Berlin Travel Guide
Berlin Travel Guide
• Population:3.5 mil
Welcome to Berlin! One of the biggest & more interesting cities in Europe!
Berlin’s history has shaped the modern world – Learn all about it’s World changing history and about the change of cultures through the ages.
You’ll find Food, Fashion, Art, Night Life and much more…….
Culture of Berlin
The city of Berlin has a cosmopolitan feel and lifestyle. It is a living being and always changing and adapting to new waves of culture. Whether that be from boutique fashion and shopping, art and museums, food menus from all over the world, neo classical architecture with a funky mix of the modern, under ground rave and graffiti culture, or the more modern history of the city; there is definitely something here for everyone to be able to enjoy.
Getting Around Berlin
Berlin is a big city with so much to see and do, but don’t worry because with access to the entire city of Berlin via it’s amazingly connected U-bahn and S-bahn train systems, Berlin is a city that is easy to explore and easy to get from one side to the other without too much hassle. Tickets machines are inside each station in multiple languages and very easy to use. The system itself is designed with ease of use and once you get the hang of things, it will feel like you’ve been a Berliner for years!
History of Berlin
The city really has such an infamous history that enthrals, shocks and encaptures you into wanting to discover more about this amazing cities past all the way through to its present. In the following information you will see a quick look at some of the high/low lights of Berlin’s history. Just a taste to get you ready for your own personal drive tour of the city on one of our unique style tours.
In many places Graffiti is something that is frowned upon, but in Berlin it is steeped deep in it’s history! The origins date back to the errection of the Berlin wall. While the east side of the wall was heavily guarded and watched by the Soviets, the west wall was, spray can by spray can, decorated in that familiar style that graffiti has be known for. Much to the shock of the East Berliners as they crossed over the wall for the first time in 1989, the graffiti was not seen as vandalism, but rather a sign of fighting against oppression and the physical form to voice ones thoughts.
Today underground graffiti is a popular art form in Berlin and can be seen everywhere. You can even go on official tours to see the best art in Berlin if thats your kind of thing. However one of the best display of art in Berlin, which falls under the ‘Graffiti’ style banner is the Eastside Gallery on the river Spree. Here part of the original wall still stands and it has been adorned in art, with the message of peace and unity, from artists all over the world.
Food & Drink
So what is the first thing you associate with Germany and it’s food and drink? You’re probably going to say pork and beer, right? Well you are right as roasted pork, sausages, and preservative free beer can be found on any menu in Germany. It’s origins stem more from the south in Bavaria in places such as Munich, where pork knuckle and potato dumplings are made famous, but Berlin too caters to this style of food. However you might be surprised to know that Berlin is home to a huge array of gastronomy!
Anything you can think of as food you will find in the city of Berlin. Being such a cosmopolitan centre of living, the city is diverse in its nationalities that call it home. So from traditional Bavarian feasts, Currywurst, Viennese schnitzels, to Chinese, Italian or Russian cuisine, you will find a place for it here in Berlin.
For lovers of the night life and beer drinkers you will find all the famous Bavarian beers here with many on tap, but maybe try one of the local brews – Berliner Pils. For those who like their spirits, Berlin is filled with hundreds of bars that can make a good cocktail!
The city has come such a long way and had such a massive change from the thinking in the early 30’s and during World War 2, where Germany was closed off to multicultural ideals. It really is something you need to discover for yourself
You havent experienced shopping until you have shopped your way through Berlin, as the options are endless. From boutique clothing and bespoke pieces to electronic meccas, the city of Berlin can keep you happy and your credit card hot from use!
You’ll find that the people of Berlin are quite fashionable and many boutique style shops around the city centre. Perfect for someone who likes to carve out their own look and not follow the crowds. However it also caters very well to the brand name shops and H&M’s can be found all over, usually seperated into men and women only shops.
