To read my full city guide to Berlin click here
Germany's massive capital is one of Europe's truly great cities and the biggest in the EU. Germany is very much the European powerhouse, and Berlin is at its heart. It's a city with a great, and sadly at times diabolical past having found itself as the political centre of the Nazi party which oversaw the murder of around 6 million Jews, and 5 million Homosexuals, people of ethnic backgrounds, Slavs and numerous others. There's certainly no hiding from the past here though with memorials, museums and information galore about what happened here. There's much more to Berlin than darkness though as well as been the capital of Germany it's also been the capital of Margraviate of Brandenburg, The Kingdom of Prussia, The German Empire, so it's a pretty important city, and there's absolutely loads to do. The public transport is among the best and most efficient anywhere, there's high living standards, beautiful parks and architecture as well as possibly the best museum in the world, and Europe's largest beer hall, serving some of Europe's biggest beers.
Museum Island Berlin
Not many cities have an entire island dedicated to museums and art galleries, but Berlin does, and it even throws in a cathedral for good measure. There's the inventively named Old Museum and New Museum as well as the Old National Gallery, and the Bode Museum, which are all good in their own right, but beyond any shadow of doubt the star of Museum Island is The Pergamon Museum. This is very possible the best museum in the world, certainly if you like huge ancient pieces. It was initially built purely to house The Pergamon Alter, a 35 meter wide 2000 year old alter the like of which you may never see again. Added to that the Pergamon also houses The Market Gate of Miletus which is similarly epic and similarly ancient, and part of the Ishtar Gate which was one of the original wonder of the ancient world, and how often do you get to see them? It's a truly magnificent museum. While you're on the island make sure you also visit Berlin Cathedral and take a walk up to the top of the dome. The views are exceptional.
Learn the History of the Nazi Party where it happened.
Sure learning about genocide is arguably not the ideal way to spend your time off from work, but it's important, if we don't study our dark past we can't learn from it, and the holocaust is about as dark as it gets. The Holocaust Memorial is a chilling modern art monument with an excellent information centre. Meanwhile The Topography of Terror tells the story of the SS and the Gestapo from their main office. Or for a more optimistic view you can always visit the Berlin Wall, while it's very existence was an abomination its eventual fall in 1989 has become a symbol of hope for us all, and one of the most memorable moments of the 20th century.
Visit the Domes
Berlin Cathedral isn't the only impressive dome in Berlin, it's actually got a much newer, and much cooler rival with the Reichstag Dome. This sits on top of the German Parliament Building and is brilliant example of something cool and modern enhancing an old architecturally brilliant building. The glass dome is an absolute must visit, it'll tell you all about the buildings you can gaze out over as well as the history of the building and the city via one of the best audio guides you'll ever find. The dome was probably my favourite bit of Berlin, and it's free!!
Have a Proper Sized German Beer
German beers, and all beers for that matter should only ever be served in steins. Drinking from a stein just feels a bit special, and it's certainly a more substantial offering than the British pint. Germany is also the home of wheat beers and dunkels, two beer styles I love, and you wont find any better examples than in the German capital. Berlin is also the home of Europe's biggest beer hall, which is a Hofbrau pub near the famous TV Tower. Not that you can miss the pub, it's absolutely gargantuan. There's oompah bands and lederhosen galore so you'll really get the proper German drinking experience, and it really is an experience.
In 1963 John F Kennedy famously declared Ich bin ein Berliner, and after visiting this amazing city you may feel the same way. There's no end of history and important landmarks to explore in this prospering modern metropolis, and it's so big you aren't going to struggle to find things to do. However Berlin still feels like a city in transition, it's easy to forget that the Berlin Wall only fell 30 years ago and it's amazing how far the city has come in such a short period of time since its reunification. It's a city that will make you think, it'll make you face the darkest side of humanity, and it'll teach you that there's ways to move on without forgetting, but most of all it's a city which will make you want to keep coming back for more.
To read my full London city guide just click here.
