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World > Germany > Berlin
City Guide Berlin
General Information
Berlin is located in the North-East of Germany and in the centre of Europe. With a population of about 3.5 million it is the biggest city in Germany and also an important industrial and cultural area. Divided into many districts you can find a lot of different atmospheres and impressions there. One famous district is ‘Berlin-Kreuzberg’. Here the population consists solely of Turkish people. That's why this district can be called the biggest Turkish city after Istanbul. In ‘Prenzlauer Berg’, ‘Mitte’ and ‘Friedrichshain’ there are a lot of nice cafés and small individual shops. These areas are a bit more informal as ‘Zehlendorf’ and ‘Tiergarten’ with its dressy bars and restaurants. After its reunification in 1990 the city and its image grew in many domains like culture and music. Because of it's size, the city has more than one center. Many places like ‘Potsdamer Platz’ or ‘Alexanderplatz’ which are called the heart of Berlin, show the diversity of the city itself. Due to the method of construction and Berlin's history you can find an architecturally mixture of old and new buildings. Berlin is one of the richest cities in Europe when it comes to nature. It is richer in water areas and bridges than Venice. Almost 7% of the surface is water and nearly 18% are covered with green areas like parks and woods. Every year many local events like fairs, exhibitions and the long night of shopping take place. So, no matter in which season you want to visit Berlin it always captures you with its charming atmosphere.
The summer in Berlin are balmy and pleasant. So the daytime temperatures are usually around 23°C (74°F). Winter there are cold but normally it doesn't achieve a temperature over -5°C. Typically there is not much rainfall and snow in Berlin.
German is the official language spoken in Berlin, although there is still a minor difference between standard German (Hochdeutsch) and Berlin dialect. English is widely understood and spoken in most of the touristy places. Furthermore, by reason of the huge community of the Turks outside of Turkey their language is widespread in Berlin.
Berlin is with its many several faiths a multicultural meeting-place for everyone. However, Berlin is not as religious as the south of Germany. The city is rich in churches. Furthermore, there are some districts where solely people of Turkish decent live. In these parts of the city the Islam is represented very often. After the effort to obliterate the Jewish people in WW II, they got more self-confident again. The Jewish community and its religion grows every day.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01.
Normally a tip of 10% is common. In restaurants in Berlin, the tip is included usually , though it is customary to round up the bill (ie €2 on €1.90.). For other services, such a haircut or a drive with a taxi, it is normal to leave €2 or more.
From January 2007 the VAT increases from 16% to 19%. In some shops which are signed with the „Tax Free“ shopping sign, the VAT can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU. In order to do that you have to fill a tax-cheque by the time of purchase. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance where the customs official will provide a tax stamp which can be cashed at any of the airport banks in a variety of currencies.
To call Berlin from abroad, dial +49 for Germany and then 30 for Berlin. Calling from hotel is in general pretty expensive. To use a public phone you need a telephone card or coins. In some public phones you can use money or credit cards. Telephone cards can be purchased in any post office, at the main stations and in a lot of kiosks.
Berlin has a lot of internet cafés. The prices start with one euro. Some of the internet cafés have a lot of other services like laser printing, internet-courses and multi-player online games. A number of the normal cafés offers also an internet station - this service is often for free. Below is a short list of internet cafés: Easy Everything: Kurfürstendamm 224, surf-inn at the Galerie Kaufhof: Alexanderplatz 9, Library of the Humboldt University: Dorotheenstraße 27, KaDeWe: Tauentzienstraße 21-24, etc.
Emergency numbers
Police Tel.: 110 Fire department Tel.: 112 Ambulance Tel.: 112 Physicians on Standby Tel.: 310031 Dentists (emergency service) Tel.: 89004333 Pharmacies (night and weekend service) Tel.: 0800/33011411
Opening times
Banks can be found on almost every corner in Berlin. Normal business hours are 8 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. The banks in the malls are often open until 8 pm. Most of the banks in the city have 24-hours ATM’s. The exchange rate at the ATMs is very good, so the only extra fee you'll pay is whatever your bank at home charges for international withdrawals. Usually the post offices are open from 8 am - 6 pm. After that there are some counter for late selling. If you just need a stamp there are machines next to some offices.
