Berlin - Vibrant Metropolis in the Heart of Europe
The German capital is exciting, breathtakingly beautiful and always up to date on fashions. The metropolis is characterised by historical buildings, modern architecture, a vibrant nightlife and numerous shopping facilities as well as by the government district with the Bundestag.
Geography - Capital and state at the same time
The city of Berlin, which has 3.5 million inhabitants, is not only the capital of Germany but also a state. With its area of 891.7 km², it lies in the state of Brandenburg and is the largest German municipality. Together the two states constitute the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. Berlin is a metropolis with regard to culture, politics, science and the media. Its sport events, festivals, nightlife and architecture are world-famous. Berlin is divided into 12 boroughs and 96 localities. The boroughs are called Mitte, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Pankow, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Spandau, Neukölln, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Treptow-Köpenick, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Reinickendorf and Lichtenberg. Berlin is now the seat of the government, the German president, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Berlin lies in the temperate climate zone, in the transition zone between the maritime climate in the north and the continental climate.
Nature - Numerous waters, parks and gardens
Berlin is rich in waters. It is crossed by the Spree and there are many more rivers, streams and canals, which make it possible to travel the whole city on the water. There is also a number of lakes around Berlin. Significant examples are the Wannsee, Lake Grunewald, Lake Tegel, the Große Malchsee, the Jungfernheideteich, the Dianasee and the Stölpchensee. Furthermore, there are several city parks, forests and gardens such as the Grunewald (forest), the Tegeler Forst (forest) Monbijou Park, the Volkspark am Weingarten (park), the Lustgarten ("pleasure garden") and the Tiergarten ("animal garden"). You see several hills and peaks around Berlin, the highest of which is the Teufelsberg ("devil's mountain") with a height of 120 metres.
Culture - Multicultural sights and historical monuments
The city of Berlin was first mentioned in a document around 1237. Since then, it has had an exciting history, during which it had different forms of government. It was, for example the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. From 1949 to the German reunification in 1990, East Berlin was the capital of the GDR (German Democratic Republic). Since 1990, Berlin has been the capital of the whole of Germany. Culture plays a major role in Berlin because its population is multicultural. The proportion of foreigners with a permanent residence is about 15 percent, while the proportion of inhabitants with immigrant backgrounds is another 28 percent. Due to this and the city's eventful history, Berlin is now full of cultural sights. Internationally known monuments are Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the remains of the Berlin Wall, the Rotes Rathaus ("Red City Hall"), the Victory Column, Charlottenburg Palace, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, Berlin Cathedral as well as the Neue Kirche and the French Cathedral at the Gendarmenmarkt. You also find a number of mosques and synagogues in Berlin such as Sehitlik Mosque, Khadija Mosque, the Rykestrasse Synagogue and the Nee Synagogue. In addition, there are countless museums, galleries and theatres, which make a return to Berlin worth one's while. Museum districts are Museum Island in Mitte, the Kulturforum in Tiergarten and the museums in Charlottenburg. Some of the most fascinating and interesting museums are the Neues Museum ("New Museum"), the DDR Museum, the Currywurst Museum, the Altes Museum ("Old Museum"), the Haus der Kulturen der Welt ("House of the Cultures of the World") as well as the Neue and Alte Nationalgalerie ("Old and New National Gallery"). Families enjoy a visit to the Zoological Garden with the magnificent Elephant Gate, the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life with the AquaDom. Popular meeting points in the city centre are Potsdamer Platz ("Potsdam Square") and Alexanderplatz ("Alexander Square").
Experience - Shopping and partying around the clock
Berlin is an exciting city. By day, it is vibrant with life and by night, it is filled with the beats from the city's fashionable and exciting nightlife. The wide range of bars, clubs and discos caters for all tastes. Travellers who want more than that can end their day by visiting a theatre, a musical, an opera or another cultural institution. In addition, there is a lively LGBT scene with numerous clubs, bars, restaurants, museums and saunas, which make the city an extraordinary destination. The many shopping facilities are equally popular. From second-hand shops to exclusive boutiques - Berlin offers everything. Popular shopping miles are the Kurfürstendamm (short "Ku'damm"), Friedrichstraße, the Hackescher Markt, Schloßstraße and Karl-Marx-Straße. Of course, Berlin is also of interest to connoisseurs. It has a variety of gourmet and international restaurants. Original specialities from Berlin are the currywurst (fried pork sausage seasoned with curry ketchup), the Pfannkuchen or Berliner (a fried pastry filled with jam), the Kasseler (salted pork) and the Eisbein (pickled ham hock). Well-known drinks are the beers Berliner Pilsner and Berliner Weisse. Travellers who enjoy gambling can stop at the casinos at Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz or the Hasenheide. Berlin is known for its many festivals. Examples are the Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival), the greatest publicly attended film festival on earth, the Berliner Theatertreffen (a theatre festival), the JazzFest (Berlin Jazz Festival), the Berlin International Literature Festival and the Berlin Biennale (an art exhibition). The largest parades are the Karneval der Kulturen ("fair of the cultures") and Christopher Street Day.
Activities - Various ways and opportunities of exploring the city
Travellers of Berlin should definitely make a sightseeing tour on one of the red double-decker buses to get an overview of the city and gather both information and tips. If you want to get to know the city in a more active way, you can take part in a guided sightseeing walk or explore Berlin by bike. An equally interesting way is a trip with one of the many river crafts. Sports fans definitely get their money's worth in Berlin. There are many opportunities of being active or attending sport events in the capital. Popular activities are cycling, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and bathing at the lakes, golfing, playing boules and bowling as well as going for a walk in one of the many city parks. Berlin's surroundings also offer great conditions for going hiking.
Berlin is worth a visit at any time of the year and every season has its own appeals. Arriving in the capital could hardly be any easier. Whether you take the bus, train, plane or car, the traffic and flight connections are excellent. There are two airports (a third one is under construction), at which hundreds of national and international flights depart and arrive every day. Holidaymakers who arrive by car should note that traffic jams occur quite frequently in the big cities and that the parking situation can be rather difficult. Therefore, the best means of transport for travelling within the city are the trams, undergrounds and buses. When buying a ticket for public transport, there are three zones (A, B, C). Unless you want to travel into Berlin's surrounding areas, you just need an AB ticket.
Berlin is a city which fascinates, amazes and may give you sleepless nights. Lovers of nature enjoy the parks, gardens and lakes. Party-goers, connoisseurs and shopping fans face the challenge of having to decide between a number of options. Culture enthusiasts will see what it means to visit a multicultural city and discover impressive sights, museums and architecture.