I am heading to Berlin this winter, have never been there before. Would love to hear about your favorite, memorable experience there.
We were in Berlin April 2010 for 5 days and LOVED it! We stayed at the Circus Hotel, near Rosenthaler Platz. It's #1 on Trip Advisor in Berlin. Great place. We took a walking tour when we arrived at the hotel, and it gave us a good overview of Berlin. Also took a walking tour of Potsdam which was excellent. Our most memorable experience was going to a Berlin/Munich soccer game at the 1936 Olympic stadium with 76,000 fans. Too bad it's not an option in the winter. Got tickets for the Berlin Philharmonic. Followed Rick's book a lot for sights and restaurants. The metro was easy to use. Have a wonderful trip. Judy
It's hard to pin down a specific memory...it all just blended together to become my favorite city in Europe. I would say a couple would be: Walking along Bernauer Strasse where the wall was and imagining the fear and determination of the residents there 50 years ago. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Prenzlauer Berg, drinking a cold pilsner and watching the neighborhood scene. The sheer amount of information at the German History Museum on Unter den Linden. Seriously. Spend a whole day there. You won't be disappointed. The Berlin Youth Symphony concert in Gendarmenmarkt. A delicious dinner at Hasir, in Hackescher Markt.
Have a great time. Berlin is like London, cool, hip, forward-thinking, but without the traffic & at a lower cost. You'll enjoy it!
Stayed at Pension Peters in August this year. Got it and lots of other ideas out of RS Germany Guide Book. We took a "city walk - mostly old East Berlin" which we found in his guide book. Listed as lasting 4 hours and lasted almost 6. Paid up front to grad student from England there studying Germany history. Excellent. Some folks tipped afterwards.
Stayed in Berlin for 5 days (our first time there) and could have stayed another 5 days as it is a big city with so much to see.
My favorite memory is tough to pin down. I just really, really, really like the whole city. My last visit, went up in the Berliner Dom and had the place basically to myself. Great views. Spent about 6 hours in the Historic Museum. They were having a light fest of sorts, so really enjoyed walking around at night, watching the boats on the Spree, seeing the various buildings lit up. There is some fantastic, very creative modern architecture in Berlin. I wish I would have gone to Berlin when the wall was still there, but never made it. When it came down, it was amazing watching all the joy on the faces of the people who could finally be free. Everyone partying on top of the wall. It was built on my birthday, so extra meaningful watching it come down. My Army Reserve Unit went to the Fulda Gap back in 1986, and viewed the wall there as well as the grave memorials to those who died trying to escape to freedom. Lot of tears that day. My recommendation would be to do at least 1 walking tour and do it on your 1st day. You will get a great orientation to the city. Look on Trip Advisor to read the reviews of the best ones. They only cost 10-15 euro p.p. for a 4 hour tour, so truly money well spent. If you like them, go on some more. Ten times better than riding a tour bus or the vaunted bus #11, which unless you garner the very front seats, is kind of a waste of time. Go on some other tours too, Underground Berlin, Alternative Berlin, 3rd Reich or Cold War. Take a tour out to Sachsenhausen or to Potsdam. Go on a tour that explores the bunkers, or the Stasi prison, or that walks the wall. Wear good, cold weather clothing, be prepared for rain or snow and have fun!
Keep this thread alive for another 10 days and I'll chime back in, because I'm heading there for the first time next week. Of course, I wasn't there at the time, but I can never forget that day in November of 1989, watching on live TV as the Wall suddenly opened up and the hated GDR evaporated. And I didn't see this at the time, but I wish I had: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiwXUJJjL6g The ultimate political revenge- the empire that tried to crush the man is crumbling behind him, and he demonstrates the triumph of human dignity over oppression.
We had an awesome music experience at The Orangerie in Charlottenburg. Powdered wigs, the whole nine, really fun.
Berlin holds special memories for me too as we visited it on our first trip to Europe in 1982 so husband could give a talk at the Berlin Technical University. While he was doing that, I went through Checkpoint Charlie and walked around the wide, drab, deserted streets of East Berlin with my brother. In 1990 we were on a 7 month sabbatical in northern Germany so we went back to Berlin 2X to watch the wall being torn down and people walking around with awe on their faces. We have been back 6 times since then and my favorite season is winter. I love the crisp cold air, the museums, the Christmas markets, the concerts, and the architecture against the cold winter sky. My favorite winter memory still etched in my brain, is coming out of the UBahn near Potsdammerplatz in December of 1998 late at night and seeing hundreds of tall cranes stretched up to a flood light lit up night sky. As far as you could see, in a basically linear direction to mark the path of the Wall, were cranes, deep holes, and construction.
