Berlin is a vibrant city with an incredible history. Every district in and around the city centre has its own identity, from Mitte, packed with must-see sights and markets, to trendy Kreuzberg, with its abundance of bars and restaurants. Tiergarten, meanwhile, is dominated by the park of the same name, a vast swathe of greenery, while Charlottenburg is a popular retail district and home to Schloss Charlottenburg, the largest royal palace in Berlin with beautiful gardens and woodland.
Berlin is a wonderful place to wander around at leisure, and walking is the best way to soak up each district’s atmosphere.
Culture-seekers will be in their element on holiday in Berlin, as the city is also home to a wealth of galleries and museums. At least one or two should be on your itinerary but it can be hard to select which ones to choose from. The five below are within easy reach of the centre of Berlin, close to hotels and public transport links:
1. Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie
Located near the famous crossing point constructed between West and East Berlin during the cold war, the popular Mauermuseum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie was founded by human rights activist Dr Rainer Hildebrandt in 1962. The building and exhibits have been expanded over the years and the museum is now one of the biggest in Berlin.
The permanent exhibition tells the history of the Berlin Wall and its wider political ramifications and recounts the stories of those affected. Fascinating, detailed personal accounts describe the many inventive ways people used to attempt to escape over, under and through the Berlin Wall, including getaway cars, chairlifts and hot air balloons. Some were successful, many were not. Artwork created in response to the Wall and the politics surrounding it is also exhibited.
2. DDR Museum
Discover what life was like in East Germany under Communism in this hi-tech museum, packed with artefacts, documents, photos and newsreels.
Interactive exhibits show Stasi surveillance and recreate prison interrogations. You can drive a Trabant car (or Trabi as they were known) and sit in an authentic East Berlin living room, cast your vote in the elections for the GDR parliament, or work for a day as the manager of the local car production works. The DDR museum, one of Berlin’s most visited, is located on the river Spree opposite Berlin cathedral.
3. Museum der Dinge
If you are interested in collecting – or indeed if you are a fan of quirky museums – you will love Museum der Dinge. The name in English is simply Museum of Things, and it’s based on a simple but effective premise. Row upon row of seemingly miscellaneous items are displayed in glass cabinets – from coffee makers, toys, food packaging and engine parts, to cosmetics and souvenirs.
The collection of 20th century design and everyday items showcases the German Work Federation (Werkbund), a group of artists, designers, industrialists and politicians founded in 1907. Everything is neatly displayed and clearly labelled, and the compact size of the museum means it can be wandered around at ease; a visit will take no more than an hour.
4. Jewish Museum
Berlin once had the largest Jewish population of any city in the world, and here you can explore two millennia of German Jewish history. The Old Building, a Baroque courthouse, dates from 1735, while the adjacent extension, an eye-catching postmodern structure by architect Daniel Libeskind, opened in 2007. The zinc-panelled building, designed to give visitors an immersive experience, is now one of Berlin’s best-known landmarks. The Jewish Museum has several permanent art installations and also hosts visiting exhibitions.
5. Loxx Miniature Worlds
Loxx Miniature Worlds is a slice of heaven if you are a model railway enthusiast, but the intricate and imaginative design makes it a worthwhile visit for all.
Hidden away on the top floor of a shopping mall, the 950 square metre model railway recreates Berlin and its outskirts. Well-known streets and landmarks are lovingly recreated in miniature form, including the Bundestag, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Zoo, and Tiergarten. Here you will find incredible attention to detail and some of the best parts are depictions of everyday happenings and places, including people sunbathing or at a fairground. The digitally controlled exhibit lights up at ‘night time’ and you can even experience simulated thunderstorms!