Berlin is definitely an agenda topper for most tourists who are exploring the cities of Europe. Everybody wants to go there or has already been there. It is a cliche city. But sometimes, cliches are there for a reason. Once in Berlin, you will realize that it’s attraction to the masses comes from the incredible history that took place and is taking place in that city. Not a history buff? Then the spirit, life, and energy of Berlin will quickly sweep you off your feet. Here my favorite things to do in Berlin. A few on the beaten path and a few off. Whichever you choose, you can’t help but be engrossed in all this city has to offer and will likely find yourself returning often rediscovering something new every time.
This was by far one of my favorite parts of Berlin and definitely a must-see. It is pieces of the original Berlin wall painted with hundreds of unique murals sending different messages about unity, overcoming obstacles, hope and of course, freedom. Standing in front of it, you can feel the history of the East German people and understand a piece of what Berlin has been through in the last century. If you can only do one thing in Berlin, this is it.
KaDeWe, which stands for Kaufhaus Des Westens (Shopping Mall of the West), is the second largest department store in Europe with only Harrods in London as its rival. However, the most interesting part of the store is actually its history. It first opened in 1907 and purchased in 1927 by a Jewish-owned company. Shortly after the Nazis came in to power, they shut down the KaDeWe and destroyed most of it.
After World War II, the iconic symbol reopened and became a symbol of prosperity in West Germany over the East. So, although it has been around for much longer, it is considered an important part of German history during its separation into East and West. And of course, there’s no better place to shop this side of the Atlantic!
Berlin has become famous for its bratwurst drowned in curry sauce with a compliment of delicious french fries. On almost every corner, its easy to pick one up, as you are walking through the city center enjoying the sights. You will most certainly be back for more.
Very close to the longest section of the Berlin wall left standing in its original place is the most well known cross-over point from the East to the West during the reign of the German Democratic Republic. Although now it is a simple tourist attraction to most, for the German people it was a powerful symbol that reminded them of the separation of the West and the East. At Checkpoint Charlie, you can see a replica of the sign telling you that you are leaving the American sector. You can also see smaller piece of the Berlin wall painted with murals and see an exhibition about the history of Berlin. Seeing Checkpoint Charlie helps you understand how the Germans must have felt being restricted from their country and countrymen and the effect that separation continues to have on Germany.
Becoming popular in more German cities that just Berlin, dinner in the dark is a unique experience that will change the way you “see” your next meal. Guided by blind or visually impaired waitstaff, patrons enjoy a meal in complete darkness. The idea is that without sight, other sense are heightened, of particular importance, those of taste and smell. So, your dining experience should be extra tasty, as you pay more attention to every delicious spice and every delicious scent. Although it was a little uncomfortable at first, it was definitely an experience we will never forget. For more information, check out http://www.unsicht-bar.de/.
Also known as “Pfandkuchen”, the Berliner is a Jelly Donut known throughout Germany and you may remember it from U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s language flub. In a speech which was showing the U.S. support for West Germany, he said “Ich bin ein Berliner.” To be correct, he should have said, “Ich bin Berliner.” The point of the speech was clearly communicated but Germans still had a few giggles at hearing the U.S. President say that he was a jelly donut. Try one out. They taste particularly good in Berlin, but it would be safer to call them Pfandkuchen, as Berliners aren’t too fond of having a donut named after them.
Brandenburg Gate will be easily recognized by most, as it has become a well-known symbol of Germany. Originally the gate to the city, it was recently restored after it received much damage during the war. Near the gate, you can also see many embassies from different countries, including the United States. To read about the history of the gate in more detail check out this site.
Recently restored as the current meeting place of the German parliament, the Reichstag has withstood the test of time and history. Although the word Reichstag often associated with Nazi Germany, it originated in the Holy Roman Empire and is simply a word for parliament. In our most recent history, the only time Reichstag has been used is in association to Nazi Germany, because after World War II, the word is no longer used as a name for parliament. although sometime in reference to the building. You can even take a tour of the building and go up in the famous dome, but make sure you book in advance!
Alexanderplatz is a hot spot of the Berlin city center, mostly due to the fame of the TV tower, which is the second largest in Europe. It also boasts a wide variety of shops and cafes around the tower and if you are there at the right time, has one of my favorite Christmas markets.
One of the most beautiful parts of Berlin, Museuminsel boasts 5 world-renowned museums, including the Pergamon Museum. Although reachable by land, Museuminsel does have water on three sides with beautiful views. So, if museums is your thing, then there is no better place to check out than Museum Island in Berlin.