The capital of the Republic of Germany is a cosmopolitan city that captivates and amazes for endless amenities that include something for every discerning traveler: history, culture, creativity and modernity. The Berlin we know today dates from 1920 when the areas surrounding its historic center were united, creating what is known as the Great Berlin. In fact, Berlin's subway system--one of the most practical and punctual in the world--has some stations outside the urban center in places like Spandau, famous for the prison where the Nazi Rudolf Hess was incarcerated. Also in Potsdam, the princely city where we find the impressive Sanssouci, the former summer palace of King Frederick II of Prussia.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification brought a breath of fresh air to the city, which emerged as one of the most influential capitals in the world thanks to its avant-garde spirit: its culture, art and fashion. In 2006, Berlin was named a “Creative City” by UNESCO. Review our selection of cosmopolitan destinations.
The German capital has many and varied areas of interest. We could start our tour walking along the impressive Unter den Linden Boulevard. It was the place chosen by Adolf Hitler to hold propagandistic military parades, and today it has become an elegant thoroughfare—similar to Paris’ Champs Elysees or New York’s Fifth Avenue. The embassies of France and the United States are located here, as well as the Academy of Arts, the History Museum, and the State Opera. It's also an excellent shopping quarter, with boutiques from the leading international fashion firms.
At the end of Unter den Linden Avenue stands the city’s most emblematic landmark: the majestic Brandenburg Gate, built between 1734 and 1737. One of the 18 gates of the old walled city, it is the only one left standing. The other gates— missing today— gave their name to metro stations, such as Kottbuser Tor and Hallesches Tor.
Nearby is the Bundestag (German Parliament), formerly called Reichstag. After its reconstruction, the huge glass dome designed by architect Sir Norman Foster, delivers an elegant and postmodern association between past and present.
In the heart of the city, you’ll find Museum Island on the Spree River. Berlin's first inhabitants settled along the Spree River in the 13th century. Today, Museum Island houses one of the most relevant cultural complexes in the world, declared World Heritage Site by Unesco. It features five prestigious museums which display important archaeological and art collections: the Pergamon Museum (Pergamonmuseum), the Old Museum (Altes Museum), the New Berlin Museum (Neues Museum), the Old Berlin National Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie) and the Bode Museum.
A walk to the idyllic Charlottenburg Palace, the largest castle in Berlin and a former summer residence of Queen Sophie Charlotte, wife of Frederick I is a fascinating visit. Also, a tour of the historic Bebelplatz, near St. Hedwig's Cathedral--tragically marked by history as the site where Joseph Goebbels conducted his infamous book burnings in 1933.
At the end of the elegant Kurfürstendamm Avenue—full of luxury boutiques and shops, cafes, restaurants, theaters, cinemas and art galleries—are the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche), a reminder of the barbaric reality brought by the Second World War.
Other must-see enclaves in this wonderful metropolis are the Jewish Museum, Checkpoint Charlie (the most famous crossing area of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War), Tiergarten Park and the Potsdamer Platz, a model of urban renewal and modernity. ■
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