The 20th century saw Berlin at the heart of worldwide strife, nearly torn in two by conflicting government ideologies and preparing to slide into cultural ruin. Yet, with the iconic toppling of the Berlin Wall, a society of over 4.5 million expats, immigrants, students, outcasts, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs has risen to typify the Berlin of the 21st century; a multicultural Berlin that has returned to prominence and earned the distinction as one of the most visited cities in Europe.
Long gone are the grim soldiers manning checkpoints; now you'll encounter the locals freely eating imported favorites like Turkish döner or packing into Boxhagener Platz for late-night dance parties. Schöneberg is one of the great LGBT centers of Germany, while Kreuzberg and Mitte are contemporary leaders of the art movement (Art Center Berlin and Galerie Eigen & Art), one that is more or less mirrored in the stencils and spray-paint of its street facades. Mitte is also where you'll be joined by troops of gawking tourists, for the spectacular line-up of historic monuments like the Brandenburg Gate, stellar museums like those on Museuminsel, and epic squares like Alexanderplatz and Gendarmenmarkt. Every district is unique in its own ways, but you'll find a wide range of places for drinking and dining anywhere near central Berlin- you'll also be introduced to a near overwhelming tally of clubs, cocktail lounges, kitschy bars, live music meccas, and sophisticated performance venues. For more on what makes these various neighborhoods stand out, consult our Berlin nightlife and cuisine pages.
There's a definitive excitement that pervades much of berlin: you've got the world's biggest stage performances at the Friedrichstadtpalast, football mania with Hertha BSC Berlin, the singular experience of the ubiquitous currywurst, period-style buildings like the Reichstag and Berliner Dom, and the widest range of animals on display anywhere in the Berlin Zoo. To say that Berlin likes to go big is an understatement. In our estimation, Berlin often goes biggest when it comes to honestly portraying its actions of the past century. Museums like the poignant Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Nazi prison of Hohenschoenhausen are effective reminders of the Third Reich's malignancy, while the East Side Gallery, the touristy Checkpoint Charlie, and the affecting Berlin Wall Memorial all give glimpses into a savagely divided Berlin. There is no other city in German with as many artifacts of the country's tumultuous last century. For more on its cultural institutions and attractions, our Berlin culture page has you covered.
A sense of adventure can be had in many ways in and around Berlin. The city is actually quite manageable via bike and is considered incredibly bike-friendly, and public parks like the Tiergarten, Treptowner Park, and Wuhlheide Park provide plenty of greenery. Then again, getting out of the urban world should also be a priority. Teufelsberg is a great nearby hike with an old Cold War surveillance facility at its peak, while the small towns of the Spreewald, an area of interlocking canals, can provide insight into the world of the isolated Sorb people. Two approximate national parks include Müritz and Jasmund, both of which provide completely different worlds to explore. Müritz is a collection of lakes and wetlands, while Jasmund consists of entrancing chalk cliffs and coastal walks along the Baltic Sea. Speaking of, the islands of Rügen and Usedom are some of best destinations from which to explore much of the Baltic coast, which is best during the summer months.
The WelcomeCard is a worthwhile purchase, allowing for free public transport and numerous deals on cultural attractions. The flexibility of the card is key and may be tailored to the length of your stay. With all that there is to experience in Berlin, you may end up staying a lot longer. Looking at the population make-up of Berlin, you definitely wouldn't be the first. Also, Public transport is as reliable as they come, although there is the minimal risk of pickpocketing; follow your usual big-city safety precautions and you'll have no issues.
For more on what there is to see, do, eat, drink, and explore, browse our included activities and information.