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Germany City Travel Guide: Berlin

City Guide | Turismus | Arrival | Accommodation | Entertainment | Internet Cafes

Berlin

  • Location: north-east Germany, 70km west of Polish border
  • Capital again since 1999 of a reunited Germany
  • Germany's cultural/social melting pot
  • Venue of the massive summer Love Parade
  • Modern western half, still-underdeveloped eastern half
  • Embassies and consulates: 81
  • Population: 3,400,000 (2004)

Finding somewhere to stay in Berlin

One good option for finding Berlin accommodation is to rent an apartment in some of the city's most fashionable areas including Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer.

Hotels in Germany - Bookings - hotels throughout Germany.
Hotel Accommodation in Germany - Agoda - hotels throughout Germany.
Hostels in Germany - Hostelworld.com - cheap accommodation throughout Germany

Book Hostels Online Now Berlin was restored as the German capital in 1990 after what was an often traumatic 45-year break. The optimism of that restoration has by no means led to denial of the trauma. As much as it looks forward, crafting a new face to fit its new direction, it maintains a relationship with its past, acknowledging it in all its glory and misfortune.

While untold dedication has been expended on the fastidious restoration of war-damaged monuments, graffiti daubed in the last days of World War II by triumphant Russian soldiers on the walls of the Reichstag has been preserved 'to remind'. A city like this keeps out a keen eye for what kind of past the future it makes will become.

With more trees than Paris, more bridges than Venice, and an impressive canon of Modernist architecture, the city - over a third of it woodland, parks and waterways - sits on the River Spree in the state of Brandenburg, north-east Germany, near the Polish border. With 3.4 million people, it is Germany's biggest city - a population that is, however, gradually declining. A truly cosmopolitan place, barely half the citizens of Berlin were born there, one in seven from outside Germany.

During the 1920s Berlin was Europe's artistic and intellectual pioneering city, attracting the world's greatest minds and talents. Traditionally anti-authoritarian with a thriving counter-culture, it has remained home to the avant-garde and outrageous, the most exuberant outpouring of it now being the summer Love Parade techno fest in early July with its million-plus partiers.

To experience its thriving music and drama scene firsthand, replete with concerts, musicals, raves, cabaret, cinema, and theater proves it has lost nothing of what drove it to the forefront last century.

The closest Berlin gets to having a center is in twin form: to the west where Kurfürstendamm (‘Ku'damm') meets the Zoologischer Garten (‘Zoo') railway station; and Mitte further east, between Unter den Linden and Alexanderplatz ('Alex') railway stations. But the museum-rich Charlottenburg, the bustling CBD of Tiergarten, left-wing Kreuzberg, and gay Schöneberg, among others, all vie for equal attention.

Being without a true center, Berlin can be a little daunting. Where do you start?

River Spree through Nikolaiviertel, Berlin.

© Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbHp

Zoo
Let's start at Zoologischer Garten, which has both an S-Bahn (train) and a U-Bahn (subway) station very near each other. Most long-distance trains connect to Zoologischer Garten. However from 2006 it will be superseded by the new Central-Station Lehrter Bahnhof.

Berlin WelcomeCard.

The zoo itself, open daily 9am-6pm, is one of the world's largest and also has an aquarium. Just east of the U-Bahn station, dominated by the ruined Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche church, is the central sleepless Breitscheideplatz Square full of shoppers, skateboarders and soapbox orators. A little rundown, it nevertheless brims with energy. Overlooking it is the Europa Center with a Tourist Info center on street level on the Budapester-strasse side. Ask there about the Berlin Welcome Card, a book of coupons offering 3 days of free travel on the city's bus and train network, as well as between 25% and 50% off the admission fee to many tourist attractions and cultural highlights. (Tourist info details below)

There is a 106m-(353ft) high observation deck at the top of the Europa Center. On the other side of the Center from Tourist Info is Tauentzien-strasse whose most famous premises are the massive Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe - 'kah-day-vay') department store. Check out the 6th floor deli. (Mon - Fri 10.00 am - 8.00 pm; Sat: 9.30 am - 8.00 pm)

