An Introduction to Berlin
Berlin is one of the most popular cities in Europe and definite port of call for any adventure across the continent. It has a huge amount to do for people of all tastes, and in trying to do it all you might find yourself staying in Berlin for far longer than you intended.
Be a tourist
Berlin doesn’t have an iconic landmark like many cities, but there’s still plenty to see. The Brandenburg Gate has become an icon of modern Germany, the old Olympic Stadium is a masterclass in fascist architecture, the Holocaust Memorial is a sombre reminder of this tragic past, and walking the remains of the Berlin Wall brings you back to the current day with the knowledge that things can get better.
You can also spend a day on Museum Island, a World Heritage Site home to five museums, all of which are worth a visit. If you don’t have much time the Neues Museum is a truly must-see Berlin attraction, and Pergamonmuseum is one of the world’s leading archaeological museums.
Berlin Zoo is the most popular in Europe, and its easy to see why, with its landscaped gardens and varied enclosures and habitats home to almost 14,000 creatures. Take a picnic and spend the day.
Berlin has a bike-rental system, so if you’re short on time hire two wheels and see it all at rolling pace.
Be an adventurer
Although Berlin is quite the metropolis, there’s still the opportunity to explore some wilderness. Grunewalk forest is easily accessible via S-bahn and offers a welcome reprieve from the city. There’s dense woods, beautiful scenery, and a pair of clean lakes to practice your paddling if the weather permits.
If you don’t want to go so far afield, Friedrichshain park is Berlin’s oldest municipal park and offers the perfect retreat from the bustle of the city. It’s ideal for sun-bathing in the summer, and boasts a couple of great viewpoints over Berlin. There’s also Blankenfelde Botanical Park, Humboldthain Park, and Mauerpark, formerly part of the Berlin Wall death strip. Berlin takes its green spaces seriously.
Be a foodie
As you’d expect from such a popular capital city, Berlin has cuisine from all over the world, from Italian to Chinese to American – if there isn’t something you like, you probably just don’t like food.
There’s also a fair selection of German dishes, centred, perhaps unsurprisingly, around meat. Why not try currywurst, a street food sensation, sauerbraten, schnitzel, or a sausage as long as your intestines? If you have a sweet tooth Berlin is famous for its pastries, particularly apfelstrudel. If you’re looking for a good range of options, the area around Hackescher Markt is a good choice, and won’t break the bank.
Be a party animal
Berlin really is a 24-hour city, and if you’re not working during your gap year in Germany the party need never end. There’s a range of venue to suit different tastes: Salon Zur Wilden Renate feels like the best house party you’ve ever been to, while Berghain/Panorama Bar is a church for the best of Euro techno. Sisyphos is a lot more laidback, and Chalet is located in an abandomed mansion and is painfully hip.
It’s worth having a look around to see what suits you.
Be a culture vulture
If clubbing isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty of culture to take in. The Bauhaus Archiv has an extensive collection of utilitarian art that emerged from Weimar Germany. There’s also the Gemaldegalerie, full of Renaissance paintings, and the Neue Nationalgalerie is dedicated to all things a little more modern.
There’s also the Berlin Philharmonic, considered one of the best symphony orchestras in the world. Tickets will set you back a bit, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget.