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For some reason or another, Berlin seems to get glossed over as the majority of travellers are planning their grand European excursions. The reason for which can’t have anything to do with them not knowing what to do in Berlin, because the German capital is a wealth of fascinating sights, historical treasures and cultural delights. Of course for many first-time Europe travellers the top spots on the itinerary are London, Paris, Rome, etc, each of which is fabulous in its own right. But it seems a real shame that Berlin doesn’t rank as highly on the bucket list.
When it comes to Germany, most of the things that one associates with German culture really only represent a small facet of the nations traditions. Most don’t realize this, however, assuming things like Lederhosen, Oktoberfest and Wiener Schnitzel are the norm no matter where one goes in Germany. Berlin is a shining example of what it means for a city to hold fast to its cultural roots while branching out broadly into multiculturalism and internationality. Berlin is a city where one can experience things that are starkly German and others that are totally not. The diversity contained within just one city is honestly enough to blow one’s mind, especially when they realize how long they’ve allowed such an incredible place to fly beneath their radar. What to do in Berlin? If you find yourself asking this question, you’re hot on the trail to one of the most underrated and under-explored cities in Europe.
What to do in Berlin
In stark contrast to the beauty and charm of neighboring Prague or even Vienna, Berlin is grungy, alternative and compared to every other major city in Germany, poor. Ten years ago the city’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit used the words “poor, but sexy” to describe the grey city on the Spree, a seemingly accurate depiction of Berlin’s cheap rents and large population of creative people converging from all corners of Europe and even the globe. What led the capital city of a major European power to this place of quasi destitution? The answer to that question can be explained by Berlin’s troubled past.
As you explore the history of Berlin, it quickly becomes apparent just how much the present-day city owes its condition to the events of the past eighty years. At the end of the second world war, Berlin found itself entirely destroyed. If that weren’t enough, the victorious allied powers proceeded to divvy up the city into sectors over which they could each exercise control until Berlin’s ultimate fate could be decided. We of course know that the tension between the various occupiers would eventually culminate in the erection of a massive wall intended to solidify the dividing line between east and west. It would take another twenty-five years to reconcile this deep wound cut through Berlin.
In the aftermath of the disbanding Soviet Union and the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall, Berlin was faced with the identity crisis of becoming a unified city. Even today, twenty-five years since the reunification, the traces of that divide are still eerily present – a haunting reminder of the city’s past that you’re sure to experience as you explore all the best things to do in Berlin.
Things to do in Berlin
From the incredible cuisine to the wild nightlife, there is no shortage of exciting things to do in Berlin. It’s important to find a balance between the historical and the modern and thankfully Berlin’s choice offerings are well-established on both fronts. We’ll cover where to eat in future articles, so for now we’ll get specific about the best tourist attractions in Berlin.
Berlin Tourist Attractions
Seeking out the best things to do in Berlin will inevitably lead you to the same conclusion as the rest of the city’s visitors – flocking with the masses to the wonderful Berlin tourist attractions. It’s ok though, don’t let the stigma of being lumped in with the tourists turn you away. You left your place of origin and are exploring a city that’s not yours. At some level, you are a tourist. Own it. But just because we’re tourists doesn’t mean we have to be unaware and fall into the dreaded tourist traps. As long as you steer clear of any sightseeing tours by bus, you should be ok. Here are a few of our favourite Berlin tourist attractions.
Berlin Tourist Attractions
Regarding German landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate is one of the most iconic and recognizable. There are some great photo ops to be had here.
Because you can see the massive ball from almost anywhere in Berlin, the Fernsehturm provides a great opportunity for you to see all of Berlin in panorama.
The German parliament calls this building home. Register in advance to visit the beautiful glass cupola on the roof.
While most of the Berlin Wall was torn down, there are a few remaining stretches that are worth seeing.
One of the major passing points between East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie is a reminder of the struggle between the cities previous halves.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This outdoor memorial is very interactive. Visitors are able to walk through the labyrinthine grid of concrete blocks and there’s also an indoor exhibit down below.
A beautiful structure reminiscent of Prussian Berlin, the Berliner Dom gives visitors the chance to see a much older Berlin.
Teeming with Soviet propaganda, the memorial in Treptower Park commemorates the fallen of the Red Army during the Battle of Berlin.
East Side Gallery
Now the largest open-air art gallery in the world, the East Side Gallery is a collection of visual artworks on a remaining length of the Berlin Wall.
This decommissioned airfield now serves as a massive public park. Loads of Berlin locals utilize the space for recreation and relaxing when the weather is nice.
Favorite things to do in Berlin
This list will definitely get you started with great things to do in Berlin. And hopefully you’ll even discover some fascinating things on your own.
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