Difference between revisions of "Berlin"
Revision as of 22:08, 16 October 2013
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states (Länder) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and has a population of 4.5 million within its metropolitan area and 3.5 million from over 190 countries within the city limits.
Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, and bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin's architecture is quite varied. Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
It is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the city centre, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultra modern glass and steel structures at Potsdamer Platz. Because of its tumultuous history, Berlin remains a city with many distinctive neighbourhoods.
Its boroughs can roughly be grouped into six districts:
The foundation of Berlin was very multicultural. The surrounding area was populated by Germanic Swabian and Burgundian tribes, as well as Slavic Wends in pre-Christian times, and the Wends have stuck around. Their modern descendants are the Sorbian Slavic-language minority who live in villages southeast of Berlin near the Spree River.
In the beginning of the 13th century, two towns (Berlin and Cölln) developed on each side of the river Spree (today the Nikolaiviertel and the quarter next to it beyond the river). As the population grew, the towns merged and Berlin became a centre for commerce and agriculture. This area stayed small (about 10,000 inhabitants) up to the late 17th century, because of the 30 years' war in the beginning of the 17th century, which led to death of about half of the population.
Since the late 17th century, when large numbers of French Huguenots fled religious persecution, Berlin has welcomed religious, economic and other asylum seekers. In 1701 Berlin became the capital of Prussia and in 1710 Berlin and surrounding former autonomous cities were merged to a bigger Berlin.
In 1871 Berlin became the capital of the new founded German Reich and a few years later, it became a city with more than one million inhabitants because of the immensely growing industry.
Shortly after the first World War, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it now. After the coming into power of the National Socialists ("Nazis"), Berlin became the capital of the so called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler (although the triumph of Hitler and his henchmen started in the south of Germany).
WW II led to destruction of most of central Berlin, thus many of the buildings which we see nowadays are reconstructed or planned and built after the war, which led to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sector, East Berlin belonged to the USSR). In 1949 the German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") was founded with East Berlin as its capital. West Berlin remained occupied by the western Allies and kept a close relationship with West Germany (with Bonn as the capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, the GDR built a militarized and increasingly impassable border between the states, and then in 1961 surrounded West Berlin with a wall.
In late 1989 East German citizens began rebelling in increasing numbers; this led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1990 West Germany and East Germany were united. Berlin become once again the capital of Germany.
After WW II and the building of the wall, large numbers of immigrants from Turkey were invited to West Berlin to work in the growing industry sector; in East Berlin the jobs were done mostly by Vietnamese immigrants. But also people from other communist countries, including the former Yugoslavia, not to mention Soviet soldiers who refused to return home, have helped to make Berlin more multicultural than ever.
Berlin is also a youth-oriented city. Before German unification, West Berliners were exempt from the West German civil/military service requirement. Social activists, pacifists and anarchists of all moved to Berlin for that reason alone. Musicians and artists were given state subsidies. It was easy to stay out all night thanks to liberal bar licensing laws, and staying at university for years without ever getting a degree was a great way to kill time. In contrast with most of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg is said to have the highest per-capita birth rate in Europe (in fact it just seems so because of the high percentage of young women in the district).
After the fall of the wall, Berlin - especially the former East - has evolved into a cultural mecca. Artists and other creative souls flocked to the city in swarms after reunification, primarily due to the extremely low cost of living in the East. Despite the increased prices and gentrification as a result, Berlin has become a centre for art, design, multimedia, electronic music, and fashion among other things. The particularly high number of students and young people in the city has only helped this cause. Just stroll down a street in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, or Mitte to get a glimpse of the new East Berlin.
Some famous artists of the region and their best-known works include Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Bertolt Brecht (Threepenny Opera), Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire (German: Der Himmel über Berlin)), Blixa Bargeld/Einstürzende Neubauten, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum), members of the Bauhaus architectural movement and many more.
Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, dating to the thirteenth century, and it has always had a reputation as a place filled with people from elsewhere. It may seem tough to find someone born and raised here! This is part of Berlin's charm: it never gets stuck in a rut.
A certain uneasy détente still exists between some former residents of East and West Berlin (and Germany). Wessi evolved as a derogatory nickname for a West German; its corollary is Ossi. The implication here is that after reunification, the West Germans automatically assumed the way they do things is the right way, and the way the Easterners should start doing it, too. Westerners got a reputation for being arrogant. They saw the Easterners as stubborn Communist holdouts interested only in a handout from the "rich West." Consider a shirt for sale in a shop inside the Alexanderplatz Deutsche Bahn station: Gott, schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind/und Wessies die im Osten sind ("God, protect me from the storm and wind, and Wessies who are in the East"). Another such stereotype is reflected by the short poem: Der Ossi ist schlau und stellt sich dumm, beim Wessi ist es andersrum ("The Ossi is sly and pretends to be simple-minded, and with the Wessi, it's the other way around"). However, most of the younger generation do not share such prejudices.
German is of course the main language in Berlin but you can easily find information in English and sometimes in French. Due to the football World Cup in 2006 all public transportation staff got language training and should be able to help you in English (although probably with a strong German accent). If you seem to be lost or hesitating in a public transport station a member of staff could come to your assistance but don't count on that. You can easily approach a group of (preferably young) bystanders and ask for advice in English.