Kurfurstendamm
Ku'damm runs SW from Breitscheideplatz square. Once described as the 'Europe's biggest coffee house', Ku'damm is a huge thoroughfare that has it all: an exciting architectural free-for-all of shops, restaurants, theaters and nightclubs, as well as being the best place to find a bank (typical business hours: Tue&Thu 9am-6pm; Mon,Wed,Fri 3-6pm). The Story of Berlin Museum (daily 10am-8pm, final admission 6pm; tel. 01805/99-20-10) at the second U-Bahn down, Uhland-strasse, is guaranteed to leave even the non history buff overwhelmed with its multimedia narration (English available) of the city's long and checkered past. From Uhland-strasse head NW up Grolman-strasse to Savignyplatz for a relatively tranquil and trendy area of boutiques, bars, bookshops and junkshops - as well as strip shows and brothels NE of the square.
A tip: compare prices carefully on Ku'damm, e.g. film and postcards, or you're likely to be ripped off.

From Savignyplatz east along Kant-strasse you get to Joachimstaler-strasse bisecting Ku'damm. At number 4 Joachimstaler-strasse, just south of the Zoo U-Bahn station, is the Beate Uhse Erotik Museum (daily 9am-midnight), apparently among the top five most visited museums in the city.

Right down near the end of Ku'damm on Lehniner Platz, three streets west of U-Bahn Adenauerplatz Schaubühne, is the Neue Schaubühne theater. Considered the high point in the career of the architect Erich Mendelsohn, it began life as a cinema in 1928, was saved from developers in the late 1970s and transformed into a theater. Along with the Volksbuhne theater, the Neue Schaubühne leads the way in Berlin's theater scene.

The Siegessaule during the Love Parade.Tiergarten
Adjoining Zoo to the NE, and right in the middle of the map of Berlin, is the huge Tiergarten. Through it runs the Strasse-des-17 Juni, commemorating the East German workers' revolt of 1953 that, on June 17th, was crushed by the Soviet army. It intersects with the central radial Grosser Stern ('Big Star') plaza dominated by the dramatic 67m(223ft) Siegessaule, or Victory Column. Climb the 285 steps to the top for spectacular views of the city (Mon-Thu 9.30am to 5pm - until 6pm in summer; Fri-Sun 9.30am to 5.30pm - until 6.30pm in summer). If the weather's good, Hofjägerallee boulevard, south off Grosser Stern, offers quiet space for nude sunbathing.

Kulturforum
On the SE border of Tiergarten is the Kulturforum, a cluster of high culture, with:
-Musikinstrumenten-museum (Musical Instrument Museum) (Tue-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat/Sun 10am-5pm) for a vast array of wind and percussion instruments from past to present.
-Philharmonie: home of the Berlin Philharmonic.
-Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall): a newer partner of the Philharmonie, right next door to it.
-Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Applied Art) (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm): world arts and crafts from the Middle Ages to the present.
-Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm): specializing in European applied arts.
-Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm; Thu 10am-10pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm): a superlative collection of graphic art with works from all the old and new masters.
-Gemaldgalerie (Picture Gallery) (Tue, Wed, Fri 10am-6pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm): very highly recommended for lovers of art. Virtually all the great European masters between the 13th and 18th centuries are well represented and superbly displayed. It is particularly well-known for its collection of Rembrandts.

Just south of Kulturforum, across from St Matthaeus Kirche is the Neue Nationalgalerie, (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm) specializing in modern art.

A short walk west along the river in front of the Neue Nationalgalerie will bring you to the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (Memorial to German Resistance) (Mon, Wed, Fri 9am-6pm; Sat/Sun/hols 10am-6pm): a permanent exhibition in the old Wehrmacht HQ documenting the activities of anti-Nazi groups and individuals.

Just east of Kulturforum is Potsdamer Platz, once one of Europe's busiest hubs. After an intensive building boom in the 1990s it is now a showcase of glassy corporate glamor. The Sony Center houses the Filmmuseum Berlin (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm, Thu 10am-8pm).

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Returning to the Tiergarten...
... east along Strasse des 17 Juni and north up Moltken-strasse will bring you to the political heart of the nation, the Reichstag. Entry to its new glass dome is 8am-midnight, final admission 10pm. Symbolizing a new 'brighter' Germany, the dome is the brainchild of British architect Norman Foster and of all the new architectural touches to old buildings in the city is probably the most effective.

