The Grey City: A Guide to Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s got something for everyone – incredible history, cool culture, vibrant nightlife, amazing architecture, delicious food, and more. Despite its rough (and quite recent) history, the Berlin of today is one of the most welcoming, tolerant, and prosperous cities in the world. It may be nicknamed the Grey City because of its weather, but I promise Berlin isn’t boring in the slightest – in fact, its the complete opposite of that! I first visited Berlin in January of this year, and the three days I spent there definitely left me wishing to go back. So, for any of you fellow first time visitors or Berlin, or just any of you who has already been and is heading back sometime soon, in this post I’ll be writing the ultimate guide to Berlin, the capital and biggest city in Germany.

Basics of Berlin

Language – The language of Berlin is quite obviously German, though most people in the touristy areas are likely to speak English. Also, almost all tourist related things are available in widely-spoken Asian and European languages.

Currency – Being located in the European Union, the currency mainly accepted in Berlin are Euros. There are tons of currency exchange booths/shops throughout the city, so if you don’t already have Euros on hand it’ll be pretty easy to get them.

Safety – Overall, Berlin is a pretty safe place to visit. However, like you would in any other major city, make sure to look out for pick pockets targeting tourists. Berliners are also generally very kind and nice people, so there’s no need to worry about rudeness among locals

When to Visit

Anytime is a great time to visit Berlin, as there’s virtually always something exciting going on in the capital city. Summer is the most popular time to visit, and when you’ll see the most tourists in the city. Weather in Berlin in the summer is very nice and cool, averaging a high of 18°C in July. In winter though, the average temperature is January is -1°C, much much colder than the summer. In spite of the chill, winter is still a very popular time to visit Berlin with all the Christmas and New Years festivities going on. I’ve only visited Berlin in the winter, and it was amazing then, so I can’t really knowledgeably recommend what time of the year to visit. However, like I said earlier, anytime is a great time to visit Berlin!

Transportation

Berlin’s subways, trams, buses, and ferries are all run by the BVG, standing for Berlin Transportation Company in German. The system operates 24 hours a day, and from what I’ve heard is very efficient! Tickets for the BVG start at €1,70 (reduced €1,30), making them very affordable. If you’re looking to visit some spots outside of walking distance from wherever you’re staying in Berlin, and you want to save money rather than paying for taxis and ubers, definitely take use of the BVG!

Accommodation

During my time in Berlin, my family and I stayed in the Steinberger, a very modern, clean, and affordable 5 star hotel. It also has a great location, literally steps away from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof and a quick walk over the Spree away from the Reichstag. I would definitely recommend staying here if you’re looking for a hotel in Berlin, as it was probably my favourite hotel I stayed in throughout my entire trip this past winter.

Attractions

Berlin Cathedral

Also known as the Berliner Dom, this cathedral is located on the city’s Museum Island. Very beautifully designed, the Berlin Cathedral was built in the early 20th century. It is definitely one of the prettiest and most photogenic buildings in Berlin, as well as one of the most iconic and recognizable sites in the city.

Read separate blog post about Berlin’s Museum Island here.

Berlin Wall Memorial 

The Berlin Wall memorial is a memorial and exhibit displaying one of the last still-standing portions of the former wall. Surrounding the former wall is an open air exhibit, with info on the interesting yet tragic background of the wall and specific street the memorial is located on. The site of where many of the first parts of the wall were broken off, this part of the wall is especially significant. As it is one of the only places in the city where a part of the wall still stands, the Berlin Wall Memorial is without a doubt an attraction you must see if you’re visiting Berlin for the first time.

Read separate blog post about Cold War Era Berlin here.

Brandenburg Gate

Once a symbol of division, today the Brandenburg Gate proudly stands as a symbol of unified Germany. The Gate, constructed in 1791, is possible the city’s most famous landmark. After seeing tons of historic and important photos of the gate, seeing it in person for the first time was a really cool experience – it’s also definitely a must-visit spot when in the city!

