During a 2-weeks long stay in Berlin in August, I had the chance to visit a lot of interesting places in Germany’s capital. I lived in Berlin for three years, while I was enrolled in a college in Potsdam, and spent a lot of time exploring its museums, restaurants and clubs.
Berlin is a great place for young people and artists. There is so much to see and do, and every time I come back to the city, there are a lot of new places to explore!
However, here is a list of my all time favorite places in Berlin.
1. The German Resistance Memorial Center
There are loads of museums in Berlin, and if you are there for a limited time, it is hard to decide where you should go. I definitely recommend this outstanding, although not very well-known museum. It is dedicated to all kinds of persons and groups who resisted the National Socialist dictatorship from 1933 to 1945 in Germany. The exhibition is very inspiring. It shows how many brave people tried to take action against Hitler and his ministers. Plus, the entrance is free of charge!
The museum entrance is accessible through a courtyard in Stauffenbergstrasse, and can be reached after a 10-minutes walk from Potsdamer Platz. From the outside the German Resistance Memorial Center looks rather depressing, but its location is very special. The building was used by the military and it was here that a group of officers planned a coup against Hitler in 1944: the operation “Valkyrie”. After it had failed, the officers were executed inside the courtyard. Today, a memorial pays tribute to Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, Friedrich Olbricht, Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, and Werner von Haeftenffenberg in front of the museum entrance.
2. The Karl Liebknecht Balcony
Although the reconstruction of Berlin’s Stadtschloss (city palace) is still underway, you can spot a hidden gem at its huge construction site: the co-called “Liebknecht balcony.”
It was spared from destruction and incorporated into the headquarters of the East German State Council, because of its historic significance. Karl Liebknecht was the co-founder of Germany’s first Communist party. In 1918, he proclaimed the formation of a “free socialist republic” while standing on the balcony of the former city palace.
3. The Book Burning memorial at Bebelplatz
In May 1933, a group of university students gathered in front of the State Opera and burned around 20,000 books with so-called “unGerman” ideas.
The books were written by famous scientists and intellectuals, such as Albert Einstein,Sigmund Freud, Maxim Gorki, Ernest Hemingway, Erich Kästner, Helen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx, Marcel Proust, Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Schnitzler, Upton Sinclair, Kurt Tucholsky, Emilé Zola, and Stefan Zweig. This event was repeated in many other places in Germany.
The book burning memorial consists of a glass panel on the ground. You can look through it, and see a chamber with four empty book shelves. They could hold the 20,000 books that were burned here. At night, the interior is illuminated. Next to the monument is a bronze plaque with a short explanatory of the site and a quote by the German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine: “Wherever books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too.”
4. The Museum Island
Of course, a visit to Berlin leads you sooner or later to its Museum Island, which consists of five prestigious museums. Their exhibitions are surely outstanding and should not be missed if you are into ancient and modern history, art and culture. However, the waiting time can be very long, and there is currently construction work going on. The Pergamon Altar is closed. It will reopen in late 2019.
The Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), completed in 1905, is located next to the museums. It is a very nice spot for photographs and a break.
5. The Statue of Friedrich Schiller
My favorite statue of a very famous German writer can be found at the Gendarmenmarkt: the statue of Friedrich Schiller.
It was erected at the center of the square in 1871, and suits very well to its historic environment. The former market place consists of the French and German Cathedrals, and Schinkel’s Konzerthaus (concert hall).
The atmosphere at the square is very nice early in the morning, and it hosts a beautiful christmas market in November and December.
6. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The Protestant Church, also known as Gedächtniskirche, is located on the shopping street Kurfürstendamm in Berlin’s West. It was damaged by airstrikes during World War II. Until today, the top of the church is missing. Its ground floor became a memorial hall with stunning paintings and ornaments.