Meeting Berlin

berlin

The fall of the Berlin wall gave rise to the cosmopolitan city par excellence. Traces of old-world Europe harmoniously coexist with the latest trends. There is always something new in Berlin.

"Always at the cutting-edge"

It rivals London as Europe’s reference point. Compared with other capital cities that exploit their past, Berlin is at the forefront of innovation, setting the pace for the modern world. It’s a city that can turn a crumbling building occupied by squatters, the underground railway (U-Bahn), or a cold promenade such as Alexanderplatz into fascinating icons.
 
There is much debate surrounding what truly symbolises Berlin. For some it is Brandenburg Gate, for others it’s the Wall, or the Victory Column at the heart of the Tiergarten. But perhaps it’s the beloved pedestrian featured on the traffic lights that fills the souvenir shops which best encapsulates the lighthearted and contemporary spirit of this open and at times eccentric city.
 
Where is the Wall? It’s the first thing that visitors ask. There are vestiges of the tragic divider all over the city. Checkpoint Charlie takes us back to the most emblematic moments of the Cold War, but the East Side Gallery is the best option for contemplating the Wall, along the banks of the Spree, where 1.3 kilometres that have been covered in graffiti art, such as the famous kiss (Bruderkuss) between Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Eastern German, Erich Honecker, have been preserved.
 
Brandenburg Gate, built at the end of the 18th century, was closed for forty years. Since 1989 the gate has allowed people once again to cross between the Tiergarten park, a unique place for going on a bike ride or having a beer in one of Berlin’s typical beer gardens, and the Unter den Linden, an elegant boulevard that will take you to Museum Island.
 
On one side of Brandenburg Gate you can find the Holocaust Memorial, which was built in 2005, an unending esplanade filled with concrete stelae that remind us of the extermination of the Jews in Europe. It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman. The tracks left by the war and Nazism can also be followed at the Topography of Terror Documentation Center, on the sites which were once the Gestapo and SS headquarters, in the Kreuzberg borough. Admission is free and it is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
 
Kreuzberg is a neighbourhood that is well known for more than just this impressive museum. It is also the most fashionable neighbourhood in Berlin. It can be likened to Notting Hill in London with its jam-packed, multicultural streets representing a colourful spectacle. You can find everything from exotic, alternative shops that have the next big thing, such as Core Tex Records on Oranienstrasse, to mosques, Turkish restaurants or museums such as the Jewish Museum, which is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Berlin is at the forefront of innovation, setting the pace for the modern world.

Berlin is a never-ending source of leisure. Options include the Solar Berlin, an establishment that offers the perfect mix of cocktails, impressive views, and chill-out music. Then there is the public park that opened on site of the old Tempelhof airport, which is also the site for numerous concerts and popular festivals. These options speak to the modern nature of the city.
 
The Reichstag (Parliament) is yet another example of the coexistence of the old and the new. The dilapidated legislative palace, destroyed by a fire in 1933 was restored by Norman Foster, who crowned it with a spectacular glass dome. It is open to the public every day from 8:00 a.m. until midnight, but because the lines can be very long, reserving your admission is advised. Underneath the dome is a restaurant with a terrace. Here is yet another trick: if you want to avoid waiting altogether, you can make a reservation to have lunch, dinner, or a snack in the “Käfer” restaurant, since exclusive entrance to the Reichstag is offered to diners.
 
If you are in Berlin on business, the Museum Island is a must-see and, aside from contemplating the cathedral, choose from at least one of the six great museums. The Neues Museum is home to the famous Nefertiti bust, and in the Pergamon Museum, the Pergamon Altar of Zeus has been preserved as well as the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
 
General admission is from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with opening hours being extended until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Single admission for each of the museums costs 18 euros, but the Museum Pass allows access to all of the public Berlin museums for three days for 24 euros.
 
Berlin is a very spread out city, so the best option for getting around is to purchase a 48-hour card starting at €19.50.
 
If there is one thing that causes a stir among food-lovers passing through the German capital city, it’s the large number of street food options with typical eats such as the world famous currywurst dogs with sauerkraut made from pickled cabbage, the schnitzel filets or the pretzels – the best snack for combating hunger. Cheap options are aplenty throughout the city.
Beyond these types of culinary options, other places of interest are the Reinstoff, Chef Daniel Achillas’ sanctuary that boasts two Michelin stars and is housed in an historic Edison light-bulb factory in the Mitte neighbourhood. Meals range from 110 to 198 euros. Another exalted, yet more affordable option is the Horvath restaurant, in the popular Kreuzberg neighbourhood, where the Austrian Sebastian Frank is in command, also with two stars to its name, with meals ranging from 63 to 119 euros.
 
A Berlin classic is the headquarters of the original chain of Einstein cafes. Cafe Einstein on the shopping street, Kufürstendamm, offers typical dishes and a Berlin inter-war period ambience. Its pleasant outdoor terrace, its silver serving carts, and waiters dressed in formal attire, takes the diner back to the Europe of Stefan Zweig, for quite a reasonable price.
After recharging your batteries with a coffee, there is nothing better than taking a bike ride and experiencing the local way of life. A large part of the population gets around by bicycle, so there are a large number of companies offering bike rental services throughout the city.
 
Take advantage while you’re in town on business or after your work meetings to discover one of Europe's most modern, fun, and multicultural cities – truly a must-see.

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