August 19, 2019   7:47pm
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Europe Report: Berlin

Our travel expert Susan says Berlin is a fascinating city of complexity and contrasts.  Luckily, she makes it easy to figure out …

EUROPE REPORT: BERLIN

Berlin is a fascinating city with an international vibe that is at once historic, modern, elegant, edgy and gritty but with pristine green spaces and tree-lined boulevards. Not exactly compact, it is blessed with a good transportation system both above and below ground. Its distinct neighborhoods offer a range of sights and experiences which may seem overwhelming.  So, to assist here are some recommended itineraries. For these to make sense, arm yourself with a good map from a guidebook and/or the very useful “Streetwise Berlin” fold out map.

• ROUTE 1: EAST BERLIN –The Berlin Wall and beyond — Checkpoint Charlie to the Reichstag via the Brandenburg Gate:

At Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing point for the Allied forces, is the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie (www.mauermuseum.de), which chronicles the efforts and methods of escape for people from East to West Berlin – fascinating and not to be missed. From there proceed to the Brandenburg Gate, stopping inside the DZ Bank building lobby at Pariser Platz to see architect Frank Gehry’s interior. Nearby is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe designed by architect Peter Eisenman, consisting of 2,711 gravestone-like pillars. From there it is a short distance to the Reichstag – head up to the famous dome designed by architect Norman Foster, but give yourself some time before or after to walk around the adjacent, impressive complex of government Bundestag buildings. Important tip, from “Rick Steves’ Germany & Austria” guide: To avoid lines at the Reichstag, reserve lunch at the rooftop restaurant, which has special elevator access (after which you can tour the dome at leisure): Dachgarten Restaurant, Kaeferesvierung.Berlin@Feinkost-Kaefer.de. Also note: If you have time, and the interest, start your day earlier with a visit to the Judisches Museum, by architect Daniel Libeskind (www.jmberlin.de), not far from Checkpoint Charlie.

• ROUTE 2: EAST BERLIN — Unter den Linden to Museum Island to Hackesche Höfe and surrounds

Start at the Brandenburg Gate, and walk through Pariser Platz to the famous tree-lined boulevard Unter den Linden, which was Berlin’s most fashionable street in the 18th Century and now with many buildings restored. At Freidrichstrasse make a short detour to see the work of architects Jean Nouvel and I.M.Pei for retail establishments such as Galleries Lafayette and Quartier 206. Also visit the nearby square, Gendarmenmarkt. Back on Unter den Linden you will pass by many buildings including the Deutsche Guggenheim (www.deutsche-guggenheim.de) with temporary exhibits, Humbolt University, the Staatsoper, home to opera, classical music and ballet (www.staatsoper-berlin.de) and, at the end, the Deutsches Historisches Museum with an interesting addition by I.M.Pei (www.dhm.de). From there it is a short hop to Museum Island with the not to be missed Pergammon Museum (www.smb.museum.de) and the newly renovated (by architect David Chipperfield) Neues Museum (www.neues-museum.de). Reward yourself for your cultural exploits by a visit to nearby Hackesche Höfe, a series of courtyards surrounded by tiled buildings from the turn of the 20th century with shops and cafes. Walk the surrounding streets including Sophienstrase, Oranienburger Strasse and surrounds.

NOTE: you can’t possibly visit all of these museums in a day – pick the ones that appeal or if you have the time come back for more! Alternately, do Unter den Linden on one day and Museum Island/Hackesche Höfe on another. Unter den Linden is also ideal for a first afternoon (half day) if you arrive early enough your first day in town.

• ROUTE 3: CENTRAL to WESTERN BERLIN — Potsdammer Platz and the Tiergarten to the KuDamm

Begin at Potsdammer Platz, a newly built retail complex that includes the Filmmuseum Berlin (www.filmmuseum-berlin.de), the Sony Center with a cupola designed by architect Helmut Jahn, and more contemporary architecture in surrounding buildings by the likes of Renzo Piano, Sir Richard Rogers, Rafael Moneo (the Grand Hyatt – see below), among others. From there head to the nearby Tiergarten, Berlin’s “Central Park” and wander amongst some of the architecturally impressive consulates in the Diplomatenviertel. At the edge of the park is the Bauhaus-Archiv (www.bauhaus.de) with both permanent and temporary exhibits. A short walk away is the Kurfürstendamm (KuDamm for short), the main boulevard of Western Berlin. Just off the Kudamm is the not to be missed “KaDaWe” department store with an incredible food hall (http://www.kadewe.de/) and slightly beyond is more retail therapy at Stilwerk (http://www.stilwerk.de/presse/). Note: if you’re with kids, the Berlin Zoo, at the edge of the Tiergarten, is a good destination (www.zoo-berlin.de). Music lovers take note: the Berlin Philharmonie and the adjacent Kammer-Musikaal with their distinctive architecture is at Potsdammer Platz (www.berliner-philharmoniker.de).

• ROUTE 4: MORE WESTERN BERLIN/CHARLOTTENBURG

If you are fortunate to have more time in Berlin, add on to the above with a visit to the Shloss Charlottenburg, the summer residence for Sophie Charlotte started in 1695 (find out more about this and all sights at www.visitberlin.de), the Brohan Museum opposite the palace specializing in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Berlin Succession (http://www.broehan-museum.de/) and the Helmut Newton Photography Museum (www.helmutnewton.com).

WHERE TO STAY
Centrally located near Unter den Linden, and high-end is the Hotel de Rome (www.hotelderome.com) as well as the more traditional Regent Berlin (www.theregentberlin.com). Nearby is the less opulent but well appointed Westin Grand (www.starwoodhotels.com). At Potsdamer Platz is the slick Grand Hyatt (www.hyatt.com) with an amazing indoor pool, as well as a new design hotel, the Mandala Hotel (www.themandala.de). Numerous boutique and smaller hotels abound in Western Berlin – check the guidebooks listed below.

WHERE TO EAT
Personal favorites include: Sale e Tabacchi, well priced Italian food in a great setting, walking distance from Potsdamer Platz (www.sale-e-tabacchi.de) and Maxwell, set in a neo-gothic former brewery, a few streets beyond Hackesche Höfe (www.mxwl.de) and the centrally located Refugium (www.restaurant-refugium.de) for modern German food in a vaulted space. Check out the listings in the guidebooks listed below, especially “Frommers” and “TimeOut” (listed below).

GUIDEBOOKS/MAPS
The aforementioned “Rick Steves’ Germany & Austria” has a great section on Berlin providing an invaluable orientation to the city. The “DK Eyewitness Berlin” has good in-depth information for each neighborhood as well as surveys of architecture, art, etc. For carrying around, “Frommers Berlin day by day” is a wonderful pocket guide. “DK Top Ten Berlin” is a an alternate in pocket guide format, but the walking tours in the Frommers book are easier to follow and are organized by interests. For the hip side of things, checkout “TimeOut Berlin” also online at www.timeout.com/berlin Also mentioned above, “Streetwise Berlin” is an excellent laminated, fold-out map and the website www.visitberlin.de covers much a visitor would want to know.

Berlin is constantly changing – there are many up and coming neighborhoods, new restaurants and things to see and do. Share your discoveries with us at snoety.com.

Susan

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