Spotlight on Berlin
Germany’s vibrant capital is one of the most mesmerising cities in the world. Berlin is an unpretentious advocate of personal freedom and artistic pursuit with deep respect for its past. From very real reminders of its not-so-distant history, to architectural wonders and a world-famous music and entertainment scene, it’s a European destination fit to be visited again and again.
- The Brandenburg Gate – Also known as Brandenburger Tor, this is Berlin’s most emblematic landmark. Though it once symbolised the division and unrest brought on by the Cold War, it now serves as a symbol of peace, unity and freedom. Its grandiose, 25-metre-high Doric columns topped by a quadriga statue (which was once held hostage by Napoleon!) are guaranteed to take your breath away.
- Reichstag – Neighbouring the Brandenburg Gate is yet another iconic landmark: the Reichstag, home of the German Parliament. Significant in both history and architecture, the Reichstag was completed in 1894 and has since been central to Germany’s political arena. The roof terrace and dome is open to the public during the day, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city. Entry is free; just ensure you book your tickets online in advance!
Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery – A quiet stroll beside what’s left of the 3.6m metre-high wall that not so long ago tore Berlin, its families and values apart, is both shocking and beautiful. Now the world’s longest open-air gallery, the East Side Gallery stands as a memorial for freedom and its concrete slabs are decorated with paintings by about 118 artists from 21 countries.
- Holocaust Memorial – Germany is determined to not forget its turbulent past, and Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honours the millions of victims who lost their lives under the Nazi regime. The memorial spans 11-hectares and features more than 2,500 concrete pillars of varying heights that evoke a disoriented, sombre feeling in its visitors.
- Museum Island – In 1999, Berlin’s Museum Island (Museumsinsel) became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an accolade given for its architectural and cultural significance. On its grounds in Berlin’s Spree River are five museums built between 1824 and 1930, collectively exhibiting more than 6,000 years of art, history and culture.
- Fernsehturm – Meaning ‘Television Tower’ in English, Berlin’s iconic Fernsehturm stands 203 metres above the city – ideal as a point of reference when wandering the colourful streets. Visitors to the top can marvel at 360° views, though there’s a bit of a wait for this unrivalled city outlook. (However, once you buy a ticket it’ll specify a time for you to return, so you’re still free to explore the city while you wait.)
- Berlin Parks and Squares – Berlin is home to many green spaces that are not only a show of natural beauty but also of cultural wealth. Be sure to visit Mauerpark’s popular flea market and Sunday afternoon karaoke, the inner-city Tiergarten, or the magnificent Gendarmenmarkt fringed by three grand architectural monuments.
Berlin’s weather is hottest during its summer months of July and August, but it’s by no means similar to Australia’s scorchers, instead reaching comfortably warm temperatures around the 25°C mark.
Winters, on the other hand, are quite chilly. While not ideal for lengthy explorations out of doors, you’ll still find warmth in the city’s many museums and galleries, restaurants, traditional pubs and clubs. Enjoy the magic of traditional German Christmas markets, ice skating in the park, and fewer tourists.
The official currency in Germany and in Berlin is the euro (€). Credit cards are widely used in Berlin, but it’s best to always carry some cash, as many businesses are still cash-only – as are its colourful markets and the currywurst stand in Alexanderplatz.
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Images courtesy of Instagram & Getty