If you are mad for electronics Berlin is a great place to buy anthing that it is you are looking for. With its electronic mega shops you can buy anything from chargers, memory cards, to high end televisions and cameras, all this for usually very decent prices compared to the rest of Europe!
Maybe you have heard of him already and maybe you havent! Berlin’s Ampel Mann is a famous icon left over from the communist days.
The origins of Ampel Mann, who you can see in the pic, comes from the pedestrian crossing lights in East Berlin during the Soviet reign. If you look at the pic carefully you can easily see how different he is compared to other lights you have crossed at in your life. A big wide stride and a big proud arm leading the way as the light turns green for walking.
Ampel Mann has become so famous that he now has his own range of toys, lollies and collectables found not only in Ampel Mann shops, but also sold by many other vendors too.
There are a couple of myths about the meaning behind the wide striding Ampel Mann, but you’ll have to ask your tour leader more about that one when you visit the great city of Berlin!
It is no secret that Germans have an affinity for the famous actor known as ‘The Hoff’, but they dont really recognise him for his acting..no…no! The Hoff is still famous in Germany and Berlin for his singing abilities, as he has released a few albums in his career and even some songs in German. If you have ever watched the movie Euro Trip you will know exactly what we are talking about.
So what is David’s link to Berlin? Well back in 1989 David Hasselhoff ventured to Berlin with a new song he wrote that was inspired by the breaking down of the Berlin Wall. The song was ‘ Looking For Freedom’, where he wore a light up leather jacket, raised on a crane high above a massive crowd infront of the iconic Brandenburg Gate (A former no man’s land). He sang to the cheering crowd only to have a lit flare launched at him as he sang! He was so into the song he never even saw it fly just over his head saving his curly mullet hair at the time.
Home Of The Third Reich
In Germany’s history many cities can lay claim to their importance. Munich can lay claim to the first stirrings of the Nazi Party and the rising up of a man called Adolf Hitler, while Nuremburg was known as the heart of the Nazi Party, holding their huge rallies until 1933. Berlin however played a massive part in Germany’s history, as it became home to the infamous Nazi Party and the setting for the last stand where World War Two came to an end.
When the Nazi Party came into power in 1933, the man given ultimate power to help recover Germany’s former glory was Adolf Hitler. With promises to rebuild a ravaged country and happily rebuild it for the people, the Nazi Party made Berlin their home. However it wasn’t long before they banished all opposition in government, removed land from 10’s of thousands of Jewish owners and started to develop Berlin as a strong hold for the impending war that the world was soon to encounter.
With thoughts of ultimate glory and reign for the next 1000yrs, Hitler had big plans in store for the city of Berlin.
1936 Berlin Olympics
The 1936 games will forever be remembered in history for good and for bad reasons. The Olympics was not meant to be held here, but rather in Barcelona, however after shortly being awarded the Olympic Games, Spain fell into civil war and the games were moved to Berlin for safety reasons. No one new at this stage what was to come and that the Nazi Party would be in control during the games.
Hitler was quite prominent in these Olympics and wanted to award the gold medals himself to the winners. He was not prepared for one man from America in particular who was to take the games by storm winning 4 gold medals and cause uproar in Berlin.
This man’s name was Jesse Owens of the United States of America. Why the big uproar?
Hitler hoped to use the games to show the Nazi Party and German resurgence by dominating the Olympics and showing off the superiority of the Aryan race. Jesse Owens being of African American descent ruined these plans and it is said for this reason Hitler decided to stop awarding the medals to the winners once he knew Owens was to win a medal. His propaganda party would later state that it was due to potential bad weather and busy schedule, but the world quickly became aware of the racial undertones behind his decisions.
If only from this the world could have predicted what would soon be to come.
The Nazi Party had big plans for the city of Berlin. Hitler’s architect, Albert Speers, was in charge of the planning and designs of the dream city. A perfect home to the Third Reich, which they believed would soon become the next 1,000 yr Reich. Literally meaning to the Nazis the next thousand year reign of Berlin and even the world.
