Berlin is a city brimming with a complex history, a vibrant arts scene and a myriad of cultural influences. David Bowie, who lived in the Schöneberg neighbourhood for two years, called the German capital "the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine."
Its militaristic past is inextricably linked with a progressive and hopeful eye to the future. While there is no way to take in all that Berlin has to offer in one vacation, here are five attractions that will make your German summer getaway with Air Canada Rouge the best trip ever.
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
On top of the Berlin tourist checklist is Brandenburg Gate —one of the city’s most iconic sites. Originally built in the 1700s as a gateway to the city, the famed neoclassical arch came to be a symbol of both war and peace. The Nazis marched through the gate in 1939 to celebrate their rise to power just before the start of World War II and during the Cold War, the Berlin Wall cut off access to the gate for both East and West Germans. It’s also the place where Ronald Regan uttered the famous words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and is now a testament to the reunification of the city.
Located on Spree Island, Museumsinsel or the Museum Island is actually a group of five museums that have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum to the bust of Queen Nefertiti at the Neues Museum (New Museum), the artifacts found inside the museum walls are truly spectacular. Locals recommend taking the time to walk around the island to marvel at the architecture. Pack a picnic lunch and take it all in!
The Berlin Wall
It’s hard to imagine a visit to Berlin without seeing what’s left of the infamous Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall Memorial gives tourists a sense of the impact the imposing structure had on the lives of those in both East and West Berlin, as well as providing a sombre memorial to those who lost their lives trying to escape the East side. The 1.4-kilometre section also provides short films about the wall’s construction and history. For a sense of what the teardown of the wall meant to the city’s artistic community, and a more optimistic view of what the city’s future holds, wander through the East Side Gallery, which is the world’s largest open-air gallery. Much of the wall has slowly disappeared as tourists and vandals have removed pieces of it. Also, large sections have been granted to various countries. In Canada, a section of the wall can be found in Dartmouth, N.S. at the World Peace Pavilion.
It may seem cliché, but you’ll be sorry if you miss seeing Checkpoint Charlie. Now a monument to the city’s divided history, Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous point of crossing between East and West. It was used by diplomats, non-German visitors and journalists who were given a one-day permit to visit East Berlin. The original white gate is now housed in a museum, but there are people dressed as soldiers in front of a replica gate who pose for photos. The gateway was later immortalized as an anti-war song, called “Checkpoint Charlie,” by Little Steven.
Reichstag Building (Parliament)
The Reichstag building was opened in 1894 and housed the German parliament until a mysterious fire ruined the structure in 1933. It fell into disrepair both during and after World War II and the Cold War. Real restoration efforts did not begin in earnest until 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps the best thing about the Reichstag building is not the building itself, though it is phenomenal, but the view from its enormous glittering glass dome at the top. Because most buildings are kept in the six-storey range, Berlin has very few skyscrapers—thus it has few high vantage points from which to see the city’s unique landmarks. Make the trip in the evening to see all the lights of Germany’s capital in full, 360-degree glory.
These attractions are just a small sampling of all of the sights and sounds a city as unique as Berlin has to offer. Want to see it all for yourself? Start planning your summer vacation now with new Air Canada Rouge flights to Berlin launching this June.