covers a large area and you can get in from the entrance just near the "New Pavillon" (Neuer Pavillon also known as Schinkelpavillon) placed on the right of Luisenplatz. (Bus M45, 309 „Luisenplatz“ or „Klausenplatz“).
World's Garden (Gärten der Welt) in Marzahn. Inside you can find a large, well-established Chinese garden, a Korean garden, a small Bali's Garden/Glasshouse, an Oriental Garden with nice fountains and a cloister and a Japanese garden which is a project by the city partnership of Berlin and Tokyo. Open daily 09:00-16:00, in April and October until 18:00, from May-September until 20:00. Best time for a visit is in spring or summer. Entrance is €4. To get there, take the S7 to "Marzahn" station and continue with bus 195 until Eisenacher Straße. (Bus 195 „Erholungspark Marzahn“).
Botanischer Garten (Botanic Garden)
Wannsee is called Berlin's "bath tub". The Strandbad Wannsee is the most famous bathing area for locals. Take the S-Bahn lines S1 or S7 to the station Nikolassee and follow the crowd!
Müggelsee in the south east of Berlin is a popular swimming spot.
Berlinale – Berlin Film Festival, . The city's largest cultural event and an important fixture in the global film industry's calendar (up there with Cannes). 250,000 tickets sold, 400 different films screened and a host of associated parties and events every year. In contrast to e.g. Cannes, all screenings at the Berlinale are open to the public. Tickets are inexpensive and relatively easy to get for the "International Forum of Young Film" screenings and the "Berlinale Panorama" (movies which are not in the competition).
Lange Nacht der Museen, ☎ +49 30 90 26 99 444, . A large cultural event in May (17th May 2014) with museums open until 2AM and extra events around the city.
Fête de la Musique,. 21 June. All kinds of music around the city on this day coordinating with a similar day in several French cities.
Oberbaumbrücke Festival, (just under the Oberbaumbrücke). In August (check the exact dates). artists are selling their works, amateur tango dancers are giving public performances and you can contribute to a collaborative painting on a very long canvas spread on the street along the festival.
Festival of Lights – yearly in October. Famous buildings are illuminated in a special way free.
Berlin International Beer Festival, . First weekend in August
Christopher Street Day, 21st June 2014 - as the Germans name their gay prides - is a well-known annual political demonstration for the rights of the gay culture organized in all major German cities. Even if you are indifferent about the issue, the Christopher Street Day is usually a worthwhile sight as many participants show up in wild costumes.
Fuckparade in August. The Fuckparade (Hateparade in the early days) started as an antiparade or demonstration against the commercialized Love Parade, and was first on the same date as the Love Parade but later the date was shifted. The Fuckparade is a political demonstration, with political speeches at the beginning and the end and the parade with music between. The general motto of the Fuckparade is "against the destruction of the club scene". The music is quite different than at the Love Parade: mostly independent/alternative/extreme electronic music.
Hanf Parade in no man's landAugust. The Hanfparade is the biggest European political demonstration for the legalization of hemp for use in agriculture and as a stimulant.
Karneval in late February or early March. As a lot of people in Berlin originally came from the southern or western area of Germany where Fasching, Fastnacht or Karneval is celebrated, a carnival parade was also established in Berlin. It grew bigger and bigger (about 500.000 to 1 million people watching), but the costumes and cars are rather boring and the people are not as dressed up as in the "original" big carnival parades (Cologne, Mainz, Düsseldorf). Since 2007 the traditional route across Kurfürstendamm was chosen.
Karneval der Kulturen in May or June (on Whit Sunday). The idea of the "Carnival of Cultures" is a parade of the various ethnic groups of the city showing traditional music, costumes and dances. Other more modern, alternative and political groups also participate. Similar events are also held in Hamburg and Frankfurt.
Theatre, opera, concerts, cinema
Berlin has a lot of theatres, cinemas, concerts and other cultural events going on all the time. The most important ones are listed here.
Deutsches Theater. Classical theatre with an impressive line up of actors and directors.
Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz. Sometimes controversial, modern theater.
Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. Modern theatre.
Theater am Kurfürstendamm . Popular theatre with tv celebrities in modern plays.
Berliner Ensemble . Contemporary theater.
English Theater Berlin Theater that features all plays/music theater in English
Musicals and Shows
Theater des Westens – A historic theater in the former West Berlin, only musicals today. – Til 2013: „Tanz der Vampire“
Theater am Potsdamer Platz – Musicaltheater – Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 1
Friedrichstadt-Palast. Berlin's biggest show with over 100 artists on the biggest theater stage in the world.
Komische Oper – Modern operas.
Deutsche Oper . Classic opera house of West Berlin.