Just NW of it is the striking white Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellery), the result of an architectural competition when in 1991 the German people voted to return the nation's capital to Berlin. Berlin architects Axel Schulte and Charlotte Frank produced the beautifully realized winning design.

Brandenburg Tor.

Mitte
Back down Moltken-strasse to Strasse des 17 Juni, then about 300m west, and you're under the fabled monument of Enlightenment-era Prussia, the Brandenburg Tor (Gate). Completed in the 1790s it celebrated the power of the Prussian army. Its most famous visitor ever was Napoleon when in 1806 having conquered Prussia he took the Tor's crowning statue back to Paris (later returned). For the 28 years from 1961 to 1989, this was one of the most significant points where East and West failed to meet, and was the center of celebrations when the Berlin Wall was finally breached.

The Brandenburg Tor, along with Pariser Platz that it dominates, forms the climax of Unter den Linden, the boulevard that stretches east on from Strasse des 17 Juli. Unter den Linden is imbued with all the pomp and circumstance of first Prussia's and then Germany's past. It is home to the massive Russian embassy, the American embassy still under construction (to be completed in spring 2008), and the fabulously famous Hotel Adlon.

It is worth making a short detour 50m or so south down Ebert-strasse - the street running left and right of the Tor - to see the Holocaust Mahnmal (Holocaust Memorial): an undulating and unforgettable sea of concrete steles.

Kurfurstendamm.

Also, although it isn't marked, the deserted site of Hitler's bunker can be seen if you take the third street left off Ebert-strasse, In den Ministergärten, down near An der Kolonnade. The bunker is under the unkempt mound nearby, on the site of the dictator's former Chancellory. Not much to look at, but worth it perhaps for the je ne sais quoi.

Unter den Linden is bisected by Friedrich-strasse, a little further along from which is the huge Staatsbibliothek national library. Next door to the library is Humboldt University, alma mater of 29 Nobel prize winners, and of such giants as Bismarck, Hegel, Fichte, Schopenhauer, Einstein, Planck, Marx and Engels.

On the other side of Unter den Linden where it meets Charlotten-strasse, across from the library, is the small but unswervingly cutting-edge Deutsches Guggenheim art gallery (daily 11 am-8 pm, Thu 11am-10 pm).

Next east, directly opposite the university, is the Deutsche Staatsoper (German State Opera), neoclassical home to the Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim, one of among a handful of orchestras in the world dedicated to no less than the three genres of opera, ballet and concerts. Next to it on Behren-strasse is Bebelplatz, scene of the infamous Nazi book burning on May 10, 1933. It is overlooked by the great buxom green-domed library, the Alte Bibliothek. East again back on the Humboldt University side of Unter den Linden is the Zeughaus, or Arsenal, now hosting the Deutsches Historisches Museum (10am-6pm). Across the road from it, the Kronprinzenpalais, the royal residence until the Prussian monarchy collapsed in the aftermath of WWI.

Retracing our steps, let's go back to Friedrich-strasse (heading south) into the Stadtmitte district. Friedrich-strasse was the legendary 'place to be' in the Roaring 20s, but, destroyed by WWII, was neglected throughout the Cold War. Reunification has revived the street, and once again a walk down it imparts the kind of frisson it must have done 80 years ago. Right by the U-Bahn Franzosische-strasse are the district's crowning architectural glories, the Galeries Layfayette shopping center and its neighbor the mini-mall Quartier 206. Equally famous is the massive subterraneanly linked Friedrichstadtpassagen complex, not to mention a host of other overpriced luxury outlets. But whether your wallet's into it or not, the atmosphere is free.

Museumsinsel (Museum Island)
Back to where we were on Unter den Linden before we veered south: cross the river and Unter den Linden becomes Karl-Liebknecht-strasse. You are now on the island where the city of Berlin began as two small villages over seven centuries ago, the UN World Heritage Site now called Museumsinsel (Museum Island). The museums are all at the northern end, past the Lustgarden:
-Altes Museum (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm, entrance charge): mainly classical treasures. Designed by the great Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
-Neues Museum (due to re-open in 2005)
-Alte Nationalgalerie (Tue-Sun 9am-5pm, entrance charge): mainly 19th century art treasures.
-Pergamon Museum (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm, entrance charge): arguably the most impressive of them all with its classical antiquities, Near-Eastern antiquities, and Islamic art. Pride of place goes to the object it is named after: the spectacular Pergamon Altar, c.180-160BC, dedicated to Zeus and Athena. Allow half a day to do the exhibits justice. Free audio guide supplied.
-Bode Museum (due to re-open in 2005)

While you're there, check out the big ugly Palast der Republik: home of East Germany's parliament till 1990, and Berlin Dom (Cathedral), Kaiser Willem II's over-the-top Protestant answer to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, looking out on Lustgarten and in which deceased of the then-ruling Hohenzollern dynasty are buried.

