Is 24 hours enough time to capture Berlin? Well, I gave it a go, it was tight and to be honest I left wanting more, but I still managed to pack in all the major tourist spots such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, The Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and the Berliner Dom. I’m not going to lie, I would love to return and do at a more relaxed place, but if you are on a schedule and have limited time I have a great run-down of what not to miss when you visit Germany’s capital city.
Berlin is packed full of beautiful buildings and by just wandering around you’ll see some incredible sights. Short on time head to Museum Island, Berlin’s ‘Louvre on the Spree’, this incredible area, which I was lucky enough to overlook from my hotel room has its incredible museums clustered next to one another and each offers something a little different. You can go crazy for all things roman and greek at the Pergamonmuseum and Altes Museum, or head to Egypt at the Neues Museum, which has Queen Nefertiti in residence, or why not take in the 19th-century art at the Alte Nationalgalerie, or just marvel in the architectural beauty in all the buildings especially the Berliner Dom. This area is like having the British Museum, the V&A, National Gallery and Tate Britain and Tate Modern all within 5 minutes walking distance of each other.
The Holocaust Memorial
The reminders of a once divided city and relics from the war can be seen throughout the city and I found the sombre silence from Peter Eisenman’s concrete memorial for the holocaust victims emotional and very poignant, and if you come to Berlin without taking your own journey through the labyrinth you will have missed an opportunity for reflection as well as to remind yourself that every person in this world needs to ensure that something like the Nazi-planned genocide doesn’t happen again.
On paper, concrete slabs seems cold and unemotional, but when you see them, all at different heights, touch them and walk through the maze of passageways this wave of disorientation, confusion and claustrophobia takes over, which I suppose is the intention to make you leave remembering the horrors that occurred. I also found a sense of hope about the memorial as well played out in the way the light changes as you walk around.
If you have time do go inside the information centre, the story might be hard to read and see documenting the six million Holocaust victims but the heart-wrenching accounts will definitely touch you, especially the darkened room of names, where the names and years of birth and death of each Jewish victim is projected onto the wall and read out with a short biography. It’s crazy to think that it will take almost seven years to commemorate all known victims in this room.
The Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie
When you think of Berlin’s most recognisable attractions it has to be the Brandenburg Gate landmark. This neoclassical royal city gate has been marched through by Prussian emperors, Napoleon and Hitler, and was even once trapped east of the Berlin Wall, however now its seen as a symbol of a united Germany. No matter the weather this beauty is a sight to see, even in the rain when I was there, but I heard that at night it looks beautiful all lit up.
Round the corner is The Reichstag building, home to the German parliament. This grand building is impressive, especially the people’s glass dome in the centre, which you can actually visit, well that is except the day I was there. I then headed back passed the Brandenburg Gate in search of Checkpoint Charlie. I found this city quite nice to walk around, nothing seemed too far away from each other, and it was a nice walk passed Potsdamer Platz, a kind of Times Square of Berlin, I got to see segments of the Berlin Wall, as well as some cool sculptures, and Checkpoint Charlie was only about 5 minutes away. I have to be honest this landmark that was the principle gateway for foreigns between the two Berlins has become a tourist trap, expect someone dressed as an American soldier to ask if you want your picture with them, but I still think it was interesting to see, plus I loved that this area is filled with cute old Trabi cars, which apparently you can rent – I really want to do that when I return.
When I have limited time in a city I do love a good tour, whether that’s a bus, bike or in the case of Berlin a boat trip around its network of rivers and canals. It was such a relaxing thing to do, lasted just over an hour and I got to see the beautiful historic centre as well as the new modern buildings that for some reason I couldn’t seem to find when I was doing my walking tour. There’s also an audio guide if you want to learn a little more but I was just content looking at the architecture, the incredible bridges, as well as the cool little bars with deck chairs dotted along the river, I really think this would be a fun city to visit with friends in the summer. I think next time I might do a bike tour, I saw a few whizz by me when I was wandering around and it looked like a lot of fun.
Have you been to Berlin? I would love to know your top tips?