Staatsoper Unter den Linden. The impressive building and royal history make the building alone worth a visit. - Closed til 2014, → Schiller Theater in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Neuköllner Oper . Voted several times best off-opera house and known for its modern and contemporary pieces. Mostly in German as usually relating to developments in Germany. Very creative and innovative.
Philharmonie. Berlin Philharmonic orchestra is one of the best in the world. Famous building and outstanding musicians make a reservation essential. Cheaper tickets are usually available 2-4 hours before the concert if not sold out.
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt.
Open Air Concerts
There are about a hundred cinemas in Berlin, although most of them are only showing movies dubbed in German, without subtitles. CineStar (listed below) shows movies in their original English version, without any subtitles, so it's a perfect place to catch up on any movie you would've gone to back at home. CineStar is also located under the beautiful dome of the Sony Center, which one should visit at night to see it lit up beautifully.
Listed below are some of the more important cinemas also showing movies in the original language (look for the OmU - "original with subtitles" - notation). Most movies which are dubbed in German are released a bit later in Germany. Tickets are normally €5 to €7. Monday to Wednesday are special cinema days with reduced admission.
CineStar . The "CineStar Original" cinema located inside the Sony Center at the Potsdamer-Platz shows only movies in original version (e.g. in English, without subtitles). Potsdamer Straße 4, 10785 Berlin; Tel. 030 26066400
Babylon Kreuzberg . Also non-mainstream movies in this small cinema built in the 1950s. Dresdener Straße 126, 10999 Berlin; Tel.030 61609693
Central . Repertory cinema located in an ex-squat near Hackesche Höfe. Rosenthaler Straße 39, 10178 Berlin; Tel.030 28599973
Kino Moviemento . Germany's oldest cinema (1907). Located between Kreuzberg and Neukölln. Kottbusser Damm 22, 10967 Berlin; Tel.030 6924785
Filmtheater Hackesche Höfe . Located on the 4th floor of the Hackesche Höfe. Very broad range of movies. Rosenthaler Straße 40, 10178 Berlin; Tel.030 2834603
Neue Kant Kinos . One of the few old cinemas (founded 1912) left in Berlin's western city. Mostly non-mainstream European movies. Kantstraße 54, 10627 Berlin; Tel. 030 3199866
Zoo Palast .Large Cinema that was build for the "Berlin International Film Festival" in 1957. It shows a broad range of movies in German. Hardenbergstraße 29a, 10623 Berlin; Tel. 0180 5 222966
Berlin offers a range of photographic opportunities, particularly with its urban street scenes.
In Berlin you can do virtually all sports
The most popular sport is football, which is played all over the city. The Berlin FA lists all the clubs. Not to be missed is the Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2006 world cup final. Hertha BSC Berlin , Berlin´s highest professional football team, plays there during the Bundesliga season in spring, fall and winter. There is also the F.C.Union Berlin which plays at Stadion An der Alten Försterei which plays in Bundesliga 2.
Basketball: Alba Berlin , known as The Albatross are consistently the best basketball team in Germany, and one of the best in Europe. With fans crazier than most in the NBA, Albatross games at the o2 World arena are an exciting way to take in one of the world's greatest sports.
Volleyball The Berlin Recyling Volleys are the current German champions. See for more details.
Public swimming pools can be found around the city. Check out BBB for pool listings and opening times.
Sailing on one of the many lakes is also popular. You can find sailing clubs and most universities have ships as well.
Golf is popular as well. You can find golf clubs all around Berlin, although for non-members Motzen has one of the best.
Ice hockey: The Berlin Eisbären (Polar Bears) play this fast, exciting and very physical sport during the winter. The excitement is heightened by the singing and chanting of the crowds, who are fueled by the copious quantities of wurst and beer available.
Floorball is booming faster than ever before in the German capital. A sum of teams defines the cascade of the local floorball scene, whereas the decorated Bundesliga site of BAT Berlin probably embodies the most prominant one.
American Football: After the closing of NFL Europe and the related end of Berlin Thunder (triple winner of the World Bowl), the Berlin Adler (Eagles) are Berlin´s No. 1 team playing in German Football League.
Australian Football: The Berlin Crocodiles host regular matches in the summer.
Spas are very trendy and a massage can give you new energy after walking around and traveling.
thaiyogamassage.berlin One of the best places to get a full Thai Yoga Massage in Berlin. Located in Neukölln they also do house visits. ☎ +49 30 9560 7326 (email@example.com).
Day Spa . In Riverside hotel next to the Friedrichstadtpalast.
Club Oasis Fitness Centre & Spa, Grand Hyatt Berlin Hotel, Marlene-Dietrich-Platz 2, ☎ +49 30 2553 1234 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Adlon Day Spa One of the best spa's in town right next to the Brandenburg Gate in the Hotel Adlon
Sana's Day Spa for Women Located in Zehlendorf, this small spa offers privacy for women and daily fresh blended products.