Nikolaiviertel.

Alexanderplatz
Further east over the Spree, Karl-Liebknecht-strasse continues on into what was once the heart of East Berlin. The shortcomings of reunification are most apparent here. A great deal of construction is going on, and vagrancy is rife. The main attraction is the 365m(1,168ft) Fernsehnturm, or TV Tower (Mar-Oct 9-1am, Nov-Feb 10am-midnight), with its revolving Tele Cafe. Tourist info cafe at base.

Strictly speaking part of Mitte, but only minutes walk SW of Fernsehnturm, is the very popular tourist area of Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter), showcasing a meticulously restored section of medieval Berlin - including a piece of its old city wall - pride of place going to the quaint and ancient Nicholaikirche (Church of St Nicholas) (dating from the early 13th century), now a museum (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm).

Between it and the TV tower is the Rotes Rathaus, the seat of the city government since reunification.

From Alexanderplatz it is only two S-Bahn stops east to Ostbahnhof station. Mühlen-strasse running alongside the river is Berlin's traditional 'clubbing mile' - from Ostbahnhof down as far as the picturesque castle-like bridge of Oberbaumbrücke. It is not what it used to be though, and you're better off doing your clubbing homework on the internet before setting off anywhere in particular. During daytime this same stretch of road is worth a stroll along with the camera for its Eastside Gallery: a 1,316m-long preserved section of the Berlin Wall, well and whackily graffitied on the once squeaky-clean eastern side.

One stop NNW from U-Bahn Alexanderplatz is U-Bahn Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz - not even 500m up Rosa-Luxemburg-strasse if you're walking. On the square stands the robustly beautiful Volksbühne theater. It is said that theater in Berlin no longer has much to offer over what, say, Hamburg, Munich or Vienna can. However, the Volksbühner, built in 1914 from workers' contributions, remains uncompromisingly in the vanguard of things modern - not only in theater, but in theory, music, literature and film as well.

Neue Synagoge.

Scheunenviertel
One stop west from S-Bahn Alexanderplatz is S-Bahn Hackescher Markt (also accessible from Museum Island by crossing the bridge on Bode-strasse). This is the center of the rejuvenated Jewish quarter of Scheunenviertel. Just north of the station are streets of kosher restaurants, food shops, Jewish cultural centers, mixed with small trendy galleries and cafes. Head NW from the station up Oranienburger-strasse to see the majestic gold-crowned Neue Synagoge built in the 1860s in the Moorish style. (Sun-Thu 10am-5.30pm, Fri 10am-1.30pm). The Centrum Judaicum that forms part of it has an exhibition recounting the multifarious life of what was the 160,000-strong Jewish community in this area.

Wedding
Keep walking west away from the Neue Synagoge up Oranienburger-strasse, and you get back to Friedrich-strasse, but now considerably north of Unter den Linden. You are now in the working class district of Wedding. Friedrich-strasse changes to Chaussee-strasse from north of where it bends slightly westwards at Oranienburg Tor intersection. Head a little further north and on the left is Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof (Cemetery) where a lot of famous Germans, including Berthold Brecht, are buried. The Brecht Haus (Tue, Wed, Fri 10am-noon; Thu 10am-noon then 5-7pm; Sat 9.30am-noon then 12.30-2pm; Sun 11am-6pm) actually overlooks it further north on the same side of the street. Walk further up Chaussee-strasse, turn left at the next big intersection into Invaliden-strasse and on your right is the Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum) (Tue-Fri 9.30am-5pm; Sat/Sun/hols 10am-6pm). Part of Humboldt University, it is one of the best of its kind in the world, full of stuffed animals, reassembled dinosaurs, and ancient fossils.

