If you are looking for a European destination that is rich in history, splashed with eclectic architecture and vibrating with a dynamic nightlife, head for Berlin.
And if that’s not enough inducement, the German capital is affordable and welcoming.
Walking the streets of Berlin, the capital of past and present Germany, it is impossible to escape history. The city dates from the 13th century and has experienced centuries of Prussian and German political achievements and turmoil and was essentially destroyed during World War II. It also played a huge role in the Cold War with its infamous Berlin Wall.
Despite being occupied and divided in the aftermath of World War II, contemporary Berlin has recovered smartly in the last generation.
Its architectural mixture of new and old reflects both its history and the city’s deliberate and ongoing choice to recover fully from its destruction. Its Holocaust Memorial, Jewish Museum and historical markers are evidence that the city is trying to both remember and denounce its Nazi past.
Although the city gleams with new skyscrapers and striking modern architecture, visitors can find many restored and/or preserved buildings such as the Reichstag and city gates. With its many trendy clubs and restaurants, Berlin has attracted throngs of young people and has again become a significant business center.
With smart shopping streets, a vibrant street café scene and great museums, Berlin is definitely worthy of a visit, especially since its hotel rates are among the lowest in Europe.
2019 is a good time to visit since it marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and, as usual, boasts a busy cultural calendar which will reflect a now thoroughly united metropolitan area and the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement, so influential in modern architecture and banned by the Nazis.
Before You Go, Check Out:
Getting There and Getting Around:
Berlin can be reached by highway, air or train.
By air, Berlin’s main airport is Tegel (TXL), 5 miles from the Berlin Central Train Station. Schoenefeld (SFX) is another airport served mainly by budget airlines. It is linked by train to Central Train Station, 15.5 miles away.
By car, Berlin is served by Autobahns 9 to Munich, 24 to Hanburg and 13 to Dresden.
By train, Berlin has a central train station and several outlying stations and is part of the DB and Eurail system.
The nearest cruise port is Warnemunde, 165 miles north.
Must-Sees for a Short Trip:
Among attractions that you should take in are:
- Getting a Berlin Welcome Card and taking advantage of included public transportation and museum admissions.
- Explore the walkable Mitte District which includes Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) with its rotating restaurant and the Reichstag (parliament) building. Also noteworthy in Mitte are the Cathedral Church, Tiergarten park, Alexanderplatz, Museum Island and Potsdamer Platz.
If You Have Several Days:
- Kurfürstendamm, one of Berlin’s most important shopping and dining districts
- Memorial Church. The partially restored church is both a unifying symbol and a reminder of wartime destruction.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, moving series of 2,711 coffin-like concrete shapes
- Visiting the Jewish Museum
- Exploring the museums at Museum Island in depth.
- Visiting the Zoological Garden
- Taking a boat tour on the River Spree
- Checking out decommissioned Tempelhof Field of Berlin Airlift fame
Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way for Berlin:
Berlin is trendy and fashionable so dress up a little when out for a nice dinner. Upscale casual is OK for daytime.
This Destination at a Glance:
Over 50 Advantage: Great museums and lots of good local tours
Low to moderate. Among the best in Europe with many broad sidewalks and accessible public transportation and museums
When to Go:
May through September has the best weather. Winters are cold and gray.
Where to Stay:
Berlin boasts about 800 hotels and guesthouses at all price ranges. We found the Mercure Berlin Mitte a comfortable and convenient choice to explore the city’s Mitte section.
Special Travel Interests:
German and Cold War history
Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Fla.