From beer gardens to abandoned amusement and airports parks, Tripbod Jeroen reveals 10 of the finest alternative points to see and do in Berlin.
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1. The Berlin Wall Memorial
A good place for more information on the Berlin Wall and the division of Germany will be the official Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse, north in the centre. The border ran right across the façades in the houses here, and right after the inhabitants were evacuated as well as the lower floors were bricked up, people still managed to flee the GDR by jumping out from the top floors. The details centre shows films of the building of the wall, and there's a view tower overlooking a short stretch of wall which has been restored to the original, brutal look. Walk across the back for any peek at the 'death strip' with the gaps in the rear wall.
Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
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Bernauer Strasse 111 & 119, Mitte
Tel. 49 30 46798 6666
Open 9: 30am-7pm, Nov-Mar 9: 30am-6pm. Closed Mon (outdoor exhibition open 24hrs).
Berlin Wall Memorial © Jeroen van Marle
Berlin Wall Memorial
2. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is undoubtedly among the best on earth. Directed by Englishman Sir Simon Rattle, it performs regularly in Berlin, and tours the world extensively as well. The orchestra's home is the striking yellow tent-shaped Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz. Its interior with seating terraces around the stage was revolutionary when it opened half a century ago. Don't miss the free Tuesday lunchtime concerts by renowned and upcoming musicians; arrive 30-45 minutes early and bring something soft to stay on, as the audience sits on the lobby floor!
Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1, Berlin-Tiergarten
S/U Potsdamer Platz
Tel. 49 30 2548 8999
Lunchtime concerts: 1pm, 3 Sept - 14 June 2014
Berlin Philharmonic, Axel Lauer / Shutterstock.com
3. Three panoramic places
Berlin may be a relatively flat city with only a handful of high-rise buildings, but there are several places to get great panoramic views across town. The Panoramapunkt on top of the brick Kollhoff tower on Potsdamer Platz is my favourite city centre viewpoint. Europe's fastest elevator it zips you 100 metres up for views of Berlin's old and new centre, and in addition it features a café and exhibition. Just south of the centre, the monument near the top of the Kreuzberg hill in Viktoriapark is Berlin's highest natural point; buy some beers in a Spaeti shop and walk up across the romantic waterfall at sunset. Within the Neukoelln district, the brand new Klunkerkranich 'cultural rooftop garden' on the top of a mall parking garage has a bar, DJs, live music and parties with fabulous views over Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz 1, Berlin-Mitte
Tel. 49 30 2593 7080
Open daily 10: 00-20: 00
S/U-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz
Karl-Marx-Strasse 66, Berlin-Neukölln
U-Bahn: Rathaus Neukölln
Open Fri 16: 00-24: 00, Sat/Sun 14: 00-24: 00.
Victoriapark, Kreuzberg © Jeroen van Marle
4. Require a tour with a difference
I really enjoy joining small tours around the outlying districts, though there are dozens of tours around Berlin’s tourist sights. A brief history is no less interesting, and you'll get insights into normal everyday life inside the city. Slow Travel Berlin, a website authored by Berlin-lovers, organises district walking tours that actually spend some time for in-depth exploration of Prenzlauer Berg, western Kreuzberg or Wedding. Finding Berlin is yet another website by Berlin enthusiasts that spawned tours; join their 'Little Istanbul' walk which includes chats with Turkish shop and bakers owners in Neukoelln, or perhaps the 'Life & Styles' tour, exploring eastern Kreuzberg using vintage fixed-gear bicycles.
Slow Travel Berlin
Finding Berlin Tours & Vintage Bike Rental
Schlesische Straße 29/30 (2nd courtyard), Berlin-Kreuzberg
U Schlesisches Tor
Tel. 49 176 9933 3913
woman riding bike, Berlin
5. Markthalle 9
Only two of Berlin's 13 market halls survive, as well as the beautiful 'number 9' hall in Kreuzberg, dating back to to 1891, was recently revived with a lively weekly farmers' market; I live nearby and it's a great place for fresh regional food. But there's more: the Kantine restaurant serves excellent organic lunches every day, there's a popular street food market every Thursday evening and there are frequently special markets on Sundays, committed to local crafts or sweets. If that isn't enough reason to drop by, the new Heidenpeters microbrewery sells its ales on market days. By the Puecklerstrasse exit, the famous Weltrestaurant Markthalle is a lovely place for a schnitzel, or a beer on the terrace.
Eisenbahnstrasse 42, Berlin-Kreuzberg
Weekly market Fri/Sat 10: 00-18: 00, Streetfood Thursday 18: 00-22: 00.
