I am often asked about my favorite city in the world and my answer is always one: Berlin. If i have a choice about where I want to live, visit, or party, the answer is the same. Although it was one of the last European capitals I visited, I found myself amazed by everything the city has to offer.
I don’t think that the spirit of the city can be captured in pictures or even words as you have to personally be there to experience it, but here is a modest list of things I really like about Berlin. If you like Berlin as much as I do, please feel free to comment with the things you like the most — it is always nice to hear other people’s perspectives about it.
As usual, you can see pictures of my trips to Berlin and other places on my Instagram (@gmr83).
1. Reichstag: This is the German parliament building which was constructed and ruined several times before it took its current shape. You can visit the Reichstag’s website and sign up to a free tour during which you can see the beautiful architecture of the building on the inside, the glass dome, and if you are a WWII buff like me, you would be interested in original graffiti by Soviet soldiers when they arrived in Berlin at the end of the war.
2. Night life: Berlin is arguably the nightlife capital of Europe, if not the world, and it has a bar for each taste from dirty underground bars to high-end cocktail bars. The Guardian has a good 2011 report on the best clubs which i believe all are still open.
3. Food: Berlin is home to many ethnicities which means that there will be a variety of food. Berlin is also home to one of the largest Turkish communities in the world, making it also home to some of the best done kebab sandwiches in the world. Uncornered Market has an excellent list of restaurants and street food for under 10 euros. Did you know Berlin has more doner kebab shops than Istanbul? And of course one mustn’t forget the currywurst!
4. Affordability: Berlin is one of the cheapest Western European capitals which makes it a good value for money. It has restaurants, clothing stores, clubs, etc… for every budget.
5. History: Berlin has a long history which started in the 13th century. During World War II, it was virtually destroyed by bombing, artillery, and ferocious street-by-street fighting. You can see the history in almost every street. Many tour operators offer special tours of the city’s Soviet and Nazi pasts which may be difficult to uncover on your own. Other monuments stand as landmarks and reminders of the horrors of the past.
6. Museum Island: This is my favorite part of the city and home to five internationally significant museums, one of which contains the Pergamon Altar, a monumental construction built during the 2nd century BC on one of the terraces of the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Pergamon in Asia Minor. Did you know that there are more museums than days of rain in the German capital?
7. East Side Gallery/street art: Urban art and street art can be found everywhere in Berlin. On screens, façades, doorways and on walls, but also in places where one might not expect to find art. Among the many manifestations of street art is the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall containing paintings of 118 artists from 21 countries.
8. Potsdam/Sanssouci Palace: The name of this palace translates into “without concern” or “carefree” and is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. It is often counted among the German rivals of Versailles. While not located in the city center of Berlin, it is a short ride away on the S-Bahn and it makes the perfect day trip from Berlin.
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Although this place is often overlooked by tourists coming to nearby Berlin, it was the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, in which the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States took important decisions affecting the shape of post World War II Europe and Asia, for better or for worse.
9. Public transport: Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris and with 1,700 has more bridges than Venice, so even if you like to walk, you would still need transportation at some point. Being at the heart of Europe, Berlin has an excellent network of public transportation that integrates buses, U-Bahn, and S-Bahn in additional to regional trains.
10. Abandoned places: Berlin is virtually packed with cool abandoned places that are great to explore and/or to take pictures of, whether it is airfields or old spy stations. If you do visit, make sure you read up on these locations beforehand as it helps you appreciate them more.
Last but not least, here is a nice video from New York Times Travel that highlights life in the city.