Tag Archives: Berlin

What to do in Berlin and the best Berlin attractions.

Review of Art’otel Berlin Mitte

Our son Simon stayed in the Art’otel Berlin Mitte for two nights in October 2012, redeeming his Club Carlson Reward Program points to pay for his stay. Here’s his review.

“I wasn’t familiar with the Art’otel brand before but having previously stayed in Redizor Group hotels such as the Park Inn and Radisson I was satisfied with their quality and was keen to try their “design hotels” offshoot of which there are several branches in Berlin, fitting the city’s status as a worldwide contemporary arts hub.

artotal berlin mitte exterior

Exterior of Art’otel Berlin Mitte

The Berlin Mitte Art’otel Berlin-Mitte is dedicated to German artist Georg Baselitz whose works, often demonstrating techniques such as wood cutting and dry etching, adorn the walls of each room. These were a great touch as I enjoyed these vibrant, abstract works compared to the safe choices found in many hotel rooms.

artotel berlin mitte artwork

Georg Baselitz artwok in my bedroom at Art’otle Berlin Mitte

My room at the Art’otel Berlin Mitte was clean, comfortable and spacious, although at times I felt it lacked the extra touches that often make the difference in 4-star hotels – the bathroom contained only a shower which was directed at a sloped section of the room’s floor rather than a separate cubicle or bathtub, and the room was slightly stuffy due to ineffective air conditioning and the windows only permitting a small gap for ventilation. Plus points for the room included a decent wi-fi signal (free of charge) and a quiet environment with no noisy guests.

artotel berlin mitte room

My room at Art’otel Berlin Mitte

The location of the hotel was ideal for my purposes: only a few minutes’ walk from the main museum district (including the Museum Island), just across the river from the TV Tower, and well served by public transport with the U-Bahn station Märkisches Museum right next to the hotel and Heinrich-Heine-Strasse a five minute walk away. The latter station is handy for getting to the areas of Kreuzberg and Neukölln which suited me as several of my friends and favourite Berlin shops, bars and clubs are in these areas, although I also discovered that it’s a manageable (30-45 minutes), picturesque and safe walk back from the likes of Hermannplatz when I decided to skip the train.

All the hotel staff who I dealt with were friendly and courteous and although I did not require any further assistance or encounter any problems after checking in I have no doubt they’d have been up to the task. The lobby, reception and bar areas were spacious and informal.

artotel berlin mitte lobby

Lobby at Art’otel Berlin Mitte

Overall, the Art’otel Berlin Mitte is a great hotel for anyone wanting to stay close to Berlin’s main attractions while also getting to sample some unique artwork and, although slightly basic by the standards of four-star hotels, it was a very pleasant place to stay.”

Click here to check availability and prices of the Art’otel Berlin Mitte.

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25 Museums in Berlin

Berlin is easily one of my all-time favourite cities to visit, with so much to see and do that even a month-long stay isn’t enough for me! And you can see why when you read this post on 25 museums in Berlin – just visiting museums alone will keep you busy for a long time, and that’s before you enjoy all the other great stuff that Berlin has to offer!

The museums in Berlin vary widely, although my favourites definitely include those connected to relatively recent history – the Berlin Wall and the Cold War era. But it’s not just a cliché to say that in Berlin there is a museum to suit everybody’s interests – and these 25 are just a taste, as there are close to 200 museums in the German capital.

Pergamon Museum

Easily one of Berlin’s most impressive museums, the Pergamon Museum is on the Museuminsel (Museum Island), and is an amazing collection of artefacts from the ancient world. It includes life-size reconstructions of ancient buildings like the Pergamon Altar, with as much as possible recreated from the real remains.

Ishtar Gate by Heatheronhertravels

Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

On my first visit to Berlin in 1990, I was lucky enough to experience the reunification of east and west – since then, the stories of those who tried to escape across the wall before the Wall fell in 1989 have been particularly fascinating to me (although some are very sad). The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum is the best place to hear stories and see artefacts related to Berlin Wall escape attempts, and a whole lot more.

Haus am Checkpoint Charlie exhibit by Olivier Bruchez

Museum of Photography

Berlin’s Museum of Photography (Museum fuer Fotografie) has photography exhibits ranging through the 19th to 21st centuries and it  includes a special exhibit on Helmut Newton.

Museum of Photography by hiddedevries

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The Berlin Wall: Famous for its destruction

Amanda has been doing a wonderful job writing about all there is to see in Berlin (Check out here Best of Berlin Travel Tips as well as Berlin’s Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum). And to be perfectly honest, she inspired me to revisit the trip I made there a while back.