U-Bahn: Goerlitzer Bahnhof
Puecklerstrasse 34, Berlin-Kreuzberg
Tel. 49 30 6175 502
Markthalle 9, Berlin © Jeroen van Marle
6. Clärchens Ballhaus
Generations of Berliners have danced the nights away at Clärchens since it opened in September 1913. Here normal Berliners may have fun and possibly dance with all the woman or man of their dreams. The photos at the entrance show that very little has changed over the last 100 years, though the front of the building, now a terrace, was bombed in the war. Nowadays, Clärchens is Berlin's last real dance hall, with great pizza and German dishes, and themed dance nights (foxtrot, tango and salsa etc - free admission) on weekdays. The legendary schwoof parties (€5) take place at weekends, when there's live music, and you're welcomed at the wardrobe by Günter who started working here in the mid-1960s.
Auguststrasse 24, Berlin-Mitte
S-Bahn Oranienburger Straße
Open daily 11: 00-02: 00, Fri/Sat 11: 00-04: 00
7. Tempelhofer Freiheit Park
Every time I take visitors onto the runways of the former Tempelhof Airport and there's two kilometres of wide empty runway in front of them, their eyes always begin to sparkle, though visiting a former airfield may not sound very exciting. Tempelhof airport was built-in the 1930s to get the world's most advanced airport and among the world's largest buildings. Later, the Americans used it being a military airport, and it played a vital role in saving West Berlin through the 1949 Soviet blockade. The 1200-metre-long terminal building is utilized for tours and events, while the airfield has become transformed into a park for lying in the sunshine, kite boarding, cycling and jogging roller-blading, dog-walking and barbecuing. Make sure you come across bike to take full advantage of it!
Tempelhofer Freiheit Park
Several entrances; S/U-Bahn Tempelhof and U-Bahn Boddinstrasse are easiest.
Open sunrise to sunset, admission free.
Tempelhof © Jeroen van Marle
Catch the wind: Tempelhof
8. Use a beer in Berlin's new microbrewery scene
Berlin has a long tradition of brewing too, even though bavaria may have Germany's most famous beer brands. Recently several exciting new brewers have create shop. Hidden in a Wedding student housing complex, Eschenbraeu is well worth visiting because of its home-brewed beers and flammekuchen pies. Inside the Friedrichshain district, the Hops & Barley bar attracts a young crowd. Even closer to the centre, Brauhaus Lemke is really a nice brewpub. But my favourite places for a beer are definitely the Prater Garten, the oldest Biergarten in town, serving their own Prater Pils and the relaxing Cafe am Neuen See which serves Bavarian beers and overlooks a lovely boating lake in Tiergarten Park.
Triftstrasse 67, Berlin-Wedding
Hops & Barley
Wühlischstraße 22-23, Berlin-Friedrichshain
S/U-Bahn: Warschauer Strasse
Dircksenstrasse, S-Bahnbogen 143, Berlin-Mitte
S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt
Kastanienallee 7-9, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg
U-Bahn: Eberswalder Strasse
Café am Neuen See
Lichtensteinallee 2, Berlin-Tiergarten
S/U-Bahn: Zoologischer Garten
9. Go urban exploring
Photographers, graffiti-artists and also the plain curious are drawn to Berlin's many ruined and abandoned places, and many websites are focused on this 'urban exploration'. Southeast from the city centre inside the Treptow district, the former Spreepark theme park is probably the most spectacular examples; the Ferris wheel and several rides are slowly being swallowed through the forest, and can be visited over a tour or simply by wandering in. On the western side in the city, there's the former CIA listening post on Teufelsberg hill. Further afield, explorers can look for your Olympic Village and also the Beelitz Heilstätten hospital and several Nazi or Soviet military areas.
Neue Krugallee, Berlin-Treptow
Spreepark © Jeroen van Marle
10. Party on at a festival
Berliners prefer to celebrate outside through the warm summer. But the festival season starts off every year in the middle of winter using the Berlinale Film Festival in February, which sees 1000s of Berliners and foreigners retreat to warm cinema halls to watch the best new film releases. The outdoor season kicks off on May 1 with the MyFest street festival in the Kreuzberg district. Berlin's main street party is the multicultural Karnaval der Kulturen parade in late May. Tune in to live music at stages throughout town during Fete de la Musique, on 21 June, while late June sees the large Christopher Street Day gay parade. Finally, the city's main landmarks and buildings are majestically lit up throughout the Festival of Lights in October.
Berlinale Film Festival
Karnaval der Kulturen
Fete de la Musique
Christopher Street Day parade
Festival of Lights