Due to the refugee crisis, Berlin is, just like entire Germany, currently hosting many refugees and refugee shelters are always looking for volunteers. As of February 2015, Berlin is hosting over 80,000 refugees. Volunteering also a great way to interact and work with locals. The shifts are flexible and there are plenty of different things you can do.
Volunteer Planner is the best way to register for shifts at refugee shelters in Berlin. This website was created especially for refugee shelters in Berlin. The website is also offered in English. After you have registered, you will see a list of places you can choose to volunteer. They have been expanding to other cities, so make sure you check the filter "Berlin" at the top of the page. Each places includes the directions and mostly a way to contact them. The descriptions are in German, but they are short and can easily translated using the many available online translators. Please read the descriptions to make sure you can volunteer. A few places require something that's called "Führungszeugnis". This can roughly be translated as certificate of good conduct. It lists any convictions you may have. Right now, only 1 place out of 20 requires a Führungszeugnis. It's not available for tourists, only to residents of Berlin.
Click on the day you want to volunteer and pick any offered. Some refugee shelters offer more activities than others. "Kleiderkammer": (literally means "clothing chamber") Every shelter has a room for clothes, where the clothes are stored and distributed. Usually you help sorting the clothes and give them to the refugees during set times. They try to describe what they are looking for and you then pick a few items for them to choose from.
"Essensausgabe": (literally food distribution) You are responsible for the distribution of the food. The food will be delivered. You do not cook. During breakfast, lunch or dinner, you give them the food. They can choose and tell you want they want, and you give it to them. A "Gesundheitspass" is generally needed to work with food in Germany. But if you only come once or a few times, they usually make an exception.
"Kinderzimmer": (children's room) You are responsible for entertaining the children. You play games, go to the playground or just talk to them. Some places do require the above mentioned Führungszeugnis for this. Please contact them to ask about this. It usually it mentioned in the description.
"Wäsche": (laundry) You are responsible for washing clothes or supervising the refugees if the shelter allows them to wash their clothes themselves.
"Springer": (Jumper) Wherever you are needed is where you will work.
Food & drinks
A staple in Berlin is currywurst. It's a sliced bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder. You can find them all over Berlin by street vendors. It's a must try when in Berlin and for those who don't eat meat or prefer a less fatty meal it also comes in animal-free versions. Three renowned Currywurst stands are "Konnopke's Imbiss" below Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2, "Curry 36" opposite the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg (only two stops south of Checkpoint Charlie) and Yoyo Foodworld (close to U-Bahn station Frankfurter Tor, U5) where you can get a vegan Wurst. All of these offer far friendlier service than many of Berlin's more upmarket eateries.
Another famous thing to eat in Berlin is Döner. This is a flat bread, filled with Lamb or chicken meat or seitan, salad and vegetables, and you can get it at many turkish stands. The most famous vegan Döner is called Vöner and is served in the eatery carrying the same name close to S-Bahn station Ostkreuz. Other immigrated popular foods include the Falafel and Maqali (fried vegetables) sandwiches.
In September 2015 Berlin was named vegetarian capital of the world by the culinary magazine Saveur. Considering all the vegetarian options in regular restaurants and especially the amount of excusively vegetarian and even vegan restaurants and coffeeshops this title seems well-deserved and it reflects the recent vegan trend in all of Germany which does away with the cliché of the meat-heavy German cuisine.
Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes.
All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down -- it's not that common to accept credit cards and cash is usually preferred. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and Mastercard; all other cards will only be accepted in some upmarket restaurants.
One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and the artists of the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - were evicted and the area has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though, The "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe and several administrative and religious buildings are located here.
For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukölln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebab restaurants. Prices start from 1,50 € for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.
Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists and students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further. Up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.
Waiters and tipping
The custom in Germany is to tell the waiter how much you’re paying (including the tip) when you receive the bill — don’t leave the money on the table, it may be taken by other guests or passers-by. If there is confusion with the tip, remember to ask for your change, Wechselgeld (money back).
If you pay by credit card, tell the waiter the amount you want to pay in total, this including the tip, before the amount is typed into the machine, as payment slips produced by German machines usually do not provide for extra space for adding a tip in handwriting.
Add a 5-10% tip (or round up to the next Euro) to the bill in a bar. In a restaurant you should tip a little more if you are satisfied with the service. However, tips grossly exceeding 10% of the bill are rather unusual, as waiters in Germany do not predominantly receive their income from tips.
When getting food or drinks over the counter, a glass or other receptacle for tips might be placed on that counter; use it to drop some cents into it. Sometimes, staff set up donation boxes for charities, which is a decent hint that they do not want to get tipped personally, but rather prefer you to donate.