Most people under 40 in Berlin are able to speak English with varying degrees of fluency, but it might not be as widely spoken as you might expect, so a few key German phrases are worth having, especially in the suburbs and less touristy places. Basic French and Russian is partly spoken because French in West Berlin and Russian in East Berlin were taught in schools.
There are also 400,000 people of Turkish origin living in Berlin - mainly in the Kreuzberg, Wedding and Neukölln districts. Many of them arrived in the early 1960s from remote villages in Anatolia as guest workers but stayed on.
There are some words in Berlin that differ from regular German, especially in the former East Berlin. Here, the language preserved a certain level of dialect.
Broiler: grilled chicken (people from west Germany probably won't understand this, they say Grillhähnchen instead).
One of the most important "products" produced in Berlin by both academic and company-sponsored institutes is research. That research is exported around the world. German labour is highly efficient but comes at high cost. Strong trade unions, the end of West Berlin's pre-reunification subsidies and Germany's dense regulatory environment forced industry to concentrate on high quality and expensive products.
Students, housewives and self-employed people are not included in Berlin's official unemployment rate, currently standing at 14 percent.
Berlin is - at least in many parts - a beautiful city, so allow enough time to get to see the sights. A good map is highly recommended:  While the public transport system is superb, it can be confusing to visitors, due to a lack of directional signs in some of the larger stations, so a good transit map is also essential. Be sure to note the final station/stop of the S-bahn or U-bahn, since that is usually the way direction of travel is indicated. Roads into Berlin can also be confusing, so study your route and drive carefully. Signs point to city boroughs or districts rather than indicating compass directions, so it's a good idea to get to know where the various boroughs or districts lie in relation to each other. This also applies to cyclists.
Berlin's Tourist Information Office is an excellent resource for finding out more about Berlin, providing a wealth of practical information and useful links.
As the city was divided into two during the Cold War, many major parts of Berlin's infrastructure — such as airports — were built on both the east and west side. After the demolition of the Wall, the challenge has been to merge these formerly independent systems into one that serves all people in the metropolitan Berlin area.
Berlin has two operational airports:
Buses from Tegel International Airport operate to S+U Alexanderplatz, Hauptbahnhof (bus TXL ), and S+U Zoologischer Garten (buses X9 and 109) for the standard ticket fare . Its takes around 45 minutes to Alexanderplatz - it is much quicker to get off at Hauptbahnhof or Zoologischer Garten and change to the S-Bahn (the bus ticket remains valid for this). (TXL takes less than 10 minutes to get to S-Bahn station Beusselstrasse.) Caution! Do not take any train to the "Tegel railway (S-Bahn) station", which is not connected to the airport, but rather to the suburban village called Tegel. It is not possible to walk or to otherwise get easily to the airport from that station. The nearest train stations are Jakob-Kaiser Platz on the U-Bahn line U7, which is 5 minutes from the airport with bus X9/109, Kurt-Schumacher Platz on the U6, 10 minutes from the airport with bus 128, and Beusselstraße S41/S42 (the ring) connected to the airport with an express bus . Tegel International Airport does not have any railway station. Any indication to a Tegel railway station refers to the remote S-Bahn station, even if railway staff at stations in other cities might tell otherwise.
The airport is served by the S-Bahn and regional trains. The station is a short walk, under a covered well lit walkway opposite terminal A/B. Trains run from here on the S-Bahn into the city until 1:30 AM so most late night arrivals will be covered. There are also less regular but faster regional trains that cost the same and stop at these major train stations too. In S-Bahn and regional trains between the airport (zone C) and the city (zone A,B), the public transport ticket (zones A,B,C for €3.10) can be used. Stamp the ticket to validate it before boarding.
There are numerous direct flight connections between Berlin and major German & European cities. For historical reasons intercontinental direct flights to Berlin were limited. The German flag carrier Lufthansa will mostly fly to its major hub airports Frankfurt and Munich and offer connecting flights to Berlin on a near hourly basis.
The intercontinental flights to Berlin are:
Berlin is serviced from over 350 destinations in Europe. Long distance buses arrive at Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (Central Bus Terminal) in Charlottenburg, Masurenallee. There are numerous buses to all directions or do a 5-minute-walk to the U-Bahn (Theodor-Heuss-Platz or Kaiserdamm or to the S-Bahn (Messe Nord/ICC). Follow signposting.
Berlin is served by ICE, InterCity and EuroCity trains by the national German train corporation Deutsche Bahn  (DB) which offers connections between Berlin and other German and major European cities.
Long-haul trains from Eastern European cities, Kaliningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw amongst others, stop both at Hauptbahnhof and Ostbahnhof. Make sure you have a reservation because these lines are also very popular.
Train travel from Asia is also possible. The direct once-weekly Sibirjak train service connects Russia's Asian cities of Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg as well as Kazakhstan's capital Astana directly with Berlin. Train travel from China requires transfer in Russia (Moscow or Novosibirsk) or in Astana (Kazakhstan).
