The largest city in Germany and a reflection of some of the greatest struggles in international history, Berlin is a no-brainer when it comes to high cultural value. There are sobering (and quite balanced) glimpses into unsavory historic events, cathedrals symbolic of the city's wealth, and enough museums (even on one island) to make you forget about your own comparably tiny existence for a while. Oh yeah, and they have a lot of theaters, a passion for football (soccer), and this little known cultural achievement called beer that has spread to all corners of the globe. Just don't try to do it all in a day.
There are six rough sections in the city, although if you're just looking for artifacts of historical importance, then you're obvious choice is highly central Mitte. This is where structures like the Brandenburg Gate (the symbol for Germany's reunification after serving to divide it for years) and Berliner Dom (the city's most famous cathedral) can be found, while there are also museums that address the great obstacles that Germany has overcome. Among these, the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, visually arresting both externally and informationally arresting inside, and the Berlin Wall Memorial, which gives a true sense of the wall where Checkpoint Charlie falls somewhat short, are both necessary stops. Other structures of significance in Mitte include Nikolaikirche, built in 1230 and the oldest church in Berlin; the Marienkirche, the tallest church in the city; and the Fernsehturm, a massive tv tower and viewing area that rises above Alexanderplatz and, due to its tacky nature, has been dubbed “television-asparagus” by the locals.
Because it is the long-time center of Berlin, Mitte is also the jurisdiction of nearly every worthwhile museum and art gallery in the city. If you're time in Germany includes a bit of culture, then you'd be plain silly to avoid Museuminsel (Museum Island), a literal island in the Spree River that is home to some of the best museums in the country. The Pergamon-Museum is the foremost of these and is home to a vast collection of ancient Greek and Middle-Eastern art and artifacts. Also on the island and also worth seeing if you've got a day or two to come back are the Altes Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum, and the Neues Museum (for more information these, visit our dedicated page). The Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz in West Berlin is also chock full of cultural enterprises, including the Neue Nationalgalerie (contemporary art) and Gemäldegalerie (European art from the 13th to 18th century). Art galleries of note include the massive Art Center Berlin Friedrichstraße and the acclaimed Galerie Eigen and Art. Yeah, we told you there were a lot!
Outside of Mitte, there is still plenty to see and do on a cultural level. East Central Berlin is known for the East Side Gallery, the graffiti-adorned stretch of the Berlin Wall that is the longest still in existence. The Topography of Terror on Niederkirchnerstraße is also quite interesting as it documents the inner workings of the Secret Police during the Third Reich and is actually based in the former headquarters. West Berlin is home to the Tiergarten, the largest park in the city and is home to both Siegessäule, a 60 meter monument to Prussian/German might, and the formidable Reichstag building, which houses German Parliament. You may also visit the Olympic Stadium built for the 1936 Olympics, or Charlottenburg Palace, a gorgeous structure a few hundred years old that was a home to Prussian kings.
The most intriguing part of East Berlin is the Stasi Prison (Hohenschönhausen) and the Stasi Museum, two separate attractions that bring to light the doings of the secret police and the trials of the political prisoners who were detained. South Berlin has a ton of green space (which is a trend throughout the city), but also has a few great buildings, including the lovely Glienicke Castle and Jagdschloss Grunewald, an imperial hunting lodge. Finally, North Berlin is home to some great architecture, of which Spandau Citadel and Schloss Tegel are examples.
It's no surprise that Berlin has its fair share of high-level sports teams. There are (incredibly) over twenty football clubs in Berlin, of which Hertha BSC and Berliner FC Dynamo are among the most popular. Alba Berlin are big on the European basketball scene, while a Berlin Eisbären game of hockey is a great winter activity.
For further information on why Berlin is considered by many to be one of the great cultural cities of the world, take a look through our activity pages or continue exploring the site through trip planning tools, travel videos, and much more.