When you think of traveling in Berlin, what comes to mind? Perhaps visiting Checkpoint Charlie to see pieces of the old wall, or visiting the Parliament building and Brandenburg Gate. Museum Island is also a favorite – if you like being surrounded by a bunch of other tourists. As a short-term resident of Berlin, I had already seen those things and yearned for something different. That’s why the Berlin Off the Beaten Path Walking Tour really appealed to me. Not only was it a small group tour, which afforded everyone the opportunity to ask questions, but it also made it easier to get to know each other and to have small talk while walking from site to site.
Long regarded as one of Europe’s cultural hotspots and home to an impressive three opera houses and seven symphony orchestras, there’s always something going off in Berlin and the city is as famous for its prestigious opera companies as it is for its boundary-pushing contemporary arts. Berlin’s unique theater scene is the perfect example of this juxtaposition and while the city’s East End Theater District might not be a match for New York’s Broadway or London’s West End, it’s renowned for its huge variety of international and German theatre, alternative and independent theater companies, and an ever-changing roster that includes opera, classical theater, musicals, children’s plays, puppet shows, cabarets and performance art.
As renowned for the harrowing events of World War II as it is for its ultra-modern reinvention as an arts and culture hub, Berlin is one of Europe’s most celebrated capital cities, drawing millions of tourists each year. A city of vibrant contrasts, there’s more to Berlin than meets the eye and to get you started on your journey of discovery, here are 9 things you probably didn’t know about Berlin.
Germany’s tallest building and the second tallest in Europe behind Moscow’s Ostankino Tower, the Berlin TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm) looms 368 meters over Alexanderplatz and offers spectacular bird’s eye views over Berlin. The landmark tower was erected for the 20th anniversary of the GDR in 1969, located in what was then East Berlin, and is now one of Berlin’s main tourist attractions. Here are a few tips for visiting Berlin’s most iconic building.
Jason had his work cut out for him. He was slated with the task of showing me “The Real Berlin,” on a walking tour throughout certain neighborhoods of the city known for various counterculture movements. He didn’t know, prior to our meeting that afternoon under the TV tower in Mitte, that I was not only a resident of one of the neighborhoods he had planned to showcase, but also already quite familiar with much of the street art and counterculture in the city.
With snow dusting the rooftops and the city streets glittering with festive illuminations, Berlin is at it’s most magical and there’s no better way to embrace the cold than hitting the ice. Open-air ice rinks pop up all around the capital during the winter months, so pull on some warm clothes, lace up your skates and join the locals on the ice.