Some private train companies such as Veolia  offer connections to smaller cities in Eastern Germany.
During the times of its division, Berlin had two main train stations: Zoologischer Garten (colloquial name Bahnhof Zoo) in the West, and Ostbahnhof in the East. The new 'Hauptbahnhof' may be titled 'Lehrter Bahnhof' on older maps & is situated between the S-Bahn stations Friedrichstrasse and Bellevue. Since the opening of the Hauptbahnhof, most ICE and international lines now bypass Zoologischer Garten, although it is still in operation for regional Deutsche-Bahn service and as an S/U-Bahn station.
The new building for the central station Hauptbahnhof was opened in May 2006 and together with Südkreuz (southern cross) and Ostbahnhof (eastern station) - plus minor Gesundbrunnen in the north and Spandau in the west - form the backbone of all connections. All are connected to either S- or U-Bahn (and in the future, both). All trains travel through central station and a second major hub (depending on the destination you travel to or arrive from). Trains in the regional area (Berlin and Brandenburg) mostly use these stations. Regional trains stop at several stations within Berlin.
Berlin is encircled by a motorway ring (A10 Berliner Ring), which runs up to 30 km outside the city limits. Following motorways (clockwise) yield to the ring: A 11 to Stettin at Dreieck Schwanebeck, A 11 to Frankfurt (Oder)/Warsaw at Dreieck Spreeau, A13 to Dresden/Prague at Kreuz Schönefeld, A 9 to Leipzig/Munich at Dreieck Potsdam, A 2 to Hanover/Dortmund at Dreieck Werder, and A 24 to Hamburg at Dreieck Havelland.
From the ring there are motorways towards the city: A 111 from the northwest at Kreuz Oranienburg, A 114 from the north at Dreieck Potsdam, A 113 from the southeast at Schönefelder Kreuz and A 115 from the southwest at Dreieck Nuthetal. B 96 from the north and the south, B 2 from the northeast, B 5 from the east and west and B101 from the south are dual carriageways, which also connect to the city.
Inside Berlin there ist a heavily congested ring motorway (A 100), which encircles the north, west and south with the northeastern bit missing. Berlin driving is not for the fainthearted, but manageable as there are wide streets and reasonably good parking conditions at least in most parts of the city. Orientation is easier than in most of the central european cities, once you got the system: There are a couple of ring roads (like an onion) and several radiating trunk roads.
Berlin does have a low emission zone (Umweltzone), which contains all areas within the S-Bahn ring. All vehicles moving inside this zone are required to bear a green Emission badge (Feinstaubplakette). There are exceptions eg. for historic cars, but not for foreign number plates. Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several days in advance) is available here . The sticker can also be ordered online at .
There is also the option to do carpooling, which is very popular in Germany Mitfahrgelegenheit in German (abbreviated to MFG) is the website where a lot of drivers post their travel destinations, and sharing the ride and fuel costs with one of them can get you to Berlin from Hamburg for as cheap as €10. Usually on weekends there are cars leaving roughly every 30 mins throughout the day. Requires a cell phone and sometimes some knowledge of German.
Being 200 kilometres inland, Berlin does not have a seaport. Nearest seaport is Rostock-Warnemünde, which is between two and a half and three hours away by train. Still sold by many cruise ship operators as "Berlin", so dont be suprised. There are similar distances to the seaports of Hamburg and Stettin.
Some river cruises start or end at Berlin, using Havel, Spree and some canals for cruises to Prague or the Baltic sea.
Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is available), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English. If you ask for a short trip (Kurzstrecke), as long as it's under 2km and before the taxi driver starts the meter running, the trip normally is cheaper, €4. This only applies if you flag the taxi down on the street, not if you get in at a taxi rank.
Check the Berlin route planner  (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn and trams, or to print your personal journey planner. The route planer can also calculate the fastest door-to-door connection for you destination for any given day and hour. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have a detailed fare list on their web site .
If you don't know how to get somewhere, or how to get home at night, call +49 30 19449, the Customer Service of the BVG. There are also facilities in most U-Bahn and some S-Bahn stations to contact the Customer Service directly. In 2005 the BVG introduced Metro lines (buses and tram) that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All lines are marked with a big orange plate and a white M.
It's also worth noting that the house numbers do not necessarily run in one direction (up or down). On a lot of streets, the numbers ascend on one side and descend on the other. Especially on long streets, check the numbering scheme first: you can find the name of the street and the numbers on that block at nearly every street corner.
Different from what is usual in some English-speaking countries, Germans usually add the word for "street", "square", "park", etc. when they mention the name of a locality. Thus, they would not simply refer to "Kurfürsten" when talking about Kurfürstenstraße (Kurfürsten Street), as this could also mean "Kurfürstendamm", which is a different road at a different place. "Schloss", which simply means "palace", could refer to any of the palaces in Berlin, as well as to one of the two roads called "Schloßstraße", a shopping centre called "Das Schloss", or the "Schloßplatz" in the Mitte district.
Public transport ticketing
Berlin uses a zone system, but you are unlikely to need to go beyond zone A and B, except on trips to Potsdam or to the Schönefeld Airport (SXF). This is a very large area. The public transport system (U, S-Bahn, bus, tram, regional rail) uses a common ticket.