I knew very little about the history behind the Berlin wall.  I’m at the age where I don’t really remember the events leading up to the fall of it, and it wasn’t distant enough to necessarily be covered in depth in my history classes, but not close enough that it was covered in my current events classes.  Basically, my education failed me.

I knew the wall fell. I knew it fell in 1989. I knew it was symbolic and historic and plenty of other -ics.  But I didn’t know what to expect when. visiting this Berlin sightseeing attraction.  It’s a strange idea in the first place.  How does one visit something that is historic for its very destruction?  I wanted to see it because it no longer existed.

That’s what made exploring Berlin so much fun though.  Because walking around the city, I suddenly stumbled upon a lone cement panel.  Remnants of the Berlin wall.  I headed to the east side and found a large stretch of wall which out into perspective just how high it was, just how dominating it was.  And of course, I wandered through the East Side Gallery and realized that here was an incredible stretch of the wall still standing.

Some trips stand out.  Berlin stood out.  For what was there, and for what wasn’t.  It’s a strange tip, I know, but go to the city of Berlin and look for what isn’t there as well as what still remains. 

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Berlin’s Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum

When I wrote up our top Berlin tips recently I discovered I’ve never posted about one of my favourite things to do in Berlin, visiting the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. While I find the actual Checkpoint Charlie site now a little tacky – you can have your photo taken there with actor-guards, for a price – the nearby museum is really worth a visit.

The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie actually started way back in 1962 and was founded as a private museum by Rainer Hildebrandt as a museum of “non violent international protest”. Right from the start they collected items that had been used in escapes or escape attempts over the wall, and today those are the most interesting exhibits for me. It’s hard to imagine that back when they started the museum, they probably thought the Berlin Wall would be there for the rest of their lives – and now it’s gone and the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum is a tourist attraction which people from any country can freely visit.

There are also more general exhibits explaining the history of the Berlin Wall and the shop in the ground floor is one of the most interesting museum shops I know – I love the old posters from Berlin Wall days. The Checkpoint Charlie Musuem is one of those clever Berlin attractions which stays open late (I love sightseeing at night!) – its daily opening hours are 9.00am to 10.00pm.

(Photo of an escape attempt courtesy of Olivier Bruchez)

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More on European Museums

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Best of Berlin Travel Tips

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is one of the most exciting cities in Europe and it’s featured in our best cities to visit in Europe post. It’s my personal favourite European travel destination Berlin’s got everything: fascinating museums, lots of tasty food, interesting locals and of course, the legacy of a truly up and down history. I’ve collated the best things to do in Berlin, written by members of the Europe a la Carte blogging team to help you plan your trip to the German capital.

Best Museums in Berlin

Museum lovers will be in their element in Berlin. Heather recommends the Pergamon Museum, saying it’s one of the best Berlin museums on the Museuminsel (Museum Island).

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Part of the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum by luisvilla

Less well-known but equally inspiring, Lindsay says the Kathe Kollwitz Museum gave her a lot of food for thought.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Inside the Kathe Kollwitz Museum by Lindsay Sydenham

Heather also suggests visiting the Jewish Museum and the Anne Frank Museum. Personally, I’d say the Jewish Museum is the best museum in Berlin, and well worth at least an afternoon.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Part of the intriguing Jewish Museum by Goodnight London

Best Street Art in Berlin

What would a visit to Berlin be without finding part of the Berlin Wall? Marcus shared his experience at the East Side Gallery.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

A famous panel of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery by qyphon

Best Views in Berlin

One of my favourite outings in Berlin is a walk up into the spiral dome of the Reichstag. Not only do you get to enjoy its impressive architecture, but you also get great views over the city.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Inside the dome of the Reichstag by pit-yacker

Best Shopping in Berlin

Berlin’s a great place to shop, and the Ku’damm or Kurfurstendamm is definitely the hotspot – and Heather lists some nearby sights if shopping gets too much.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

The Kurfurstendamm by night by Schrottie

Lindsay recommends a visit to the Art Nouveau style Hackesche Hofe complex consisting of eight interlinked courtyards.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Jugendstil courtyard at the Hackesche Hofe by paularps

Best Free Attractions in Berlin

It costs nothing to enter the Berlin Cathedral, says Lindsay, who claims it’s one of her favourite spots in Berlin.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

The impressive Berlin Cathedral by ilm19

Best Food in Berlin

Lindsay suggests that a traditional Turkish Doner is a delicious typical Berlin food to try – thanks to the influence of the city’s large Turkish population.

