No trip to Berlin is complete without trying the most popular local food: currywurst. But with thousands of currywurst shops in the city, how to decide which to try?
We’ve made a list of our favorite currywurst shops and kiosks that will introduce you to the wonders of combining curry and ketchup on top of a great wurst. This unofficial German national dish is so popular that over 800 million plates of the beloved fried sausage doused in curried ketchup are consumed each year across the nation – with over 100 million of those portions doled out in Berlin alone!
A great place to start is in the center of Berlin in Mitte at Curry Mitte. Currywurst is served with a ketchup type curry accented sauce. Many shops serve various levels of spiciness. Curry Mitte’s spice levels can really get hot, so start simple and go with the standard sauce. After enjoy this awesome neighborhood – here are Things to see in Mitte.
If it’s long-standing tradition and great flavor you are looking for, try Konnopke’s Imbiss, a stall located on trendy Prenzlauer Berg that has been open since 1930 and the first in East Berlin to sell currywurst (in 1950).
Museum Island is one of the main tourist attractions in Berlin for culture vultures, antiquity appreciators and heritage fanatics – but what about those of us who just love a good painting? Four of the five museums on the Spree (The Pergamon Museum, The Neues Museum, the Altes Museum and the Bode Museum) focus on artifacts from around the ancient world and Stone Age Europe, but it is only the Alte Nationalgalerie that solely displays paintings and works of fine art. Included in the eighteen Euro Museum Island day pass, it is well worth an hour (or a day!) of your time.
The creation of a ‘National Gallery’ to display works of Prussian importance was a dream as far back as the 1830s, when then-Prince Friedrich Wilhelm IV, a passionate Romanticist, envisioned a “sanctuary for art and science” that would sit proudly alongside the Altes Museum (the called the Königliches Museum”) and the Neues Museum. Decades of failed planning and halted construction would follow, until 1862, when the National Gallery was officially founded after wealthy patron Johann Heinrich Wagner donated 262 paintings of both German and international provenance. A building to display these priceless works was now of utmost urgency. Read more »
Museum Island is a top destination for visitors to Berlin and locals alike, a culture-lover’s paradise where a ticket costing only eighteen euro buys you access to five of the most esteemed collections of antiquities in Europe. Each of the massive museums located here has a theme based on the era, region and purpose of the items housed within – Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Etruscan and Babylonian, to name a few. But if you are interested in the history of Europe and want to see a collection that showcases the continent’s cultural journey from the Byzantium era until the present, the Bode Museum will be your top pick.
While it often gets overshadowed by the Pergamon, the Neues Museum and the Altes Museum, the Bode Museum may actually be the most important institution on Museum Island. Described by Neil McGregor, the director of the illustrious British Museum as, “the most comprehensive display of European sculpture anywhere… it is no exaggeration to say that in the new Bode Museum, Europe will be able for the first time to read its history — aesthetic and religious, intellectual and political — in a three-dimensional form.” High praise for a museum located on a continent with hundreds of competing collections vying for similar accolades.
The Bode is home to two collections – The Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art and the Münzkabinett (coin collection). The building was built in 1904, and originally named the Kaiser Friedrich Museum after the then German Emperor. It kept this name until 1956, when trustees voted to change it to honor the first curator, Wilhelm von Bode. His unique style of curation is still echoed in the museum today; von Bode believed strongly in mixing art collections and displaying sculpture, art, medals and coins from different eras and regions in esthetic groupings. Byzantine, Ravenna, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque pieces are displayed from all over Europe, with a special focus on Germany and on the Christian Near East (particularly Coptic Egypt).
Badly damaged in the bombings of Berlin in World War Two, the museum was renovated numerous times between 1948-1986. However, damage and wear were still a problem until 1997, when the museum closed for extensive restoration for nine years. It reopened in 2006 after a 150 million Euro upgrade, and is now in a stunning condition.
If you fancy coins and other metal work, the Bode’s Münzkabinett (coin cabinet) is place for you. Boasting the world’s largest “numismatic” collection of coins, from the seventh century BCE until the present day, the Münzkabinett counts over 500, 000 items in its possession!