Standard tickets (€ 2.60 for A and B) are valid for any travel within two hours of validation, in a single direction, within the appropriate fare zones. There is no limit to transfers. For a single journey you can buy a cheap Kurzstrecke for €1.50, but this is only valid for 3 stops on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (six stops by bus or tram); no transfers are permitted. Reduced tariffs apply for children 6 to 14. Under 6 y/o ride free.
Several options are available for unlimited travel. Prices listed here are only for zones A and B: prices for A, B, and C cost marginally more. Check the machines for the actual prices:
All tickets are available at vending machines at U- and S-Bahn platforms. English and other European languages are available. Payment is mostly by local bank cards, coins and banknotes. Ticket machines may not take banknotes bigger than 10 euros. If you need assistance most larger stations have staffed ticket counters where you can ask questions and buy tickets. Buses will accept cash, and make change for tickets. Hotels may sell tickets as well.
In some places like Zoologischer Garten and Eberswalder Straße, people will try to sell used tickets to you. Be aware that you can go only one direction with a single-journey ticket (check the validation stamp and be careful as this could also be a pickpocket trick). Don't pay more than half the price.
There's an experimental ticket-less service called Touch&Travel , allowing you to track your journey using your smartphone and pay for it by direct debit from a German bank account.
You need to validate your ticket using the machines on the U- and S-bahn platforms or in the bus. The machines are yellow/white in the U-Bahn and the bus, and red on S-Bahn platforms. Validation simply means the machine prints a time stamp onto the ticket. Once validated, a ticket which is still valid will not have to be re-validated before each single trip. Whilst it might be tempting to try to avoid buying a ticket, be advised that plain-clothed inspectors do patrol the trains. There is a €40 fine if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket.
If you need to get around the city quickly, take the S-Bahn. Especially the Ringbahn that goes all around Berlin in a circle lets you get to other parts of the city really fast. If you're looking for the way, use BVG.de, that site includes Buses, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Tram and even ferries. You can simply enter departure address and arrival adress to see the optimum connection, it's an excellent service. An option to reach Schönefeld airport is to use U-Bahn line 7 until the terminal station Rudow and then take the bus.
In the center, most S-Bahn lines S5, S7, S75 run on an east-west route between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz via the stops Warschauer Straße, Ostbahnhof, Jannowitzbrücke, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Bellevue, Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg. Other lines run along a circle track around the city, most notably the S8 and the S41, S42, S45, S46 lines, and there's also a north-south connection S1, S2, S25 from Gesundbrunnen through Friedrichstraße and Potsdamer Platz to Südkreuz or Schöneberg.
Regional trains run along the same central east-west connection, but stopping only at Lichtenberg or Karlshorst, Ostbahnhof, Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Zoologischer Garten, Charlottenburg and Spandau , as well as other lines connecting north-south from Jungfernheide or Gesundbrunnen through Hauptbahnhof, Potsdamer Platz and Südkreuz to Lichterfelde-Ost. Long distance trains mostly run to Hauptbahnhof, often with one or two extra stops at other stations.
The Berlin U-Bahn (subway/metro) is something to behold; it is so charmingly precise! There are no turnstiles to limit access, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checker you will be fined €40 so it is probably not worth the risk. All U-Bahn stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.
Detailed maps can be found in every U-Bahn station and on the trains. Don't be confused by the alternative tram maps. U-Bahn stations can be seen from far by their big, friendly blue U signs. Together with the S-Bahn (which is administered by Deutsche Bahn and mostly runs aboveground), the U-Bahn provides a transportation network throughout greater Berlin that is extremely efficient and fast. On weekend (Friday to Sunday), as well as during the Christmas and New Year holidays, all U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines (except line U4) run all night, so returning from late night outings is easy, especially given the average start time of most 'parties' in Berlin (11PM to 1AM). During the week there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from appr. 1AM to 4:30AM, but metro trams/buses and special Night Buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour from 12:30AM to 4:30AM.
The trams (Straßenbahn) are mostly found in East Berlin, as in West Berlin the tram lines were removed to facilitate more vehicular traffic. If you don't have a ticket already, you can buy one inside the tram.
Two types of tram service are available. Metrotrams frequent more often as well as by night. Tram routes not so identified stop more frequently and may even include picturesque single-track rides through forested areas far east of the Mitte district.
Although buses are the slowest form of public transport, the yellow double-decker buses are part of Berlin's transit landscape and they will take you to almost anywhere in Berlin. Besides the normal metro buses, there are also express buses (indicated by an X), but these don't halt at every stop.
The most famous bus line, especially for tourists, is bus route 100 or 200, which leaves from Zoo Station ("Berlin Zoologischer Garten") or, if you want to go the other way round, Alexanderplatz. This crosses most of historic Berlin, including many of the sites listed here. For the price of a city bus ticket or daily pass, it's possible to see many of the landmarks of Berlin from one of these yellow double-decker buses. Sit up top as it's easier to see the Bundestag, as well as the many historic buildings on Unter den Linden. If you're lucky, you'll get the legendary bus-driver who delivers a commentary (in Berlin-accented German) on the trip. Line 200 takes nearly the same route, but it goes through the modern quarters around Kulturforum (Philharmonie, museums) and Potsdamer Platz. Either ride is a must for any visitor to Berlin.
