As complete a city as you will ever find, the capital of Germany is wonderfully diverse. Academic, intellectual, artistic, progressive, avant-garde and eminently modern, Berlin is a dynamic metropolis of 5 million people. A paramount hub for commerce, international associations, information technology and transport, the massive city is made up of 12 boroughs that teem with vitality.
While Germany contains many fine destinations, from Munich to Cologne, Hamburg to Hanover, Leipzig to Munster, the undisputed heart and soul of Deutschland is Berlin. With myriad pockets to explore, the city is full of charm. Art galleries, shops, corner caf?s, neighborhood bars, restaurants and nightclubs fill in the blanks between world famous landmarks. Thorough cultural enrichment is the inevitable reward for those who tour the magnificent German capital. With that in mind, here are 10 must-see attractions to further that end and make the most of any Berlin experience.
10. Alte Nationalgalerie
UNESCO World Heritage Museum Island on the Spree river has several terrific institutions that help cement Berlin’s reputation as museum central. The Alte Nationalgalerie, or Old National Gallery, is not only beautiful to look at but contains a fabulous collection of 19th century art from the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
9. Bode Museum
One of the most recognizable architectural wonders in Berlin, the Bode Museum has a rather important collection of Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance and Gothic art. The Museum Island facility underwent nine years of restoration between 1997 and 2006.
8. Pergamon Museum
Another Museum Island gem, the Pergamon was built over a period of two decades, between 1910 and 1930, and is the most visited museum in Germany. The museum contains several iconic and massive landmarks, from the Ishtar Gate, a former Ancient Wonder built on orders by King Nebuchadnezzar II to guard the city of Babylon in 575 B.C., to the Great Altar of Pergamon.
7. Neues Museum
A bold reconstruction program set to wrap up in 2009 will integrate the historic Neues Museum with the archaeological promenade of Museum Island and as a result, connect it with the Pergamon and Bode. Millions of new visitors to Berlin will therefore get a chance to see a terrific collection of Egyptian, Greek and other ancient artifacts.
6. Jewish Museum Berlin
The first major cultural landmark to open after the reunification of Germany, what initially strikes visitors to the Jewish Museum in Berlin is the architecture. The museum’s website describes it as a “deconstructivist masterpiece”. Whatever the case, the Daniel Libeskind design is a draw in and of itself. The interior collection of multimedia exhibits and objects covers over 2,000 years of history, with careful attention to the Holocaust of course.
5. Berlin Zoological Garden
The Berlin Zoo is one of the few in the world to achieve household-name status. The zoological garden dates back to 1844 and with more than 3 million visitors a year, is the most popular in Europe. More than 14,000 birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals live in the facility.
4. Berlin Cathedral
The Berlin Cathedral, or Dom, faces the Lustgarten city park on Museum Island. You could hardly choose a more idyllic location for a church, especially one of this grandeur and magnitude. The cathedral’s patron, Emperor Wilhelm II, envisioned a Protestant version of St. Peter’s in The Vatican when he first proposed construction of the Dom in the late 19th century.
3. The Reichstag
Built about the same time as the Berlin Cathedral in 1894, the Reichstag was the first parliament of what was then the German Empire. In ruins for decades, the incredible facility underwent years of construction and upon the reunification of Germany in 1999, became the home of the Bundestag, or Parliament. A modern glass dome that provides spectacular views of Berlin is a popular attraction, with long lines to the top, especially in summer.
2. Berlin Wall Memorial
Views of the Berlin Wall are available around the city, most notably the East Side Gallery along the Spree river and two sections in Potsdamer Platz. The Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse however, is the most sobering landmark left in the city of the Iron Curtain Cold War era.
1. Brandenburg Gate
Together with Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate is one of the venerable symbols of Europe. Erected in 1791, the Gate is the quintessential landmark of Berlin and the location of many historic events, most notably after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.