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.
Stretching from the Brandenburg Gate in the east to Zoo Station in the west, Tiergarten park is one of Europe's largest and most beautiful inner-city parks. Originally conceived as a hunting ground for Prussian kings, the Tiergarten was transformed into a romantic landscape garden in the early 19th Century by Peter Joseph Lenne, who designed a series of winding paths, lakes, bridges, sculptures and flower beds. The park was devastated in the World War II and during subsequent winters. Replanted in the mid-20th Century, the Tiergarten is now as beautiful as it ever was and very popular with locals and visitors alike.
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.
Located next to Zoo Station in the heart of the western city center, Zoologischer Garten Berlin is one of the most renowned zoos and a popular tourist attraction in the city. Founded in 1844 by Prussian King William IV, the Zoologischer Garten is Germany's oldest zoo. With 13,000 animals covering over 1,400 different species, the zoo is also one of the world's most populous zoos. Home to polar bears, giant pandas and arctic wolves, majestic birds like King Vulture and Ostrich can are found here. Frequented by locals and tourists alike, the zoo is an important landmark of the city.
Museum Island is located on the northern half of a historically-significant island in the Spree River that runs through Berlin. The island takes its name from the five Berlin State Museums that reside in the area - the Altes Museum, the Bode Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Neues Museum, and the Pergamon Museum. Museum Island was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010. The island's first museum was erected in 1797, and the whole area was designated specifically for art and science by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841. An assemblage of spectacular historical monuments, the Museum Island is a stunning heritage hub.
Built in the years 1936 to 1941, Tempelhofer Freiheit was originally called Tempelhofer Flughafen when it was an airport. Although it was just an airport it played an important role in history. The airport saw forced labor during WWII and it was here that American cargo planes landed with food for starving West Berliners in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. During the Cold War, it was an important US airforce base and remained Berlin's main airport until the opening of Tegel Airport in 1975. Nowadays, the airport has closed and it has been transformed into a strange and spooky park that people can wander through. Visitors are welcome to explore the old buildings on a tour, or check out the grounds surrounding the eerily silent old airport.
The Hackesche Höfe has been a center for food and entertainment since its construction in 1906. Before World War II, this area was known for its Jewish theaters and cultural institutions and later became a great place for squats, underground bars and restaurants. This historic hidden courtyard complex in the Scheuenviertel consists of eight courtyards and houses cultural establishments, businesses and firms. These also include theaters, shops, bars and restaurants. Despite the courtyard being the largest of its kind in Berlin, the area is still infrequently visited, and makes for a lovely getaway from the Berlin crowds.
A beautiful public park in Berlin, the Marx-Engels-Forum is named after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and was founded in 1986 by the socialist leaders of Berlin. It houses the statues of both these pioneers of Socialism. The area in which the park is situated used to be a bustling neighborhood which was razed to the ground during World War II and the park was established thereafter under the GDR regime. The park is now visited by many tourists throughout the year and several make use of the opportunity to click a few photos while sitting on Marx's knee.
BigBike Berlin offers a unique and super fun way to tour the city. The unusual vehicle that's officially a bike (as per the official bike association of Germany, Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrradclub), can accommodate up to 16 passengers at the same time, and is known to make good use of the bicycle paths of the city to show tourists around. But, there's more - Berlin clearly loves its beer, so BigBike here, thought it only fair to load up on a keg for every tour - there's a big bike and beer, enough said! For those who're not into beer, they also have the option of fruit punches and sparkling and mulled wines. If you're looking for a guided tour, they'll spare a professional; if not, they let you take the lead. Nevertheless, it makes for a fun experience, one you won't be forgetting too soon (or maybe never remember).
Alte Münze used to be the coin factory of Berlin for decades. Now the old industrial plant at U-Bahn station Klosterstraße, just one stop away from Alexanderplatz, has been turned into a thrilling venue for events, fashion shows, exhibitions and concerts. There is no regular program, but you should check out their website to see what's happening next. The events here are a lot different and interesting and the location itself makes Alte Münze worth a visit. - John Luas
Situated on the banks of the River Spree, the Lustgarten, which literally translates to 'pleasure garden', at Museumsinsel was created in 1573 as a garden for the Hohenzollern royal family (the former Royal Palace was situated close by). In the 18th Century, Friedrich Wilhelm I turned it into a military parade ground. 60 years ago, what remained of the garden was uprooted to provide space for Nazi parades and rallies. The historic garden was re-landscaped in 2000 according to original plans and is once again full of lawns, fountains and bushes. It is a wonderful spot for a stroll or picnic on a sunny afternoon.