The plan came to pass in 1938, just before the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the beginnings of the war, and consisted of mammoth grand boulevards and buildings all made from stone. Hitler believed that steel and glass breaks down with weather over time, but like the great Romans and Greeks he knew that stone lasted forever.
His grandest plan was to rebuild the Reichstag. He wanted to build it 16 times bigger then St Peters Basilica in Rome and be able to sit 180,000 people inside. So many that is it believed that the people inside breathing would have caused it to develop its own atmosphere and clouds within its giant dome.
This was just the beginnings of his plans as he also planned to build a 117 metre high Arc de Triumph and etch the names of 1.8 million German soldiers who had died in World War One.
Many say the plans were a pipedream and not feasible, but if the Nazis won World War Two who knows what would have happened!
Race For Berlin
With the war officially starting in 1939 the world was plunged into miserable darkness and uncertainty for more than the next 6 years. The master mind plans all being created and executed from the city of Berlin.
The Nazis made huge gains during this war and early on defeated the Allied Army at every turn, and with the help of the Red Army looked like they were going to control all of Europe and even the world. However some very bad decisions made through the weary nature of non stop war and some major game changing developments on the Allied side meant that things swung late in the war in 1944, and they swung quickly too!
With Hitler’s army turning on the Soviets, the Nazis now had to defend the motherland on two fronts and quickly were pushed back towards Berlin. Hitler refused to give up and stated that surrender or Berlin was not an option and he would spare nothing and no one to protect it.
By this point the Allies and the Soviets were working together, however both had contradicting plans for after the war and both sides raced to Berlin to claim it first. This was known as the ‘Race for Berlin.’
The fight was an absolute blood bath with Berlin being set up with a series of fortifications starting from 50km out of the city. The Nazis did not go quietly and followed blindly their Fuhrer to the very end. Bodies piled up as the machine guns rang and the streets became no longer visible near the Reichstag, buried under a sea of bodies and blood.
The Nazis held out as long as they could, but fighting from both the East and the West had left them thin and defeat soon came. The first to take the Reichstag and lay claim to Berlin and Germany were the Soviets. The Allies being held up arrived soon after and the war came to an end.
Hitler being said to have committed suicide in a nearby bunker rather than facing capture.
East Vs. West
Germany was soon after split in half into east and west divided by the invisible, but real Iron Curtain. The west lived with the ideologies of free market and capitalism, whilst the east lived under communist regime working as one all for the glory of their government and country. Berlin itself was found in the middle of East Germany, but an agreement between the Americans and Russians saw Berlin split in two. Well actually into four parts, but the Soviets took half being East Berlin and the Americans, British and French divided up the rest in West Berlin. Such a strange phenomenon to have an island of capitalism and freedom surrounded by a sea of Soviet Communist life.
The tensions ran high many times between both sides many times, even to the point of the east blocking road access to the west forcing the Allies to support the West Berliners with helicopter drops for supplies and food. At one point a chopper was landing every 45 seconds to keep up with the needs. Tensions also rose due to the number of people escaping the east and being given West German citizenship if they did so. Even the death of Stalin in 1953 did nothing to change attitudes towards each other
With the aim to avoid another war with the co existence of east and west, the so called answer came from the Soviets and leader at the time Nikkita Khrushchev. He was to build a wall.
The Berlin Wall
In 1961 A wall went up in Berlin and it is known to this day as the Berlin Wall. The brain child of Soviet leader Nikkita Khrushchev in 1961, the wall went up not around East Berlin, but around the western side of Berlin. So as the Soviets built a wall, so did the Americans build their own wall. Two walls made of re-enforced grey concrete slabs which were high enough that no human man could scale them, protected by soliders, guarded by towers, machine guns, dogs and an area between the two walls became known as ‘ No Man’s Land’.
The wall wasn’t always like this as it was orginally built of wire fence and bricks, but it soon developed into the physical symbol that was known as the Iron Curtain, and until then only an invisible line that divided Germany in two and indeed divided half of the world. Now it was tangible and real, designed to supress and instill fear into the people of East Berlin and send a warning to those in the west.