Fans of conspiracy theories and contested heritage will want to pay special attention to the Bode Museum’s most controversially famous piece, the Flora Bust. Purchased from a London gallery by von Bode in 1910 for a few pounds, he claimed that this bust was an unrecognized work of Leonardo da Vinci. Proudly displaying his great bargain find in the museum, he boasted that he had “snatched a great art treasure from under the very noses of the British art world.” This pride was to be short-lived. British journalists soon countered that this was actually the work of English sculptor Richard Cockle Lewis, and provided testimony from his son that the piece had been created in 1840. Indeed, letters dated 1840 were found stuffed inside the base of the sculpture, but despite mounting evidence, Bode insisted that it was a da Vinci until he died. The bust is now on display in a section marked, “England” and is marked with the date “19th Century?” on its placard.
Whether you plan to spend a few hours on Museum Island, a whole week or any amount of time in between – make sure you pay a visit to the Bode Museum and pay homage to the history of Europe.
UBahn U6 (Friedrichstraße)
For the Bode Museum alone: 10 Euro, Concessions 5 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
For a Museum Island one-day ticket: 18 Euro, Concessions 9 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
7 days a week from 10am-6pm (Thursdays open until 8pm)
Museum Island is one of the top tourist attractions in Berlin, a museum-lovers paradise that houses five of Europe’s most impressive collections of antiquities, art and culture. While the Pergamon may draw in hordes of adoring travelers to marvel at its monolithic treasures and the Neues Museum is a favourite of those who want to worship at the bust of Nefertiti, The Altes Museum (Old Museum) is where it all started and is well worth a visit in its own right.
The oldest of the structures on Museum Island, the Altes Museum, originally called the Königliches Museum (Royal Museum), was constructed in 1830 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and is recognized around the world as one of Europe’s most important Neoclassical buildings. Its façade boasts eighteen tall Ionic columns, a roof bedecked with large antique sculptures and many other references to the Pantheon in Rome. This architectural style was intended to portray Prussian royalty and the past of Berlin itself in a strong and powerful light by emphasizing its rightful place in an intellectual lineage extending from the Roman Empire. As a result, the building can appear quite intimidating – a fact utilized by the Nazi party, who used the museum as the backdrop for many political rallies and propaganda posters during World War Two.
Originally built to house the increasingly large array of artifacts and antiquities being excavated by Prussian archaeologists and the Prussian Royal Family’s personal collection of art, the Altes Museum was at one time home to many of the treasures, including the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate, now housed in Museum Island’s other four institutions. Like the Neues Museum (originally built in 1855 to house the overflow from the Altes Museum), it was badly damaged during the bombing of Berlin, and sat as a hulking ruin until 1955. It was completely reconstructed and renovated, and was re-opened in 1966, once again drawing visitors to Museum Island.
The Altes Museum now houses the Collection of Classical Antiquities, which consists of sculptures, pottery, reliefs, paintings, mosaics and jewelry. The ground floor is primarily Ancient Greek artifacts, while the first floor focuses on Etruscan and Roman pieces. The collection showcases objects from a wide array of social classes and uses, placing as much emphasis on items of daily use as on decorative adornments of the elite.
Most famously, the museum is home to gorgeous portraits of Antony and Cleopatra, a collection of exquisite silver Roman vessels and a stunning Greek bronze statue entitled “The Praying Boy.” Top marks also go to the “erotic cabinet” – a collection of carvings and pottery recommended for over 18s only!
Whether you plan to spend a few hours, a day or a week on Museum Island, make sure you explore the wonders of the Altes Museum. No trip to Berlin would be complete without it!
One of the most unexpected features on the busy landscape of central Berlin is the bombed out spire of an 1890’s era church – The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Rising tall into the sky near Zoo Station, the wreckage is incongruous with the modern city around it, a visible reminder of the destruction in Berlin’s recent past. It serves now as a monument to peace and reconciliation, and a testament to the will of Berlin – and of Germany – to rebuild after World War II without forgetting the Holocaust and the violence of war.
Built between 1891 – 1895 to honor the first German Emperor, the church was designed in a Neo-Romanesque style and featured a tall, narrow 113-metre spire that could be seen from miles around. The original structure featured 2740 square metres of stunning mosaic dedicated to the Emperor, details sadly lost on November 23, 1943. Air raids pummeled the church, destroying the main building and damaging its spire, leaving its height only 73 metres.
Make no mistake – this damaged, unrepaired spire’s current presence on the skyline is no accident – the result of citizen outcry in the 1950s when architect Egon Eiermann, hired to rebuild the church, voiced plans to tear down the bombed spire and replace it with a modern building. Visible reminders of the horrors of the Nazi past were rapidly disappearing from Berlin, and the public was uneasy with the complete erasure of these crimes. Maintaining a massive symbol of World War II was seen as a meaningful gesture that would keep the memory fresh while allowing the city to move forward. It is now an iconic feature of the capital.