Back east along Invaliden-strasse, all the way to and left into Garten-strasse, then first right into Bernauer-strasse, and you come to the Dokumentationszentrum zur Geschichte der Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Documentation Center) (Wed-Sun 10am-5pm). Nearby is the modern minimalist Kapelle Versohnung (Chapel of Reconciliation) built on the site of the Church of Reconciliation demolished by the East German authorities in 1985 to further enhance the security of the Wall. Next to the chapel is the grim Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial): a preserved section of the Berlin Wall complete with 'death strip'. Significantly, on June 13, 1990, the official demolition of the Wall began right here on Bernauer-strasse.

Charlottenburg
Let's now return to Strasse des 17 Juni running east-west through Tiergarten to explore further west. If you keep walking west along it, out of the park itself and just past Tiergarten S-Bahn you will see Ernst Reuter Haus on your right. This is where the famous weekend flea market starts from, extending all the way up into Tiergarten. Continue on under the Charlottenburg Tor and after 500m you come to another Grosser Stern-type roundabout: the busy Ernst Reuter Platz. You are now in the fascinating NW district of Charlottenburg.
Perhaps an even more common route to Ernst Reuter Platz is from Zoo walking NW via Hardenberg-strasse - taking you past Steinplatz, the heart of the student quarter. Ernst Reuter Platz is bordered by the huge Technische Universität and the prestigious Berlin Universität der Kunst (Berlin University of the Arts) where Gunther Grass graduated from.

Strasse des 17 Juni becomes Bismarck-strasse west of the roundabout. Not even a minute's walk along it on the left hand side is the Schiller Theater (Bismarck-strasse 110, tel (030) 308 78 56 85). About another 700m west on the other side of the street, in front of U-Bahn Deutsche Oper, is the Deutsche Oper (Bismarck-strasse 35, tel (030) 341 0249). Another four stations along, at Theodor-Heuss Platz, is the famous Die Wühlmäuse cabaret at Pommernallee 2-4 (south from the west side of the square) tel (030)-30673011

The main historical sight to see in Charlottenburg is the Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace). It started out as the modest Schloss Lietzenburg in 1695 when the Prince Elector Friedrich Wilhelm III built it as a summer residence for his second wife Sophie Charlotte. In 1701 he was finally permitted by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I to crown himself as king of Prussia - thereby becoming Friedrich I - upon which decided to make of it a full royal palace and began a long process of baroque and then rococo addition and elaboration. He renamed it after his wife on her death in 1705.

Its extensive grounds contain not only the magnificent palace buildings but the Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Pre- and Early History) (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat/Sun 11am-6pm) as well as other fine collections. There is even a mausoleum in the palace park. Like Museum Island, this is a place where a whole day can go by very quickly.

You can get to Schloss Charlottenburg by:
-taking Otto-Suhr Allee from Ernst-Reuter Platz. This will take you past the distinctive art nouveau Rathaus (Town Hall) with its 88m(294ft) tower (across from U-Bahn Richard Wagner Platz).
- approaching it head on up Schloss-strasse (Palace Street) north from U-Bahn Sophie Charlotte Platz.
-walking east from S-Bahn Westend about 500m along Spandauer Damm.

Right in front of the palace are more must-sees for the art enthusiast:
-Ägyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum) (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat/Sun 11am-6pm), with its exquisite limestone bust of Nefertiti.
-Sammlung Berggrün (Berggrün Collection) (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm): modern Western art with a lot of very good Picasso.
-Brohan Museum (Tue-Sun 10am-6pm): art nouveau and art deco design from Berlin.

From nearby S-Bahn Westend one stop south brings you to S-Bahn Messe Nord/ICC (Witzleben). The area is dominated by the Funkturm radio tower (whose 125m(416ft) you can go up) presiding over the massive Messegeländer (Exhibition Center) which hosts events all year round (including rave parties), and the gargantuan Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC) which hosts shows, concerts and conferences. They are accessible from U-Bahn Kaiserdamm, and from the following S-Bahn stations: Messe Nord/ICC (Witzleben) (closest), Westkreuz (next closest), or Messe Süd.

About 2km west of ICC is the Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium), home to Hertha BSC, it is possible to visit the stadium on non-match days (2 Euros). Getting to the Olympiastadion.