Ready to eat: a Turkish döner by andynahman

Best Transport in Berlin

To get a quick overview of where many of the main Berlin attractions are, Heather recommends a rickshaw ride.

Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

Rickshaws parked near Brandenburg Gate by swamysk

Best Day Trips from Berlin

If you want to escape the city, head to Sanssouci Palace, enjoyed by Marcus as a relaxing getaway. You can book a taxi in Berlin to get to the palace.Things to do in Berlin - Berlin attractions

World Heritage site Schloss Sanssouci by Gertrud K

Your Berlin Tips

@Welcome Beyond on Twitter: ‘Berlin Underworld’ is also worth visiting: http://bit.ly/adUMeQ

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A Collection of Street Art in Berlin

I don’t do well with graffiti. The history nerd in me comes out and I end up being shocked that someone could deface such a beautiful building. Wall. Bridge. Of course, the more I travel, the more I have learned to differentiate between graffiti, and forms of artistic expression.

Traveling through Berlin, the East Side Gallery is usually included as an interesting historical, and artistic, European travel tip. And with good reason. But the street art of Berlin is not relegated solely to the wall. Throughout the city, buildings, walls, bridges, are alive with artistry.  They are some of the Berlin attractions that give you a real feel of the place.

There are the murals that can be found while wandering down side streets and back alleys.

There are the pieces created using a stencil.

And of course there is the East Side Gallery. Some of the art on the wall has become an iconic symbol of the oppressive conditions before the wall fell.

But my favorite was a simple phrase: “The only people who know how cool I am are the secret police!” I don’t know how old it is.  And it doesn’t really matter.  Considering the history of this European city, I found it to be a simple historical reminder, mixed with a bit of humor.  And I just couldn’t help but smile.

What do you think? Do you appreciate the street art you see in European cities? Or do you abhor the graffiti that some people refer to ass street art? At Europe a la Carte we seem to be fans, Karen enjoyed the street art in Pisa, Italy and Heather highlighted some great street art around Europe.

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Sanssouci Palace – Day Trips from Berlin

There is no shortage of tourist attractions in and around Berlin, it is one of my favourite Europe destinations.  Even so, sometimes it is nice to get away from the city.  That’s what makes Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam such an excellent Berlin day trip.  The palace is easy to find and accessible by public transportation from Berlin.

Sanssouci, much like Austria’s Schönbrunn considered the Viennese Versailles, is sometimes referred to as the German Versailles.  The palace was built in the Rococo style and used as a summer get-away for Frederick the Great.

Today, Sanssouci Palace tends to be crawling with tourists and is over-priced.  My Europe travel tips is that the expansive gardens are completely free and big enough to get lost in and forget about the crowds.  Depending on the time of year, you can wander down the stairs along the vineyards.

So if you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Berlin head for Sanssouci Palace gardens.

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Rich History at Hackesche Höfe in Berlin

Hackesche Höfe, a busy and popular place to shop in Berlin, was designed in the early 18th century.  It’s not a common site that tourists visit, however it is a bustling area for locals. The rich history of the area might be interesting to tourists so it’s tip for those who want an experience off the beaten path.

The Spandau city commander, Count von Hacke, wanted a market built to extend Berlin’s urban area during the 18th century.  The apartments surrounding the market became popular and respectable addresses. The tenants were proud of their large complex with eight rear courtyards.

The market progressed after it’s construction and by 1900, the market was a prime example of the Art Nouveau period.  The façade facing Hackescher Markt included a large, round arch and long, skinny windows.  The market included many courtyards and shops with a mixture of services offered.  The courtyards especially show the age of Art Nouveau, with many green vines mixed with modern, artistic shapes of glass to enhance the courtyard.  Today the Hackesche Höfe has a very lively atmosphere.  Rebuilt to emulate the original market, it offers many shops, courtyards and coffee shops to add to the busy atmosphere. A great way to experience Berlin.