Cycling is another great way to tour Berlin].
Berlin has no steep hills and offers many bicycle paths (Radwege) throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). These include "860 km of completely separate bike paths, 60 km of bike lanes on streets, 50 km of bike lanes on sidewalks, 100 km of mixed-use pedestrian-bike paths, and 70 km of combined bus-bike lanes on streets. Bicycles are a very popular method of transportation among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic. Seeing Berlin by bicycle is unquestionably a great way to acquaint the traveler with the big tourist sites, and the little sprees and side streets as well. Although it's good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many Bus Stations. You can create your own bicycling maps online, optimized by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favorite paving . If you are not familiar with searching your own way through the city or you want more explanation of the sights you visit, you can get guided bike tours (with bike included) on Berlin Bike .
Tours and Rentals: Bicycle rentals are available in the city, although the prices vary (usually from €7.50). In addition, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) placed many public bicycles  throughout the city in 2003. In 2011 they have been changed to a station-based system, where you can sign up using a credit card and unlock bicycles, to be checked into any station within the city. They charge either per minute or per day (€9-15). They are installing more and more stations, but as of Sept 2012 still none in Neukölln.
If you are a member of CouchSurfing or BeWelcome, another option is to book a bike from BikeSurfBerlin , an up-and-coming bike lending project that offers bikes for free, and asks for a voluntary donation rather than a fixed rental price.
Most places have a rental charge of between 8 EU (too cheap) with majority at 12 Eu / day - they are excellent value and freedom to see the big city and all the art on streets and buildings everywhere. There are lots of bike paths and drivers know to look for bicycles. Take a look at Fat Tire  rentals and tours - the four and half hour city wide tour is great value and many friendly service - as of 20/03/11
Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people 18 years of age or older - usually €6 to €10 for the big museums. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. Children under 18 years free. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass Museum Pass  for €24 which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the approximately 55 state-run museums and public foundations. Most museums are closed on Mondays; notable exceptions include the Neues Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which are open daily. Museumsportal Berlin, a collective web initiative, offers easy access to information on all museums, memorials, castles and collections and on current and upcoming exhibitions.
A short list of important museums (for a more detailed list check the district articles) are:
Other museums which belong to the Museum Island are the Altes Museum (with the Egyptian and the antique collection), the Alte Nationalgalerie (with mainly German paintings of the 19th century) and the reopened Bode-Museum with its fantastically presented sculpture collection and Byzantine art. The recently reopened Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection, Neanderthal and other prehistoric archaeological finds, and some of the treasures unearthed at Troy. This is the only museum on Museums Insel that requires a timed entry ticket. It's best to get a timed ticket online ahead of time as time slots fill up quickly.
Private art galleries
As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not-so-crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg). You can find a list of all the exhibitions and gallery openings as well as a map on Berlin Art Grid  A directory listing of all Berlin's art galleries can be found on The Art of Berlin: Complete Berlin Art Gallery Directory .
There are some historically interesting and architecturally remarkable churches which are the following:
Landmarks with observation decks
But there are also other great observation desks, the main ones are listed below (for others have a look in the district pages).
Berlin does not attempt to hide the less savory parts of its history: a visit to the Topography of Terror  (Mitte), for example, provides interesting but sobering insights into the activities of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years (1933-1945). Many of the walking tours also discuss scenes both of Nazi activity and of Cold War tension and terror.
Opened in the spring of 2005, this gigantic abstract artwork covering an entire block near the Brandenburg Gate, including an underground museum with extensive details on the Holocaust and the people who died during it. The blocks start out at ground level on the outer edges of the memorial, and then grow taller towards the middle, where the ground also slopes downwards. 3.5 million visitors in the first year make it one of the most visited memorials in Berlin - and it's worth it, as it's one of the most impressive memorials in Berlin.
Known as the East Side Gallery , it is a section of the wall that is preserved as a gallery. This can be easily reached from Ostbahnhof or Warschauer Straße. It has many beautiful murals, politically motivated and otherwise. Another place to try is near the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum, currently under reconstruction. Two small pieces are also in Potsdamer Platz and in its neighbourhood at the corner between Ebertstraße and Bellevuestraße).
Formerly, it was the only border crossing between East and West Berlin that permitted foreigners passage. Residents of East and West Berlin were not allowed to use it. This contributed to Checkpoint Charlie's mythological status as a meeting place for spies and other shady individuals. Now the remains of the Berlin Wall have been moved to permit building, including construction of the American Business Center and other institutions not given to flights of John Le Carré-inspired fancy.
Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the west is the historic zoo that has been a listed company since its foundation. It's an oasis in the city and very popular with families and schools.
Go on a Tour of Berlin - the Mitte and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels.
Pick up a copy of Exberliner , the monthly English-language paper for Berlin to find out what's on, when and where. It provides high quality journalism and up-to-date listings. If you understand German, the activity planners for the city, zitty  and tip , are available at every kiosk. Be prepared to choose among a huge number of options. Parks Berlin has many great parks which are very popular in the summer. Green Berlin  operates some of them.
Theatre, Opera, Concerts, Cinema
Berlin has a lot of theater houses, cinemas, concerts and other cultural events going on all the time. The most important ones are listed here.
Musicals and Shows
There are about a hundred cinemas in Berlin, although most of them are only showing movies dubbed in German, without subtitles. Listed below are some of the more important cinemas also showing movies in the original language (look for the OmU - "original with subtitles" - notation). Most movies which are dubbed in German are released a bit later in Germany. Tickets are normally €5 to €7. Monday to Wednesday are special cinema days with reduced admission.
In Berlin you can do virtually all sports
Spas are very trendy.
Berlin has three major universities:
There are several smaller universities and colleges in Berlin but the current restructure of the university makes it difficult to give an overview. The responsible senator of the City of Berlin has a good overview page. 
The current economic climate is stable but to find work in Berlin is not easy. A sound level of German improves your chance as only few multinational companies are present in Berlin. Any kind of skills (especially language) that separates you from the masses will definitely improve your chances for a job.
If you have an academic background then teaching English (Spanish, French & Latin are good, too) or private tutoring (e.g. math) for pupils is always a possibility as Berlin is a young city and education is in strong demand. Otherwise working in a bar might be an option but it'll be tough, because wages are low and big tips are uncommon. Chances are much better when big trade fairs (e.g. "Grüne Woche", bread & butter or ITB) or conventions take place so apply at temp & trade fair agencies. The hospitality industry and call centers are constantly hiring but wages are very low unless you can offer special skills (such as exotic languages) or background.
There is a florishing scene of IT startups in the city; if you are in a profession related to software and IT chances of finding a job are good. You may want to check sites like Berlin Startup Jobs  for local offers. English is often enough to get by, and even for non-EU citizen chances are good - check if you qualify EU Blue Card .
Berlin has a growing media, modeling and TV/movie industry. For daily soaps, telenovelas and movies most companies look for people with something specific. Apply at the bigger casting and acting agencies.
For English-language jobs, if might be worth checking out the classified ads of this monthly magazine for English-speakers, Exberliner .
Generally currency is the Euro. Some large department stores may take foreign currencies at their information desks, but do not count on that. Shops usually do not accept traveller cheques, but do credit cards (Visa and Mastercard most widely accepted). Banks are generally open from 9 AM to 4 PM mon thru fridays and change foreign currencies (cash and traveller cheques). Cash machines are widespread, also in shopping malls and even sometimes in large department stores or supermarkets.
If you happen to have some German Marks (DM) left, you can exchange them (coins and notes) into Euros at the Deutsche Bundesbank, Leibnitzstrasse 10 (Charlottenburg), Mo-Fr 9-13.
Credit cards are becoming more common, but Germans still largely prefer cash, as well EC/Maestro cards. Most places in tourist zones will accept credit cards, but it is still a good idea to ask in advance if you intend to pay with one. Many restaurants require a minimum check amount, sometimes in excess of €30.
For Americans, Germany uses the chip-and-pin system so you may have trouble at places like unattended gas stations and automated ticket machines. Often, a cashier will be able to swipe the magnetic strip, but don't be surprised if someone refuses your credit card because it doesn't have a chip.
If credit cards are accepted, it is usually limited to Visa and MasterCard, you will often run into issues when trying to use American Express.
Sunday opening is by law limited to about a dozen weekends per year, often in combination with large events, watch for announcements in the shops and local media. Some supermarkets located at train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstraße, Innsbrucker Platz and Ostbahnhof) are open late and also on Sundays. Many bakeries and small food stores (called Spätkauf) are open late at night and on Sundays in busier neighborhoods (especially Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain). Also turkish bakeries open on sundays.
The main shopping areas are:
Ku'Damm and its extension, Tauentzienstraße remain the main shopping streets with flagship stores of many international brands. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) at Wittenbergplatz is a tourist destination in its own right, not least for the vast food department on the 6th floor. It's reputedly the biggest department store in Continental Europe and still has an old world charm, with very helpful and friendly staff.
Friedrichstraße is the upmarket shopping street in former East Berlin with Galeries Lafayette and the other Quartiers (204 to 207) as main areas to be impressed with wealthy shoppers. The renovated Galeria Kaufhof department store at Alexanderplatz is also worth a visit.
Other shopping streets in suburbs include Schloss-strasse (Steglitz), Wilmersdorfer Strasse (Charlottenburg), Schönhauser Allee (Prenzlauer Berg), Carl-Schurz-Strasse (Spandau) and Karl-Marx-Strasse (Neukölln).
Large Shopping Malls with well over 100 shops, food court are for example the Alexa (Alexanderplatz/Mitte)), Potsdamer Platz Arkaden (Potsdamer Platz/Mitte), Gesundbrunnen-Center (Gesundbrunnen Station/Wedding), Gropius-Passagen (Britz), Linden-Center (Hohenschönhausen, Spandau-Arkaden (Spandau), Schloss (Schloss-strasse/Steglitz), Forum Steglitz (Schloss-strasse/Steglitz), Ring Center (Friedrichshain).
The main upmarket shopping area for the alternative, but still better-off crowd is north of Hackescher Markt, especially around the Hackesche Höfe. For some more affordable but still very fashionable shopping there is Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with a lot of young designers opening shops, but also lots of record stores and design shops. Constant change makes it hard to recommend a place, but the area around station Eberswalder Straße, Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg and Torstrasse in Mitte, around Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg, around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain and Eisenacher Strasse in Schöneberg are always great when it comes to shopping.
For nice and trendy second-hand clothing and accessories visit Elementarteilchen - Second Hand für Frauen in the upcoming district Berlin-Wedding (Di-Sa 12-16, Amsterdamer Str. 4, Seestr. U6). For cheap books, a nice choice is Jokers Restseller in Friedrichstraße 148 (tel +49 30 20 45 84 23) where there is a wide variety of secondhand books. For souvenirs, have a look just in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche; these shops sell almost the same items as others, but are cheaper, but not all the staff speaks English. You can also get cheap postcards there (from €0.30 while the average price for normal postcard is €0.50-0.80). For collectible stamps go to Goethe Straße 2 (Ernst Reuter Platz, U2), where you can find a Philatelic Post Office from the Deutsche Post. They generally speak English. For alternative souvenirs (design, fashion and small stuff from Berlin designers and artists), go to ausberlin  near Alexanderplatz; it's a bit hidden at the other side of Kaufhof at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
You can find dozens of flea markets with different themes in Berlin (mostly on weekends), but worth checking out is the big one at Straße des 17. Juni:
Another famous thing to eat in Berlin is Döner,it is a flat bread,filled with Lamb or chicken meat and vegetables,you can get it at many turkish stands.
Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes. Vegetarians can eat quite well with a little bit of research and menu modification even if Berlin seems like a carnivore heaven with all the sausage stands. Many kebab restaurants have a good selection of roasted vegetables and salads. Falafels are also tasty and suitable for vegetarians.
All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down -- it's not that common to accept credit cards and cash is usually preferred. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and Mastercard; all other cards will only be accepted in some upmarket restaurants.
One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and even the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though, The "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe since several administrative and religious buildings are located here.
For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukölln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebap restaurants. Prices start from 1,50 € for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.
Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists and students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further. Up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.
Waiters and tipping
The custom in Germany is to tell the waiter how much you’re paying (including the tip) when you receive the bill — don’t leave the money on the table. If there is confusion with the tip, remember to ask for your change, Wechselgeld (money back).
Add a 5-10% tip (or round up to the next Euro) to the bill in a bar. In a restaurant you should tip a little more if you are satisfied with the service.
All restaurant recommendation are in the corresponding borough articles of
It is very common to go out for breakfast or brunch (long breakfast and lunch, all you can eat buffet, usually from 10AM to 4PM, for €4 to €12 - sometimes including coffee, tea or juice). Here are some special tips (especially see the district pages of Berlin/City West#Breakfast & Berlin/East Central#Eat):
Buffet breakfast (brunch)
Berliners love to drink cocktails, and it's a main socializing point for young people. Many people like to meet their friends in a cocktail bar before clubbing. Prenzlauer Berg (Around U-Bahnhof Eberswalder Str., Helmholtzplatz, Oderberger Straße & Kastanienallee), Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße, Oranienstraße and the area around Görlitzer Park and U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor), Schöneberg (Goltzstraße, Nollendorfplatz, Motzstraße for gays), and Friedrichshain (Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz) are the main areas. There aren't as many illegal bars as there were in the '90s but bars open and close faster than you can keep up - check out the bar and cocktail guides in the bi-weekly magazines Tip or Zitty. For recommended bars, have a look at the district pages.
For more clubs, have a look at the district pages.
The club scene in Berlin is one of the biggest and most progressive in Europe. Even though there are some 200 clubs in the city, it's sometimes difficult to find the right club for you since the best ones are a bit off the beaten track and most bouncers will keep bigger tourist groups (especially males) out. Entrance is cheap compared to other big European cities, normally from 5 to €10 (usually no drink included).
The main clubbing districts are in the east: Mitte (especially north of Hackescher Markt and - a bit hidden - around Alexanderplatz), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (around Schlesisches Tor) and Prenzlauer Berg (around station Eberswalder Str.). Some mainstream clubs are located in Charlottenburg and at Potsdamer Platz. Electro and techno are still the biggest in Berlin, with lots of progressive DJs and live acts around. But there are also many clubs playing '60s beat, alternative rock and of course mainstream music. Clubbing days are Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday, but some clubs are open every day of the week. Partying in Berlin starts around midnight (weekends) and peaks around 2AM or 3AM in the normal clubs, a bit later in many electro/techno clubs. Berlin is famous for its long and decadent after hours, going on until Monday evening.
A good overview about whats going on close to the place you are staying is brought to you by joinjack.de. This webside shows you parties directly on a map.
After the end of the Cold War, Berlin witnessed a construction boom of hotels and offices. The boom led to a significant oversupply of hotels which resulted in comparatively cheap prices even in the 5 star category. (Off-season prices of €110 per night are seen). Especially for a short visit, it may be best to stay at a place in Berlin-Mitte (around Friedrichstraße example), as most of the main sights are located there. Due to its history most hotels in Berlin are still located in the City West (i.e. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf), especially close to Zoo station. Alexanderplatz and Anhalter Bahnhof have clusters of 2-3 star budget hotels (i.e. Ibis, Etap). You'll find currently only one hotel ('Meininger', a combined hotel-hostel) located directly at the new main train station, but some large ones are under construction there. The (oddly named) budget hotel chain 'Motel-One' operates various 2-star hotels in the city centre. There are also many 3-4 star 'NH Hotels' offering good value. All major hotel chains are present in Berlin. A good idea to check that the hotel is close to public transport (U-Bahn or S-Bahn) to avoid too long walks.
Cheapest are youth hostels (called Jugendherbergen, only for members) and hostels (similar to youth hostels, but for everyone, mostly backpackers stay here, usually in one to 32-bed rooms). You will also find bed and breakfast offers (often private) and boarding houses (Pension, more familiar and smaller than hotels).
In summer you can stay in camping, see Tentstation. The campsite is situated on the grounds of an abandoned outdoor swimming pool in the Berlin/City West area, only a five minute walk from Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
Check the district pages for individual accommodation listings. Popular hotel districts include:
You can find internet cafes and telephone shops all around Berlin. Do a bit of research with the telephone shops because most have a focus region in the world. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests.
The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country (e.g. the United States) check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility. Note: The GSM iPhone, which works with AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., works perfectly in Berlin.
A free wireless network covers parts of Berlin, but requires special software on your computer. More information including maps of Berlin with coverage is available online, .
Berlin is a safe place but it has some not-so-well maintained areas, too. No specific rules apply with the exception of public transportation and tourist areas where pickpockets are a problem. Watch your bags during rush hours and at larger train stations.
The police in Berlin are competent, not corrupt; therefore, if you try to bribe them you are likely to spend at least a night behind bars to check your background. They are generally helpful to tourists. Most of the officers are able to speak English, so don't hesitate to approach them if you are frightened or lost. The nationwide emergency number is 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is 110.
Since the 1980s, there have been localized riots on Labour Day (May 1st). In general they take place in Kreuzberg around Oranienstraße/Mariannenplatz. Nowadays they usually start the night before May 1st, especially in the Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg), at Boxhagener Platz and in Rigaer Str. (Friedrichshain) and start again in the evening of May 1st in Kreuzberg and in the mentioned areas. The violent riots have become rather small since 2005 due to the engagement of the citizens who celebrate the Labour Day with a nice "myfest" in Kreuzberg and well-planned police efforts. It is still better to stay out of these areas from 8PM until sunrise. Vehicles should not be parked in these area as this is asking for damage!
Racially-motivated violence is rare but the risk is higher on the outskirts of East Berlin. It is recommended for non-Caucasian tourists to be attentive in areas such as Lichtenberg, Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Treptow and Köpenick in the evening/night especially if alone.
In the bordering neighbourhood of the districts Neukölln and Kreuzberg (between Hermannplatz, Schönleinstrasse to Kottbusser Tor) and Wedding (Moabit and Gesundbrunnen) the risk of falling victim to robberies and assaults is slightly higher. Tourists should visit these areas with some caution during the night as a mixture of drunken party people and poor neighbourhoods might lead to trouble.
Although harmless, panhandlers have recently started to beg at local tourist spots such as Pariser Platz next to the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and the Museuminsel. They are usually women accompanied by their daughters who ask if you speak English and say that they are from the new EU countries and trying to raise money to fly home. The story is false, so don't give them money, which would encourage further exploitation of the women and their kids. They also have a new tactic where they hand you a card telling their "story" and asking for money; beware that the children that they carry in their arms will search through your bags while you are reading the card. The best way to avoid this is simply to ignore them and not to respond when they ask you "Speak English?" If you feel scared, don't hesitate to contact the police, as they will help.
Prostitution is a legal business in Germany. Berlin has no major red-light district though some big brothels were built (the biggest is Artemis). Berlin has no "Sperrbezirk" (restricted areas for prostitutes) so the "apartments" or brothels are spread through out the whole city. The Oranienburger Straße in Mitte is infamous for its prostitutes at night. These women are a tourist attraction and the ladies focus only on tourists to request exorbitant prices.
The proximity to Eastern Europe, relaxed visa rules, and the illegal community increase the number of prostitutes. Advertisements are in the tabloids and especially the internet. Human trafficking and illegal immigration is a problem therefore police raids do take place and close down illegal places. Brothels and prostitutes must be registered like normal businesses or will be prosecuted for tax evasion. In general, the police officers are not interested in the clients (especially if you stay calm and especially don't try to argue) but you must have a photo ID (passport copy is fine) with you. Otherwise, you might spend a night at the police station while your background gets checked.
The Polish border is just some 90km to the east of Berlin, therefore it might be interesting to do a trip to: