Berlin's combination of grit and glamour is bound to mesmerize anyone keen to explore its vibrant culture, history, architecture, food and night life. This is a city that staged a revolution, was headquartered by the Nazis, bombed to bits, divided in two and finally reunited - and that was just in the 20th century! Walk along remnants of the Berlin Wall, visit Checkpoint Charlie or marvel at the fabulous art and artifacts on display at Museum Island. Berlin is like an endlessly fascinating 3D textbook where the past is very much present wherever you go.
This is one of those hotels who has a fairy godmother like concierge - eighth row center opera seats, reservations at impossible to get into restaurants, knowing what makes me happy better than I do.
The Regent also boasts one of the best locations in town in the heart of Berlin. Just a few steps from the Gendarmenmarkt, the Regent is centrally located between Museum Island and the Brandenburg Gate. With its personal service and classic elegance, the Regent is the only hotel in Berlin which reflects the style and glamour of the capital city.
When Reinstoff opened in 2009 it quickly became the most talked about restaurant in town. It remains one of the most innovative places to eat in the capital with its industrial black interior and unique mix of haute cuisine and molecular gastronomy. The menu labels dishes as 'quite near' or 'far away' according to where the ingredients were sourced, with 'quite near' dishes containing familiar flavours and 'far away' more exotic ones.
As with The Regent hotel that it is housed in, Fishers Fritz is decorated in a classical and elegant style. It's a grand setting for chef Christian Lohse's French-influenced creations, who holds two prestigious Michelin stars. Fish is their business, and the seafood simply must be tried: the Breton lobster with sweetbread appetizer and the sea bass in a salty crust are a no-brainer.
If you are looking for a restaurant in Berlin that's bursting with authentic atmosphere, then Lutter und Wegner is your place. As you'd expect the food is classically Germanic, so lots of strudels, schnitzels, potatoes, sausage, goulash, black pudding and a massive wine list - which always makes me happy. We chose well but the portions are quite generous, hence the massive schnitzel captured in the photo below.
One could easily spend a few days exploring the fabulous Museum Island, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. It's home to five of Berlin's most important museums: two not to be missed are the Neues Museum, home to the Egyptian bust of Nefertiti and the spectacular Pergamonmuseum, one of the world's major archaeological museums. Within it you walk through a series of astounding structures, from a partial recreation of the Pergamon Altar (170-159 BC) to the two-story Roman Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (605-563 BC). Don't miss the Islamic Art collection upstairs, a treasure trove!
I would also definitely visit the German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum), which is devoted to German history and defines itself as a place of enlightenment and understanding of the shared history of Germans and Europeans. It is often viewed as one of the most important museums in Berlin and is one of the most frequented. The museum is located in the Zeughaus (the Armoury), the oldest surviving building and the most important large Baroque structure in the capital.
The Jewish Museum presents the story of Berlin’s Jewish population through the Museum’s own architecture. The newest and most eye-grabbing section of the building was designed by controversial Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind. Its shape is based on an exploding Star of David, with its interior spaces disappearing into angles, so the museum experience is more about the effects of the space than the documents and artifacts.
For more of an emotional way into history, walk through the Holocaust Memorial. This memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe takes the form of 2,711 blocks of varying heights arranged across the area of a housing block.
The Berlin Wall was a barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989 and completely cut off West Berlin from East Germany. The wall included over 116 watchtowers, 20 bunkers, anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire and dogs all placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area known as the "death strip".
The wall was mostly demolished between June and November 1990 although a restored stretch remains along the southern border of Wedding and Mitte. Make sure you also visit Checkpoint Charlie, the famous east-west border control during the Cold War and now a tourist center.
Berlin is the only city in the world with three active opera houses. The auditoriums of the Berliner Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the Komische Oper can play to a total of 4,411 audience members! With so much to choose from, opera lovers are spoiled for choice with many of the world's best singers, conductors and musicians taking to the stage.
I decided to go see my very first opera while I was in Berlin. I looked at the different performances and decided on Giuseppe Verdi's Aida at the Berliner Staatsoper. I was a bit nervous and had my various fears - not understanding the language, what to wear and how to behave. But the minute the lights dimmed and the curtains opened I was hooked! The music, sets, lighting, costumes and singing made the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up for the entire performance! Be sure to take full advantage of the pretzels and champagne during the intermission!
The Gendarmenmarkt may be one of the most beautiful places in Berlin and a must-see for all who visit this great city. This place is a beautiful example of an architectural ensemble full of harmony and it includes both the French and the German cathedral as well as the Concert House. There are also numerous restaurants, shops and hotels located around the Gendarmenmarkt.
With its magnificent dome, the Berlin Cathedral is definitely one of the city's crowd pullers. The cornerstone of this beautiful cathedral was laid in 1894 and the inauguration ceremony took place in 1905. During World War II, the cathedral suffered heavy damage. Only in 1975 did the restoration begin and was finally completed four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1993. Make sure you climb the stairs all the way up to the top of the dome to take advantage of the remarkable view of the center of Berlin!
While the only remaining city gate of Berlin formerly used to represent the separation of the city between East and West Berlin, since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Brandenburg Gate has now come to symbolize German unity.