Whether you want to absorb Berlin’s fascinating – and, at times, harrowing – history, marvel at stunning architecture or sip quirky cocktails in a fairytale-themed bar, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the German capital. Here’s our pick of where to stay, what to do and where to eat.
Berlin is not exactly tropical, but this Charlottenburg hotel might convince you otherwise. Its “jungle” rooms feature natural colours, hammocks and views of Berlin Zoo. Yes, that’s right – you can see monkeys and elephants outside your window. Meanwhile, the range of “urban” rooms offer sleek interiors and views over the lively Breitscheidplatz. Add to this the scent of freshly baked bread from the in-house bakery, and you have yourself a winner.
If you like your hotels with a touch of glamour, check in at Hotel Zoo. Don’t be fooled by the name, you won’t find any wild animals here; instead, many movie stars and cultural icons have been and gone before – including Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Romy Schneider. It’s this claim to fame that helps the luxury hotel exude an unmistakable feeling of New York elegance, right in the heart of western Berlin. The rooms and suites all have their own unique layout and character – including open-plan bathrooms and exposed-brick walls.
The Berlin Wall Memorial may be one of the most famous attractions in Berlin, but it’s not the only Cold War landmark worth a visit. Key sites such as Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz provide telling insight into the decades of hardship that followed World War II. They are all tied up in a dark and complex history, and a guided walking tour is the best way to ensure the fullest understanding of each location’s significance, and to learn what life was like on both sides of the Berlin Wall before it came down.
No European city has undergone a transformation quite like Berlin. In the decades since German reunification, many buildings and monuments have been restored or built from scratch, either to remember the past or look boldly to the future. For uninterrupted views, skip the crowds and take it all in from the water – there are daily cruises along the Spree, often with dinner included, and an unforgettable sunset finale, too. Keep your eyes peeled for striking attractions such as Bellevue Palace, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island (a complex comprising Berlin’s top museums) – and have your camera at the ready.
An easy half- or full-day trip from Berlin, the old royal city of Potsdam, once home to German kaisers (emperors) and Prussian kings, will dazzle you with its collection of elegant palaces and castles, baroque architecture and rich history. Highlights include Cecilienhof Palace, King Frederick William II’s Marble Palace, the Dutch quarter and the Unesco-listed Sanssouci Palace and Gardens. Guided tours from Berlin are available, taking you to Potsdam by train (a 45-minute journey) and filling you in on the city’s fascinating history.
If you’re liable to let your sweet tooth get the better of you, there’s a good chance you’ll come back here for more. Altstadtcafé Cöpenick is found in Köpenick – best known for its magnificent Köpenick Palace – in southeast Berlin. Besides coffee and tea, the cafe offers a sweet treats from rich chocolate cake to freshly baked apple pie and passionfruit cake. If the weather’s nice, you can sit outside, where you’ll get a wonderful view of the Spree and Dahme rivers.