While Leipzig is a city destination in itself, if you have some extra time in Berlin it also makes for a good day trip from the capital. Just over an hour on the train will bring you to one of the former DDR's major cities. It's recently restored pedestrianised old centre has a coffee culture vibe and lots of historic sights to see. From the church Johan Sebastian Bach used to be a choirmaster at 'Thomaskirche,' to the fascinating Stasi Museum 'Runden Ecke', and the 'Nikolaikirche' which used to be the meeting point for the peaceful protests of 1989, that eventually brought down the GDR government, a day here will fly by.
In this part of Berlin you are very much inside the territory of the old East Germany, and the Markisches Ufer or Wharfe (alongside one branch of the River Spree) was where the former regime moved old buildings felt worthy of preservation from sites elsewhere where they were in the way of urban development. There are of course only fragments of old Berlin here but enough to give one an impression of a city with bridges, boats, quaysides and mercantile buildings alongside a working river.
The Markisches Museum houses a mixed collection of objects associated with the life and times of Berlin and Brandenburg. It's mostly social history, with paintings, prints, ceramics, reconstructed interiors, and so on. To be frank, this museum is what Dylan Thomas described as "a museum which ought to be in a museum" (he was talking about Swansea's museum), but in its old-fashioned way it offers a quiet environment where other times and other lives can be contemplated without the clamour of other visitors pressing switches, setting of audio-visual displays, or kids running around dressed up as characters from Jane Austen!
Both locations well worth a visit.
The Bode Museum was the last building on Berlin's Museum Island to be restored after wartime damage, although others nearby, including the Pergamon, are currently being extended or modified. The Bode is an extraordinary building, with vast staircases, domes and apses, and now houses a fine collection of sculpture, Byzantine art and coins/medallions. In its unrestored state it was used as a backdrop for scenes in Istvan Szabo's 2002 film, "Taking Sides", about the German conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler, with Stellan Skarsgard and Harvey Keitel.
The Bode offers a quiet environment in contrast to the Pergamon and the many beautiful works of art there can be contemplated without being jostled or otherwise hurried along. There is also a good cafeteria adjoining the museum shop.
It's free and they have the real Checkpoint Charlie (the one the tourists go to is a replica of a earlier version.) Plus a cool 1940's jeep and lots of other military stuff.
Museuminsel - the Island of the Museum is a cluster of five great museums built between 1824 and 1930 on a small island of Sprea. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in1999 the Museum Island is one of the most rewarded museum complexes worldwide and it's considered the heart of Berlin. Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Pergamonmuseum e Bode Museum are really a gem with their halls collecting masterpieces and other features representing the evolution of German culture and art through history. The Museuminsel houses not only the museums mentioned, but also the Berliner Dom and the Lustgarten, a huge garden where students, locals and tourists love meeting.
Great guides that offer a different perspective of Berlin. Take a guided tour of underground bunkers where civilians and military sheltered during WWII. Fantastic atmosphere, enthusiastic and knowledgeable multilingual tour guides. The tours are run by The Berlin Undergrounds Association who are a group of enthusiastic volunteers.
Also perfect activity for wet days, snowy weather and when it is bitingly cold outside. Pre-booking is recommended and there is a great website with lots of extra information. It is not really a suitable trip for little children and people with special accessibility requirements might want to check in advance if the tour is suitable.
Tours cost around 10Euros and last a couple of hours.
+49 (30) 499 105-17
A must for museum freaks, this fairly new museum has well laid out displays ranging from Roman times up to 1994. You could easily while away four hours or more here. The displays are well lit, there is plenty of space and there is a great variety of stuff on view- Roman artefacts, early books, illuminated manuscripts, old deeds, charters and contracts, artwork. Most of the display boards are in English as well as German and there are a number of computer terminals which you can use to find out more, also with English options.The 20th century sections have old newsreel videos. Only 5 Euro admission.
Unter den Linden 2, at eastern end, nearest U-bahn Franzõsischestrasse, about 6 mins walk.
+49 30 203 04444
Art gallery. A large collection of over 1500 works of European art with some well-known stuff that will have been seen on British TV. Fantastic altarpieces by Rogier van der Weyden, a couple of gorgeous Vermeers, an outstanding miniature by van Eyck. I could go on and on. An audio guide is included in the admission price. Its greatest attraction is how quiet it is. We went on a Friday afternoon and were ushered out at closing time after spending four hours there. There are plenty of seats if you fancy a break and you can spend as much time as you like looking at each picture, there are no crowds. It's an amazing experience compared with the hustle and bustle of London's National Gallery.
