To quote David Bowie, Berlin is “The greatest cultural extravaganza that one could ever imagine”.
An artistic, political and historical paradise, Berlin is where culture vultures thrive and examples of talent are seen on every corner: either as graffiti on walls, installations in pubs or poetry scribbled in bathroom stalls. Berlin inspires everyone in one way or another, and that is why we are all under its spell.
Start the day, by renting a bicycle. There are several bicycle rental companies in the Alexanderplatz area, often handing out fantastic deals. See whichever one appeals to you the most and spend the day riding through Central Berlin.
On the route will be the Book Burning Square, The Berlin Library with its beautiful façade covered in green leaves, The Town Hall, and The Neptune Fountain. Close to the Town Hall, try stumbling upon the Old Amphitheatre that is still used for shows You can also bike in the Museum Island area. If you have just a day, perhaps biking through it is the only luxury you can allow yourself.
Next, ditch the bikes and go experience one of the oldest underground networks in the world (known as the U-Bahn). It’s probably best to purchase a day pass first thing in the morning. Head to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (German Parliament Building). All around this area, you will find several interesting street performers and artists.
Make Checkpoint Charlie your next destination, where you have the option of visiting the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and getting one of the most interesting souvenirs Berlin has to offer: actual East Germany/West Germany era stamps on your passport.
Nearby is the Museum of Topography of Terror, by far one of the best museums I have ever been to and most of it is free. If you had time to go to just one Museum, let this be the one. This is an outdoor museum located in Niederkirchnerstrasse, on the site of buildings, which were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS.
For lunch you of course have the option of over 1,500 versions of German sausages, but one other thing that deserves a lot of credit, is the Berlin Kebab. Brought in originally by Turkish immigrants, the Berlin Kebab has been “Berlinized” (for instance using more veal and chicken instead of lamb) . This is an extremely delicious and highly affordable option. Try it at the famous joint in Kreuzberg called “Mustafas”.
Come evening and before darkness sets in, take the U-Bahn to different parts of the city to admire the extensive graffiti on what remains of what was once the most political wall. Definitely try to see the one of the Soviet Union leader, L. Brezhnev, in a lip lock with the former head of East Germany, E. Honecker. This fraternal kiss is one of the more famous paintings on the East Side Gallery.
Late Evening Onwards
Finally, for an ideal ending to a wonderful day in a city perfect with all its imperfections, head to Kunsthaus Tacheles. You will find nothing like this anywhere else in the world. It started of as a Jewish quarter, then became a Nazi prison and was finally taken over by a group of artists who named it Tacheles. There are about six floors of galleries, housing everything from personal studios to sculptures to montages. However the exhibits and galleries are constantly changing.
…the only constant thing about it is change.
The ground floor has a sandy beach style bar and sitting area with several art installations. Sadly, due to complicated matters such as the expiration of the lease, the future of this wonderful space is now unknown.
The one thing to remember about Berlin is that the only constant thing about it is change. Nothing about it is static and what was familiar yesterday may well be missing tomorrow. Understand and remember that, and Berlin and you will get along just fine.