Eiermann respected the wishes of Berliners, and while he maintained the spire of the church he also built a four new buildings surrounding the ruins. The new buildings are made of steel, concrete and 21,292 panels of colored stained glass – fine examples of 1960’s brutalist architecture. Berliners call the combination of the new and old buildings the “Lipstick and Powder Puff” for their distinctive shapes on the skyline.
The damaged spire was reopened to the public in 1987, and now attracts nearly 100,000 visitors per year. In 2007 Charles Gray, a retired British pilot who had dropped bombs on Berlin during World War II, was dismayed by the rapidly decaying condition of the spire. At his behest, a fundraising campaign was started and the money collected has been used to repair and reinforce the structure.
While closed for extensive renovation throughout 2013, the church is again open to the public. Visitors to the church and the Memorial Hall will see the building’s original crucifix, as well a Cross of Nails composed of wreckage Coventry Cathedral in the British Midlands, bombed by German planes in 1940.
Visiting the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
FREE tours of The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and Memorial Hall are given daily at 14:15, 15:00 and 16:00, with additional tours at 10:15, 11:00 and noon on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays!!
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Breitscheidplatz, 10789 Berlin
Berlin is a museum-lovers dream. Not only does the city boast unique, small museums like the Bauhaus Archive, the Currywurst Museum and the Museum of Things – it also home to some of the largest, most well-respected institutions in Germany, many of them located on the world renowned Museum Island.
Museum Island’s sheer scale can be overwhelming. Many people head straight for its most famous collection, the Pergamon Museum, and miss out on the four other fantastic museums on site. The Neues Museum houses two collections, and is my top pick for anyone fascinated by Egyptology and/or Stone Age and Prehistoric artifacts.
The “New Museum” was built between 1843-55 to house the surplus of artifacts and classical art then housed in the “Old Museum” (Altes Museum), also on Museum Island. A grand, neoclassical architectural design was chosen, in order to reflect the common nineteenth century belief that museums and other educational institutions were the bastion of the elite, on par with churches and monuments in their significance. It was the first building in Berlin to utilize newly industrialized iron construction methods, and engineers examining the history of architecture often study its foundations.
During World War Two, this impressive structure was destroyed by Allied bombs, leaving a hulking wreck on Museum Island throughout the Soviet period. The Neues Museum was so badly damaged that its only purpose from 1945-1997 was as a storehouse for the other museums nearby. Sadly, during the 1980s, a proposed reconstruction project was halted, but not before significant further demolition occurred. The designers had plans to restore and recreate original details such as an 1850-era Egyptian garden, but during the confusion of the fall of the Berlin War, the original components were lost. In 1997, British architect David Chipperfield commenced the restoration project, and the New Neues Museum was opened to the public in 2009.
You can expect to have your breath taken away by the beauty of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, once again displayed in the Neues Museum. Objects are featured from a vast time span, from 4000 BCE all the way until Roman rule in the third century CE. The most famous is a stunning, vividly-coloured bust of Nefertiti in exquisite condition. Scarabs, mummified human remains, intricately designed sarcophagi and the ever-popular mummified cats are all on display, and an audio guide will describe in detail their provenance, significance and meaning.
The other collection housed in the Neues Museum is the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, spanning thousands of years and home to over 200,000 objects mainly excavated from the European continent. Most famous are its replicas of the 2500 BCE Troy horde (the originals relocated to Russia during Soviet rule), the Berlin Golden hat (a 9th century BCE elaborately filigreed gold ornament) and the Stichna Cuirass, a piece of a 7th century BCE suit of armour.
A visit to the museum can take an hour, a day or a week – there is so much to marvel at inside, and the building itself is an important symbol of modern technology and modern history. When you visit Museum Island, be sure not to miss the Neues Museum!
UBahn U6 (Friedrichstraße)
For the Neues Museum alone: 12 Euros, Concessions 6 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
For a Museum Island one-day ticket: 18 Euros, Concessions 9 (Purchase online to save 1 Euro)
7 days a week from 10am-6pm (Thursdays open until 8pm)
Walking around Berlin, you will encounter dozens of lovely city squares – but few can rival the fascinating and disturbing history of Bebelplatz. From magnificent opera, stunning architecture, a prestigious college and a unique memorial to a dreadful Nazi book burning, a short visit to Bebelplatz is worth straying from the main Mitte (Central) thoroughfare of Unter den Linden.
