Buzzy, vibrant, gritty, grown up – Berlin is all of these and much more besides. A polarised, dissected, ravaged city, Berlin has seen her fair share of recent 20th century history and still she rises, still she stands. If you have the time, a week or two in Germany’s capital is perfect; failing that, this itinerary for 3 days in Berlin will cover the key attractions.
Day 1 in Berlin
The best way to get to know a new city is on foot. Start with a Sandeman’s free walking tour. Group’s meet at designated times from the Starbucks Cafe on Unter den Linden, right in front of Berlin’s symbol, the Brandenbrug Gate. The 2.5 tour takes you to all of Berlin’s best sites, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews and Checkpoint Charlie, now a museum, and ends on Museumsinsel (Museum Island).
Here you’ll find the Altes Museum, the Altes Nationalgalerie and the Pergamon Museum. Take the time to visit at least one of the three – my faovurite was the Pergamon, filled with relics from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, including the city gates of Ishtar, a blue-tiled, Babyloninan wonder of architecture, the Greek Pergamon Altar, and the Roman Miletus gates. The Altes museum is where you’ll find a bust of the most beautiful ancient queen in the Nile – Nefertiti, 3,300 years old and still gorgeous, though her tomb is located in the Valley of the Queens, far away in Egypt.
After the day’s long walking around the city and through museum hallways, rest and rehydrate in one of the many bars in the Mitte area, Berlin’s vibrant heart. Here you’ll find great dive bars, themed drinking dens and venues serving up unique cocktails as well as artisanal beers.
Day 2 in Berlin
Berlin’s story is defined by the Berlin Wall and the wars that came before and after. Spend second morning in the Jewish Museum, a tortured, disorienting building with three axes – The Axis of Exile, the Axis of the Holocaust and the Axis of Continuity. There are no windows, instead black gashes in a steel clad façade provide strips of sunlight. The architecture is stunning, and more importantly, thought provoking.
Then, visit the Holocaust Memoral, where the 6 million victims of the Holocaust are commemorated. Approximately 2,700 blocks of grey, somber stone stand, lean and tower over an undulating plot of land, near the Brandenburg Gate. The sculpture is interactive; sound is different in the midst of the stones, the light is shadowed and people appear and disappear from view as you navigate through it.
Remnants and reminders of the Berlin Wall and of the Holocaust are everywhere in the city – all you have to do is look down. Keep an eye out for the infamous tripping stones, which commemorate the Jewish victims of the city. Each stone, or plaque, is set in the ground in front of the house where the man or woman lived, and details their name, date of exile, camp and date of death.
A double row of bricks mark where the Wall used to stand, though not much of the wall remains now – take a walk to see the East Side Gallery, where bright, light hearted graffiti adorn a 1.3 km stretch of Wall, symbolising the hope of a reunited Germany.
On your walk around Berlin, keep your eyes peeled for the ubiquitous curry wurst stand, a staple of Berlin street food. Each vendor has a slightly different take on the humble curry wurst, so to find your favourite, start sampling! If you’re up for it, check out the top ten curry wurst imbiss stalls in Berlin.
Day 3 in Berlin
On your last day in Berlin, visit the Reichstag and drink in the view of the city spread before you from it’s glass dome. The Reichstag, Germany’s parliamentary seat, is an unlikely amalgamation of 19th century architecture and futurist glass, the perfect expression of the soul of modern Berlin. For a fee and some time spent waiting in line, you can enter the dome and look down at the seats of parliament.
Then, for contrast, it’s off to Karl Marx Allee, where blocky Communist era mansions tower over quiet streets. The street is nearly two kilometers long and 90 metres wide – proportions of grand design. The buildings are tiled in ceramics, though many show sign of wear and tear – if you look closely enough you’ll spot rough edges where the tiles have fallen off.
With the best of Berlin behind you, spend some time and money exploring the markets along Strasse des 17. Juni, where you’ll find Berlin’s oldest flea market on weekends. There are antiques, old books and a rag tag assortment of odds and ends, though if you forage hard enough you may come up with some treasures.