Matthiakirchplatz 8, behind the church, a 6-10 minute walk from Potsdamerplatz. The 200 bus stops not far from the entrance.
tel 266 424242
A small collection , although on four floors with sculptures and numerous charcoal drawings by this left-wing artist. The pictures of mothers and children suffering want and hardship are very expressive and moving, as are the drawings of scenes from the Peasants' War of the 16th century and the Weavers' Revolt of the 1830s.
Fasanenstrasse 24, southern end, just after intersection with Kurfuerstendamm.
Nearest U-bahn Uhlandstrasse.Tel 882 5210 Open Wed-Mon 11-6.
This is the place when you're looking for free events like parties and museums in Berlin. Perfect for low-budget travellers. These are the events locals go to. Even real Berliners don't know everything you can get in Berlin for free. Most of the content is german, but can be translated at the bottom of the page.
The Bauhaus Archiv is a must see for any design/architecture fan. The collection is limited but of quality. They have a great range of Bauhaus posters on sale starting from five euros (a bargain) and the shop is full of gorgeous items classic and contemporary.
The cafe's good too - lots of healthy choices.
Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum of Design
D - 10785 Berlin
Wednesdays to Mondays, 10am - 5pm.
Usually the museum is closed on Tuesdays. On public holidays which fall on a Tuesday, 10am - 5pm
Bus 100 from the Zoo stops just along the street.
A new museum situated in the most appropriate place - opposite the Palast der Republic, and a stone's throw from the TV Tower. Small but well designed (featuring model Trabi, of course!). Perfect if you're short on time but still want to find out more about everyday life in the GDR without getting too political. Very hands on and interactive - factual but kitsch and with a sense of humour!
DDR Museum Berlin
Karl-Liebknecht-Str 1 (next to the river, opposite Berlin Cathedral)
U/S-Bahn Alexander Platz, Hackesher Markt
This is one of the world's great art galleries, with a masterpiece every few metres. The building is new (part of the Kulturforum) and is a pleasure to visit in itself.
The collection includes European painting and sculpture from the Middle Ages to about 1800.
Stauffenbergstrasse 40, a short walk from Potsdamerplatz (S and U-bahn) or Bus 200. Near the Berlinphilharmonie and many other places of interest.
Berlin’s equivalent to the Tate Modern, housed in a beautiful old train station. A great place to while away a few hours surrounded by an extensive mix of German and international modern art.
A compact but very illuminating visit to what life was like in communist era Germany. Reveals many artifacts of the era in the form of mock-ups of an apartment, a Trabant car etc, some of which you can handle. English and German commentary on the displays.
Great Winter diversion but light content, near cafes / aquarium near Alexanderplatz, open late to 8pm (10pm Sat).
By the river side at Spreepromenade
an der Liebknechtbrücke
Phone: +49 (0)30/847 123 73-1
The Wall still elicits fascination among visitors, and there are a handful of sites where it lives on. Some stretches have monument status, and the area around Bernauer Strasse, where the wall ran along one side of this street, has become well-known as a symbol of the Wall’s inhumanity. A stretch of it have been preserved here, and the nearby Documentation Centre helps shed some light on the Wall’s tragic history.
The highly atmospheric district of Kreuzberg was famed for its squat scene, punks and alternative culture (which was partly due to its status on the very edge of West Berlin). Now that the wall has come down its status as an 'alternative' district has diminished considerably. But despite encroaching gentrification, particularly in the west, it still has its own special character.
For an overview of Kreuzberg take U-bahn line U1 from Schlesisches Tor to Gleisdreick. Trains run along an elevated section. West Kreuzberg is traditionally more upmarket, whereas the east is still more down-at-heel.
The main sights include the Jewish Museum and the Transport and Technical Museum. Typical Berlin tenements survive in Kreuzberg, and there are particularly interesting blocks at Chamissoplatz and Riehmer's Hofgarten, between Yorckstrasse and Hagelbergerstrasse.
Kreuzberg is also a good area for budget accommodation and has decent bars and restaurants.
Kreuzberg begins immediately south of Checkpoint Charlie so it's within walking distance of the centre. U-bahn lines U1, U6 and U7 run through the district, as do S-bahn lines S1 and S2.
The audio guide is great. I felt like a kid again - curious and fascinated with everything. The museum's location has changed, however. It's now located in Museum Island, close to the Pergamon Museum.
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