Tips are usually also given to taxi drivers and hairdressers in the amount of about 10% of the bill. Persons carrying your bag in a hotel are usually tipped with 1€ per (larger) bag. Tipping of hotel maidens is not uncommon, but also not required especially for business visitors. Tips for shop assistants, counter clerks, information desks officers, medical staff, or professionals are very uncommon and would lead to irritation.
In Berlin, some organized groups try to receive tips from car drivers stopping at red lights. They try to wash the car windscreen, or they show some more or less artistic exercises, just in order to collect money from drivers. Some of them get aggressive if payment is refused. Those groups do not reflect any traditional local culture, and they are considered a nuisance by many inhabitants, as well as by Berlin state authorities, and many Berliners would be grateful for not supporting them. (Similarly, groups of "musicians" playing records with a portable CD player have been observed roaming underground trains in central Berlin trying to collect tips.)
Do not even think of attempting to tip police officers or any other civil servants, or to offer them any other advantage.
Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain— Young and independent student area with a big Turkish community in Kreuzberg.
Kreuzberg SO36: Oranienstraße in the nord of Kottbusser Tor
Kreuzberg SW61: Bergmannstraße and Mehringdamm
City West Heart of West Berlin with good quality restaurants.
Mitte Political and new center of East Berlin with upmarket restaurants. – Oranienburger Straße between Friedrichstraße and Hackescher Markt.
Schöneberg City slickers and street cafe atmosphere. – Winterfeldplatz, Maaßenstraße and Goltsstraße
Prenzlauerberg Buzzing Prenzlberg and its lively student scene.
It is very common to go out for breakfast or brunch (long breakfast and lunch, all you can eat buffet, usually from 10AM to 4PM, for €4 to €12 - sometimes including coffee, tea or juice). Here are some special tips (especially see the district pages of Berlin/City West#Breakfast & Berlin/East Central#Eat):
Charlottchen, Droysenstraße 1, tel +49 30 324 47 17. Buffet breakfast and institution for parents and prepared for children of all ages, indoor play room!
Strandbad Mitte, Kleine Hamburger Straße 16, tel+49 30 24 62 89 63. Playground next to the restaurant and good breakfast.
Buffet breakfast (brunch)
City Guesthouse Pension Berlin, Gleimstraße 24, tel +49 30 4480792. Breakfast buffet, daily 8AM to 11AM, price per person 05,00€
Cafe Sarotti-Höfe, Mehringdamm 57, tel +49 30 60 03 16 80. Located in a former chocolate factory with buffet for €12! U6/U7, Mehringdamm.
Grüne Lampe, Uhlandstraße 51, tel +49 30 88 71 93 93. Excellent Russian breakfast buffet.
Telecafé, Panoramastraße 1a, tel +49 30 242 33 33. Enjoy breakfast in front of a city view right at the top of the Fernsehturm.
Dachgartenrestaurant Käfer, Platz der Republik 1, tel+49 30 22 62 99 0. Breakfast from 9-10:30AM at the top of the Germany's parliament.
Oderberger Straße, street in Prenzlauer Berg with a large variety of breakfast cafés.
Café im Literaturhaus, Fasanenstraße 23, tel +49 30 882 54 14. Classical style, waiters in livreé.
Desbrosses, Potsdamer Platz 3, Tel. +49 30 337 77 64 00. The Ritz Carlton imported a whole French brasserie which freshly bakes bread.
At Warschauer Straße (which you can reach via S-Bahn and U-Bahn station Warschauer Straße) and more specifically Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz you can find a wide variety of bars. It is common for locals to meet at Warschauer to go to a bar there. Also Ostkreuz (Eastcross) and Frankfurter Street are very famous meeting points. Especially to visit the alternative ("underground-/left-szene") locations in houseprojects (so called squats), like the Supamolly at Jessnerstreet (Traveplatz), the Scharni38 (Scharnweberstreet) and so on, or famous alternative clubs on the Revaler street, like the R.A.W. or the Lovelite on Simplonstreet.
Die Legende von Paula und Ben, Gneisenaustrasse 58, U7 Südstern, Small and cosy bar with a large choice of cocktails, spirits and wine. For those who are hungry this place serves tapas and for those who want to smoke some cigars.
Cafe Einstein is one particular example of a home grown coffee chain which has nice staff, great coffee and is fairly priced. In particular, the Einstein on Unter den Linden is as far from "junk coffee" as it's possible to be.
Brauhaus (brewpubs) brew and sell their own beer on the premises. There is usually a public viewing area onto the brewery. Try Gaffel Haus , Brauhaus Georgbraeu , Brauhaus Mitte , Brauhaus Spandau and Brauhaus Lemke .
