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.
This shop is really affordable compared to other vintage store in Berlin. You have so many choices of colors and pattern, the cotton T-shirts from the 80s are amazing.
You can also enjoy the banana deco and the kindness of the owners.
Sachsenhausen may not immediately strike you as 'day trip' material, but it is an important part of history. 40-50 minutes NW of Berlin (and cheap and easy by metro) you can visit the memorial of the harrowing chapter of German history. You will find the cynical 'Arbeit macht frei' on the entrance gate. Liberated in 1945 it was soon used again by the Soviets until 1961. Most of the buildings remain, including the haunting gas chamber and prison cells.
Free entry, closed on Mondays. A short easy walk from Oranienburg station and you get to see a very different part of Germany on the walk there.
*Not recommended for youngsters*
If you are looking for a small, truly family run authentic German hotel with fabulous food in an unspoilt town in the Bavarian Mountains with loads to do for families and great public transport links which remove the need for a car - this is the place for you.
We stayed for 10 nights in August 2012. We flew London Heathrow to Munich and then took the train from Munich to Ruhpolding with a change at Traunstein. The hotel collected us from the railway station for the short drive to the hotel which is in a peaceful location a few minutes walk from the town centre.
We had an en-suite room - which would be best described as a suite with a lounge area and a connected bedroom for our five year-old son. We had a terrace with furniture which lead onto the hotel garden and children's outdoor play area. There was also a children's playroom. We enjoyed delicious breakfasts and fabulous dinners every night at the hotel after days packed with activities aided by the Ruhpolding Extra Card included in our hotel package - which provided us with free access to numerous activities in and around Ruhpolding including outdoor and indoor swimming pools, cable cars and chair lifts, family parks and free local bus services - even as far as Berchtesgaden! It is also easy to take the train from Ruhpolding for day trips to Salzburg, Munich and the beautiful lake Chiemsee. We also hired bikes locally to cycle the wonderful cycle routes around Ruhpolding.
Heidi's tour was absolutely brilliant! There were nine of us, all friends, on her tour, which was perfectly paced and pitched - a welcome beer stop on the way round (it was a scorching day!) and fascinating stories told with a real enthusiasm and dramatic emphasis which brought the history of the places we visited alive for us. I would instantly recommend her tours to anyone with an interest in this fascinating city.
Middle-eastern restaurant with the best falafel I've ever had! Sides also wonderful: yummy, fresh and original (including something lemony the owner said was his recipe and lightly fried bread, cheese, vegs). Very reasonably priced. Sit at outdoor tables or carry out.
A fantastic little café in the lesser known neighbourhood "Der Wedding". Amazing coffee, four different kids of hot chocolate, homemade cakes, müseli for breakfast and potato wedges with Quark for lunch.
U-Bahnhof Rehberge, Müllerstraße 70b, 13349 Berlin
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 Kulturforum in Berlin is something of a curate's egg. It is incomplete in terms of what its original architect, Hans Scharoun, intended. Partly for that reason it is in visual terms a bit like an upmarket light industrial estate with relatively low level modernist buildings apparently scattered around an open area with little clear sense of order. Moreover there are steps, stairways and ramps everywhere making the site a challenge for anyone with a mobility difficulty. However set against these criticisms the idea of bringing together a modern concert hall (Philharmonie, 1963), the Kunstgewerbe or museum of applied art (1968; currently closed for refurbishment until 2014), the Kupferstichkabinett (1988), with prints, drawings and musical instruments, and the Gemaldegalerie (1998), a world class collection of paintings from the end of the Middle Ages to around 1800, is a good one. It accordingly offers the chance for the visitor to concentrate their visit in much the same way as Berlin's Museuminsel does farther to the north-east of the city.
The Gemaldegalerie has a good restraurant, and a museum shop offering popular as well as scholarly books, prints and postcards.
The Komische Oper offers radical productions of opera old and new. There is an established company of singers there who, in contrast to some of the perhaps grander opera houses in other countries, work together as an ensemble. The singers are indeed stars but they don't seek to outshine the operas they perform. Some productions are indeed radical and Mozart's "The Abduction from the Seraglio", which has just ended its run, could not, I feel, have been shown in London - it was both too raunchy for English tastes and probably too hard-hitting. It was however a serious and valid interpretation of a well known opera.
The theatre has a modern facade and a wonderfully ornate interior. If you are in Berlin for a few days at least I recommend you see a production at the Komische Oper. People of all ages go there and while some are clearly all dressed up, a majority dress simply and go for the music - which is as it should be.
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.
Don't want to be the only adult among the teenagers in the graffiti tours? This is a more adult-oriented, art-focused tour of Berlin's most famous street art.
Sunday is flea market day in Berlin and the coolest market (Mauerpark is a bit touristy, though still good) is RAW at Revaler Strasse, inside a derelict train station.
Revaler Straße 99, 10245 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 2924695
Tempelhof is a recently disused airport that has become one of the largest green spaces in Europe. Best way to enjoy it is to rent a bike and cycle down the runaway at full speed. Go on, VRROOOOOM!
Tempelhof S-Bahn (you can take your bike on the train)
Platz der Luftbrücke 5, 12101 Berlin, Germany
Google map: bit.ly/JWW8FY
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.
This charming pavilion and beer garden throwback to the GDR days occupies a prime position overlooking the Landwehr Canal as it emerges from the Tiergarten. There's a small, sometimes raucous, bar area and a larger dining section from where you can peer into the water through the vast windows. The beer's good and so's the hearty food although it does get unbearably busy in summer (thanks to the leafy biergarten). There's also the noisy accompaniment while you quaff your ale of the zoo just over the fence.
History aficionados will love the “Third Reich” Walking Tour in Munich. This three-hour tour takes you on a truly interesting walk through the streets of Munich where the Nazi party rallied, the beer house where Hitler gave his speeches and where the famous putsch took place, the White Rose movement monument and many more interesting places. The tour will raise questions like, how could the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century happen and put history into context at the real locations. During the tour the guide will reveal traces of the past and footprints of Nazi rule still visible today. The most interesting history lesson you can get in Munich.
It runs every Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:45 am from Marienplatz (by the column). You can also join the pick-up option at 10:00 am at Hauptbanhof (Starbucks in platform 11).
Official website: www.newmunichtours.com/daily-tours/third-reich.html
Although it no longer brews its own beer, this wonderful multi-roomed pub - dating back to 1885 - occupies a charming suburban villa that evokes pastoral calm yet sits under what would have been one of the flight paths into the old Tempelhof Airport. It's got a lovely shaded biergarten and - bizarrely - a tree growing in one of the bars. You can't go wrong with a glass of Rixdorfer Hell ale on a balmy evening.
Glasower Strasse 27, 12051 Berlin-Neukolln
Google map: bit.ly/H8FJBD
Tel 030 626 8880
Nearest transport U7 at Grenzallee or U8 at Hermannstrasse.
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
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