Public Holidays
On the following dates, shops and businesses close and public transport runs a limited service. · 1st January (New Year's Day) · Good Friday/Easter Sunday/Monday (late March or early April) · 1st May · Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day - ten days before Pentecost) · Whit Monday · Fronleichnam (Corpus Christie - ten days after Pentecost) · Mariä Himmelfahrt (for exact date, refer to a German calendar) · 3rd October (Day of German Unity) · 1st November (All Saints Day in Catholic States) · 25th December (Christmas Day) · 26th December (Boxing Day)
Berlin is one of the most visited cities in Germany. In general the city is relatively safe and has a low crime rate, especially in the centre and close to the attractions. Most of the time it is safe to walk through town even in the night. That refers also for the public transport. However, there are some points of notice and take care about. Pay attention with petty crimes like pickpockets. If you are in crowds or in cafés and restaurants take care of your belongings. In Berlin’s centre are some places where you can also find trickster, for instance the famous “Hütchenspieler”. Do not engage in such a game – it is sure that you will always lose it!
Not far away from the famous sights “Brandenburger Tor” and “Siegessäule” is the is the largest and most beautiful inner-city park in Europe located. The “Tiergarten” which was originally intended as a hunting ground for Prussian kings was transformed in the early 18th century into a beautiful English landscape style garden. Today it is a nice place to relax, to do a barbecue or just to make stroll through it. Furthermore there are some nice cafés and a boat hire. Considering the size of the park there are a lot of options to get there. One possibility is to go with bus 100 or you get out at the train-station “Unter den Linden”.
Botanic Garden and Botanic Mus
The “Botanic Garden” is also called the green jewel of Berlin. It has a tradition of about 300 years. So originally it was an agricultural garden at another place directly in Berlin but for lack of space the garden is relocate in Berlin Dahlem – closer to Brandenburg. Today the garden has an area of about 43 ha and with its 22.000 plant species and 6000m² of greenhouses it belongs to one of the biggest and most famous gardens of the world. In the library you can look up of plants and refresh your knowledge about them. But not just the garden is a highlight for visitors. The museum which is an extension to the garden also offers a wider range of detailed knowledge of plant species. Opening times (Garden): Nov, Dec, Jan 9 am - 4 pm, Feb 9 am - 5 pm, March and Oct 9 am - 6 pm, Sept 9 am - 7 pm, April and Aug 9 am - 8 pm, May, June and July 9 am - 9 pm Opening times (Museum): Daily 10 am - 6 pm
Gärten der Welt (Gardens of th
After the opening in 1987 as the „Berliner Gartenschau“ the park expanded every year more and more. Now it is a 21 ha recovering landscape with a lot of themes and a new name: Gardens of the World! The highlight are the famous gardens with differents kind of themes like „Chinese“, „Japanese’, „Oreantal“, „Korean“ and „Balinese“ Gardens. All are well prepared with native inspiration and have a charming flair of the particular destinations. Opening times: Nov - Feb 9 am - 4 pm, March 9 am - 7 pm, April - Sept 9 am - 7 pm, Oct 9 am - 6 pm, May - Aug 9 am - 8 pm
The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is one of the most famous landmarks of Berlin. Built up between 1891 and 1894 by Kaiser Wilhelm II the church was a symbol of the unity of the Prussian. During WW II it was bombed and extremely damaged – like most of the beautiful buildings. Just the West Tower and a Memorial Hall ‘survived’. Adjacent to the old church a new and modern bell tower was built which has blue-colored glass bricks. At the Memorial Hall there is a small exhibition about the church’s history. It contains several original objects from the church as well as photos before and after the destruction. The church is located at the “Breitscheidplatz” close to the shopping area “Ku’damm” and “Europa Center”.
Grunewald Forest (Berliner For
The Grunewald Forest is an enchanting place if you appreciate the air and enjoy seemingly endless views consisting of oak, ash trees and water in the surrounding. This protected space in the West of Berlin has 32km² of dense woodland. There are some pleasant forest walks, some which lead down to quiet lakes and the old hunting seat where visitors can take a drink in a comfortable nice restaurant at the top of the hill. This castle which is built up in the renaissance-style is the oldest in Berlin and includes a lot of great paintings from famous persons.
