A weekend in Berlin

Arguably the hippest European capital, Berlin attracts some of the most progressive fashionistas, artists and musicians from all over the world. These days Babylonian mosaics, French bakeries and Norman Foster creations are comfortably integrated into the buildings of Schinkel and the operas of Wagner. Here is our guide to a weekend in Berlin, taken from the latest edition of European City Breaks.

Berlin's Top Five Sights

If you are only in Berlin for a weekend, these are the sights not to miss.

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin's most iconic landmark - Brandenburg Gate.

S-Bahn Station Unter den Linden
Built in 1791, Berlin’s most famous icon has witnessed the highs and lows of German history. Left isolated by the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the gate became the emblematic backdrop to that epoch-altering event on 9 November 1989 when the border was opened and young people from both sides of the city rushed forward to scale the defining symbol of the Cold War. On the east side of the gate, Pariser Platz has been transformed from a concrete wilderness into an elegant diplomatic and financial centre and regained its pre-war status as one of the city’s most prestigious addresses. The French embassy has been rebuilt on the north side, while opposite is the newly reopened Academy of Arts, Pariser Platz 4, This Günther Behnisch building houses the private archives of cultural greats such as Bertolt Brecht and Günter Grass, as well as promoting German arts through exhibitions and performances. Next to the Academy is the unmissable DZ ank building, designed by Frank Gehry. Inside is an enormous sculpture whose twists and turns provide a startling contrast with the bank’s façade. South of Pariser Platz, 150m from the Brandenburg Gate, is the Memorial to the murdered Jews, Wilhelmstr 22-23, information centre Tue-Sun 1000-2000 (last entrance 1915). Completed in May 2005, this ‘forest of stelae’, represents the gravestones of Jews murdered under the Nazi regime. It initially provoked much controversy due to its bleak design and the exclusion of graves for non-Jewish victims. However, the memorial, designed by Peter Eisenman, now elicits a positive response from most Berliners.


The Reichstag with its outlandish glass dome.

Ebertstr. Daily 0800-2400 (last entry 2200). Free. S-Bahn Unter den Linden.
The imposing late-ninth-century Reichstag building has been restored to its former glory and is once again at the heart of German political life and is open to the public. The undoubted highlight is Norman Foster’s outlandish glass dome. The views from the top are not to be missed, though the long queues certainly are (get there early or visit at night to avoid them). The Reichstag is one of many government buildings along the Spree and backs onto Tiergarten Park. This area has seen more redevelopment than most but, despite pressure from developers, the park’s wide open spaces, lakes and woods have not been compromised. North of Tiergarten is Hamburger Bahnhof, Invalidenstr 50,, Tue-Fri 1000-1800, Sat 1100-2000, Sun 1100-1800, €12, S-Bahn Lehrter Bahnhof. Trains stopped running here in the 19th century, replaced in the late 1980s by challenging artworks, including pieces by Joseph Beuys.

Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz is an addition to Berlin's skyline.

S-Bahn Potsdamer Platzk. 
Once as desolate as Pariser Platz due to its proximity to the Wall, Potsdamer Platz, at the southeastern corner of Tiergarten park, is now almost a town in its own right; a new Manhattan of skyscrapers, cinemas, embassies and museums, including the Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Potsdamer Str 2, T030-300 9030,, A. Tue-Sun 1000-1800, Thu 1000-2000, €6. Just to the west lies the Kulturforum, which encompasses not only the Berlin Philharmonie but also one of the world’s most prestigious art collections at the Gemäldegallerie, Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun 1000-1800, Thu 1000-2200, €8, and international and German paintings from the 20th century at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Tue, Wed, Fri 1000-1800, Thu 1000-2200, Sat, Sun 1100-1800, €8.

Museum Island

Museum Island at dusk.

T030 2090 5577,
Fri-Wed 1000-1800, Thu 1000-2200; Alte 
Nationalgalerie closed Mon. One museum €8;
Museuminsel €12; free first Sun in the month.
S-Bahn Hackescher Markt.
Museum Island is an extraordinary collection 
of first-rate galleries in the middle of the Spree. 
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural 
Heritage Site, the complex is currently undergoing 
a major restoration and redevelopment project 
that will unite all five buildings and their disparate 
collections by 2015. 
The Altes Museum, Lustgarten, designed by Karl 
Friedrich Schinkel and considered his finest work, 
exhibits Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. 
The Pergamon Museum, Am Kupfergraben 5
houses one of the world’s great archaeological collections, with entire complexes on display that 
are dramatically lit at night. The second-century BC 
Pergamon Altar and the Babylonian Street are the 
stars of the show. Some parts of the museum will 
close for restoration in 2008. 
The Alte Nationalgalerie, Bodestrasse 1-3
exhibits 19th-century sculptures and paintings, 
while the reopened Bode Museum, Monbijoubrücke
houses the coin collection, sculpture collection and 
Byzantine art, together with Old Master paintings 
from the Gemäldegalerie. 
After 70 years closure, the Neues Museum 
finally reopened in 2009 and now houses the 
Ancient Egyptian collection that was previously 
in the Altes Museum.


Gendarmenmarkt - home to the French Cathedral.

U-Bahn Stadtmitte. 
If there is still a tendency to judge Germany by the worst periods of its history, a stop in Gendarmenmarkt will show the country at its most liberal. It became the centre of a French community around 1700 when Prussia gave refuge to 6000 Huguenots. On the north side, the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral), now home to the Huguenot Museum, Tue-Sat 1200- 1700, Sun 1100-1700, €2, dates from this time, as does the similarly proportioned Deutscher Dom, May-Sep Tue-Sun 1000-1900, Oct-Apr Tue-Sun 1000-1800, on the south side. The Konzerthaus, or Schauspielhaus, in the centre of the square, was one of the earliest buildings designed by the prolific architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841).

Berlin's Nightlife

Berlin offers some of the best nightlife in Europe: laid-back, accessible and cutting edge at the same time. The further east you go the more shabby-chic the bars tend to be; the further west the smarter and more elegant they become. You’ll never be pushed for somewhere to go. Mitte has more than its fair share of suitable watering holes, with the area around Oranienburger Str being particularly popular with tourists. For something a bit more authentically Berlin, Prenzlauerberg is the place to go. From U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz, head up Weinbergsweg into Kastanienallee where you’ll find many hip bars and restaurants. Bars usually open at 2200 and then close when the last guest leaves. The club scene attracts top performers, be it a plethora of International DJs at the incredibly hip Weekend Club, or Kings of Leon at O2 World. Berlin also plays host to secret Geheimtip parties, part of the eastside nightlife. If you are lucky you might discover the location for favourites, such as the Mittwochclub, every Wed. Berlin’s classical music scene is world renowned. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is based at the Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Str 1, T030 2548 8132,, daily 0900-1800. Equally prestigious is the exquisitely restored Staatsoper, Unter den Linden7, T030 2035 4555,, where opera and ballet are performed. Unsold tickets are available for €10 before a performance.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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