Grunewald
If you're longing for a break from the bustle, Berlin's largest woodland, Grunewald, is less than 1.5km south of ICC, accessible via S-Bahn Grunewald (check the plaque on unused platform 17 commemorating the 50,000 Jews sent to their deaths from there), Nikolassee, or Wannsee stations. Superb views of distant Berlin in its wider natural context can be gotten there from the summit of the human-built mountain, Teufelsberg (Devil Mountain), topped with radar towers that eavesdropped on the East during the Cold War - and popular with young kiteflyers in summer. Nearby Teufelssee (Lake Teufel) is a haven for nudist sunbathers.

On the eastern edge of Grunewald, looking roughly SE from Teufelsberg is Gruneewaldsee (Lake Grunewald). On its SE shore is the 16th century hunting lodge of the Brandenburg Electors, Jagdschloss Grunewald (May 15-Oct 15, 10am-5pm except Mon. Closed for lunch 1-1.30pm) containing a small museum of hunting paraphernalia and some German, Dutch and Flemish paintings by the old masters.

Dahlem
From Jagdschloss Grunewald go 2km down the road leading SE to the city and you're in the Dahlem area. From U-Bahn Dahlem-dorf station go south down Fabeck-strasse. The first on the left is Lans-strasse, the entrance to the Dahlem museum complex (Tue-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat/Sun 11am - 6pm). This four-fold treasure trove is made up of:
-Ethnologisches Museum (Museum of Ethnology): one of the world's biggest and best, with over half a million exhibits from mostly pre-industrial non-European cultures in an array of different media. Includes a junior museum (Tue-Fri 1-6 pm; Sat/Sun 11am-6pm), and a blind persons' museum.
-Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures): tells the story of European culture through its vast collection of pictures from the past and how they were used.
-Museum für Indische Kunst (Museum of Indian Art): a collection covering over 3,000 years of Indian cultural history with a Central Asian and a SE Asian section as well.
-Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst (Museum of East Asian Art): its main strength is painting and calligraphy, but has objects from the Stone Age on. The focus is on Buddhist art (China, Japan, Korea). Tearoom in the Japan gallery. Multimedia resources.

Botanischer Garten.

Steglitz
Only 500m east of the Dahlem museum complex, or 250m north of S-Bahn Botanischer Garten: plants that will do it for the daytripper just by looking. Botanischer Garten (Botanical Garden) (daily from 9am. Closing hours change by the season: 4pm Nov/Dec/Jan; 5pm Feb; 6pm in Mar &Oct; 7pm Sep; 8pm Apr & Aug; 9pm May/Jun/July. Free entry.) Towering tropical greenhouses (same hours as above, except weekends from 10am), a sprawling 'plant geography trail' taking you around the globe better than virtually, classical Italian garden, botanical museum (daily 10am-6pm, free entry), and more.

Kreuzberg
Back east ... and when going through Mitte we ventured down Freidrich-strasse off Unter den Linden as far south as its majestic shopping centers before returning to move on towards Museum Island. Let's now keep going south down Freidrich-strasse to U-Bahn Koch-strasse/Checkpoint Charlie. (Also accessible from Zoo on U-Bahn line 1 bound for Schlesisches Tor.) This is the northern 'border' of the densely populated and culturally diverse Kreuzberg - 'border' not being an entirely inapt word (a) considering the area's long reputation as a free (and concomitantly risky) realm of its own (b) Checkpoint Charlie having been the official gateway between West and East Berlin, where American and Soviet tanks faced each other off in the tense months of the 1948-49 Berlin blockade.

The Checkpoint is commemorated at Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (daily 9am-10pm) at Friedrich-strasse 44, where are chronicled the methods used to prevent people escaping East Berlin. While a little cramped and often not clearly presented in historical context, it is worth seeing what lengths East Germans went to to try making the break.

From there walk west along either Zimmer-strasse or Koch-strasse to the Martin-Gropius-Bau, (daily 10am-8pm except Tue) a museum of art, photography and architecture. Right next to it is the Topographie des Terrors (Oct-Apr 10am-6pm or until dark; May-Sep 10am-8pm, free entry) - the former HQ of the Gestapo, in the basement of which was an infamous prison.

