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.
If you want an idea of what Berlin looked like before the war then head to Prenzlauer Berg, which is a sort of mirror image of Kreuzberg. Like its West Berlin counterpart, Prenzlauer Berg kept its traditional tenements and has a working class district tradition. The wall defined the western edge of ‘Prenzl’ Berg, which was also a centre of alternative culture during communism. Now the district has become increasingly trendy and is seen by some as the ‘New Kreuzberg’. It’s a favoured spot among West Berliners, given the new trendy bars and restaurants that are opening up, particularly around Sredzkistrasse/Husemanstrasse/Knaackstrasse. But despite this, Prenzlauer Berg keeps its distinctive character.
U-bahn line U2 to Senefelderplatz, Eberswalder Str or Schonhauser Allee. Trams also run to Prenzlauer Berg from Hackesche Markt
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.
Several S-Bahn (a suburban rail network complementing the U-Bahn) routes run parallel throught the city centre. It's a cheap way of sightseeing and a good way of getting a feel for the city and the lie of the land.
A suggested route could be from Warschauer Strasse in the East to Zoologischer Garten in the West. This takes in some of Berlin's most famous addresses, including Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstrasse and Hackescher Markt. There are also 'panoramic' S-Bahn trips in specially adapted trains giving even better views (www.s-bahn-berlin.de).
S-Bahn routes S5, S7/S75 and S9 all run along the above route.
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
There are actually two parts to this outfit. The first, on ul. sw Anny 13, is the more formal, and serves Polish food in a cosy cellar. The second is a salad bar, and is located nearby, off a passage and also in a cellar. And in summer the courtyard at the back is a salad bar too, serving great veggie food at very reasonable prices. The smoothies are good too.
ul. sw. Anny 3, Old Town (Stare Miasto)
In Polish 'zakatek' means 'little corner’; its easy to see where this cosy establishment takes its name from. At the end of a passage leading off the Rynek, it oozes peace, quiet and gemutlichkeit, and seems miles away from the action on the square nearby. Filling breakfasts, friendly staff and evocative Polish jazz playing on the ancient record player are just some of its draws.
Grodzka 2, Old Town (Stare Miasto)
This hotel is redolent of Mitteleuropa and old Krakow, but like many such buildings it fell on hard times under communism. Renovation several years ago has returned its old atmosphere, and many original features survive, including the art nouveau Mirror Hall and stained glass by Wyspianski. The Pollera is reasonably priced and brilliantly located in the centre – tumble out of bed and you’re almost on the Rynek – but not too noisy.
ul. Szpitalna 30, Old Town (Stare Miasto). The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the main train station (Krakow Glowny)
On the site of the old city walls, this park defines the boundaries of the pear-shaped Old Town. In spring and summer it’s a pleasant place to sit and relax, but it has a reputation for being less pleasant after dark.
Old Town (Stare Miasto)
It may not sound like the most obvious tourist attraction, but this socialist-realist settlement and steelworks (the latter ironically now owned by Mittal) offers a fascinating insight into life in pre-1989 Poland. Plonked onto Krakow by the party in an effort to stamp out the city's Catholic/conservative tradition, Nowa Huta had the opposite effect, with anti-Communism here being as strong as anywhere else.
The centre of the satellite town is actually rather pleasant, with its classical 1950s architecture and tree-lined streets, a sort of Communist garden suburb. The central square (plac Centralny) is a showpiece of socialist town planning.
Nowa Huta is north-east of the city centre. Tram Nos 4 and 15 run from the city centre to plac Centralny
Churches are everywhere in Krakow and they come in all shapes and sizes. The most well-known is St Mary’s, on the Rynek, but here some others worth a look in the Old Town: St Adalbert (Rynek), a fun-size Baroque church belying an ancient history; St Anne (ul. sw. Anny) and SS Peter and Paul (ul. Grodzka) - bombastic and imposing; and Holy Cross (Sw Ducha Sq), noted for its unusual interior - the nave vault springs from a single central pillar. The Franciscan Church (ul. Franciszkanska) and the nearby Dominican Church (ul. Dominikanska) are also of interest.
