Berlin Things to Do Tips by Turtleshell
Berlin Things to Do: 3,250 reviews and 6,349 photos
Big cities possibly aren't the best destination for children, but there are some things that could put a smile on your son's or daughter's face.
First you should check Berlin's Tourist Info for tips:
And in addition to that you could consider
- visiting Berlin's Zoo and Aquarium
- there's a small(!) petting zoo as well, actually it is more a farm, where big city kids who think cows had purple fur (Milka chocolate) can learn how a farm looks like
- check http://www.jolo-berlin.de/ an indoor playground (German)
- visit "Bonbonmacherei" (a small sweets manufacture) inside Heckmanhöfe (Oranienburger Straße, left hand side of the New Synagogue).
- visit Sea Life & Aquadome inside Radisson SAS Hotel
- visit Lego-Miniland inside Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz
- Machmit is a museum for children
- Deutsches Technikmuseum features real steam lokomotives, historic aircraft and ships among other technic related exhibitions
- see the model railway "Loxx"
- do a boats tour e.g. to Potsdam
- take a ride on the top floor of a double decker bus, prefereable bus 100 or 200 from Zoo Station to Alexanderplatz (or vice versa)
- or see Berlin from above. "High Flyer" is a captive ballon, but, provided you have a bigger chequebook, you could even fly on a "candy bomber". http://www.air-service-berlin.de/
Prenzlauer Berg, now officially part of the borough of Pankow, was developed in the second half of the 19th century to provide workers, the industrial revolution was still in its infancy, with tenements. A railway service helped greatly to turn Prenzl'berg into Europe's largest working-class district with often miserable living conditions.
For some reasons, roughly 75% of the housings survived WWII, so Prenzlauer Berg has since possibly been Europe's largest collection of Gründerzeit / Victorian style apartment buildings.
During the GDR, locals were notorious for their (often wrapped) opposition against the regime. This may be one reason (among others) why the government did not dare to replace the typical Prenzlauer Berg building with those sad, uniform, high-rise tenements.
At the same time, the borough seemed to be stuck in the past: Many buildings looked as if WWII battles had ended only yesterday. Gray facades that had not seen any paint for decades were covered with bullet holes and other scars.
At a time when efficient heating systems were normal in the west, old-fashined coal stoves were standard in Prenzlauer Berg.
The day after I moved to Berlin in 1995, I bought a newspaper and came across an article saying that an old lady was killed by a balcony coming down. In an interview, an official said that they had to renovate staircases first, as they could keep residents off from their balconies but not from staircases and those structures were dangerously close to collapse, too.
Back then Prenzl'berg attracted the "I'm-broke-but-I-have-ideas" sort of folks, mostly artists and students, and later the more wealthy youngsters who made a fortune during the Dot-Com hype. Coffehouses, clubs, affordable restaurants, courtyard theaters and galleries came at a fast pace.
(Continued in the following tip)
Directions: Take the U2 (subway) to Eberswalder Straße which is a 5- or 7-minute ride from Alexanderplatz.
(Continued from "Prenzlauer Berg (Pt. 1)")
In order to quickly refurbish Prenzl'berg without forcing too many locals to leave, state granted cheap loans and promised residents, they could live in their apartments without paying rents for years (up to 15 years, depending on the efforts taken, I believe).
Often, after houses were refurbished, former landlords came to claim possession and felt dispossessed for a second time after they learned that they won't be able to demand rents, but soon discoverd a loophole: The no-rent contracts were non-transferable, and if tenants moved out, no matter how "voluntarely", the apartment fell back into the landlord's possession.
Instead of the expected upswing, German economy took a downturn, unemployment, especially in the east, came to an all-time high, and a financial scandal in direct relation to the refurbishment works and the loans granted, forced some officials to retire, whereas others prefered to leave Europe.
Works in Prenzlauer Berg area (as well as elsewhere) came to a grinding near-stop.
When President Clinton, together with Secretary Albright, Chancellor Schröder and Minister Fischer had dinner at the Gugelhof restaurant at Kollwitzplatz, real estate agents from literally all around the world discovered Prenzlauer Berg and invested millions. This and a growing number of tourists changed parts of Prenzlauer Berg from a Bohème or "hipster's quartier" to a Paris-in-1920 like chic arrondissement, attracting tourists and wealthy investors alike. As a result, many places are now less vibrant, shops are more mainstream and less adventurous, independant courtyard theaters are rare to non-existent.