London is the single most visited city in Europe, and with so much to do it's very easy to see why. There's something for everyone in England's capital with museums and art galleries, huge cathedrals, parks, theatres, some of the worlds most famous football clubs, world class bars and restaurants, iconic landmarks a plenty, and a skyline everyone will recognise. It's a city where huge modern skyscrapers share the streets with ancient palaces, and even the occasional dungeon. No-ones going to struggle to find things to do in London, it's just a matter of choosing what's right for you.
Museums and Galleries of London
Between The Albert and Victoria Museum, The Tate, The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, The Tate Modern, and so many more you'll certainly have your fill of art and history in London. If you look at any list of the top museums in the world you'll find The British Museum right up at the top. While it's more a collection of stuff plundered from everywhere except Britain during the age of The Great British Empire than an actual museum relating to Britain it's still a must see. There's everything from The Elgin Marbles, removed from The Acropolis in Athens to extensive exhibits from Africa, Asia, The Americas, Europe, The Middle East and all the ancient sites of Greece, Rome and Egypt. And it's all free. Another freebie is the Tate Modern with its ever changing and updated exhibits of all things new and exciting, or in many cases just plain weird. The Natural History Museum is very possibly the best of its kind you'll find anywhere on earth, with the excellent Science Museum just around the corner. Generally London is an incredibly expensive city to visit but virtually all its museums and galleries are free entry, hugely impressive, and fascinating.
Cathedrals and Churches of London
No picture of the London skyline could be complete without the huge dome of St Paul's Cathedral, it's a true architectural wonder from the world renowned Christopher Wren. The only thing more impressive than the outside of the dome is the beautiful artwork on the interior which you can get pretty close to so you can check out all the fine details. While St Paul's is my favourite part of the London Skyline you also get exceptional views when you climb the steps to the dome getting wonderful panoramic views of the city. St Paul's isn't the most important Christian building in London though, that honour goes to the magnificent Westminster Abbey where the greatest names of British history are christened, married and buried. Among the many dignitaries resting in peace here you'll find Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawkin. Westminster Abbey is a hugely important part of London's history and should not be missed.
Everywhere you look in London you'll find an historic landmark. My personal favourite is The Tower of London the home of the crown jewels, and once upon a time prison to some of Britain's most notorious criminals, as well as several people the monarchs at the time just didn't like very much. The tour by The Beefeaters is amazing, and it's nice to know they are always there looking after the ravens. There's also Buckingham Palace, the hugely extravagant home of the royal family, the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben chiming away next to it. I don't think there's a more famous bell anywhere. Tower Bridge is another favourite of mine crossing over The River Thames, and the London Bridge Experience is another excellent way to spend a couple of hours. For those who prefer to sit down and enjoy a good view The London Eye is another iconic part of the London skyline along with modern buildings like The Shard and The Gerkin. Anyone who enjoys architecture through the ages is going to have a field day in this city.
The Distinct Districts of London
London is just huge. Prior to leaving the EU London was comfortably the biggest city in the union and each district is unique. Camden Town is my personal favourite, the whole area is an Alternative, Goth, Emo, Cyber-Goth, Steam Punk, you name it paradise with chain free shopping zones, and even a shop guarded by two giant cyborgs. Royal Greenwich meanwhile is the home of Greenwich Meantime, The Royal Maritime Museum, and is just a lovely peaceful area of the big city. Shoreditch is the most famous area for nightlife, but to be honest you wont struggle to find a good bar in this city, and the area around Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square and Covent Gardens are absolutely gorgeous, and the real theatrical centre of Europe. And that doesn't even include Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the edge of the Thames.
The whole of London is a land of hussle and bussle, everyone is in a rush, and you can't blame them, with so much going on, and so much to see it must always feel like there's not enough hours in the day or days in the week. Fortunately it's the home of the worlds oldest underground, and after a few goes you'll soon find it easy enough to navigate. This is a city you'll end up coming back to time and time again and never needing to repeat the same activities twice, although in some cases you might want too. There's a reason it's the most visited city in Europe, it's because it's one of the best.
For my full London city guide click here.