Berlin — Travel Guide & Visitor Info

0
45
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

During the past few years, Berlin has changed more than any other city in the world. About 5-7 million visitors come every year to the city by the Spree and spend on average about 2-3 nights there. This makes Berlin Europe’s third most popular city after London and Paris. We warmly invite you to discover Europe’s most exciting city with its unique atmosphere, attractions and history – and there is plenty to discover.

Berlin overview

Berlin covers an area of some 890 square kilometres. So it is nine times bigger than Paris. The municipal boundary extends for 234 kilometres. Only by travelling the entire length of the motorway encircling the city is it possible to appreciate the sheer size of the area involved. About 3.8 million people live in Berlin.

The German capital consists today of 12 independently administered municipal districts, each of city size and status in its own right. They vary in size and character, but have three things in common – each has its own town hall, its own market place and its own municipal services organisation.

Berlin is Germany’s most multi-cultural city. Of the 3.8 million people, around 440,000 have a foreign passport. More than 180 nations are permanently represented in the city.

Berlin’s Television Tower (Fernsehturm) is, with a height of 368 m, Germany’s tallest building and one of the tallest in Europe.

Since the war, six American presidents have given historic speeches in Berlin? Who could forget John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” (1963) and Ronald Reagan’s emphatic “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall!” (1987).

Berlin’s oldest public house is almost 400-years-old and is still open today? The pub, called “Zur letzten Instanz”, is in the Waisenstraße and is often visited by celebrities.

The city has three universities, four art colleges, ten specialist colleges and more than 133,00 students making it Germany’s largest university city? Additionally, there are also around 130 external research institutes.

Many names in the city go back to the Prussian kings from the Hohenzollern dynasty where, during the past 300 years, only a few first names dominated? These include, for example, Friedrichstadt and Friedrichstraße, Friedrichstadtpalast and Friedrichswerder, Friedrichshain, Friedrichsfelde, Friedrichshagen, Wilhelmstraße and Wilhelmshagen.

Sightseeing Berlin

Read our article: Berlin — Sightseeing Highlights and Travel Tips

Climate & Temperatures in Germany

Average temperatures
Juli/August: between 68 and 86 F (20 – 30 C)
Winter: average around 32 F (0 C)

Best time to travel / Season
Year-round, but the most pleasant time is during summer and early fall. You’ll enjoy about 6-8 hours of sunshine during May to August. Winter months can be quite gray and if you get lucky you see the sun for 1-3 hours.
Summer: explore the city, its parks, its pedestrian friendly downtown, many festivals and events.
Winter: discovering the city in winter, is great to visit castles, museums, and many other things.

Climate and Temperatures

Berlin is located in a moderate climatic zone and therefore has neither an extremely cold winter or an extremely hot summer.
January: between freezing point and 62 F (averages up to 16.9 C)
May: highs in the mid 80’s F (averages up to 29.7 C)
June August: highs in the 90’s (averages up to 33.7 C)
Precipitation: 40-70mm per month on about 10 days per month
Sunshine hours: from April to September you might be able to enjoy 6-8 hours per day.

Berlin Visitor Information, Getting Around

Population

Ca. 3,8 million (estimated 2019)

Airport

Berlin Tegel International Airport, 8 km from the city center
Can be reached via public transportation: S-Bahn (regional train) from/to Downtown.

Official Website: https://www.berlin-airport.de/en/

Transportation

BVG -Berlin has an extensive network system of underground lines (U-Bahn), urban railway lines (S-Bahn), buses and tramways (Tram), allowing you to reach every location and sight in town in a safe and convenient way.
Transportation Authority for Subway, Bus, Tram (like trolley), S-Bahn (regional trains)

Official Website: https://www.bvg.de/en/

Education and Culture

Berlin has three universities, four art colleges, ten specialist colleges and more than 133,00 students making it Germany’s largest university city. Additionally, there are also around 130 external research institutes.

Tourism Office (in German: ‘Fremdenverkehrsamt’)

Visitors can stop by at following visitor centers, called ‘BERLIN infoStore’. They have a red logo with their name in it. Locations:

  • Hauptbahnhof (Main Station), ground floor / entrance Europaplatz, daily 8 am – 10 pm
  • Neues Kranzler Eck, near Zoo / Ku’damm, Kurfürstendamm 21, Passage, Mon – Sat 10 am – 8 pm, Sun 10 am – 6 pm, (extended opening hours April – October)
  • Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), Pariser Platz / south wing, daily 10 am – 6 pm, (extended opening hours April – October)
  • in the ALEXA Shopping Center, Near Alexanderplatz, Grunerstraße 20 / Ground floor, Mon – Sat 10 am – 8 pm, (extended opening hours April – October)

Berlin History

Berlin – the history of a rapidly changing city

After the reunification on 3 October 1990, history has catapulted this city of 3.4 million people into a completely new situation. Today, Berlin is a world capital in the centre of Europe, the new and old German capital, the hub for East and West, and – together with Brandenburg – the third largest urban center on the continent. Berlin is a serious rival to Paris, London and New York.

READ MORE ABOUT The Berlin Wall History

Although this may all appear somewhat dramatic and new to contemporaries, the city’s urban history remains faithful to itself. More than any other German city, Berlin’s history has always been marked by upheavals and change. Over the centuries, Prussian monarchs, various statesmen and one dictator have tried to model the city according to their own images. Due to its rapid rise to the status of metropolis in less than a hundred years, its urban developments have been more radical and impulsive than elsewhere.