Green Mango (karaokebar), Bülowstrasse 56/57, U2 Bülowstr./ U7 Yorkstr. is the biggest karaokebar in Europe and they also have 150.000 karaoke playback.
There are lots of Irish bars all over the city, as there are in all European cities. If you like off-the-shelf Irish bars or watching football in English then you won't be disappointed, but in a city with new cool bars opening pretty much daily and a huge range from which to choose, you'll find that these cater mostly to the Irish construction workers and Germans attracted by Irish music, which is often played in them. The Irish pub in the Europa Center at Tauentzienstraße is famous. Located in the basement of a skyscraper, you will find a big Irish pub and a rowdy crowd on the weekend. It also claims to have the longest bar in all of Berlin!
If you want to get some tap water in a bar ask for "Leitungswasser" (if you just say "water" (Wasser), you will receive mineral water.) This is common if you drink coffee. They should not charge you for it but you should order another drink as well.
Berliners love to drink cocktails, and it's a main socializing point for young people. Many people like to meet their friends in a cocktail bar before clubbing. Prenzlauer Berg (Around U-Bahnhof Eberswalder Str., Helmholtzplatz, Oderberger Straße & Kastanienallee), Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße, Oranienstraße and the area around Görlitzer Park and U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor), Schöneberg (Goltzstraße, Nollendorfplatz, Motzstraße for gays), and Friedrichshain (Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz) are the main areas. There aren't as many illegal bars as there were in the '90s but bars open and close faster than you can keep up - check out the bar and cocktail guides in the bi-weekly magazines Tip or Zitty. For recommended bars, have a look at the district pages.
The club scene in Berlin is one of the biggest and most progressive in Europe. Even though there are some 200 clubs in the city, it's sometimes difficult to find the right club for you since the best ones are a bit off the beaten track and most bouncers will keep bigger tourist groups (especially males) out. Entrance is cheap compared to other big European cities, normally from 5 to €10 (usually no drink included).
The main clubbing districts are in the east: Mitte (especially north of Hackescher Markt and - a bit hidden - around Alexanderplatz), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (around Schlesisches Tor) and Prenzlauer Berg (around station Eberswalder Str.). Some mainstream clubs are located in Charlottenburg and at Potsdamer Platz. Electro and techno are still the biggest in Berlin, with lots of progressive DJs and live acts around. But there are also many clubs playing '60s beat, alternative rock and of course mainstream music. Clubbing days are Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday, but some clubs are open every day of the week. Partying in Berlin starts around midnight (weekends) and peaks around 2AM or 3AM in the normal clubs, a bit later in many electro/techno clubs. Berlin is famous for its long and decadent after hours, going on until Monday evening.
A good overview about whats going on close to the place you are staying is brought to you by joinjack.de. This webside shows you parties directly on a map.
40 Seconds, Potsdamer Strasse 58, ☎ 030 890 642 41 (email@example.com). Named for the amount of time it takes the elevator to reach the dance floor, this posh club has three roof terraces, a dinner area, and an amazing view of the city. Features mainstream R'n'B and house music. Come here in the summer when it's warm.
Week-End, Am Alexanderplatz 5 (the building with the Sharp sign on top). Located in the 12th floor of a GDR office building. Amazing views over the city in classical club style for young people. Parties till the dawn. Recently complemented by the new afterhours club 15th Floor in the same building, as well as a roof bar. Electro, techno and house.
Watergate, Falckensteinstraße 49 (U Schlesisches Tor / S Warschauer Straße). Great electronic club with two floors directly at the Spree River - great panoramic view. Open Wednesday (only one floor), Friday, Saturday. Tough door policy.
Magdalena (formerly Maria am Ostbahnhof , Stralauer Platz 34/35 (next to Schillingbrücke). Cool location with lots of progressive live sets and concerts (mainly electro/techno, but also independent/alternative Pop/Rock concerts).
Berghain/Panorama Bar, Am Wriezener Bahnhof (S Ostbahhof). A huge techno club with a gay majority (Berghain) in an old power generation plant. Be prepared for a tough door policy - you might wait up to 3 hours to get rejected (70% of the people - randomly. It's their business model.) at the door. This is a serious risk for messing up your party night as there's no other club/pub around Ostbahnhof within 30 minutes of travel time. Not for teenagers, no cameras allowed (mobile phones with a camera are now allowed, but holders are expressly warned not to use them). Open Saturdays; Panorama Bar (mainly straight crowd) upstairs additionally on Fridays. Parties until Sunday afternoon. Music is extremely loud, for sensitive people, it is recommended not to stay on the dance floor for too long. However, as the sound system is technically high advanced, it is even possible to talk and be understood on the dancefloor.
