At a Glance
But Berlin's ultra-modern present sits side-by-side with Germany's history--most notably the country's role during the 20th century and World War II. The city doesn't shy away from its past, with sites including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Other worthwhile history stops include Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate.
When to Go
Berlin is served by two main airports. Tegel (TXL) is conveniently located within the city limits. Public buses (20 minutes; 2.80€) run from Tegel regularly to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and Alexanderplatz. Schonefeld Airport is connected to the city by S-Bahn and regional trains (30 minutes; 3.30€).
Berlin’s transportation system, the BVG, is reliable, convenient, and vast, and it includes buses, trains, and trams. Single-journey rides (valid for two hours) cost 2.80€, or a day pass costs 7.00€. As in many European countries, the BVG runs on the honor system, so make sure to validate your ticket before boarding. At random times, officers check the tickets of each passenger. The U-Bahn trains (underground lines) run until late and are round-the-clock on weekends; S-Bahn trains (commuter lines) traverse the city, making them best for fast connections. Taxis in Berlin are readily available, as are services like Uber.
For an overview of all that happened before, during, and since the Holocaust, seek out the Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum). The museum is a challenging but extremely worthwhile place to spend time.
Food and Drink
Though, years ago, few people would have shouted "Berlin!" if asked for one of the world's best food cities, things have changed. Trendy brunch spots, Vietnamese restaurants, and traditional German fare all play a role in today's Berlin. Most tourists flock to the bars around Görlitzer Bahnhof and Schlesisches Tor, but there are plenty of other areas worth exploring. Branch out into Neukölln for the freshest crop of good bars. And rather than hitting the restaurants on Simon-Dach Strasse in Friedrichshain, go a few blocks east to Boxhagener Platz.
With hundreds of independent galleries in addition to its many city-owned museums, Berlin has history and culture in spades. Museums cover everything from typography (Buchstabenmuseum) to film (Film and Television Museum). Art galleries in Berlin have a solid reputation among enthusiasts. Berlin was a hotbed for culture in the 1920s, and in recent years the city has again embraced its creative classes. Artists, musicians, and innovators have made Berlin home in the past 15 years, changing the very face of the city—sometimes quite literally. Street art and graffiti in Berlin is often ranked among the world’s best thanks to Berliners’ need to speak up and be heard.
In a city as diverse as Berlin, festivals and events happen all year long. Summertime sees an influx of music festivals: watch out for MyFest, Christopher Street Day gay pride, Carnival of Cultures, and Berlin Music Week. The winter has its fair share of festivals as well, most notably the star-studded Berlinale indepedent film festival.