Berlin’s long-suffering victory arch, the Brandenburg Gate, served as a visual flashpoint for much of the trauma that beset Germany in the 20th century – standing alone in no-man’s-land between East and West Berlin for 30 years during the GDR era and providing the backdrop to the euphoria of 1989. Restored to its rightful place at the heart of the city, this monument to unity is a must-see on any Berlin itinerary.
Berlin’s best-known sites may be concentrated in Mitte, the city’s geographic centre (it literally means ‘middle’), but we think any trip here should include some unstructured time spent people-watching in other areas. Kreuzberg’s Bergmannstrasse neighbourhood, for one, has a thriving weekend flea market and brims with charming cafés and restaurants. And the same goes for Boxhagener Kiez in Friedrichshain and Akazienkiez in Schöneberg. It’s not sightseeing so much as city-seeing – and you’ll witness the German capital really come into its own.
When you are ready to hit the more conventional attractions in Berlin, we say divide your time between the hard-hitting museums and memorials that chronicle Berlin’s chequered history, and hedonistic institutions like super-club Berghain – you don’t have to go in if you don’t want – and shopping centre KaDeWe. For a break from the concrete and consumerism, Berlin also offers a surprising amount of green space, whether within the city itself (think Tempelhofer Feld and the Botanical Gardens) or out in day-trip destinations like Spandau. So get your notepads ready: these are the Berlin attractions absolutely worth travelling for.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Berlin