In Berlin many old buildings are combined with new ones or new components. This fact splashes an ancient and also a fresh spirit about the city. Because of Berlin’s countless attractions and monuments, the city possesses a lot themes and interesting fractions. In addition to these sights, Berlin offers numerous interesting sections like the districts “Prenzlauer Berg” or “Kreuzberg” where you can experience different kinds of atmospheres. There are a lot of bus- or boat trip offers which guide you through the city. However, if you want to discover Berlin on your own it is the best way to mix S-Bahn and walking. Another possible combination is the use of the double-decker bus 100 which makes a ‘Sightseeing-Tour’ for a normal bus price (without guide). Furthermore, the famous 'Velotaxis' stand at nearly every corner at touristy places and are a good opportunity to see Berlin in a relaxed and cheap way.
Lustgarten (Pleasure Garden)
This beautiful park is located directly in one of the nice centres of Berlin, at the “Museums Island”. Originally it was a private garden for herbs and by and by it was used as a parade ground as well as for meetings especially during WW II and the GDR-Regime. Over the centuries buildings like the “Berliner Cathedral”, the classical building of the “Old Museum” and the “Palace of the Republic” were constructed around the garden. However, today it is used as a well designed Public Park with a 13 meters high fountain in the middle. Especially in the evenings and at nights when the “Cathedral” is illuminated there are many tourists as well as people from Berlin to absorb the breathtaking atmosphere.
Neue Synagoge Berlin - Centrum
The today’s “New Synagogue Berlin” was founded in 1671 by the Berlin Jewish Community. Located close to “Hackescher Markt” it is a place for prayer and also a get-together for Jewish people and everyone who is interested in their past. The Centrum Judaicum Foundation was established in 1988 and sees itself as a connection of past and future. It acts also as a bridge between the East and West of European Jewry. In the Synagogue you can find a permanent exhibition from the history of the building and also temporary exhibitions with different main focuses but the documentation and impression always deal with the Jewish life in this part of Berlin. After the consecration of the New Synagogue as the Centrum Judaicum in 1995, the building was reopened with a permanent exhibition which is called “Open ye the Gates”. Opening times: April - Sept Sun and Mo 10 am - 8 pm, Tue - Thur 10 am 6 pm, Fr 10 am - 5 pm March and Oct Sun and Mo 10 am - 8 pm, Tue - Thur 10 am - 6 pm, Fr 10 am - 2 pm Nov - Feb Sun and Mo 10 am - 6 pm, Tue - Thur 10 am - 6 pm, Fr 10 am - 2 pm closed on Sat
Berliner Dom
The “Berliner Dom” is the former court cathedral of the royal family of Prussia (the Hohenzollern). During the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, J.C. Raschdorff designed and built up the cathedral from 1894 to 1905. After years of damaging and decomposition it was restored by Schinkel from 1747 to 1750. Inside is a golden altar which illustrates the 12 apostles and the main altar from 1850 designed by F.A. Stüler. The organ which is constructed by Sauer is also a very huge and impressive attraction of the “Berliner Dom”. The cathedral is a mixture of different kinds of art styles from several centuries. Since autumn 2005 there is a museum which presents paintings and the plans of the construction of the building and its history as well as an exhibition that informs about the architects. Opening times: Dome: April - Sept daily 9 am - 8 pm, Oct - March daily 9 am - 5 pm Church: April - Sept Mo - Sat 9 am - 8 pm, Sun and public holidays 12 am - 8 pm, Oct - March Mo - Sat 9 am - 7 pm, Sun and public holidays 12 am - 7 pm
Potsdamer Platz
The “Potsdamer Platz” seems like a quarter of its own and is one of the most popular attractions of Berlin. With a mix of gastronomic areas, shopping opportunities as well as theatre and cinemas this place is a magnetize point for Berliner and visitors. The former square and the old train station were very busy today and have a modern architecture with a lot of skyscrapers in the surrounding. At the red clinker-clad Kollhoff building the fastest express elevator in Europe will bring you up to the panorama platform where you have an amazing survey of the city and the area. The DaimlerChrysler Complex with offices, numerous shops, the “Theater am Potsdamer Platz” as well as the “Casino” was built in the time period of 1993 to 1998. Across these buildings you can find the arcades with nice shops. The “Sony Center” was opened at the Kemperplatz in 2000. It is afuturistic building with a glass roof. There are also nice restaurants, a cinema and the “Filmmuseum”.