The former Nazi Aviation Ministry across Niederkirchner-strasse is now the Ministry of Finance. The street these buildings face, Wilhelm-strasse, lies in the middle of the quarter that housed the Nazi ministries and agencies.

For a tackier horror experience than the Topographie... on the southern edge of the block that Topographie des Terrors is on is Anhalter-strasse. Following it cross Askanischer Platz into what becomes Schoneberger-strasse, no.23a on the left hand side is the Gruselkabinett (Sun, Mon, Tue, Thu 10am-7pm; Fri 10am-8pm; Sat noon-8pm) - a traditional horror house with some war gruesomeness thrown in for good measure.

If Brandenburg Tor used to be the western gate to the City, Hallesches Tor in Mehringplatz, right at the end of Friedrich-strasse, was a southern gate in its old defensive wall.

Just east of Mehringplatz on Linden-strasse is one of the area's most spectacular sights, the metal-clad unevenly-shaped Jüdischer Museum (Mon 10am-10pm, Tue-Sun 10am-8pm, entrance charge) built in the form of 'a distressed Star of David', right next to the baroque former Berlin Museum (which now serves as the Jüdischer Museum's entrance).

For a hands-on experience, the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin (German Technology Museum of Berlin) (Tue-Fri 9am-5.30pm; Sat/Sun 10am-6pm) near U-Bahn Mockernbrücke is highly recommended. Its huge premises contain almost everything technical and scientific, old and new, on display for both adults and children to freely interact with.

Sidewalk cafe, Berlin.

To find out where Kreuzberg gets its name from, follow Wilhelm-strasse south across the river. It changes to Mehringdamm. Almost 1km down (near U-Bahn Platz der Luftbrücke) is Viktoriapark, known locally as 'the Kreuzberg'. Located diagonally across from Tempelhof Airport, it is an island of beauty, complete with waterfall, featuring a hill with a cross-topped column on top (thus Kreuzberg, or 'Cross Mountain') designed by the great Wilhelm Friedrich Schinkel. It is worth a visit just for the fun and the diversity of people there. From April to September it has the Golgatha beer garden and 'discothek' from 10pm-6am every summer night.

East across Mehringdamm is Fidicin-strasse. In a rear courtyard at number 40 is 'Friends of the Italian Opera' The English Theater: which hosts nothing but English language theater (not Italian opera!) and is held in high critical esteem. Box office: (030) 691 12 11. U-Bahn Platz der Luftbrucke.

Two subway stops east of Hallesches Tor at U-Bahn Kottbusser Tor is the 'hardcore' of Kreuzberg known as SO36. The Turkish atmosphere is very tangible, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays which are bazaar day on Maybachufer on the south bank of the Landwehr Kanal. However, the essence of the area is hybrid: punk bars, kebab stalls, trendy cafes, all easy with or oblivious to each other.

Schöneberg
Next west from Kreuzberg is Schöneberg, our final stop. Until the Wall came down, Schöneberg was most famous as the center of the city's political life, and now, as then, for its gay and lesbian community. It was therefore fitting that the Schöneberg registry office conducted Germany's first gay marriage in 2001 and that - although the city office has moved to Mitte - at the time of writing, Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit, is gay.

Schöneberg's moment of international glory came on June 26, 1963 when JFK made his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech at the Rathaus Schöneberg (U-Bahn Rathaus Schöneberg) which served during the years of division as the city hall. The square in front of the building was subsequently renamed in the US President's honor. (Berlin's city hall is now the Rotes Rathaus, just 250m SSW of the Alexanderplatz TV tower.)

Gay and lesbian visitors wanting to explore the area should start at the Mann-o-Meter for information. (Mon-Thu 5-10pm, Fri 5pm-midnight, Sat/Sun 4-10pm) tel (030) 216 80 08: Bülow-strasse 106 at the corner of Else-Lasker-Schüler-Strasse. (U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz). From Viktoriapark it is only15-20 minutes walk NW. Among other things there, you can pick up the free Siegessäule gay/lesbian info magazine.

One of the best areas in Schöneberg after dark for clubbing and drinking is Nollendorfplatz, accessible via the U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz. The area extends through Maassen-strasse down to Winterfeldt Platz and even further south. Check out the huge Connection/Prinzknecht entertainment complex at Fuggestrasse 33.

