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10 Things to Experience in Berlin

architecture culture history museums nature
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From history to food to music, there’s plenty to be done. But what if you have only 48 hours to spare? Take this list and tick off the best

history / nature

1. Get away from the city bustle

Grunewald Forest

Pack a picnic basket and spend an afternoon in the great, forested outdoors of Grunewald. Pick your choice of transport through this vast lung of greenery: on foot, on horseback or bicycle. In summer, the Schlachtensee and Wannsee—two of the forest's pristine lakes are the perfect place for a refreshing dip, before you climb back to sip lager on the shore. Check out the Teufelsberg, a huge hill made by the Allies post WW-II, entirely out of rubble. You can climb up to get a view from above the treetops.

archaeology / museum / river

2. Take a trip through history

Museum Island, Unter den Linden

Museum lovers, head out to the Unter den Linden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the middle of the River Spree. Five of Berlin's best museums are right here. The glorious bust of Nefertiti can be seen at the Neues Museum and some of the world's finest archaeological wonders are at the Pergamon Museum, including the stupendous Roman Gate of Miletus, towering 17m high and 29m wide, and the staggering Ishtar Gate of Babylon dating back to 600BC.

history / culture / architecture / soviet

3. Indulge in a little Cold War spy nostalgia

DDR Museum

The end of Soviet occupation of Berlin threw up a world of fascinating memorabilia from the bleak, yet interesting old days. A walk through the DDR Museum will take you back to the dark days of Cold War espionage; get interactive and step into the boots of a Stasi Officer, or imagine what it was like to live in a bugged flat. Outside, you can tour the city in a Trabant, the Soviet-era clunker, which has been brightened up in happy post-Communism colours.

history / jew / holocaust

4. Explore Berlin's war history

Judisches Museum, Synagogue and Holocaust Memorial

Pop into the Judisches Museum, shaped like a Star of David, for a little remembrance of those dark days, and to experience the singular architectural design of the interior space that might be more fascinating than the artefacts themselves. Walk on the "fallen leaves"-10,000 discs sculpted like faces as a tribute to victims of war and violence. Hear the metal clank under you, serving as a reminder of the ruthlessness of man. The Neue Synagogue, built in the late 19th century and a proud survivor of the war, is worth a look. For a true snapshot of the times, go to the Holocaust Memorial and walk around.

history / culture / architecture

5. Relive the Cold War era

The Berlin Wall

The most famous wall in modern history still has bits that you can see, touch and wonder what it must have been like. There is a lovely stretch that runs through the Freidrichshain and Kreuzberg districts, along the banks of the Spree. Walk across to the famous Checkpoint Charlie, the setting of many a spy-thriller, and spend a lazy morning reading stories about the grim times. On the northern section of the Wall, the original graffiti artwork done by the anarchic East Germans is on display. Book into any of the Hotels in Friedrichshain for a comfortable stay. Check out the hotel room amenities, facilities, pricing and availability online before booking.

shopping / boutique / second hand

6. Shop till you drop

The best of Europe's retail

Berlin is a shopper's paradise, so get ready to walk or cycle through its vast, edgy, trendy retail districts. Exclusive boutiques are ranged around Torstrasse and Mulackstrasse. Check out Friedrichstrasse, home to the best designer outlets and the humongous KaDeWe, Europe's largest department store. Prenzlauer Berg is great for smaller, mom-and-pop shops and super bargains. Second-hand hunters can spend a whole day at Alexander Platz, for the trendiest hand-me-downs.

food / drink / dance / party

7. Dance your weekend away

Berlin's night-life

Berlin does not recognise day from night when it comes to partying, so get ready for a weekend of hedonism. The Panorama Bar between Kreuzberg and Freidrichshain is where techno was born and raised, so go pay homage. For a great house-party vibe, head to the labyrinthine Salon zur Wilden Renate, with its multi-floor, multi-room setting, including an outdoor courtyard. The Watergate has a beautiful deck terrace overlooking the Spree, where you can watch the sun come up.

art / museum

8. Take a tour of Europe's art history

Berlin's Art Scene

Berlin takes its art very seriously. Just south of the Tiergarten is the Kulturforum, an entire museum complex dedicated to art. The Gemaldegalerie focuses on early European and Renaissance works that include Flemish masterpieces. Further up is the Neue Nationalgalerie, a glass cube built in 1960, and showcasing the best of the Expressionism era. Cubism by Picasso and Leger are on display here as well. They have a Long Night of the Museums where you can museum-hop till 2am. If you want to plan a stay here, surf the internet. Check out the hotels in Tiergarten and make bookings in advance. This will help you get rooms of your choice which may not be possible at the last moment.

history / architecture / sport

9. Where Aryan supremacy got trounced

The Olympic Stadium

History and sports buffs, walk on over to the iconic Olympiastadion, the proud fascist monument to Hitler's notion of Aryan supremacy, where a black American hero called Jesse Owens snubbed the Fuhrer with four gold medals in 1936. The stadium survived the ravages of the war, and in 2006 appeared before the world in its new avatar as a venue for the 2006 FIFA World Cup where Italy won and Germany took third place.

kids / education / Aquarium / zoo / picnic

10. Visit the flora and fauna of the world

Berlin Zoo

If travelling with kids, kick back and spend quality time at Germany's oldest and Europe's favourite zoo, the Zoologischer Garten & Aquarium in the Tiergarten. There are over 14,000 exotic species to see, many of them critically endangered, all housed in closest possible environment to the wild. Apart from the entertainment, the zoo is a source of superb educational and scientific opportunity. If it's raining, take refuge in the Aquarium and get up close with the marine and amphibian world. There are many flights to Berlin at different times of the day. Book into the one that suits your affordability and your schedule.

Travel Tips

Insider Tips:

If you are short on time, take the Sandeman's Free Tour (tips only) of Berlin, which will give you a unique insider perspective you will never get out of a guide book.