Gretchen, Obentrautstr. 19-21 (U Mehringdamm / U Hallesches Tor). Berlin's club for contemporary club music and left field beats. High ranking international bookings from Electronica, Elektro, Trap, House over Bass, Dubstep, Drum'n'Bass to Experimental and HipHop. Located in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stands out due to beautiful vaulted ceiling and delicate columns.
Tresor, Köpenicker Str. 59-73. Perhaps THE Berlin techno club. The old venue was closed in 2005 but Tresor reopened in May 2007 in an old power plant in the southeast of Berlin-Mitte.
Kaffee Burger/Russendisko, Torstraße 60, tel +49 30 280 464 95. Bar and club with GDR living room atmosphere. Russendisko is performed every second Saturday by author Wladimir Kaminer. Sometimes live music (Neo-Polka).
White Trash Fast Food, Am Flutgraben 2, tel+49 30 50 34 86 68. They moved in May 2014, taking with them No Pain, No Brain Tattoo and some of the Chinese decorations from the old place. There is a beirgarten with smokehouse now and the place is HUGE! The rest, it's the same. Food is great, beer is cold, shows are amazing. They're also open now every day at 12.
KitKatClub, now in the Sage Club, Köpenicker Str. 76. A very famous address, a unique clubbing concept mixing techno/electro/trance music with sexual freedom. Be careful and open-minded, and respect the strict dress code. Nonstop party from Saturday night to Sunday evening. The owner of the KitKatClub (Simon Thaur) is also famous for his extreme-fetish porno movies.
The Pub, Rochstraße 14, 10178 Berlina unique pub in Berlin and Germany. You tap your own beer at your own table and eat probably the best burgers in town and you can see a lot of pug pictures in this pub.
You can find internet cafes and telephone shops all around Berlin. Do a bit of research with the telephone shops because most have a focus region in the world. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests.
The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country (e.g. the United States) check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility. Note: The GSM iPhone, which works with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., works perfectly in Berlin.
A free wireless network covers parts of Berlin, but requires special software on your computer. More information including maps of Berlin with coverage is available online.
Berlin is a safe place but it has some not-so-well maintained areas, too. Most tourists would not encounter any criminal activity in Berlin once they use the same precautions which they would use at a similar city in their home country, as well. Berlin is generally safe to walk at night and at daytimes. Private transportation or the use of taxis is not required for safety reasons. Fraudulent taxi scams do not exist.
In public transportation and tourist areas, pickpockets are a problem. Watch your bags during rush hours and at larger train stations. Pickpockets are not just a problem for tourists, but also Berliners suffer from their tricks, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Please consider that they are not only present on public roads or in public transportation, but also in clubs or pubs.
The police in Berlin are competent and not corrupt. Attempting to bribe officers will likely result in at least a night behind bars to have your background checked. The police are generally helpful to tourists. Most of the officers are able to speak English, so do not hesitate to approach them if you are frightened or lost. The nationwide emergency number is 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is 110. Berlin Police are ready to sincerely investigate petty crimes and have formed special units to investigate them and are present in plain clothes at tourist hot spots and, with consent of the owners, also in some clubs. Thus, calling the police emergency number once you fell victim or are witness of a petty crime as soon as possible might help police to track down perpetrators, or to identify some stolen goods belonging to you.
In public places which are frequently occupied by tourists, shellgame players (German: Hütchenspieler) try to involve visitors into a pseudo-game where a considerable bid has to be paid by the victim before a professional player places a nut or small ball below three small shells, rapidly moves the shells, and asks the victim to determine under which shell the nut or ball item is now placed. Expect those pesudo-games to be fraudulent. Persons who appear to win the game before you bet are mostly part of the gang, even if they appear to be "original Germans" from their looks. Under German and Berlin laws, conducting those games is illegal. Never participate, as you are guaranteed to lose your money. If you want to support police efforts, keep some distance (as those groups use watchmen around the scene), and inform the police on 110.
Since the 1980s, there have been localized riots on Labor Day (May 1st). In general these take place in Kreuzberg around Oranienstraße/Mariannenplatz. Nowadays they usually begin the night before 1 May, especially in the Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg), at Boxhagener Platz and in Rigaer Str. (Friedrichshain), only to flame up again in the evening of May 1st in Kreuzberg and the areas mentioned previously. The violent riots have become rather subdued since 2005 due to well-coordinated police efforts and the simultaneous presence of thousands of peaceful citizens celebrating "Myfest", a colorful street festival in Kreuzberg. For the faint-hearted, it is still advisable to stay out of these areas from 8PM until sunrise. Vehicles should not be parked in these areas during Labor Day as damages are nearly guaranteed.