Berlin Tourist Offices

Berlin Tourist Information
•Europa-Center, Budapester-strasse 45, Berlin 10787. (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm)
Their telephone information service +49-(0)30-25-00-25 runs for longer hours: Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat/Sun 9am-6pm
E-mail: information[at]btm.de    Website: http://www.berlin-tourist-information.de

•Brandenburger Tor (south wing) Pariser Platz, Mitte, Berlin 10117. (Daily 10am–6pm)

•Tourist Information Cafe, located at foot of Fernsehturm (TV tower) in Alexanderplatz. (May 1-Sep30, Mon-Sat 9am–8pm, Sun 10am-6pm; Oct 1-Apr 30, daily 10am-6pm)

•Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe Department Store), Tauentzienstrase 21-24, ground floor/travel centre (Mon-Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 9.30am-8pm)

•Schonefeld Airport Travelshop, Terminal A, 1st floor on the right (Daily 9am-7.30pm)

•Tempelhof Airport Information, Main hall (Daily 6am-10pm)

Getting to Berlin

Air

67 airlines service Berlin connecting it to 167 airports in 53 countries. The city's two airports are Tegel (TXL), in the north-east 8km from the city center and Schönefeld (SXF) in the south-east 18km from the city center. Tegel, by far the busiest, serves western Europe, Schönefeld caters more for no-frills flights, eastern Europe and Asia. For cheap flights from London to Berlin use a flight deal or comparison site. No frills and chartered flights are regular and affordable into Berlin so shop around for the best deals.

Eventually Berlin Brandenburg Airport situated next to Berlin Schonefeld Airport will become Berlin's major airport.

Airport information (for all Berlin airports): tel. 0180 50 00 186

Tegel
Click here for Tegel flight schedule.
X9 Espress Bus (every 10-min) and bus no.109 go to Zoologischer Garten. Bus 128 goes to Kurt Schumacher Platz or bus 109 to Jakob Kaiser Platz where you change to the subway. Bus ticket valid for subway. About 25 min to city center by taxi - longer at rush hour. Click here to see where they leave from.

Schönefeld
Click here for Schönefeld flight schedule.
Free shuttle bus every 10-15 mins takes you 500m from the terminal to the S-Bahn Flughafen Schoenefeld station (10 min. on foot)
At the main entrance, the Airport Express Bus leaves for the city center every 15 mins. Bus 171 (every 20 mins) connects the airport to the nearest subway, U-Bahn Rudow. About 40 min to city center by taxi (around 30 Euros). Click here to see where they leave from.

Tempelhof
Ceased operating in 2008.

Train

There are two main stations: Ostbahnhof (East Station) and Zoologischer Garten in the west. Be aware that some trains stop at both stations and that this can cause confusion regarding departure times. Check departure station carefully.

A new central station is being built at Lehrter Bahnhof, north across the river from the Bundeskanzleramt and Reichstag.

Bus/Road

Connections to all parts of Germany via the Autobahn. There are presently 2 buses a day from Victoria Station in London to Berlin.

Bus, Berlin (c) Soccerphile.

Getting Around

Berlin is well served by public transport. The U-Bahn (subway) and S-Bahn (suburban rail) runs from 4am to after midnight. On Friday and Saturday nights both U/S-Bahns run throughout the night and on other nights there is a night bus service. Buses are another option and the double-decker number 100 and 200 buses pass many of Berlin's most famous sights. Bus stops are marked with a large 'H' (Haltestelle). There are a variety of day, group and weekly passes available which are valid for the bus and U/S-Bahn networks.

Car Hire

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Accommodation

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Eating

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Drinking

Oranienburger Strasse has lots of bars as does the more up-market and touristy Kurfurstendamm. East of the center, Nikolaivertel near the banks of the River Spree is another more expensive entertainment area.

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Internet Cafes

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Local football teams

Hertha BSC.

Hertha BSC of the Bundesliga and Tennis Borussia Berlin in the Zweite Bundesliga are Berlin's top clubs at present, though the city plays host to a number of other teams. Hertha BSC were German champions in 1930 and 1931. Hertha play at the 76,000 capacity Olympiastadion which is being completely renewed for the World Cup.

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