Despite being Germany’s largest city, and the country’s capital, Berlin is much more than a sprawling urban centre known for its colourful nightlife, unique skyline, and lively celebrations. In fact, over one third of the city comprises of natural space, whether that be parks, gardens, or lakes, and this mix of bustling metropolis and serene nature is what helps draw the estimated 135 million visitors to the city each year.
Upon arrival into Berlin, there’s one very prominent landmark towering over the city that draws attention immediately: Berliner Fernsehturm, the Berlin TV Tower. Built in 1968 and standing at 368 metres high, this is Germany’s tallest building, and also one of the tallest throughout Europe. The tower was designed to be an iconic site in the city, and with 1.2 visitors each year making the journey to the 204 metre-high observation deck and restaurant, it’s certainly fulfilling its intended purpose. The views from the observation deck are unrivalled in the city, with the tower offering an exceptionally good view of another famous Berlin icon: the Brandenburg Gate.
For any traveller with an interest in Berlin’s rich and vast history, the Brandenburg Gate is a must see. Built in the 18th Century, this neoclassical archway is the last remaining gateway dating from the time of the Berlin Customs Wall, erected following the city’s time as a walled fort, but before the introduction of the controversial Berlin Wall in the 1960’s. The gate was a method of regulating taxes on all imports and exports between the walled city and the rest of Germany and Europe. Although the walls have now been largely destroyed, a section of the Berlin Wall still remains along the River Spree towards the east of the city, and the memorial on Bernauer Strasse dedicated to those who lost their lives during the conflict is a haunting reminder of the past.
Although Berlin’s past means it is naturally a very historic city, there are also many modern and contemporary activities and sights to enjoy. During February, the city hosts the annual Berlin International Film Festival, widely considered to be one of the largest film events in the world with almost 500,000 admissions spanning the 10 day festival. It is without a doubt one of the busiest times in Berlin, but also one of the most important times in terms of the European film market, in finding new talent, and in promoting the city as a world leader in media, entertainment, and culture. Travellers considering visiting Berlin during the festival should book accommodation well in advance, especially if requiring a room in the heart of the city.
Fortunately for travellers, there are an abundance of accommodation choices in the city, with the most popular choice being the Mitte district, where there are a number of hotels situated close to Berlin’s best tourist sites. Due to Berlin’s attractiveness as a backpacking destination, there are a large number of hostels in the area, although the higher end hotels perhaps take precedence. The Radisson Blu Hotel, part of the renowned hotel chain, is considered to be a tourist attraction in itself, boasting the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium at 25 metres high. The aquarium contains a variety of vibrant sea life including blowfish, silver moon fish, and Cero mackerel, which can all be viewed from the elevator rising up through the centre of the tank.
Berlin is an enticing mix, and indeed a fascinating contrast, of old and new. Of course, the history of the city cannot be forgotten and it plays an important role in tourism, but Berlin is also moving forward, becoming one of the most contemporary, cosmopolitan, and popular cities in Europe.