During our last trip around the world, as usual we opted to plan a few stopovers in order to visit as many places as possible on our way back. So, after flying from Melbourne, Australia and visiting Singapore for a couple of days, we then took a direct flight to Berlin in Germany, where we spent 3 very interesting and intense days.
Berlin is a city rich in history, one of the most tormented by wars in 20th century, always disputed and a place of divisions. Still today, the signs of recent past are quite obvious. Above all the border marked by infamous Wall of Berlin which used to forbid free movement between East and West Berlin and divided Germany for many years. Luckily nowadays the wall is not there anymore, and it’s possible to visit the most important areas of the city in few days, with big contrasts between one zone and the next still very much visible today.
So here’s our ideal itinerary to visit the essential places of Berlin in a 3-day span.
DAY 1 – MUSEUMSINSEL
The name “Museums Island” is clearly due to the large number of museums contained on this islet on Sprea river. In addition to the 5 Berlin state museums (Pergamonmuseums, Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Altenationale Galerie, Bode Museum), other beautiful buildings like the Berliner Dom (Berlin’s Cathedral) and the Kolonnadenhof make of this island an area of extraordinary artistic and cultural importance, so much to be listed into UNESCO World Heritage. Each museum would require at least a 2-hour long visit, but it’s barely impossible to have time for them all. We suggest not to miss Pergamonmuseums, which has different real size archeologic reconstructions. It is well worth to pay 7€ to visit the Cathedral and climb on its majestic dome. You could spend the day pairing one of the museums with the Cathedral. Or you could combine a part of the island with nearby Alexander Platz, that lies on the immediate east of Sprea river.
MONBIJOU PARK & MONBIJOU HOTEL
A nice area where to have a break on a lawn between one museum and the next at Museumsinsel is Monbijou Park. Thanks to Monbijou Bridge which connects the northern tip of the islet to the banks of the river, every morning and every evening we had the chance to appreciate the various museums and historical buildings from different views. In fact, we had the pleasure to stay in a magnificent hotel right next to Monbijou Bridge and to the park of the same name, Monbijou Hotel. With outstanding breakfasts, a rooftop where to enjoy dinners and cocktails, and a perfect service, it will be hard for us to forget about our hotel in Berlin. This was the view on the Berliner Dom from our room!
DAY 2 – EAST: EAST SIDE GALLERY, ALEXANDER PLATZ
Dedicate your second day to East Berlin. Museumsinsel itself lies to the east of today’s imaginary line that used to divide the city. Walking around you will notice the kind of old style of the buildings here. Alexander Platz is one of the most iconic spots, with the tall Radio Tower dominating the wide square. However the area that will surely strike you the most is East Side Gallery. This section of the Wall is still in its original position and has become a 1,300-meter-long open air gallery. The graffiti painted on the wall by famous artists from all over the world have transformed it in a proper monument to freedom. If you are hungry for a quick bite, you should definitely try currywurst, the characteristic Berliner street food prepared with grilled sausage, tomato sauce, and curry. Our favourite was Curry61 in Monbijou neighbourhood.
TIP: East Side Gallery is a bit far from Berlin’s centre. If you are up to it you can rent a push-bike and cycle like lots of Berliners do. Otherwise the S-Bahn has continuous trains running up and down the city, cheap and very reliable. (The closest station to East Side Gallery is Ostbahnhof, tickets from 1,70€.)
If you have some spare hours and are keen on seeing something different, head to Tempelhof abandoned airport, in the south-east of the city. Here you can walk on a runway and take advantage of wide spaces to go cycling, skating, play football and have a pic-nic!
DAY 3 – WEST: TIERGARTEN, BRANDENBURGER TOR
We left for our last day the visit to West Berlin, the most modern zone and historically the most open to foreign influence. Another famous building is right on the former border, the Brandenburger Tor. We liked it so much that we came back here every day, to enjoy the views in front of it, behind it, at sunrise and at sunset, from close by and from distance. If you walk along the boulevard, Strasse des 17. Juni, from Brandenburg Tor you will end up at the Victory Column (Siegessaule), another important city landmark. That same boulevard squeezes into the very green Tiergarten, one of the most imposing city parks we ever saw. A true green lung to Berlin, or two lungs, given its dimensions! Come here to breathe some fresh air or have a walk around the zoologic garden when in West Berlin. In this area restaurants, shops and fancy bars are at every corner. One can still feel how life used to run at a different pace compared to the East.
Some more interesting monuments close to the Brandenburger Tor are the Reichstag, sit of the German Parliament, and particularly its all glass dome offering panoramic views of Berlin. Besides it is possible to witness the Holocaust Memorial, a commemorative and much emotional place.
TIP: If you are into baroque and rococo style palaces, keep a couple of hours free in order to visit majestic Charlottenburg Castle, in the neighbourhood of the same name in deep West Berlin.
Here ends our 3-day itinerary to visit the essential places of Berlin. As you may have noticed we didn’t suggest Checkpoint Charlie, for the following reason: it was indeed a relevant checkpoint during the years of the Wall, but today is nothing but a reconstruction which is more useful to fake soldiers who will ask you money to take a picture with them, rather than a place to remember the history. A tourist trap in our opinion, which took as back with memory to the fake stilt fishermen of Sri Lanka!
Give priority to the places we have recommended and you won’t be disappointed!
HAVE A GREAT TRIP TO BERLIN!