Old Town (Stare Miasto)
After the bustle and activity of the Rynek, the beautifully restored quadrangle of the university (the second oldest in central Europe) is a welcome change, especially on a hot summer’s day. There are also guided tours of the interiors, and upstairs you can see richly decorated rooms and the prize exhibit – the ‘Jagiellonian Globe’, dating from around 1510.
ul. Jagiellonska, Old Town
Rivalling the nearby Cafes Slavia and Louvre, this establishment is archetypal Mitteleuropa, although it's been in its current form for just a few years, after being transformed from a trendy haunt to a more traditional cafe again. It was actually established in 1893.
Good service and old-fashioned style at very reasonable prices. Fantastic cakes too. It always seems a bit less well-known than the others, but this can be an advantage.
In Mala Strana, Just across the Most Legii (bridge). Vitězná 5, Tel, 257 311 562. Trams 6, 9, 22 and 23 run close to the cafe (tram stop Újezd).
This bowler-hatted figure (red or green) safely shepherded generations of East Berliners across roads at pedestrian crossings and was one of the few features of East German life not to disappear with reunification. So popular was the little fellow among East Berliners that a campaign to save him was launched and was ultimately successful. In fact, some faulty West Berlin pedestrian crossing lights have been replaced with Amplemann figures. T-shirts and other Ampelmann-related merchandise have inevitably appeared as the figure has gained iconic status. There are Ampelmann shops at Hackesche Hof and Potsdamer Platz, showing how commercialised the business has become.
Ampelmann Shops: Potsdamer Platz (S-bahn: Potsdamer Platz - lines S1/S2/S26); Hackesche Hof (S-bahn: Hackesche Markt - lines S5/S7/S75/S9
Just along from the Florianska Gate and the Barbakan, this is a Krakow institution and a place to enjoy Polish classics such as sernik (cheesecake). The art nouveau interior, designed by Karol Frycz, is rather cavernous, but once your eyes adjust they’ll feast on the amazing details of this highly individual cafe. After traipsing round the city you can sink into quirky chairs and vast green banquettes. It’s a place for leisurely chat, and the ‘it’s Tuesday so it‘s Krakow’ mentality is frowned upon here. Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry to catch a train – service can be slow, and asking for the bill before the waiter or waitress comes to you is not good form.
ul. Florianska 30, Old Town (Stare Miasto);
This 11th-century abbey takes a bit of time to reach, but it’s worth the slog. Perched on an outcrop above the Vistula, its beautifully situated. Tyniec is a lazy, peaceful place, perfect for a slow summer afternoon. It’s hard to believe that scenes from Schindler’s List were filmed here.
Currently tram Nos 18, 19 and 22 run from the centre to Most Grunwaldzki, and then bus No 112 runs from the stop of the same name
One of the great things about Krakow is that most of the main attractions are all close at hand within the Planty, the park that defines the boundaries of the Old Town. But if you are staying outside the centre or want to go further afield, the city’s efficient bus and tram network kicks in. You probably won’t need to use it very often, but if you do, it’s helpful to buy a pass. You can buy one at the kiosk on ul. Lubicz, just in front of the train station. Remember you’ll need a separate ticket for luggage items larger than 60cm x 40cm x 20cm. Playing the dumb foreigner won’t work with the ticket inspectors if you don't have one.
This vast park west of the centre is a great place for a stroll or a picnic. It has special significance for Krakovians – the Pope addressed vast crowds here in 1979 and on several occasions later.
The Blonia is within walking distance of the Old Town. From there, go along J. Pilsudskiego and then Al. F. Focha
This vast, beautiful park has a long history as a former hunting ground and today is a perfect place to relax.
The advantage of Stromovka is that it's so big that it can absorb large numbers of people without feeling crowded.
Among other things it's a popular place for strolling, inline skating, biking and just sitting down and watching life go by.
In winter it morphs into a favourite sledging and cross country skiing spot.
Next door to Stromovka is the Výstaviště (exhibition grounds). Here there are various attractions including a fun fair for kids, Lapidarium, Mořský svět (aquarium) and the famous Křižíkova fontana (Křižík Fountain), which forms the centrepiece of a sound and light show each summer. The city's planetarium is also located here.
Stromovka is a short journey from the centre. Tram Nos 5,12,14,15 or 17. to the Výstaviště tram stop
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com