The “Alexanderplatz” (also called just “Alex") is located in the geographical centre of Berlin and is the most famous square in the city. In the past it was a place full of markets. Destroyed in WW II it lost its market atmosphere. During the reconstruction of this area Berlin's city centre in the East got a character of socialist architecture. After the “Fall of the Wall” in 1990 there could be registered a permanent increase of new buildings which should make this area to an economical and attractive looking place. The 123m-high “Park Inn” Hotel, the “World Time Clock” and the “TV-Tower” are just three attractions at this square. So today it is a meeting point for tourists and inhabitants alive. There are numerous nice cafes and restaurants as well as shopping areas. Thanks to its central position it is a good starting psition for a city-tour.
Unter den Linden
“Unter den Linden” – the most beautiful avenue and also the prettiness of Old Berlin. The brilliant boulevard ranges from the “Pariser Platz” at the “Brandenburger Tor” to the "Schlossbrücke". Originally this avenue was a bridle path in 1573. Over the years the linden trees grew up more and a lot of eminent buildings like the “Zeughaus” , the “Opera House” and the today’s "Humboldt University" were constructed. A lot of other historical and modern buildings were joined in the time during the past years. Since the Fall of the Wall numerous of these have been restored. Today it has a well-kept appearance. Combined with nice cafes and restaurants as well as some nice shops it has developed to an avenue with a very charming flair.
On the top of the “Siegessäule” you can see the golden statue of Victory which is also called “Goldelse”. This monument reflects Berlin’s history in a very well and attractive way. Between 1864-73 it was built by H. Strack at today’s “Platz der Republik” as the national monument to Germany’s “Wars of Unification”. Later after further victories in different wars F. Drake supplemented the almost eight meters high golden Victoria. During the “Third Reich” there was a further addition: a column drum which brings it to today’s height off 67 meters. Last the monument was moved to the “Großer Stern” adjunct to the “Tiergarten” in 1938. After its restoration in the 80’s the small exhibition hall includes glass mosaics and portraits of battle scenes. Furthermore there is a viewing platform which offers an amazing outlook about Berlin. Opening times: April - Oct Mo - Fr 9.30 am - 6.30 pm, Sat and Sun 9.30 - 7 pm Nov - March Mo - Fr 10 am - 5 pm, Sat - Sun 10 am - 5.30 pm
Checkpoint Charlie
“Checkpoint Charlie” – that is the former border crossing between East and West Berlin. After the construction of the Wall in 1961 it was the only crossing station for all Allies, foreigners, employees of the Permanent Representation and officials of the GDR until 1990. Today there is a border sign and a soldier’s post at this place. A few steps away is the museum which tells the history of the wall.
East Side Gallery
“Graffiti Art on the Berlin Wall” that is the motto of the 118 artists from 21 different countries which painted artful pictures on the “Berlin Wall” section which is 1.316 meters long. At the East-side of the “Berlin Wall” the longest received section of it. So the largest open air gallery in the world stretches from the station “Ostbahnhof” to “Oberbaumbrücke” opened on September 1990. The paintings which are in danger because of the decomposition have been restored in 2000. It is a real attraction of Berlin which reflects the history of the GDR.
