Berlin, once a small Barbarian fishing village, is today one of the world’s biggest metropolises. The city oversaw the rise and fall of Hitler, and suffered almost complete destruction in 1945, before being carved in two by the Berlin Wall as the front-line of the Iron Curtain. Since German re-unification and the fall of the wall in 1989, Berlin is getting to its feet as an international capital, cosmopolitan and affluent. Today, the city is home to 3.5 million Berliners, and is better off and more peaceful than ever before. Newly spruced-up to host the World Cup 2006, visitors flock to Berlin to witness the city today, and enjoys its art, culture and nightlife, as well as to remember its history


Central Berlin’s famous ‘Museum Island’ is in the process of being redesigned. Comprising the Pergamon Museum, Neues Museum, Bodemuseum and the Old National Gallery, the ‘island’ is enough to keep any visitor busy for several years with its enormous collections of art and antiquities. However, you won’t have time for that, as galleries and museums, large and small, private and national, abound on every street. Modern art is a particularly vibrant scene, as Germany’s impressive national collections can be viewed alongside the work of the many young artists from all over the world who choose to live and exhibit in Berlin.

The distinctive glass dome in the middle of the famous [ Reichstag] building attracts long queues, as does Frederick the Great’s collection of Egyptian artefacts, which are housed on the edge of East Berlin, directly opposite the Communist regime’s ‘People’s Palace’. Sadly, this former concert hall has fewer fans than Frederick’s museum, and the dismantling of the ‘palace’, an enormous, rectangular block covered in bronze-tinted mirrored glass, began in 2006 – although the city do not yet know what they are going to build to replace it.

It is a true cliché that in Berlin, history is all around you, from the bullet scars in the walls of many buildings to the thousands of small brass plaques set into the pavements across Berlin to commemorate the lives of Berlin’s Jews. The plaques are inscribed with the names, dates of birth and death and concentration camp of the inhabitants of the houses they are placed in front of. They work as a subtle partner to the official Holocaust Memorial which is situated near the famous [ Brandenberg Gate.]

On a lighter note, the newly-opened [ currywurst museum] is either a post-modern celebration of this iconic German foodstuff, or a bad joke, depending on your viewpoint…

One of Berlin’s main attractions for visitors and citizens alike is its nightlife, with a vibrant gay scene; parties and generally lively atmosphere following the fall of the wall. This atmosphere is celebrated annually in the form of the world-famous Love Parade festival that takes to the streets of Berlin every summer for three days – check out [] for news about the next one.


Berlin’s flea markets and second-hand stores attract buyers from all over the world, with huge warehouse-stores like Colours and Garage selling vintage clothes by the kilo.

More exclusive, but equally hip, are Berlin’s ‘guerrilla stores’. Young international designers like Comme des Garçons open up short-term shops which occupy empty buildings for a period of months before closing down. This ‘guerrilla shopping’ encapsulates the limited-edition, always on-the-move, scene-conscious Berlin aesthetic, with German designers continually innovating and selling their goods in markets, warehouses and sometimes art galleries. The Mitte and East Berlin tend to be the favoured haunting-grounds for arts and designer boutique shopping. For serious art shoppers, museums and private galleries sell artwork.

Germany has also produced many mainstream designers and labels - Karl Lagerfield, Jil Sander and Joop! are all natives. The famous [ KaDeWe] is the largest department store on the European continent.

Eating and drinking

German cuisine is not traditionally celebrated, but, like much else in Berlin, eating out has become internationalised, design-conscious and stylish.

Schnitzel and wurst are available from street stalls and from traditional German restaurants that are usually furnished with dark wood and, sometimes, a vaguely comical soundtrack of old-fashioned German drinking songs. German cuisine is often meaty, but there should be no problem finding something a vegetarian option in most establishments, and cafes selling the traditional afternoon coffee and cake offer an escape from all that wurst…

In the Mitte and particularly around Hackischemarkt there are a number of small, classier restaurants that sit alongside their fast-food neighbours, offering French, Japanese, Turkish, Italian and other modern international foods.

Germans tip substantially – it is to be expected that as much as 20% will be added to your bill as a service charge.


Traditionally, German pubs and beer gardens are located on street corners, dishing out large horns of beer. This is all a long way from the upmarket cocktail bars in West Berlin that serve an increasingly affluent crowd of young professionals. Berlin’s nightlife is legendary, and caters for all tastes.

Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg, areas which started out as scruffy and edgy, are being colonised by permanent populations of chain-bars and restaurants, but still retain a trendy feel. The art crowd and accompanying underground scene are capricious, moving from abandoned warehouses in East Berlin to the stylish bars in the West. As with ‘guerrilla shops’, so too ‘guerrilla clubs’ open up and close down almost overnight, and the fashionable Berliners are always on the move.

The English-language paper Ex-Berliner has some listings. Sign up to club mailing lists for further information about parties and/or changeable opening hours. These mailing lists are accessed through individual club websites. You may find some of the better hidden night-time attractions online at []. The Berlin branch of the [ ‘nightlife network’]can be useful too. Despite these resources, out-of-towners who have no local contacts can still find it takes a lot of research (not to mention lengthy taxi journeys) to locate some of the events. Furthermore, at the shadier end of the spectrum, some club nights are not for the faint-hearted.

Airport Information

Berlin Schoenefeld airport is on the South-Eastern tip of Berlin’s metro map, 20km from the city centre. This large airport charters a great number of international flights and serves, amongst others, discount airlines flying regularly to and from the UK.

Berlin Tegel airport is more central, located just 8km northwest of the city centre, with good U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (overground) rail connections. The airport serves fewer airlines than Schoenefeld but also flies internationally.

The official (German-language) website for the two airports is [].

Tourist Information

Berlin’s tourist information centre can be found at:Europa Centre,Budapester Strasse, Charlottenburg
  • Telephone from within Germany: 250 025
  • from outside Germany: 01805 754 040
  • Email:
  • Official Berlin Tourist Information website: []
  • Official Berlin website: []

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