Looking for somewhere cool to visit? Berlin is a city packed with museums and galleries, it has a world famous orchestra and one of the most respected international film festivals on the circuit. None of this seems surprising for a modern European city, but what is astonishing is the range. Berlin is open to pretty much everything, making it one of the most exciting places to be. In many ways, it has become the cultural cross-roads in recent times. Western Europeans tired of the London and Paris scene have looked for something new in art and music. This coincided with an influx of ideas and creativity from the East after the end of Communism, with Berlin ostensibly the natural first staging post for many. So, here are a few attractions you might want to look for on your EF tour.
The Berggruen Collection – This is the private collection of Heinz Berggruen, who fled the Nazis in 1936 and set up a dealership in Paris and California before returning to Berlin in 1996. In addition to more than 70 works by Picasso, you will find pieces by Klee, Cezanne and van Gogh.
Deutsches Techniksmuseum – This exciting and comprehensive museum takes a thoughtful look at the development of technology. Displays include transport (from an ox-pulled cart to aerospace technology), film, photography, communications, engineering, pharmaceuticals and textiles. With an emphasis on interactive exhibits this is a superb place to learn more about the modern world.
Holocaust Memorial – Opened in December 2004 and located close to the Brandenburg Gate (not far from the bunker where Hitler committed suicide). The stunning memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman and consists of austere rectangular grey blocks. The 19,000 square metre site is uneven and the identical blocks also vary in height, ranging from 1 to 15 feet. “Eisenman wanted the visitor to feel uncomfortable and confused as they wandered through the undulating ground while at the same time being aware of the orderly shape of the blocks.” – via The Gutsy Traveler
Shopping – The Ku’damm (Kurfürstendamm) is the main shopping artery of modern Berlin, a mixture of quality stores and t-shirt sellers. Make sure you check out the side streets, especially around Nreitscheidplatz and Olivaer Platz. The other main shopping area is around Tauentzienstrasse, where you will find many fashion stores. Nearby is KaDeWe, the biggest department store in continental Europe. For window-shopping the famous boutiques, head for the Kempinski Plaza on Uhlandstrasse, more trendy shops are found along Bleibtreustrasse. The centre of Berlin’s fashion revival is the area known as the barn district (S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt).
Visit a Coffeehouse – Each Berlin coffeehouse has its own unique atmosphere and attracts its particular kind of patrons. For visitors the important thing is to study the coffee menu carefully; choose kaffee by the tasse (cup) or kannchen (pot). Select “mocha mit fischer sahne” if you like your coffee laced with chocolate and whipped cream. Alternatively, choose an espresso or cappuccino, depending on the time of day. Be sure to linger and relax, it’s expected!
Street Art Tours – Graffiti is becoming big business in Berlin and it’s not just to do with the wall they used to have. Some superb artists are operating in the city and have found a great canvas in parts of the reintegrated East. You can join various walking tours that look into the history of street art, offer workshops and show you just why Berlin really is a city at the cutting edge.
Tiergarten – These former hunting grounds are a superb place to have a picnic. The largest green space in Berlin with 14 miles of walkways is even home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Stop off at Kaufhaus des Westens (6th floor at KaDeWe), to stock up on some great lunch items. In the south-west corner of the Tiergarten you will find the Zoological Gardens, a superb zoo (with giant pandas) and also a 9,000 species-aquarium.
Take a Bike Tour – Your Tour Director can help you to rent bikes and take to any of the city’s extensive bike lanes. Choose to have a guided tour to get the most out of your time on two wheels, or just head for the centre of the city. Either way, be sure to ride through the Tiergarten (see above).
(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)