Getting to Know Berlin, Part 2
Berlin, the capital of Germany is the largest and most populous city in the country with a fascinating history and an abundance of sights. The “city of pieces” has been put back together over the last twenty years with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz. Berlin has numerous neighborhoods but the central district called Mitte (pictured below center) has an abundance of impressive sights. All are within walking distance from each other and are part of Berlin’s significant cultural treasures.
- Brandenburger Tor (Gate)
- Holocaust Memorial
- Museum Island
- Berliner Dom
The Reichstag building houses the German Parliament and is one of the most popular sites in Berlin for tourists and locals alike. Built in 1894, partially destroyed by a fire in 1933 and bombing during the second World War, the Reichstag was renovated and reconstructed from 1992-1999. With a large glass dome at the top of the building and a roof terrace, visitors are provided a 360 degree view of Berlin. The building also contains a restaurant which requires reservations (00) 49 30 226 299 33.
To take a self-guided or guided tour of the building with an emphasis on parliamentary history or art and architecture of the building, or a tour designed for families, advanced reservations must be made and can be done through the website:
The Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate into Berlin that is now one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Erected in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was damaged during the second World War but was restored from 2000-2002. Located one block away from the Reichstag building, the Brandenburg Gate is vehicular free and serves as the entry to Unter den Linden, a pedestrian walkway lined with Linden trees and various buildings (including a museum, library, cathedral, university, opera house, embassies, former palaces, the famous Hotel Adlon), that also leads to Museum Island.
The Holocaust Memorial is also known as the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” and is a nearly 5 acre city block site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. A somber site for most (many children consider it a maze and start running through the aisles) that was designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, the Holocaust Memorial has been open since 2005 and is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate. The memorial is always open.
The memorial contains an underground information center that is open from 10:00 – 8:00 during the summer and 10:00 – 7:00 during the Winter. The exhibits are in German and English and are primarily for adults. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, a free guided tour in English is provided.
Neues Museum: The Neus Museum (New Museum) is located at BodestraBe 1-2. Built in 1855 and was reopened in 2009 after a 6 year restoration project, the most famous piece of art in this museum is the bust of Queen Nefertiti, which is truly fascinating and mesmerizing to see in person.
Arte Nationalgalerie: Art Nationalgalerie (The National Gallery of Art) is located at BodestraBe 1-2 and is also known as the Old National Gallery. Constructed in 1876, this museum was severely damaged during the second World War and underwent a restoration project from 1995 – 2001, before reopening. Closed Mondays.
Bode Museum: Located at Am Kupfergraben 1, the Bode Museum was constructed in 1904 and has an extensive sculpture collection and late Antique and Byzantine Art. In addition, there is a children’s gallery.
Pergamon Museum: Located at Am Kupfergraben 5, the Pergamon Museum was constructed in 1930 and is most famous for having the Pergamon Alter (pictured at right) and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
The church is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00-8:00 and on Sundays and holidays from 12:00-8:00 although tours are not permitted during services. Reservations for tours can be made by phone: 49 (0) 30 202 69 119. The website provides a schedule of tours.
- Street names come before numbers.
- Zip codes are provided first followed by the city name followed by the neighborhood name.
- Berlin is divided into 12 districts with subdistricts or neighborhoods within each district. Use a map that has the districts, neighborhoods, and street names. Note that there are a few neighborhoods that have the same name as the district.
- Most museums are open late on Thursdays.
- The country code for Germany is 49 and the city code for Berlin is 30. In dialing from the United States dial 0 11 49 30 and then the remaining numbers. If dialing from within Germany, dial 0 30 and the remaining numbers.
- Taxes are already included in the price of purchases and restaurants bills. Service is also included in restaurants although a tip of 5-10% is often left with the server, not on the table.
- The breads in Germany are amazing with many containing whole grains and nuts.
- In the winter and autumn, the days are short in Berlin with the sun setting early but don’t let the darkness dissuade exploration as the city remains alive and vibrant in late afternoon and evening.
- Public transportation is reliable, clean, and precise.