Berlin—mecca of artists, bohemians, and Europe’s creative class—is an old, historic city made new again thanks to a torn-down wall, a reunified country, and an influx of young, trendsetting individuals from around the world. What was once a divided city is now a cultural capital of Europe. Maybe it's the up-all-night clubs or wealth of provocative art, but visitors often stay longer than expected and return frequently.
Berlin is famous for its summers—not that they’re especially warm, but there is just so much to do. The summer season can be wet, so it’s best to pack an umbrella—though rain doesn’t stop Berliners from enjoying their city. May is often considered the best time to visit, with good weather and plenty of festivals and events. Winters in Berlin are cold (below freezing in January and February), but the cultural events don’t disappear. Locals stay busy with seasonal festivities and quirky adventures like skiing on the grounds of the former Tempelhof Airport, which is now a giant city park.
Berlin is served by two main airports. Tegel (TXL) is conveniently located within the city limits. Public buses (20 minutes; 2.60€) run from Tegel regularly to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and Alexanderplatz. Schonefeld Airport is connected to the city by S-Bahn and regional trains (30 minutes; 3.20€).
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 2.60€, or a day pass costs 6.70€. 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.
To really get a feel for Berlin's cultural life, it’s best to visit one of the many parks and public spaces on a sunny afternoon or early in the evening. Görlitzer Park is one of the most popular hangouts, but you’ll find more locals at the Volkspark Friedrichshain. There’s a beer garden, a small hill for hiking, and even a fairy-tale fountain (the Märchenbrunnen).
Food in Berlin runs the gamut—from cheap street foods (don't miss the ubiquitous doners) to fine dining. Each Berlin neighborhood, or kiez, typically has its own food market. Fresh vegetables, produce, and bread can be bought at the markets, and many have small stands selling lunch or snacks.
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.
Berlin’s reputation as the coolest city in Europe (maybe even the world) is a tough one to dispel. 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.