Constructed between 1884 and 1894, the imposing Reichstag stands witness to Germany's past, present, and future. It was established as a parliamentary house for the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck and has since seen more than a century of European history unfurl. After the second World War, the Reichstag was neglected until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, at which time work began on returning the building to its original purpose. This new attention led to such additions as the iconic glass dome, which was added by British architect Sir Norman Foster. Today, visitors can climb up to the dome and enjoy panoramic views of brilliant Berlin from the terrace.
C/O Berlin calls itself an "International Forum for Visual Dialogues," and while this may be apt, it doesn't actually describe what C/O is. It is simply an excellent gallery that houses temporary exhibitions of photographs and photographic installations by the world's leading documentary photographers, from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Trent Park. It is not particularly well known, but for photographers, lovers of photography, or even just people who are interested in the world, it is one of the must-see museums in Berlin. Its exhibitions, usually by multiple photographers, never leave the viewer untouched. Exhibitions have included a retrospective of several Magnum agency photographers and an installation of photographs of religious practices from around the world.
Germany's most recognizable symbol is not as large as many visitors expect, yet its history is rich and fascinating. Built in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was modeled on the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The Quadriga statue on top of the Gate, designed by sculptor Gottfried Schadow, represents Victoria, the Goddess of Peace, riding a four-horse chariot. This was one of Berlin's original 14 city gates, yet the only remaining evidence of the other gates are the names of underground stations such as Kottbusser Tor and Schlesisches Tor. The Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz have played center stage to numerous turbulent historical events. The south wing houses a tourist information office.
This museum houses a vast collection of artifacts from the ancient world, the crowning glory being the altar from the Zeus Temple in Pergamon (180-160 BCE), one of the world's most significant archaeological finds. The museum is also home to parts of the magnificent Antique Collection, the East Asian Collection, the Near Eastern Museum and the Islamic Museum. Designed by Ludwig Hoffmann and Alfred Messel, this museum was established in 1910 and is a part of the wonderful Museum Island. Ranked as one of the most visited art museums, not only throughout Germany, but also the world over, Pergamon Museum makes for a truly enriching experience.
Located on the Lindenstraße, the Jewish Museum is the largest museum focusing on Jewish history in all of Europe. The original Jewish museum of Berlin was built in 1933, but was closed in the following decade by the Nazi regime. The Berlin government hosted an anonymous competition to design the new museum; famed architect Daniel Liebeskind won the competition with his jagged and zig-zagging building that was nicknamed "blitz." The museum was completed in 1999. Today, visitors to the museum can learn all about German-Jewish heritage, starting in the Medieval era and continuing into today's Jewish community.
Built for the 1936 Olympic Games, the Olympiastadion conjures up memories of fanatical fans and Jesse Owens sprinting and leaping for four gold medals. Today, the Olympiastadion is home to Berlin's premier soccer club, Hertha BSC, and hosts major sporting events like the ISTAF Athletics Meeting. International performers like Michael Jackson, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones and U2 have taken the crowds by storm with their dazzling concerts here. Designed to impress the world, this monumental multi-purpose arena has done just that since its reopening in 2004. Visitors can wander around the stadium on event-free days, or choose to go on a guided tour of the massive arena. The visitor's center is perfect to learn more about the fascinating history of this monumental structure.
The original Alexanderplatz, locally called 'Alex' by Berliners, was completely flattened during World War II. Its present day appearance is a prime example of East German town planning: a huge, windswept pedestrian area surrounded by featureless 1960s high-rises. But those who are familiar with Alexanderplatz from Alfred Döblin's novel of the same name will find that none of the hustle and bustle of the square has disappeared. Alexanderplatz is still very much a commuters' thoroughfare and is regarded by locals as the true center of Berlin. Named after Russian Tsar Alexander I who visited the Prussian capital in 1805, Alexanderplatz was at the center of the mass-demonstrations which brought the Berlin Wall tumbling down in November 1989.
Opened in 1929, just three years before Hitler seized power, this art house film theater soon became a place of refuge for anti-Nazi resistance fighters during the Third Reich. A commemorative plaque in the foyer reminds visitors of those dark days. After the War, the Babylon became socialist East Germany's only art house cinema. Even after the fall of the Wall, the cinema has remained true to its tradition and continues to show old silent movies, East German classics and other controversial or arty films, all of which should make any film lover's heart beat a little faster. Besides these, it also hosts concerts, theater, readings, festivals and workshops.
Located in Alexanderplatz in the heart of eastern Berlin, this 1960s structure towers over the whole city. Built by communist authorities at the height of the Cold War, West Berliners cheekily christened the TV Tower "the Pope's revenge" because of the sparkling cross which appears on the pinnacle of the tower when the sun shines on it. Although regarded by many as an eyesore, the views from the top are hard to beat. The revolving restaurant situated 207 meters (680 feet) up the tower is a pleasant spot to stop for a coffee or meal and a relaxing gaze over the city.
In the early 19th Century, Hackescher Markt was still a muddy swamp situated outside Berlin's city gates. Yet as the industrial revolution gained hold, new businesses and booming industries set up shop here, bringing wealth and prosperity to the whole area. Hackescher Markt's main claim to fame, however, is its S-Bahn station. Constructed at the height of the railway boom in the late 19th Century, with a red-tiled facade, mosaics and rounded windows, this is one of Berlin's most attractive stations. Originally known as Bahnhof Börse because of its proximity to the Berlin Stock Exchange, the square in front of the station was renamed Marx-Engels-Platz by party apparatchiks during the socialist era. Nowadays, the station is used primarily by visitors to the nearby Hackesche Höfe complex, a labyrinth of courtyards brimming with cafès, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. A cinema, theater and the Oranienburger Straße nightlife strip complete the list of attractions in this increasingly popular district.
Comedy Club Kookaburra is the perfect place in the city to enjoy stand-up comedians and cabaret shows. There is a different show each night, featuring respected comedians in Berlin and their famous acts. If you are an English speaker, make sure you come on the first Tuesday of every month for English Comedy Night where all of the jokes are in English. Many shows are interactive with active audience participation. After a performance, one can head to their on-site restaurant to grab quick snacks, tapas platters and a choice of spirits. This venue can also be hired for private parties and functions.
Built on the site of Berlin's oldest church, the Nikolaikirche today is still the site of regular services, but also houses a museum highlighting its rich history, a tower which boasts some spectacular views, and fantastic acoustics, which are a boon when it hosts musical acts. This attraction is also worth a visit for its Medieval architecture and twin green spires.