Many East Germans tried their luck and tried anyway they could to escape from the commmunist life into the west. It was such a depressing symbol for the East Berliners as both sides could see each other if they stood on their roofs, but couldnt communicate or share any of their lives. From those who tried escape, some made it where many were not so lucky. Often being shot on sight, killed by landmines or attacked by patrolling dogs.
The wall remained standing from 1961 until 1989 when finally the communist government under pressure of collapsing and with social pressure from around the world building gave up on the wall.
1989 Fall Of The Wall
As Communism began to collapse the pressure to allow more people through the checkpoints increased. The one and only civilian checkpoint was Checkpoint Charlie, and it was here on 9th of Nov 1989 where it all came down.
It was all a bit of a mistake, as a message was to be read out on national broadcast that the GDR would begin allowing to let people visit West Berlin with the right procdures, but the message was read incorrectly to say that the checkpoints were now open to all. That was exactly how 10s of Thousands of Berliners heard it and they rushed the checkpoints. The guards overwhelmed and uncertain opened the gates and that was the beginning of the end of the Berlin wall and the communist run government in East Germany.
In the days that followed images were streamed all over the world of East and West Berliners uniting for the first time since 1945 and people bringing hammers and pick axes breaking down the walls in celebration.
The New Capital
With the wall going down it was not long before Germany united in 1990. Soon after Berlin was renamed at the capital city of the newly united Germany, taking away the title from the capital of Bonn in West Germany. Although the new capital to all German citizens it took a further 8 years for the seat of government to move into Berlin and finalise the capital city’s place in history.
Today Berlin has changed so much from its past 100 years of history. It has come through horrible war, genocide and great oppression and is now a buzzing metropolis, oozing in multi-culturalism and tolerance.
It really is a place that must be visited by everyone at least once in their lives. In Berlin today you can still see reminders of its history and get a real feel for how its history nearly tore it apart, but can also see how its citizens fought on and have built something truly alive with energy.
Things to See & Do
Found in the heart of Berlin, Alexander Platz is home to clothing shops, electronic shops, restaurants and even bars. Its a must visit in Berlin.
Home to the German government you can visit the Reichstag and see the parliament in action as you walk up and down its famous internal architectural double helix. If you want to visit its advised to book in online first.
Built after the unification of Berlin it serves as a reminder to all the indecent acts that took place all over Europe. Located in the city centre the 2,711 piece concrete slab art work is there for all to walk past every day so that they may never forget.
Out of the three checkpoints from east to West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie was the only civilian crossing. Many people tried to escape through here before the wall came down, so they decided to rebuilt a replica for visitors to get the experience of the checkpoint. Nearby there are walls with stories of escape attempts, the Checkpoint Charlie museum and other fun activities just short walking distance away.
Located in Alexander Platz the Telespargel is impossible to miss in Berlin. Made in the late 60’s during communist times, the tower is 365m tall and worth visitng for the view and revolving cafe for a meal.
The Museum was built in the late 80’s to celebrate the 750th year of Berlin’s history. If you ever wanted to learn all about German history from anytime in the last 2 millenia then this place is for you. Open 7 days a week they not only have permanent exhibits, but often have an array for temporary displays throughout the year.
There are plenty of food options in Berlin, but if you are craving some genuine Bavarian pork whilst in Germany definitely visit the Hofbrauhaus or Lowenbrau for a communal dinner table style meal and a stein of beer. In our opinion you should find time to visit both as they offer a different style of pork crackling and both make their own labelled beers. Try a bread pretzel too!
Berlin is littered with bars and nightclubs, but most of them can not be seen from the street as they are usually found underground. The city has a huge underground club culture that can be experienced on any day of the week. The Matrix is one of the most well known places in the East side of Berlin, but if that doesnt take your fancy there are plenty within walking distance from here.
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