Berlin today is like the nuclear fuel rod of a great nation, and no tour of Germany is complete without a look at its historic and reunited capital. It’s vibrant with youth, energy, and an anything-goes-and-anything’s-possible buzz. As you enjoy the thrill of walking over what was the Wall and through the well-patched Brandenburg Gate, it’s clear that history is not contained in some book; it’s an exciting story in which we play a part. In Berlin, the fine line between history and current events is excitingly blurry. Even non-historians find Berlin captivating, lively, fun-loving, all-around enjoyable — and easy on the budget. Explore the fun and funky neighborhoods emerging in the former East, packed with creative eateries and boutiques trying to one-up each other. Peruse the city’s world-class museums, then go for a pedal along the Spree riverfront before sitting down to nurse a stein of brew or dive into a cheap Currywurst. On the outskirts of town, at Potsdam, glide like a swan through the opulent halls of an imperial palace or, at Oranienburg, ponder the darkest chapter of this nation’s past at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ German History Museum The ultimate swing through Germany’s tumultuous story.
▲▲▲ Pergamon Museum World-class museum of classical antiquities on Museum Island, partially closed through 2019 (including its famous Pergamon Altar).
▲▲▲ Reichstag Germany’s historic parliament building, topped with a striking modern dome you can climb (reservations required).
▲▲▲ Brandenburg Gate One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, a massive columned gateway, at the former border of East and West.
▲▲ Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Holocaust memorial with almost 3,000 symbolic pillars, plus an exhibition about Hitler’s Jewish victims.
▲▲ Unter den Linden Leafy boulevard through the heart of former East Berlin, lined with some of the city’s top sights.
▲▲ Neues Museum Egyptian antiquities collection (on Museum Island) and proud home of the exquisite 3,000-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti.
▲▲ Gendarmenmarkt Inviting square bounded by twin churches (one with a fine German history exhibit), a chocolate shop, and a concert hall.
▲▲ Topography of Terror Chilling exhibit documenting the Nazi perpetrators, built on the site of the former Gestapo/SS headquarters.
▲▲ Museum of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie Kitschy but moving museum with stories of brave Cold War escapes, near the former site of the famous East-West border checkpoint; the surrounding street scene is almost as interesting.
▲▲ Jewish Museum Berlin Engaging, accessible museum celebrating Jewish culture, in a highly conceptual building.
▲▲ Gemäldegalerie Germany’s top collection of 13th- through 18th-century European paintings, featuring Holbein, Dürer, Cranach, Van der Weyden, Rubens, Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velázquez, Raphael, and more.
▲▲ Berlin Wall Memorial A “docu-center” with videos and displays, several outdoor exhibits, and lone surviving stretch of an intact Wall section.
▲▲ Prenzlauer Berg Lively, colorful neighborhood with hip cafés, restaurants, boutiques, and street life.
▲ Old National Gallery German paintings, mostly from the Romantic Age.
▲ DDR Museum Quirky collection of communist-era artifacts.
▲ New Synagogue Largest prewar synagogue in Berlin, damaged in World War II, with a rebuilt facade and modest museum.
▲ Potsdamer Platz The “Times Square” of old Berlin, long a postwar wasteland, now rebuilt with huge glass skyscrapers, an underground train station, and — covered with a huge canopy — the Sony Center mall.
▲ Deutsche Kinemathek Film and TV Museum An entertaining look at German film and TV, from Metropolis to Dietrich to Nazi propaganda to the present day.
▲ Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Evocative destroyed church in heart of the former West Berlin, with modern annex.
▲ Käthe Kollwitz Museum The black-and-white art of the Berlin artist who conveyed the suffering of her city’s stormiest century.