Arguably one of the most historical cities in the world, a holiday to Berlin will undoubtedly give you an insight to the German capital’s journey through World War II. From the ruins of the iconic Berlin Wall and the haunting Holocaust Memorial to the now-novel Checkpoint Charlie, all throughout the city is where you’ll find snapshots of history before, during and after the Battle of Berlin in 1945 which saw the death of Adolf Hitler and the decline of the Nazi government, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
German cuisine is truly versatile and although Berlin has a large vegan population, a lot of the fare is rooted in strong-flavoured and roasted meats. From glorious Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap and cheerful hot dog stands, a holiday to Berlin will leave your stomach satisfied as you indulge in the likes of schnitzel, bratwurst, döner kebabs and much more. Those with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed with delicious desserts such as Alsatian apple cake, German rice pudding, or German streusel cake with cherries.
With so much to see during a holiday to Berlin, it’s often difficult to know where to begin. The city’s geographic centre, Mitte (directly translates to ‘middle’), is where Berlin’s well-known sights are concentrated and is where you’ll find the likes of the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, remnants of the Berlin Wall, and a plethora of hard-hitting museums that provide an enlightening snapshot of the German capital’s gruelling yet fascinating history.
Nothing short of an emblem of the city, the Brandenburg Gate is both a landmark and a symbol of over 200 years of Berlin history, now a representative of peace, freedom and unity. The Gate was designed by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans in 1791 and the design was inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, crowned with the sculpture of the Quadriga. This sculpture was taken by Napoleon’s troops after the French forces defeated the Prussian army in 1806 but the Prussian army reclaimed it back in 1814. The Brandenburg Gate became infamous once again when the Nazis marched through the structure in 1933 in a martial torchlight parade to celebrate Hitler’s rise to power. After becoming seriously damaged during World War II albeit still standing, the Gate then had the world watching as it became a sad symbol during the Cold War as a division of East and West Berlin. Here is where Ronald Reagan delivered his historical speech with the unforgettable words, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Christmas cheer is all around during a winter city break to Berlin, with sparkling markets scattered throughout the region and promising festivities that you’ll never forget. Opening in late November with most lasting until early January, one of the standout markets is that of Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz due to its convenient location nearby to the Holocaust Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie, as well as a beautiful ice skating rink. Another notable location is Alexanderplatz Christmas Market, situated under Berlin’s neck-craning TV Tower and is open from late November up until Boxing Day. Whichever Christmas market you attend in Berlin, at least one thing is for certain – gallons and gallons of glühwein. Directly translating to glow wine, this warm mulled beverage contains all the traditional Christmas spices like cloves, allspice, star anise and cardamom, and warms you up from the inside out.
Also known as the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall is perhaps one of the most recognisable and powerful structures throughout history; the centrepiece of the Cold War. Erected by the Soviets after the Second World War and designed to split up East and West Berlin, the wall signified a divide between the German people which triggered a string of mass protests throughout the years until the wall finally came down in 1989. Remnants of the concrete construction can be seen throughout the city today, most notably at the Berlin Wall Memorial and the outdoor East Side Gallery which runs for over a kilometre along the River Spree.
Nothing short of a German fast-food staple, currywurst is a steamed then fried pork sausage seasoned with a tangy curry ketchup. This tasty sausage is a must on any holiday to Berlin and can be ordered in restaurants but is mostly found at take-away stands and is a brilliant pair to a steaming mug of glühwein at a Christmas market. The curry ketchup has multiple variations and can be ordered either mild or spicy, with some vendors incorporated pureed onions into the sauce or sprinkling curry powder on top as a garnish for extra flavour.
Berlin has a typical western European climate whereby the weather is pleasant from April through to September before the temperature drops into colder regions from October to March. Berlin city breaks are often popular in November and December thanks to its Christmas markets.
You will not need a visa to enter Germany if you are a citizen of the European Union or European Economic Area. If you plan to stay for over 90 days, you must register with the regional Immigration Office. For the latest information on European travel regulations, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/germany/entry-requirements.
The currency used in Berlin is the Euro (EUR).
The main language spoken is German.