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.