Lehrter Bahnhof - The new Cent
13 years after the first decision to build such a huge train station the new turnstile of Berlin is “Lehrter Bahnhof” opened in May 2006. It is Berlin’s new central station and also Europe’s biggest rail transfer point. Its construction was the most spectacular architectural project in Berlin. The building has different mixtures of materials like glass and steel. It also marks the first-ever connection of the East-West and North-South railway lines. Directly in the station is a huge shopping centre where the customer's whishes will be satisfy with different kind of things like fashion and accessories as well as a large food plaza. During a stay in Berlin it is worthwhile to come to this attraction. Opening times (shops): Daily 8 am - 10 pm
The Reichstag is the seat of the German Bundestag or federal government and, with its paned dome, one of the biggest crowd-pullers in Berlin. It's colourful past reflects the dramatic moments in German history since the 19th Century. After reunification, the German Federal Government decided to use the post-war building as a parliament again. The “New Reichstag” was opened in 1999, designed by the British Architect Sir Norman Forster. To achieve the society and to include them into the politics it was important that the new dome would be open to the public. The glass dome, which was at first very controversial, has now become one of the newest landmarks in the city. In 1994 before the renovation work began, the old building became the stage for one of the most spectacular art events in Europe: it was ''wrapped'' by the artist Christo. Observation of the dome: Daily from 8am-24pm: last entry at 10pm The observation free. Observation of plenar hall, guided tours: Lectures in the plenar hall: Mo-Fri: 9am and 5pm, Sat and Sun: 10am-4pm - on the hour (unless plenary sessions in progress) Guided tours (not when plenary sessions are in progress): 10.30am, 3.30pm, 7.30pm Guided tours about architecture and art: Sat, Sun and on banking holidays: 11.30am Booking is necessary for all guided tours. Visitor's service: Tel.: +49 (0)30 22732152 Fax: +49 (0)30 22730027
TV Tower
Before the reunification the TV-Tower was, concerning its historical situation, a political symbol. Today it is one of the many town’s landmark. In just 40 seconds you will be up in 200 meters and can have an amazing 360° view over Berlin. At the ‘Telecafé’, which rotates two times in an hour, you can take a drink or eat something and have a remarkable experience close to the sky. Furthermore, there are some exhibitions and events at the TV-Tower. Opening times: March - Oct, daily 9 am - 12 pm Nov - Feb, daily 10 am - 12 pm
Brandenburger Tor and Pariser
The “Brandenburger Tor” is the only city gate of Berlin and for this reason it is the town’s landmark. Built up in 1788 from C.G Langhans it has a design of the Athenian acropolis with six pillars. In 1974 the building was caped with the “Quadriga and the Siegesgöttin (goddess of victory) of Schadow” which looks in the direction of the centre of East Berlin. After the destruction during WW II it was reconstructed and today it has a new appearance. The “Pariser Platz” is the Entrée between the “Brandenburger Tor” and the famous street ‘Unter den Linden”. It was rebuilt to the original place so that it looks a bit like in the past. On this square some evnts with different kind of themes take place.
Holocaust Memorial
The „Holocaust Memorial“ is a central place for memory and commemoration of the victims of the WW II and also one of the numerous tourist magnets of Berlin. The Field of Stelae is located in the city centre close to the “Reichstag” and ”Brandenburger Tor”. The designer was the renowned New York architect Peter Eisenman who created blocks of concrete with different heights. These are structured in a grid pattern and slanting area which covers almost 19 000m². For the publicity the place is open 24 hours a day, just the information centre has limited opening times. Opening times (Information centre): April - Sept Tue - Sun 10 am - 8 pm, Oct - March Tue - Sun 10 am - 7 pm closed on Mo
Schloss Charlottenburg
This in baroque architecture designed “Schloss Charlottenburg” is the largest and most beautiful palace in Berlin. Originally, it was build as a summer residence for the consort of Friedrich III in the time period from 1695 to ’99 by the designer Nering and Grünberg. After finishing the first building, the central part, the castele extended by the designers E. von Göthe, Knobelsdorff and Langhans. Different kind of styles like Asia and French elements characterize the facade and the interior. After damage during WW II a reconstruction began in the 50ties. Today it is a huge museum where you can see the “Porcelain Room” and the “Banquette Halls” amongst other things. Today the former theatre is home of the Museum for “Vor-und Frühgeschichte". The well designed park is one of the most idyllic place to relax in Berlin. With the mausoleum, which is constructed by Schinkel or the sarcophagi of Queen Luise and Friedrich Wilhelm III, has an ancient flair. So this palace is an architectural masterstroke and is worthwhile to visit.