Racial violence has now become very rare, but the risk might be higher on the outskirts of East Berlin. It is recommended for tourists who are obviously not part of the very native population of Germany since generations to be attentive in areas such as Lichtenberg, Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Treptow and Köpenick in the evening/night especially if alone. Single racially or "religiously" motivated attacks on rather pale-skinned persons had also been reported over the last years. Also, groups of intoxicated women had been reported to having become violent, in particular when celebrating "hen nights".
In the essence, especially at night, avoid groups of persons who appear to be frustrated, aggressive, and intoxicated, in particular when the genders of the group members are not mixed, be they male or female. If persons get aggressive on you and might appear violent, rather do not argue, seek to avoid any further encounter with them, and, if in any doubt, call the police. Most of the more serious cases of street violence over the last years affected locals and not tourists, and involved at least one prior encounter of the perpretrators and the victim.
In the bordering neighbourhood of the districts Neukölln and Kreuzberg (between Hermannplatz, Schönleinstrasse to Kottbusser Tor) and Wedding (Moabit and Gesundbrunnen) the risk of falling victim to robberies and assaults is slightly higher. Tourists should visit these areas with some caution during the night as a mixture of intoxicated party-goers and low-income neighbourhoods might lead to trouble. Some care should be taken as well in the larger Alexanderplatz area.
The foundation of Berlin was very multicultural. The surrounding area was populated by Germanic Swabian and Burgundian tribes, as well as Slavic Wends in pre-Christian times, and the Wends have stuck around. Their modern descendants are the Sorbian Slavic-language minority who live in villages southeast of Berlin near the Spree River.
In the beginning of the 13th century, two towns (Berlin and Cölln) developed on each side of the river Spree (today the Nikolaiviertel and the quarter next to it beyond the river). As the population grew, the towns merged and Berlin became a centre for commerce and agriculture. This area stayed small (about 10,000 inhabitants) up to the late 17th century, because of the 30 years' war in the beginning of the 17th century, which led to death of about half of the population.
Since the late 17th century, when large numbers of French Huguenots fled religious persecution, Berlin has welcomed religious, economic and other asylum seekers. In 1701 Berlin became the capital of Prussia and in 1710 Berlin and surrounding former autonomous cities were merged to a bigger Berlin.
In 1871 Berlin became the capital of the new founded German Reich and a few years later, it became a city with more than one million inhabitants because of the immensely growing industry.
Shortly after the first World War, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it now. After the coming into power of the National Socialists ("Nazis"), Berlin became the capital of the so called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler (although the triumph of Hitler and his henchmen started in the south of Germany).
WW II led to destruction of most of central Berlin, thus many of the buildings which we see nowadays are reconstructed or planned and built after the war, which led to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sector, East Berlin belonged to the USSR). In 1949 the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") was founded with East Berlin as its capital. West Berlin remained occupied by the western Allies and kept a close relationship with West Germany (with Bonn as the capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, the GDR built a militarized and increasingly impassable border between the states, and then in 1961 surrounded West Berlin with a wall.
In late 1989 East German citizens began to peacefully demonstrate in increasing numbers; this led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1990 West Germany and East Germany were united. Berlin became once again the capital of Germany.
After WW2 and the building of the wall, large numbers of immigrants from Turkey were invited to West Berlin to work in the growing industry sector; in East Berlin the jobs were done mostly by Vietnamese immigrants. But also people from other communist countries, including the former Yugoslavia, not to mention Soviet soldiers who refused to return home, have helped to make Berlin more multicultural than ever.
Berlin is also a youth-oriented city. Before German unification, West Berliners were exempt from the West German civil/military service requirement. Social activists, pacifists and anarchists of all moved to Berlin for that reason alone. Musicians and artists were given state subsidies. It was easy to stay out all night thanks to liberal bar licensing laws, and staying at university for years without ever getting a degree was a great way to kill time. In contrast with most of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg is said to have the highest per-capita birth rate in Europe (in fact it just seems so because of the high percentage of young women in the district).
After the fall of the wall, Berlin - especially the former East - has evolved into a cultural hub. Artists and other creative souls flocked to the city in swarms after reunification, primarily due to the extremely low cost of living in the East. Despite the increased prices and gentrification as a result, Berlin has become a centre for art, design, multimedia, electronic music, and fashion among other things. The particularly high number of students and young people in the city has only helped this cause. Just stroll down a street in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, or Mitte to get a glimpse of the new East Berlin.
Some famous artists of the region and their best-known works include Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Bertolt Brecht (Threepenny Opera), Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire (German: Der Himmel über Berlin)), Blixa Bargeld/Einstürzende Neubauten, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum), members of the Bauhaus architectural movement and many more.
Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, dating to the thirteenth century, and it has always had a reputation as a place filled with people from elsewhere. It may seem tough to find someone born and raised here! This is part of Berlin's charm: it never gets stuck in a rut.
A certain uneasy détente still exists between some former residents of East and West Berlin (and Germany). Wessi evolved as a derogatory nickname for a West German; its corollary is Ossi. The implication here is that after reunification, the West Germans automatically assumed the way they do things is the right way, and the way the Easterners should start doing it, too. Westerners got a reputation for being arrogant. They saw the Easterners as stubborn Communist holdouts interested only in a handout from the "rich West." Consider a shirt for sale in a shop inside the Alexanderplatz Deutsche Bahn station: Gott, schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind/und Wessies die im Osten sind ("God, protect me from the storm and wind, and Wessies who are in the East"). Another such stereotype is reflected by the short poem: Der Ossi ist schlau und stellt sich dumm, beim Wessi ist es andersrum ("The Ossi is sly and pretends to be simple-minded, and with the Wessi, it's the other way around"). However, most of the younger generation do not share such prejudices.
German is of course the main language in Berlin but you can easily find information in English and sometimes in French. Due to the football World Cup in 2006 all public transportation staff got language training and should be able to help you in English (although probably with a strong German accent). If you seem to be lost or hesitating in a public transport station a member of staff could come to your assistance but don't count on that. You can easily approach a group of (preferably young) bystanders and ask for advice in English.
Most people under 40 in Berlin are able to speak English with varying degrees of fluency, but it might not be as widely spoken as you might expect, so a few key German phrases are worth having, especially in the suburbs and less touristy places. Basic French and Russian is partly spoken because French in West Berlin and Russian in East Berlin were taught in schools.
There are also 400,000 people of Turkish origin living in Berlin - mainly in the Kreuzberg, Wedding and Neukölln districts. Many of them arrived in the early 1960s from remote villages in Anatolia as guest workers but stayed on. Do not expect them to speak decent Turkish, or any willingness to speak any Turkish at all.
There are some words in Berlin that differ from regular German, especially in the former East Berlin. Here, the language preserved a certain level of dialect.
One of the most important "products" produced in Berlin by both academic and company-sponsored institutes is research. That research is exported around the world. German labour is highly efficient but comes at high cost. Strong trade unions, the end of West Berlin's pre-reunification subsidies and Germany's dense regulatory environment forced industry to concentrate on high quality and expensive products.
Berlin is - at least in many parts - a beautiful city, so allow enough time to get to see the sights. A good map is highly recommended. While the public transport system is superb, it can be confusing to visitors, due to a lack of directional signs in some of the larger stations, so a good transit map is also essential.
Be sure to note the final station/stop of the S-bahn or U-bahn, since that is usually the method by which the direction of travel is indicated. Roads into Berlin can also be confusing, so study your route and drive carefully. Signs point to city boroughs or districts rather than indicating compass directions, so it's a good idea to get to know where the various boroughs or districts lie in relation to each other. This also applies to cyclists.
Berlin's Tourist Information Office is an excellent resource for finding out more about Berlin, providing a wealth of practical information and useful links.
Potsdam is the capital of the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg, not far southwest of Berlin, and makes a perfect day trip. Especially the park of Sanssouci, a world heritage site with its great famous palaces, is worth a visit. You can get there with the S-Bahn S7 or Regional-Bahn RE1 to the station Potsdam Hauptbahnhof or Park Sanssouci (fare zone C). It takes about half an hour from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Friedrichstraße. Take Bus X15 from Potsdam Hauptbahnhof to Sanssouci. The grounds of Sanssouci are huge (over 200 hectares, 500 acres). It takes all day if you visit all the buildings.
Sachsenhausen is in outer Oranienburg, a quiet suburb housing the remains of one of the Nazi concentration camps on German soil. There's also a small palace in the center of Oranienburg.
The Müritz lake region to the north is a national park with a few hundred lakes.
The beautiful Baltic seashore (e.g. Usedom) is near enough for a day trip by train.
The Spreewald is a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. It includes low-lying areas in which the river Spree meanders in thousands of small waterways through meadows and forests. It is a beautiful, unique landscape about one hour south of Berlin and well worth a day trip or a weekend trip to relax from the buzzing city life.
Frankfurt an der Oder on the Polish border is within easy reach.
Lutherstadt Wittenberg is about 40 minutes south of Berlin with ICE . The Schlosskirche was the church where Martin Luther hung his Theses. Across the street from there is a visitor's center with great information. Great city to tour and one can easily explore on foot.
The motorway Raststätte Grunewald at the S-Bahn station Nikolassee is a good spot for hitching if you're heading south or west.
The Polish border is just some 90km to the east of Berlin, therefore it might be interesting to do a trip to: