If sausages and pretzels are the first things that come to mind when someone says Germany, then you haven't met the 'new' Berlin. The country's capital is fast becoming a hotspot for new tech start-ups and a vibrant global city is quickly emerging. It has something for the whole family with its rich history, landmark sites and wide open green spaces. That said, all of these things are always better enjoyed with a warm pretzel in hand!
Experience the new
The Sony Centre is a great place to get a taste for Berlin's new energy. Built on an area that was originally stranded between East and West Germany, the futuristic structure now houses shopping, dining, movies and what's sure to be a favourite with the big and little kids, the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre. LEGOLAND is a great option to include at the start of your Berlin adventure; you can use MINILAND, a 50 square meter replica of Berlin city, to help plan out the rest of your stay!
Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe, is the place to head for some luxury retail therapy. But if that's not your thing it is still worth a visit to the sixth and seventh floors to indulge in the amazing restaurant and food court. Get there early to snag a seat by the windows and enjoy the great views of the city.
The Reichstag, the seat of German Parliament, was rebuilt in the late 1990s after the original building was destroyed first by a suspect fire and then again during World War II. The new building has become one of Berlin's most famous landmarks with an impressive glass dome rising above the city granting sweeping views. Admission is free but you do need to pre-register due to its popularity, so make sure to plan ahead!
Explore the old
Immerse yourself in the history of Berlin by visiting the Brandenburg Gate. The last remaining gate between what was the old East and West Germany, the Brandenburg Gate is not to be missed. The crowds can get a little hectic though the day so try visiting at night when the hordes disperse and the gate is lit up, making it look even grander.
To get a glimpse of what remains of the Berlin Wall, head down to The East Side Gallery. This section is the longest that is still standing and has been turned into a mural wall showcasing some of Berlin's best street art, giving you a taste of the alternative urban culture that is thriving in Berlin.
To learn about some of Germany's darkest times, visit The Holocaust Memorial which is located near the Brandenburg Gate. Wander through the maze of pillars, and then read the stories of victims at the underground information centre.
A visit to Berlin also gives you a chance to see some of human history's greatest artefacts dating back 6000 years. Berlin's Museum Island conveniently holds five museums on one island right in the middle of the city. The island is worth visiting just to see the striking architecture with some of the buildings dating back to the early 1800s. Step inside the museums though and you can be transported to amazing times and places like ancient Egypt or the Bronze Age and view gold relics and art.
Live like a local
Berlin is an outdoor city. Every weekend you will find Berliners flocking to the many parks and green spaces. To join in the fun grab a picnic, make it even more authentic with a bottle of local favourite soft drink Club Mate, and head to one of the following parks:
Tiergarten: What began as royal hunting grounds today stands as Berlin's most central and popular park. You could spend a day wandering through the many paths and forget that you are in the heart of the city. If you have the energy, you can pay to climb the over 250 steps in the Victory Column to take in some of Berlin's best known sites from a new angle.
Mauerpark: Every Sunday during the warmer months, this park is full of life. There are musicians, flea markets, slack liners and more, giving a stark contrast to the park's former status as the “death strip” along the Berlin Wall.
Tempelhof Field: Have you ever thought about how perfect a runway would be to ride a bike down? The German's have. This decommissioned airport has been turned into a wide open green space with room for all the family to spread out. Take your bicycles, skates, scooters and kites and burn off some extra energy.
Because of the earlier separation in Germany, Berlin is quite spread out. There are essentially three city centres, what was the East centre, the West centre and the new centre. To make the most of your time, try to structure your visits so that you spend less time commuting.
The U-Bahn and the S-Bahn are the quickest ways to travel around the city. The U-Bahn runs below ground and the S-Bahn runs above. Together they cover most of the city making it easy to get around. Grab a map, a pass from the ticket machines and you will be on your way.
To take the city in at a different pace a bike is always a great choice. The bike path network is well developed, the city is flat and renting a bike is easy. You can find more information here.