More than any other city, Berlin has been bent, twisted and remoulded by its history. At the end of World War II, the city was reduced to little more than a pile of rubble, with its population halved. Later, the Cold War saw the city divided into two – East and West – with the former closed off to the world. The iconic Berlin Wall became the tangible symbol of what the city had become.
The end of the Cold War saw the Wall eventually come down in 1989, leaving an entire generation of Berliners who had grown up only knowing their city as a divided one. Today, Berlin has not forgotten its history, but the city has moved onwards and upwards to become one of the most vibrant in Europe.
Berlin currently has three international airports - Tegel, Tempelhof and Schoenefeld – though in 2011 a vast expansion of Schoenefeld will result in the others being closed.
For now, Tegel, located 9km north of Berlin, is the city’s official international airport. You can reach the western city centre from the airport conveniently within 15 minutes, either by bus or train. Apart from the buses 109 and 128 the JetExpressBus TXL connects the airport to the main train station Hauptbahnhof. The Expressbus X9 leaves from the train station Zoologischer Garten.
Tempelhof is the oldest and smallest of the three Berlin airports and is situated south of the city centre. From Tempelhof you can fly to numerous German, as well as central European, destinations.To get to the airport take the underground U6 to Platz der Luftbruecke or the buses 104 and 248.
Schoenefeld is situated 18km south east of Berlin in Brandenburg and serves principally charter flights and low-cost carriers, including EasyJet, Ryanair and Germanwings. The airport is connected to the city centre by the S-Bahn (suburban train) lines S49 and S9. AirportExpress trains also run to and from Hauptbahnhof, Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstraße, Alexanderplatz and Ostbahnhof.
Berlin is also extremely well served with train and bus links that connect to destinations across Germany and beyon. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the biggest train station in Europe and serves a number of destinations across Germany and the rest of Europe. The city’s Central Bus Station, Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof Berlin, is found on Messedamm in Charlottenburg. From here you can travel to all major destinations in Europe and Germany.
Berlin is an affordable destination all-year-round, but you may want to keep an eye on major events and trade shows before booking, as hotels tend to hike their prices.
Summer is the most popular time to visit, when from May to July it seems that every week brings a new street party. This is also a popular time for Berlin family holidays.
Autumn also attracts visitors to Berlin, thanks to the smaller crowds and mild temperatures during this season, but also because of the Oktoberfest event. This is also a beautiful time to visit Berlin, as days tend to be sunny and the myriad colours of the fall enrich the city.
Winter can be cold and snowy, but many people still visit for the holiday festivities, including the Christmas markets and New Years Eve celebrations.
It may not be a crime to visit Berlin and ignore its monuments to the dark days of pre-reunification Germany, but everyone should certainly be encouraged to take in some of the city’s reminders of the past. There are various companies that offer tours which take visitors to the remnants of the Berlin Wall, including the famous Check Point Charlie crossing point, as well as various other sites including a former concentration camp.
During the day, Berlin also offers excellent shopping around Zoologischer Garten and along Kantstrasse and Friedrichstrasse. Charlottenburg is a great spot for antique shops, and the area also boasts a castle and impressive greenspace. Meanwhile, for more art and culture, the Pergamon Museum, Alexanderplatz and the Guggenheim are located in Mitte.
Once the sun goes down, the entertainment districts take centre stage. The busy Mitte area, particularly around Hackescher Markt and Oranienburger Strasse, features everything from top-range German and Turkish restaurants to swanky nightspots.
Famous throughout the world as a Mecca for culture and entertainment, Berlin is heaving with film, comedy and theatre venues. Berlin boasts over 100 cinemas, including the traditional UFA Palast, the atmospheric Soviet-style International, and the Francophile Cinéma Paris
Berlin is also a great place for music lovers. Popular haunts include Kreuzberg's Junction Bar or Bebop for jazz, the Sage Club for Afro-beats and hip-hop and the SO 36 for alternative/punk/rock. Big gigs take place at the Arena and Columbiahalle. Classical aficionados have three opera houses to choose from – as well as the Philharmonie which hosts the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.