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlies was the third checkpoint on the former Berlin Wall created by the Allies. Located on Friedrich Strasse, this checkpoint has been the site of many escape attempts and prisoner swaps, as well as the well known sixteen hours long confrontation between the East Germans and Americans. Since the wall is no longer up, today at the site of the former checkpoint you’ll find a replica sign and booth standing in the same spots as the originals.

Read separate blog post about Cold War Era Berlin here.

East Side Gallery

Painted with over a hundred murals by international artists, the East Side Gallery is the longest outdoor gallery in the world. The gallery is free to visit, I really enjoyed walking down it and admiring all of the murals and paintings. A lot of the artwork featured on the wall have very important messages behind them, so it was also really interesting to get to interpret what each one was about.

Read separate blog post about Cold War Era Berlin here.

Fernsehturm

Berlin’s Fernsehturm, the tallest structure in Germany, is a huge tower built by the East Germans from 1965 to 1969. Originally meant to be a symbol of communism, the tower was obviously located in East Berlin. Despite its rocky background, today it stands as one of Berlin’s most visited and well known landmarks. Its main use is for radio and TV broadcast, hence its name (meaning TV Tower in German), but it is also home to an observation deck and rotating restaurant.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a nearly two hectare large area filled with 2711 concrete slabs (stelae) organized into over a hundred rows. Beneath the ground level memorial is an underground inscription of the names of three million Jewish Holocaust victims. The memorial is very much open to interpretation, as there are many ways one could interpret the stelaes and their meaning. Berlin is also home to two other main Holocaust related memorials, the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism and Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism.

Museum Island

Located on the northern end of Berlin’s Spree Island, Museum Island is a group of five of Berlin’s top museums. Named one of the world’s greatest museum complexes, the island is very convent as its basically almost all of Berlin’s top museums connected to one another. The island’s museums include the Alte National Galerie, the Altes Museum, Bode Museum, Neuses Museum, and Pergamon Museum, all built between 1830 and 1930.

Read separate blog post about Berlin’s Museum Island here.

Olympic Stadium

Originally built for the 1936 Summer Olympics, Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is probably the most eerie Olympic Stadium of them all. As Hitler took over the games that the stadium hosted, they became a source of propaganda for the Nazis. During the games, the stadium held 100,000 people, as well as an exclusive stand for Hitler. The stadium, especially on a day when its deserted, is very soulless dismal – though I’d still recommend visiting it, due to its important history and impact.

Read separate blog post about Berlin’s Olympic Stadium here.

Reichstag Building

The Reichstag building, today the home to Germany’s parliament, has a very interesting history. It was opened in 1894, and held Germany’s parliament at the time until the mysterious Reichstag fire of 1933. Barely surviving through World War II, it was never fully restored until Germany was reunited in 1990. When it was renovated, its iconic dome was added to it, which now offers beautiful views over Berlin to visitors of the building. I didn’t get to go in it when I was in Berlin, though I really wish I did because of its interesting history and of course for the views from the top of the dome!

Victory Column

Berlin’s Victory Column is a 67 metre tall column boasting stunning views of Berlin from the top of its viewing platform. Located down the street from the Brandenburg Gate, the victory column is in the middle of a roundabout in the Tiergarten. It was at first built to celebrate Berlin’s victory in the Danish-Prussian war, but by the time it was finished Prussia had one two other wars!

That brings us to the end of my guide to Berlin! I hope you enjoyed. Have you visited any of these sites? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

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4 Comments

  1. Carlos - Peeking Places
    August 5, 2018

    Awesome guide! I actually visited all of the places!!

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      August 8, 2018

      Thank you! That’s awesome 🙂

      Reply
  2. IC
    August 13, 2018

    I need to go to Berlin again… so much to see!

    Reply
    1. Hannah Travels
      August 16, 2018

      I love Berlin!

      Reply

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