Day 1 - Break the divide
As we all know, Berlin was divided between east and west until the infamous Berlin Wall was metaphorically torn down in 1989. When it was torn down, some of the social differences between both sides were demolished with it. Both sides have been rebuilding itself since, the Eastern side doing so a little slower in some parts. But whatever side you stay in in the reinstated German capital you should take a few hours to explore and the area you are residing in, just so you don’t get lost during your break.
In the centre of the city is the famous Berlin Zoo in the south west of the Tiergarten, the large park which dominates much of the city centre. Built in 1844, the zoo is Germany’s oldest and today is home to thousands of species of animals, many in very large habitats.
Right beside the zoo is the aquarium which has a collection of over 9,000 fish, reptiles and the like and is well worth a visit also. It may not appeal to the more squeamish of people as the aquarium is also home to crocodiles and spiders.
Berlin has a very animated nightlife and there is a great selection of bars and nightclubs to suit everyone’s tastes. One of the best areas with a lot of the city’s trendier bars is Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg, one of the most tourist driven areas west of the city centre.
Day 2 - On yer bike!
If you want to see as much as you can in one day, doing so on foot can prove to be a bit of a challenge in Berlin as much of what you will want to see is quite a distance apart. If you are feeling up for it, get yourself on to one of the city’s bike tour. Stopping at major attractions such as the war bunkers, the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, they are the best way to see attractions in both parts of the city. Tour end up in some of the city’s local ‘Biergartens’ which make the end of the journey that little bit more sweet.
Most of the bike tours in operation in Berlin go on until the afternoon, giving you most of the day to relax before going out on the town again that night. While Germany is famed for its beer, most of its cities have a wealth of restaurants to wine and dine in, and Berlin is no different. Mitte in the eastern part of the city is where you will find a lot of budget eateries, and in particular the Alexanderplatz where there are a lot of street vendors.
If you are looking for bars which are a little bit livelier than those around Savignyplatz, have a wander towards Pariser Straße. This street very close to the Mitte area and it is where you can find endless taverns, bars along with a selection of nightclubs for those who wish to continue partying into the wee hours.
Day 3 - Spreewald
The city of Berlin is in the Bundesland (which means federal state) of Brandenburg. If you are in Berlin for a couple of days there are loads of towns not far from the city which make for the perfect outing.
For the energetic type, and those who feel at home in the great outdoors then Spreewald (the Spree Forest) is the place to go. Situated 90km south of Berlin, the forest covers 287 square kilometres and comprises of over 400 kilometres of rivers and canals to travel on in ‘punts’. These are large flat bottomed wooden boats which are driven by guides using a long pole. Something like, eh, a gondola.
If floating your way down various waterways for a day isn’t your thing then you may prefer to get closer to nature on the numerous paths on which to walk or cycle on.
Trains leave Berlin’s famous Zoo Station (Bahnhof Zoo) every two hours to Spreewald and the journey takes approximately 90 minutes.
Day 4 - A culture vulture in Berlin
One thing which Berlin has more of than most German cities, is history. Walking around the city you can see how some of the city’s statues and monuments still bear the scars of the war. Also around the city is a selection of museums dedicated to the city’s turbulent history.
Haus am Checkpoint Charlie situated close to the site of the checkpoint of the same name really hits home as to the effect the Berlin Wall had on the city. In the museum is a collection of graffiti covered segments from the original wall and tools used by escapees to get from the East to the West parts of the city.
Only opened since September 2001, the Jüdisches Museum chronicles the history of the Jewish community in Berlin. Within the unique building (it has 1,005 separate windows which are all different shapes) are portraits of some of Germany’s most famous Jewish nationals, various documents and photos of significance and other artefacts. This is Europe’s largest museum of its kind.
If you wish to visit a museum that doesn’t require as emotional concentration, and something with a lighter subject matter, you may enjoy visiting Die Sammlung Berggruen: Picasso und Seine Zeit which is a collection of one of Germany’s best known art dealers Heinz Berggruen. Most of the collection is paintings by Picasso, although there are some works from Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, the famous French painter.
You can’t visit Berlin without going clubbing on one of your nights. The Berlin Love Parade which takes place every July is one of the world’s biggest street parties and it is when up to one million ravers go simply bananas for a couple of days.
If you aren’t lucky enough to visit the city when the Love Parade takes place, there are loads of clubs to keep even the most avid clubber happy. Some of the best known are WMF on Johannis Str. which has a mixed crowd and everything from drum n bass to hardcore techno blaring through the speakers. Another which is popular with the city’s techno-heads is Sage Club at the corner of Köpenicker Str and Brücken Str.
If the sounds of a thumping baseline is about as appealing to you as listening to somebody scrape their nails against a blackboard, then Mitte’s Bergwerk is where the grungers go to headbang. But beware, this club attracts all sorts.
Day 5 - Discover classial Berlin
Many visitors going to Berlin fail to realise that the streets are filled with so much classic architecture. After five days travelling around the city you may think you have seen most of it, but the city has buildings dating back hundreds of years before the war, most of which got through unscathed.
Walking tours saunter by all the city’s classic architectural delights such as the The Brandenburg Gate which was built in 1791 to represent peace, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, The Reichstag Building built in 1894 and one of the city’s most prominent political buildings, and the infamous Berlin Wall.
Walking around the city centre for a whole morning is no stroll in the park, so to speak. What is a stroll in the park is an afternoon in Tiergarten Park in the middle of the city. Sprawling over a grand total of 167 hectares, it is one of the biggest city centre parks in the world. Inside the park are lakes to laze by, meadows to mosie in and walkways to wander down. Some attractions are also around the park for good measure such as the Siegessaule (Triumphal Column) in the centre of the park and the New Government District which is found in the north-east of the park.
Berlin’s alternative quarter once darkness falls is around Kreuzberg in the south eastern part of the city. Along Wiener Strasse and Oranienstrasse are a spate of grungy-type bars. And if the performing arts are your thing this is the best part of the city to come to for dance and theatre.