I'm not saying that's bad or good per se. It was probably inevitable.
Pros: Prenzlauer Berg has flair. Its' slow-paced yet vibrant, has a large variety of restaurants, clubs and coffeehouses, people are mostly outgoing and relaxed.
Cons: Graffiti. Dirt. Lacks a lake and a park worth to be mentioned.
Tight on money? There are some interesting things to do, that won't cost a fortune - actually they'll cost nothing. As always, all information to the best of my knowledge!
Museums & Galleries
Berlin Wall Memorial
Bernauer Str. 111/119
Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin
Unter den Linden 13/15
S-Ostbahnhof or S+U-Warschauer St.
Exhibition inside Deutscher Dom
German-Russian Museum Berlin Karlshorst
Zwieseler Str. 4 / Ecke Rheinsteinstr.
Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum
Marienfelder Allee 66 - 80
Am Köllnischen Park 5
Every 1st. Wednesday
Staatliche Museen in Berlin
(Pergamonmuseum, Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Museum für Gegenwart im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Indische Kunst, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst and more)
Every Thursday 4 hours before closing time.
You don't need directions do you?
e.g. at Kollwitzplatz
Frisbee & Ballgames
in Berlin's numerous Parks
Even Park Sanssouci with its numerous buildings from the 18th century is free.
Donations are welcome though.
Party & Musik
Get a cheep beer and a likewise cheap pizza at the nearby shops and stalls and join those folks on a warm summer evening. Don't be too loud please, the locals want to sleep at night.
U-Kottbusser Tor, go down Admiralst.
Address: Various: See above
Topographie of Terror is a decentralized outdoor exhibit on the Nazi terror. Its main exhibit is situated directly at a still existing stretch of the Berlin Wall and the Martin-Gropius-Bau.
This location once was the headquarters of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei - Secret State Police) and SS. The Gestapo building had prisons were suspects were being held incommunicado and often tortured and executed. The buildings were destroyed during bomb raids in early 1945 and the remaining ruins demolished after the war. Only one (now excavated) wall of the cellar exists, because the Berlin Wall was build right on top of it.
The museum details NS trials in striking detail. There are excerpts of dialogue and sound snippets from the trials, as well as additional information about involved people.
Other displays focus more generally on the war or on the Nuremberg Trials.
No matter how accustomed you may be to "multimedia exhibitions" - Topography of Terror, with its simple setup, will deeply move you.
Note that some pictures are very graphic.
Admission is free.
Address: Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin
Directions: Take the S-Bahn or subway to Potsdamer Platz and go down Stresemannstrasse.
Niederkirchnerstraße is the second street on the left.
Or: Take the S-Bahn to Anhalter Bahnhof and turn left into Stresemannstrasse, then right into Niederkirchnerstrasse.
C/O Berlin is a treasure for everyone interested in photography. Situated in the former Postfuhramt (Royal Post Office), the gallery has quickly established itself as *the* institution in Berlin for everything related to photography: Exhibitions, interviews with renowned artists and promotion of lesser known talents and pupils.
C/O Berlin is one of my favourite galleries in Berlin.
Address: Oranienburger St. / Tucholskystraße
Directions: Take the S-Bahn to Oranienburger Straße. C/O Berlin is the huge brown building at the corner of Tucholskystraße. Difficult to miss, and only a few steps from the S-Bahn station. New Synagogue, which golden dome can be easily seen from afar, is close-by.
Most tourists visit Hackesche Höfe, Berlin's most well-known courtyards. Heckmann Höfe are only a stone's throw away and somewhat different. First and foremost they are less a tourist hotspot, so they are a lot quiter. Actually it's amazing: you leave Oranienburger Strasse with all the cars, tourists and locals and turn into Heckmann Höfe and it is as if somebody turned off your TV and replaced it with a still-life picture. No Tram is rumbling, no car is blowing its horn, and there are surprisingly few people around. I have lived in Berlin for more than ten years now and this effect never ceases to amaze me. I hope it stays this way even if I make Heckmann Höfe more popular here. :-)
Coming from Oranienburger St., you may notice a sweet scent after only a couple of yards. It's the Bonbonmacherei (http://www.bonbonmacherei.de/) downstairs on the left hand side. Here sweets are traditionally cooked on open fire. Clearly a small attraction not only for your kids.
Then you'll come across some small shops, restaurants and a fountain. Turn left and go back to Oranienburger Str. and its vibrant life. There are some more bars where locals have a beer after work without paying the usual premium for tourist hotspots. However, the best restaurant around, in my opinion, is still Café Orange, Oranienburger Str., right hand side of the entrance to Heckmann Höfe (see tip).
But before you leave, turn around and see New Synagogue in a beautiful bluish light - provided the sun already sets. If not, it's just calming and peaceful. I did say it's quiet in here, didn't I?
Address: Oranienburger Str (directly at the S-Bahn station)
Directions: Heckmann Höfe are located between Friedrichstrasse and Hackescher Markt (wehere you'll find the better known Hackesche Höfe).
More precisely, the entrance is on the left hand side of New Synagogue.
Stolperstein, Budapester Str. (Wikimedia Commons)
The verb stolpern means as much as to stumble or to fall over something, in this case a copper (cobble-)stone which marks the former residence of a Nazi victim.
Encouraged by a Pastor, Cologne-based Artist Gunter Demnig started to place the 10 times 10 centimers copper plaques in Cologne, and then in Berlin - without bothering to get the approval of the respective authorities.
But the cities liked his idea which then started to spread. Stolpersteine now exist in more than 300 cities and towns in Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands. In 2006 the Polish authorities revoked an earlier decision to allow the group place some stones in Poland, as did Munich, arguing the stones could inflict anti-Semitic activities, which, I think, is a poor excuse.
The stones, covered with copper, usually include the victim's name, year of birth, year and place of death and the line "Here lived." They are placed in front of the doorstep of the victims former residence from where he or she was deported.
In 2005, Gunter Demnig was honored with the Verdienstorden (the German equivalent of the British Order of Merit) for his idea.
Address: Spreaded all over Berlin.
Stasi is short for "Staatssicherheit" or "State Security Service", the "Sword and Shield" of the communist party that ruled the GDR. Everyone who has seen the Academy Award winning movie "The Lives of Others" (go, get a copy if you haven't) knows that "Security" was an euphemism for spreading fear and anguish among members of the opposition - and a couple of million people more.
The Stasimuseum is inside a huge complex which was formerly the Stasi HQ and the Ministry for State Security Service. The complex is so huge that it was difficult to spot and identify people coming and leaving. Next to the museum is the "Birthler Authority," the unofficial name given to the office, headed by Marianne Birthler, responsible for researching the history of the Stasi. Here, all Stasi documents are freely available to individuals, including secret files on Stasi's victims. But I digress.
What you'll see inside the museum are somewhat clunky and older spy devices: cameras behind buttons and in birdhouses. The latter one may be a bit obvious, but perhaps the Stasi wanted to let some of its victims know that they were spied on. Maybe it was more important for them to spread fear than to actually gain some information.
Other exhibits include smell samples in jars; pieces of cloth holding the odor of the suspected. Sometimes it was a stolen bit of used underwear (perverts, aren't they!?). If need be, Stasi officers would let a dog sniff the rag, hoping the dog would discover a trace the suspect had left.
But the highlight is certainly what was Minister Mielke's office. While it is quite big, it's certainly not luxurious. It reminded me of a principal's office at an East Berlin school I visited shortly after the wall fell. Perhaps every office in the GDR was decorated by the same guy.
And then there's this distinctive smell that was omnipresent in offices or rooms in general and seems to be a combination of linoleum, dust and cheap polishing mixture.
Last time I was there (2007), the smell was still trapped in the building; apparently the likewise distinctive 70s-style cushioned chairs work like a sponge. (Those cushions were made of rags which they shredded, colored and impregnated with whatever agent. Looks ugly and feels even worse - a bit like chewing on tinfoil).
Unfortunately, descriptions of the exhibits had been in German only but maybe this has changed by now. Tours (1.5 - 2 hours) in German, English, French, Norwegian or Swedish are possible, even outside the museum's normal opening hours, but you need to be 10 people or more and book in advance.
Undiscounted admission is 4 Euro for adults.
Address: Ruschestr. 103, Haus 1, 10365 Berlin
Directions: Please check the area map the museum's website provides.
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