As soon as the winter weather warms up and the first temperate days of spring emerge, Berliners flock to the hundreds of biergartens in the capital to enjoy the sun, meet with friends, and of course – drink steins of Germany’s best beer.
Originating in Bavaria, beer gardens (translated from biergarten) are large outdoor areas attached to beer halls, restaurants and pubs, the best of which are sunny gardens lined with long communal tables and filled with the sounds of conversation, debate and laughter. A visit to a biergarten can be an afternoon family affair, the start to an intimate date or the beginning of a raucous night out with friends. Usually a few types of beer will be on offer, as well as a selection of simple wursts (sausages), doughy pretzels or cakes. On a pleasant day, nothing is better than a visit to a biergarten – here are five of our favourites.
Shop till you drop – this motto, designed for New York City, could be Berlin’s motto as well. Beautiful boulevards, huge department stores, shopping malls and fancy little shops – better arrive with an almost empty suitcase. Here are some tips on where to go shopping in Berlin. If you are more looking for the experience, you might also like our post on Berlin markets and flea markets.
Classic City West: Kurfürstendamm and KaDeWe
The City West is the heart of the old West Berlin, when Berlin was still a divided city. The Kurfürstendamm is an upscale boulevard with designer stores, cafes, luxury hotels and expensive restaurants. And, most important: Berlin’s Apple Store is here.
Follow the Kurfürstendamm East and find big clothing shops of the more affordable kind and two large department stores: Karstadt and the KaDeWe. KaDeWe, founded in 1907, is the second largest department store in Europe (second only to Harrods in London). The store is famous for its delicatessen in the 6th floor. For example 3,400 wines and 1,300 different kinds of cheese from all over the world are offered. It’s like a museum of gourmet eating. The KadeWe is in walking distance to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is worth a visit and FREE.
Bikini Berlin – the Concept Mall
In the same neighborhood, close to the station Bahnhof Zoo, find the “Bikini Berlin”. In this mall they sell European designer brands and rather original stuff. On the ground floor are the so-called “pop-up stores” where retail start-ups can test the market. From the rooftop you can look down on the Berlin Zoo – the baboons will be happy to entertain you. Why is it called Bikini? The fourth floor of the landmarked 1950s commercial building was open to mark the line between retail and offices – so people called the two-part building the “Bikini”.
Germans love shopping malls. So, in Berlin, you’ll find one in every neighborhood. More often than not they are called “Arcaden”. The beautiful thing is: When you know one, you know them all. Even if you don’t want to shop, you’ll find everything a traveller might need: clean restrooms, ATMs, good quality fast food, a shoe repair service and sometimes a possibility to buy theater tickets.
Berlin’s newest mall is the “LP 12 Mall of Berlin” at 12, Leipziger Platz, next to the more famous Potsdamer Platz in the very center of the city. With more than 270 shops and service providers it is by far the largest mall in Berlin.
Upscale Shopping in the Friedrichstraße
From Checkpoint Charlie to the station Friedrichstraße is a long street that used to be the amusement strip of the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, this is one of Berlin’s fines addresses for shopping and dining (especially at the nearby beautiful square, the “Gendarmenmarkt”). Don’t miss the “Galeries Lafayette”, a branch of the famous department store from Paris. For books, CDs and DVDs, check out the Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann close to the Friedrichstraße Station. They carry everything you ever wanted to read about Berlin in German and English and a special English department as well.
The Center in the East: Alexanderplatz
Next to the TV tower, Alexanderplatz offers a wide variety of shopping opportunities: First, the Galeria Kaufhof, a department store in the former “Centrum Warenhaus”, the biggest department store in the German socialist state, the GDR. Second, another mall, the “Alexa”, and all the rage: “Primark”, the affordable clothing warehouse for young shoppers. The TV tower is right next to the Alexanderplatz, and a great way to see Berlin from the top.
Fancy little shops in the neighborhoods
The former working quarters of the late 19th century like Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are now the hippest neighborhoods in town. Check out the little shops around Kastanienallee-, Helmholtz- and Kollwitzplatz or in the Oderberger Straße (vintage clothing) in Prenzlauer Berg. Or explore the Boxhagener Platz neighborhood in Friedrichshain. In Kreuzberg, you might want to walk the Oranienstraße and the Bergmannstraße. In this neighborhood with its long tradition of immigration from Turkey, enjoy a certain exotic atmosphere as well.
