If you ever wondered where most of ancient Mesopotomia ended up, here’s your answer. The Pergamon contains numerous treasures looted by German archaeologists, including the Ishtar Gate – Babylon’s extraordinary front door - and the Pergamon Altar - an amazing Elgin Marbles-style frieze stolen from what is now Turkey.
Am Kupfergraben; Tel: 0049-30208050; www.smb.spk-berlin.de/
Berlin's own public tourist bus route. The 100 sets off from Zoologischer Garten and goes past all the main sites - the Tiergarten, the Reichstag, Unter den Linden, and Berlin’s neo-baroque cathedral. The 200 goes in the same direction but takes a slightly different route via Potsdamer Platz. No need to get on one of those naff 'historic' tour buses.
Germany’s parliament building, topped by Sir Norman Foster’s fabulous glass dome, offers a panoramic view across the whole of Berlin for free. My kids love running up and down it. If you go with young children, you can jump the one-hour queues and use the disabled entrance.
Platz der Republik 1; nearest S-Bahn: Unter den Linden; www.reichstag.de
The budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet) use Schönefeld airport, in the south-east. Take the S-Bahn into the centre of town, or the Airport Express from the same station. It’s cheap, fast, and - since this is Germany - punctual. Don’t take a taxi from Schönefeld airport to the city centre: it’s a long way.
Some airlines (like Air Berlin) arrive at Tegel airport. From here take the X9 bus to Zoologischer Garten.
Enormous monument in the middle of nowhere to the thousands of Soviet troops who died during the battle for Berlin in 1945. Centrepiece is a giant statue of a Russian soldier stamping on a Swastika. The Stalin-era friezes are marvellous, if chilling.
Alt-Treptow 1; nearest S-Bahn: Treptower Park
The former demonstration boulevard of the GDR, the Allee is a unique site, offering a glimpse into the political and architechtural past of East Germany. It has integrated itself well into the West, offering various shops and restaurants. There is a wonderful beer shop along the Allee offering at least 300 different brews; just a little more enticement if you're into that kind of thing...
It's a museum that tells the story of Checkpoint Charlie and those who tried to cross the wall in the bad old days of the divided city. The stories of those divided by the wall are really moving, and the tales of those who made it across the divide are astounding in their ingenuity. I spent hours here, even though it's just a small building, as there is just so much to take in.
The giddy centre of pre-war Berlin, Potsdamer Platz was pulverised during the second world war – then found itself in East Berlin's 'death zone' next to the Wall. Since 1989 it’s been transformed into the futuristic glass and steel heart of the new Berlin, with shops, cinemas, and restaurants. OK, it’s a bit pricey and touristy, but it’s a relaxing place to hang out nonetheless and watch the ice games in winter. The film museum, English language cinema, and the Gemäldegalerie are all on the doorstep.
Nearest S-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz; www.potsdamer-platz.net/
You can get excellent food on the two top floors of this famous department store. There is a hall with lots of stalls where you can try a variety of things, plus a cafe/ restaurant.
Nearest U-Bahn is Wittenberger Platz
One of Europe’s greatest – if less well-known - art galleries, the Gemäldegalerie contains stunning works by Cranach, Dürer and Holbein. Usually empty. My favourite picture is The Fountain of Youth, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. It’s the one where a group of crones climb into a large basin and emerge as nymph-like young women. I find it rather erotic. Shut on Mondays.
Stauffenbergstrasse 40; Nearest U-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz
Magical island near Wannsee, reachable only by ferry (€2). Gardens, fountains, fake ruins, peacocks … (in May big patches of Lily of the Valley). Afterwards (with your back to the water), go right up into the woods and have supper on the terrace of the Blockhaus Nikolskoe. Built in the style of a Russian Dacha, you can watch the sun set over the island. Alternatively, go left and down from the bus stop to a picturesque river beach with willow trees.
Pfaueninselchaussee 14109, Berlin-Zehlendorf; Tel: 80 58 68 30
You can get some amazing deals on cheap accommodation in Berlin. The Circus is a clean, bright, arty hostel – in fact there are two of them – just north of Hackescher Markt, right in the centre of Berlin. They have an Arabian room, an underwater room, as well internet and bar. Rooms €15-€32.
Weinbergsweg 1A; Nearest U-Bahn: Rosenthaler Platz; Tel: 030 28391433 or Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 39; Nearest U-Bahn: Rosa-Luxemburg Platz; www.circus-berlin.de/
Newly opened in May 2005, the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe occupies a vast site immediately south of the Brandenburg Gate. It's made up of more than 2,700 giant concrete slabs. Don't hop on them: it annoys the guards. The underground information centre is very good and well worth the queue.
Stresemannstraße 90; nearest S-Bahn: Unter den Linden; www.holocaustmahnmal.de
In a city which has mirrored the history of the 20th century very closely, the Reichstag is one of the most poignant symbols of the mix of politics, history and architecture in Berlin.
It was badly damaged in the war and the Berlin Wall ran along the back of it. The new cupola, designed by Norman Foster, offers fantastic views over the city, but get there early - there are always long queues.
Right in the centre, just north of the Brandenburg gate. Bus 100 (which is a good route for sightseeing) passes by it; the nearest S-bahn station is Unter den Linden
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