Berlin is, by historical standards, a young city. It was founded by traveling merchants as the twin settlement of Berlin and Coelln sometime during the last quarter of the 12th century. It wasn’t until 1237 and 1244 that Coelln and Berlin respectively were mentioned in documents. The origin of the city’s name is the subject of heated discussion even today. Some historians argue that it’s a combination of two Slavic words (bar for pine forest and rolina for field). It doesn’t, however, refer to the Berlin bear that has embellished the city’s coat of arms since 1280. Thanks to its perfect strategic location, the twin city soon rose to become the March of Brandenburg’s leading commercial and trade center. But Berlin earned its growth at the cost of its freedom from intrusion by the ruling dynasties of first the Askanier, and from the 15th century onwards the Hohenzollern.

Around 1550, over 12,000 people lived on the river Spree; a century later, after near complete destruction during the Thirty Years’ War, Berlin experienced an unprecedented cultural as well as economic boom thanks to the Great Elector Frederick William. He invited immigrants to settle the city, notably Jews and Hugenots. By 1700, one in every five Berliners was a Hugenot. Successive Prussian kings, in particular Frederick II “the Great” built Berlin into their royal Prussian residence city. Architects like Schlüter and later Knobelsdorff and Schinkel, endowed the city with their own special style. It wasn’t until recent times that the historic centre of Berlin along the Linden trees once again underwent such a major facelift.

The 19th century got off to a somewhat unspectacular start in Berlin but by the time it drew to a close Berlin had become a world-class metropolis. In 1871, it became the capital of the newly founded German Empire. On Bismarck’s initiative, the Kurfürstendamm was remodelled after the Champs Elysées and was given its present, grand look. Big business in the form of electricity and chemical companies hired thousands of workers who flocked to the city from Silesia, Pomerania and East Prussia. Banks and insurance companies set up headquarters in the city. By the turn of the century, Berlin’s population had grown to more than two million. It was only in 1920, though, that Berlin was amalgamated out of seven towns, 59 counties and 27 bailiwicks. It was felt to be artificial at the time but has since been accepted.

With World War I, the inexorable rise of Wilheminian Berlin came to an abrupt end. In the crowded tenements, workers’ families of more than ten were crammed into small flats whilst the “New West” around the Kurfürstendamm rised to an extravagant boulevard. In the 1920s, bars, night cafés, small cabaret and variety theatres offered a tawdry mixure of entertainment and bohemian culture. Anyone who wanted to make it as an artist, actor or writer in Europe, had no choice but to test his mettle with the Berlin audience. The city had all the trappings of a metropolis at that time. It was centre stage while the rest of the country sat in audience or set off for the capital. Tourism was booming between the wars, and many visitors stayed. That’s why Kurt Tucholsky once said that you are not born a Berliner, but must become one.

During this period, Berlin had many first-rate sightseeing attractions which are still remembered today – Potsdamer Platz with the world’s first traffic lights, the biggest variety shows at the “Wintergarten”, the “Scala” or the “Admiralspalast”. The first large exhibitions like the Green Week in 1926 or the First German Radio Exhibition in 1924 drew thousands of visitors. Motor racing on the AVUS or the Six Day Bicycle Race were other events that attracted large crowds. What other city in the world could boast more than 150 dailys?

But this frenzy resembled a dance on a volcano whose eruption followed on 30 January 1933 when Adolf Hitler was named German Chancellor. Berlin, too, suffered the extinction of the Jewish community: out of 160,000 Jewish Berliners living in the city before 1933, many fled into exile. One-third was murdered in concentration camps. In fact, Berlin never recovered from this blow against Jewish artists, intellectuals and scientists. At the end of World War II, Berlin had more than 28.5 square kilometres of sheer ruins (twice that of Dresden), making it Germany’s largest uninterrupted landscape of ruins. Hitler’s grandiose dreams of a “World Capital Germania” literally were smashed in the bombing raids, leaving little of his architectural legacy. The Berliners survived the post-war years thanks to the “Trümmerfrauen” (the debris women). They worked hard at clearing away the huge piles of rubble. The few remaining trees in Tiergarten did not survive the cold winter of 1946/47 as they were chopped down for firewood.

Berlin’s post-war history was marked by crises that were sometimes the causes, sometimes the consequences of the global ideological clash of political systems in the East and the West. In 1947 the Soviet representative left the Allied Kommandantura, ending the Four-Power administration of the city. With the blockade of West Berlin, in 1948/49, the city’s fate was sealed. During the night of 3 August 1961, the SED regime erected a Wall which separated the eastern sectors of Berlin from the rest of the city.

The 155-kilometre Berlin Wall, which ran through the city, was a unique sight and the major tourist attraction in West Berlin for almost 30 years. East Berlin celebrated itself in mass rallies and socialist architecture. The ideological contest between the systems was staged here, between the “shopping window of the West” and the “Capital of East Germany”. It climaxed during the 750th anniversary celebrations of Berlin in 1987. Only today has it become evident that the thirty years of obduracy in both halves of the city was the historic exception. The day the Wall came down, Berlin returned to its old format.

In the meantime Berlin is mercurial as ever and still remains Berlin. This also applies to the year 2004 and beyond. Even if the face of several parts of the city continues to change, the Spree metropolis will become even more attractive to tourists thanks to the combination of the historical urban landscape and the new architecture. The shimmering history of Berlin will determine its future more than in other cities. And the new will always follow.