Last but not least: The Spandauer Vorstadt and the famous “Hackesche Höfe”
The Spandauer Vorstadt is north of the S-Bahn stop “Hackescher Markt”. In the Oranienburger Straße, Rosenthaler Straße, Neue Schönhauser Straße and Münzstraße you’ll find the trendy international (namely American) brands and also Berlin designer labels. And do not miss the “Hackesche Höfe”. The regular Berlin worker used to live in a tenement that consisted of multiple inner courtyards. The Hackesche Höfe is a more beautiful version of this style, conceived by reformers in the early 20th century. Inside, you find a variety of interesting shops and cafes.
+++And, don’t forget: Shoppers from outside the European Union can get tax refund at the airport (check out the service desk in the department stores and malls)!+++
Live music flourishes in Berlin, with hundreds of venues showcasing every genre of music imaginable on a nightly basis, often with much cheaper cover charges and tickets than in other European cities. Here are our top five choices for unique live music venues where you are guaranteed to have a good time, whether you live for punk bands, only love reggae or can’t get enough indie!
Wild At Heart Wienerstrasse 20 +49 30 610 747 01. Rockabilly aficionados the world over regularly list Wild at Heart as their favorite music venue. For twenty years, this Kreuzberg boozer has hosted bands visiting from all four corners of the globe, specializing in punk, psychobilly, garage and surf. The décor of the bar itself is as much of a draw as the musical acts – bedecked with tschotskes and midcentury knick-knacks with a special emphasis on Elvis memorabilia. If you don’t fancy having your eardrums blasted by rock n’ roll, you can always spend time at the Tiki Heart nextdoor, a café and clothing shop from the same owners.
The Lido Cuvrystraße 7, +49 30 69 56 68 40
Love indie rock music, but can do without the ‘billy?’ Then don’t worry – you are spoiled for choice in Berlin, particularly Kreuzberg. This neighbourhood was home to David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the ‘70s when they were producing some of their most acclaimed (and drug-addled) work, and so it is no surprise that today’s alternative musicians flock to the many live music gigs in the area. The Lido is located in a converted 1950’s cinema, and is always a safe bet for a great night. Saturday nights’ Karrera Klub is an institution, a live rock gig followed by an indie electropop dance party that rages until the sun comes up. Regular gigs can be anything from the avant garde spoken word of Lydia Lunch to the modern freak folk of Kurt Vile, and the crowd is cool, stylish and lacking pretention.
Urban Spree Revaler Straße 99, +49 30 74078597 If the idea of partying all night in a cramped rock bar sounds less than fun, a nice alternative is Urban Spree, a converted warehouse area that houses art galleries, food trucks, community gathering spaces and live music. You’ll be rubbing elbows with some of Berlin’s most exciting young artists and musicians, but the crowd skews slightly older (it is not unusual to see young, hip families here for a wholesome evening out). Concerts, both inside and outdoors, are regular occurrences, and can be treated as the main attraction or a backdrop to the other activities onsite. You’ll love the music – as long as your mind is open! The genres of choice do tend to be experimental (think ‘electro acid jazz world noise music’), but occasionally a chart topper is on the bill.
A-Trane International Jazz Club Pestalozzistrasse 105, +49 30 3132 550 Now for something completely different – jazz. You may not associate Berlin with the music of the American South, but jazz lovers often cite the A-Trane as one of the best jazz clubs on the planet. This is a venue for serious music lovers, and the heaviest hitters of the modern jazz world have graced its stage: Diana Krall, Ray Brown and Arthur Blythe. A-Trane hosts jam sessions on weekends, and live music 7 nights a week – their website notes that while on Sunday to Thursday they are open until 2am, on Friday and Saturday they stay open “late” – this is a big night of music with the best in the business. Best of all? The drinks are affordable and there is no cover charge for jam sessions.
Bohannon Dircksenstraße 40, +49 30 69505287 Describing their club as “Funk, soul, hip hop, rap, disco, reggae and soca – Black music in Berlin Mitte,” Bohannon (named after Stevie Wonder’s legendary drummer) is the place to head if you want to hear live hip hop from both international artists and from the burgeoning Berlin scene. It’s a small and intimate place, with only a 100 person capacity – a personal vibe that makes it even more special when huge acts such as KRS One take the stage. There are DJs and dance parties every night, but check their calendar for the most up to date live music listings.