A city once known more for its division than its fascinating history and architecture, Berlin is now unshakably unified and a highly modern, cosmopolitan city that offers a fantastic opportunity to experience a uniquely German way of life through the city’s many museums, public squares and festivals.
The German capital and home to around 3.5m people, the city of Berlin is divided into 12 boroughs each with their own distinctive flavour and character. Traversable easily by the city’s characteristically efficient light rail system, many visitors to head directly to the Museum Island in the Mitte district – itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Museum Island is home to five internationally significant institutions - including the Pergamon Museum (historical buildings) and Bode Museum (Antique and Byzantine Sculpture), as well as the famous Altes Museum, Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie – making it one of the finest cultural sites in Europe.
To learn more about Berlin under East Germany rule, the DDR museum is located conveniently close to Museum Island, whilst a short walk north will take you to the Berlin Wall Memorial which features manicured parklands and a section of the wall itself left standing as a reminder of the city’s division.
As one of Europe’s great cities, and also one of great political change, Berlin is recognised as one of the world’s most significant sites for architecture. Reflecting the city’s past, the architecture of Berlin contains fine examples of many of the world’s most celebrated architectural styles.
From the Berliner Dome with its elegant blend of renaissance, gothic and neoclassical styles to the straight baroque of the magnificent Schloss Charlottenburg Palace, it’s no surprise that architecture students from all over the world visit the city. Perhaps most emblematic of all is, of course, The Reichstag. A perfect example of new Berlin meeting old Berlin – the classic stone building now topped with a deliciously modern glass dome offering spectacular views across the city.
Berlin is not all about museums and architecture however, it is also a city to relax in and enjoy the German way of life. Why not take a stroll amongst the manicured lawns and tree-lined paths of the enormous Tiergarten? Home to the world renowned Berlin Zoo, the Tiergarten also contains a sombre memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – a moving tribute worthy of a moment of anyone’s time.
If there’s one thing Germans love, it’s eating and drinking – which is why the true German experience can be found in public squares such as Alexander Platz or Potsdamer Platz. Packed with bars and small eateries, each square is the perfect place to grab a stein of German lager, a currywurst and watch the people of Berlin go about their daily business.