The Pergamon Museum is awesome. I liked being at the Brandenburg Gate and seeing the cobblestones in the pavement marking where the Wall used to be - it's powerful to see that in person. Definitely go up to the roof of Parliament (and the dome, though I didn't get to do this). I went to the old Tempelhof Airport, which is now a vast park bordered by a vast building. It's a cool experience. Checkpoint Charlie and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtnis-Kirche aren't to be missed, either.
Berlin is amazing! Really enjoyed it, there is something for everyone's taste in Berlin but if i had to pick one it would be the Reichstag Dome (try to visit inside if you have time).
A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a friend about Berlin, since both of us visited for the first time this summer. We agreed that the DDR Museum was one of our best experiences.
My favorite memory is from my first day back to Berlin on my second trip there. I first went to Berlin as a student when the wall was still in place. We stayed in the west. We walked up and down the Ku' Dam, visiting the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, and visiting the East on our own and with a minder. Our solo trip back to the west was through the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station. The guards gave us a hard time. It was all very dark and depressing in the East. A few years ago I went back and revisited those places. It was strange as I could almost see the ghosts of 19-year-old selves at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. I also loved that I stayed in the East the second trip. I will always remember revisiting the Friedrichstraße station. There is Burger Chef where the DDR Guards used to be! There are colors where the gray used to be. So, my memories are of marveling over the change that has happened in 20 years and that the Wall was only there for 29 years. It's an exciting city that is changing before our eyes. Pam
I may be a minority here but my favorite memory was totally not the Reichstag. 1.5 hours in the rain (late November). They made my boyfriend take his shirt off to walk thru security because they thought it was a jacket (a button up shirt, and they blushed when he was shirtless, made him put his shirt back on), and since the rain was heavy that day, the glass structure on the roof was all fogged up. No view. It wasn't worth it for us. But a funny memory for us was experiencing our first Christmas market. We were totally ignorant of the process. We went up to buy gluhwein, where shocked that it was expensive, and wanted to know why the cashier wanted to give us back change. I told him to keep the tip. I didn't know that a deposit was attached to the fee of the warm mulled wine. Oh well.
I never thought much of Berlin before I went there. I assumed it would be just another city rebuilt after the war (and the fall of the wall). I was wrong. It is a terrific city, unique in its own ways. I second all those who suggest walking tours. The city is stuffed with history, which you will only begin to scratch with a visit. The best part about this fact (to me) was that so much of its history took place in the lifetimes of people still living today. I love going to London because of its thousands of years of history, but it is a little hard to relate to facts about its Roman days (though I still appreciate them). Not so with pre-WWII, WWII, and East Berlin history. Anyway, the walking tours help reveal some of that. I read or heard somewhere that Berlin had over 150 museums. It would take a lifetime to explore them all. You probably can't go too wrong with any selection of ones to visit. Have a great trip.
I wished I had more time (and more travel companions) for the nightlife! I liked how cosmopolitan Berlin is today - the different languages that I heard spoken in the cafes, on the streets ... Great city to just hang out in, stunning architecture, and so many treasures to see. You can see antiquities at Museum Island one day, and the very best of contemporary art in galleries and places like Hamburger Bahnhof the next. I liked the Gemaldegalerie too, lovely museum space with Old Masters paintings. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was sobering but stunning. As for the Reichstag, I reckon the best way to enjoy it is to make a reservation for lunch or tea at the restaurant, and then walk around the Dome at leisure after that. I also enjoyed walking around the Scheunenviertel area near the Hackesche Hofe, lively in the evenings with loads of cafes, bars and restaurants. Like the others, I'd recommend a walking tour, especially on the first day. Also liked the Food Hall at KaDeWe with the classy food court, I can imagine how it'd be a great stop on a cold rainy winter's day!
I went for the first time back in 2000 and it was quite an experience as I've always been somewhat of a WW2 history buff. One memory that sticks out is having a beer up in the Fehrnsehturm, looking down at the city and realizing that you could still kind of tell where the East/West divide was just by the buildings. I went back 3 years later and it seemed almost like a different city just with all the construction they had done. I remember thinking to myself after that trip that Berlin had reclaimed its place among London, New York, Paris and Rome in the Pantheon of great world cities. I would say the highlight of the city for me personally was the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. I can spend hours in there just soaking up everything and never get bored. Just fascinating seeing the accounts of the escape attempts and such, many of them just ingenious. And the nightlife...oh, the nightlife...
Thanks to all, your comments have given us some great ideas.
Sitting in Berlin right now....nice. Be sure to go to Treptow, if you haven't been there, and Köpenick to see the Rathaus. The S-Bahn, S-3, gets you to Köpenick.
Ah, Berlin is just so cool. I've only visited twice, recently, for two days each, but I've had a blast each time. As weird as it sounds, my most memorable experience was eating delicious, authentic Mexican food at Maria Peligro in East Kreuzberg. I live in Germany now and it's hard to find the "real thing" here, so this may not be of interest to someone visiting from the U.S. but I'd say that Berlin is Germany's best cheap, international food destinations and you should take advantage of this! The nightlife is fantastic, if that's your thing. Rick doesn't particularly recommend it, but my husband (who is a bit of a cold war wonk) and I had a great time in the evening walking along Karl-Marx-Allee, from Alexanderplatz way down to a hip lounge in the former offices of the Czechoslovakian Airlines. We marveled at the imposing but strangely beautiful Communist architecture, grabbed some beers for the walk at a fantastic international beer shop, and chatted up some of the hipsters drinking beer on the way. Seeing the site of the former Palast Der Republik at night is amazing too - great views of the Dom and the TV tower, and the sheer amount of history on what is currently a giant open lawn is pretty amazing. The DDR museum is totally worth a visit. It's cheesy and fun. If you use Foursquare you can get a discount!
Well, I'm sitting in Berlin right now, so here goes... well, most people seem to have mentioned the things I would so far, so that leaves me to come up with something original. I know most people don't travel to Europe to visit a zoo... but the Berlin zoo is awesome! The layout and structures are fairly routine, but there's just a huge variety of animals. I went there on a whim after I found out I needed a reservation to visit the Reichstag, and I only intended to spend an hour or two. I think I was there for close to 5.
Some of my personal favorites; The Pergamon, The Gemaldegalerie, The Jewish Museum Berlin, and walking up the dome of the Reichtag at night. The Pergamon is amazing. The vibrant yellow and blue tiles on the Ishtar gate; must be seen to be believed! The art collection at the Gemldegalerie is spectacular-loved it. The Jewish Museum Berlin is interesting from an architectural perspective (the outside is dramatic; steal with very sharp angles and metal "cut-outs" representing the darkest days for Germany's Jewish population). The exhibitions are well-done; you begin on the highest level and walk down through time in Jewish history, including Judaism's rich history and impact on German culture and society. It is NOT a "Holocaust" Museum, although, naturally, there is a section on the lower level, dedicated to it, including one of the most distinctive Holocaust Memorials I've seen (you are lead into a large, solitary, unadorned room with a very high ceiling, along w/ just a few others at a time; you are left alone in the barren, concrete room, which contains a slim sliver opening to the outside, representing that there was hope even during the darkest days, as you contemplate your feelings.....). And I'll never forget being in the Reichtag at night, slowly walking up the dome, taking in the city lights all around me. And at the very top, you look down onto the floor of parliament, representing that today's German government is open and transparent and beholden to the German people. Definitely left an impression on me!
My first time to Berlin was in 1995. My buddy and I decided to stay in town and look around while the rest of our group went elsewhere. We stopped at a construction site in Mitte. A elderly, local man came up to us. My friend used some of his high school German. We were wondering where Hitler's bunker might be? The elderly man said "You're standing on top of it." When I returned in 2002 I was floored by how much progress Berlin had made.
thanks again to all of you, these are fantastic posts and recommendations.
Summer 1990 and my then boyfriend (now husband) and I were in front of the Brandenburg Gate. It was still gated off, this time for renovation. It wasn't till 20 years later, my third visit, that I was finally able to walk through it. That was a favourite memory for sure. But also the one in 1990 when we paid 5 DM to some enterprising Russian (or Pole?) to rent a hammer and knock out a few chunks of what was still standing of the Wall.