Hackesche Höfe is also the home to the first ever S-Bahn station in Berlin. The fact that this is where the first train station was built shows the amazing popularity and high traffic that moved through the market during earlier days. The S-bahn station is a great example of the Historicist movement. Often when we think of Historicism, we think of grand buildings such as the Reichtag or the Berliner Dom.  These buildings are truly Historicist, however Berlin hides many more examples of Historicist architecture that we often overlook.  The S-Bahnhof at Hackescher Markt is a prime example of this kind of architecture.  In 1882 the first S-Bahn train traveled, with Emperor Wilhelm I as the guest of honor, through a new railway route.  The urban railway station at Hackescher Markt was an impressive station built to excite Berliners about the new train system.  The hall measures about 100 meters in length and 16 meters in width.  It has a low-arched roof and originally offered a skylight in the middle.  The side facing Hackischer Markt is richly decorated with low arches above shops and an upper story with round windows.  The side panels of the walls are ornate and detailed.  Hackescher Markt was built to reflect the beauty of the Renaissance.

Hackescher Markt is not only a beautiful structure revealing aspects from the Renaissance, but it also is home to one of Berlin’s most important historical milestones.  The addition of a street train was essential for the rapidly growing Berlin.  The railways allowed Berliners to travel from easy to west without causing traffic.  The new railway line symbolized Berlin’s movement to become an ultra modern city.  There was a demand for public transportation, due to the population increase.  Hackescher Markt and the first ever S-Bahnhof stands today as a reminder of the beginnings of a well thought out city.

If you’re interested in exploring Berlin further and stepping away from the typical sights, take the S-bahn to Hackescher Markt to see the beginnings of a bustling city.

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Free Berlin Attractions: Berlin Cathedral

Most buildings in Berlin suffered greatly after two World Wars. Some of you may have visited the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin where merely a tower still stands today. There are reminders all over this European city of two harsh wars that left the city in ruins. However, some buildings were miraculously undamaged by the wars and still stand today. One of those buildings is the Berlin Cathedral – a stunning cathedral located in the heart of the city, one of the highlights of  Berlin sightseeing.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral by Phil Hoare

The neo-classic design of the cathedral is modeled after the baroque movement – meaning the structure is extremely detailed with ornate statues, gold highlights and intricate designs. While living in Berlin I took many treks out to the cathedral to admire it’s beauty. With so many detailed designs, I found that I noticed something new during each of my visits.

It costs nothing to visit one of my favorite Berlin attractions. Best times to visit Berlin Cathedral would be during the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. Most people tend to stay about an hour or so. Travelers tend to spend time sitting in one of the pews at the cathedral while admiring the ornate design of the building. This is a working church, not a museum, so be sure to dress and behave accordingly.

There is also a large lawn located directly in front of the cathedral. Berliners love to eat their lunches on this lawn on a sunny day and some tourists like to follow suit. For avid cathedral enthusiasts, look for a program for an opportunity to visit during an organ concert. Listening to an organ concert underneath such an ornate, large structure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It also costs nothing to attend an organ concert!

Don’t miss visiting Berlin Cathedral one of the top free Berlin attractions on your next visit to this wonderful European city.

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Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, Germany

On your next trip to Berlin, one of my top tips is to take a day-trip to visit the castles of Potsdam. Many people overlook this historically significant city when they visit Germany, but Potsdam is a gem that is sure to excite any history buff. The city is located about thirty minutes outside of Berlin in the former East Germany. Potsdam includes several magnificent castles that survived WWII largely without damage. One of my favorites? Schloss Sanssouci.

Schloss Sanssouci was a summer residence for Frederick the Great. Designed in the eighteenth century, the palace has a rococo feel with a French twist. Take a tour of it to see for yourself. Cost is reasonable considering tourists get to not only tour the palace, but also have a guide: 8 Euros for everyone or 5 Euros for students. Most people spend about an hour and a half exploring the palace, but one could easily get lost in history and spend a half of a day there.

Each room in the palace is decorated and styled differently. Explore from room to room and listen to the tour guide tell stories of the palace. One of the greatest rooms in the palace is one that was designed specifically for Voltaire. The walls are painted with visuals of birds and trees.

Locals of Potsdam love to share a story about the time Napoleon visited the place. During his visit, Napoleon was welcomed at the back entrance of the palace. However, he was unaware that he was welcomed into the back at the time. He was impressed with the grandeur of the building and was quite content with the welcoming. When it was mentioned to him later that he was welcomed in through the back, he threw a steaming fit and left at once.

After a tour of the palace, tourists should be sure to walk around the grounds of the palace. The garden is gigantic and worth walking through. There are many stairs leading down to the garden. This is where your best photo-taking moment will be. Have your photographer stand lower on the stairs to get the perfect photo of you with the beautiful Schloss Sanssouci hovering in the background.

On your walk through the garden, make sure you take a look at Frederick the Great’s grave. He was buried with his nine pet dogs.

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