Berlin, a heady blend of grit and glamour in the northeast of Germany is the country’s largest and most cosmopolitan city.
Although 92% of the capital’s buildings were razed to the ground by World War II bombs, it has rebuilt itself with remarkable results over the decades, making its memorials, museums and cutting-edge architecture ripe for exploring.
Arriving at Berlin Tegel Airport
Berlin’s compact yet functional Tegel Airport sits about five miles northwest of the city centre. On landing, passport checks and customs are usually relatively swift, and the airport is well integrated into the city’s public transport network, making it easy to travel to and from.
Four BVG (Berlin Transport Services) stops are located right outside Terminals A and B and the TXL Express Bus runs at six-minute intervals towards the city centre via Main Station (Hauptbahnhof) to central Alexanderplatz (it takes around 37 minutes, depending on the time of day). Zoologischer Garten, to the west of the city, can be reached in approximately 20 minutes by Express Bus.
If you want to change onto the S-Bahn (Berlin’s rapid transit railway system), the Express Bus TXL will take you to Beusselstrasse station in just 10 minutes, where you can take the circular line. The U-Bahn network (which runs mostly underground) is just five minutes away from the airport via the Express Bus.
Tegel also has a direct connection to motorway A111 (exit Flughafen Tegel) which then links it to the A10, A110 and A115, reaching out in all directions across the city. Taxis are easy to flag down and car hire is clearly signposted.
Walk along the Berlin Wall
The Wall that once separated East and West Berlin now exists only in remnants. But there’s an outdoor memorial which extends for almost a mile along Bernauer Strasse, including an original section of the wall, vestiges of escape tunnels, border installations and even a chapel.
Marvel at the Reichstag
The most distinctive feature of the Reichstag, the modern home of the German parliament, is its giant glass dome which, once accessed via lift, affords sprawling, 360-degree views of the city. The 19th-century building has been burned, bombed and rebuilt during its history, and is now one of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks.
Visit Checkpoint Charlie
Not only is the former border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie an important historical monument, it’s also the setting for some of culture’s greatest spy thrillers, from Octopussy to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. An open-air exhibition on the corner of Schützenstrasse and Zimmerstrasse tells the gripping stories of those who failed and those who succeeded in their bid to escape East Berlin.
Stand under the Brandenburg Gate
A symbol of division during the Cold War, the elegant and iconic Brandenburg Gate now acts as a powerful mark of reunification. Completed in 1791 as the royal city gate, architect Carl Gotthard Langhans was inspired by the Acropolis in Athens.
Witness Holocaust history
Berlin doesn’t shy away from its dark past. The city is home to the moving Holocaust memorial, a dark maze of blocks under which lies an underground information centre, which carefully relates the harrowing stories of some of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.