Berlin, the capital of Germany, is arguably one of the most intriguing cities in the world. The city played a prominent geopolitical role in the first half of the 20th century before being completely destroyed and divided into two. It then staged a remarkable comeback after the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany. For many years thereafter, Berlin was one big construction site as the city, fresh with a new zest, quickly reinvented itself. These days, Berlin is a cultural hub, awash with interesting and unique events and sites to satisfy even the most ambitious of travelers. Below, in true high fidelity fashion, is a list of sites, some lesser known than others, that ought to make your trip to Berlin slightly more adventurous.
Alternative things to do in Berlin
Teufelsberg, or Devil’s mountain, was quite literally built on the rubble of WWII – the rubble from the destroyed buildings in Berlin was used by the Allies to construct this artificial hill. They then built a listening post atop the hill. The building itself is a towering wreck but a guided tour of this former NSA listening station provides fascinating insights into its prominent role during the Cold War. It’s also a great opportunity to marvel at some of the funkiest graffiti I’ve ever seen.
Mauerpark is a large park in Berlin’s fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district. Also known as ‘Wall Park’, it features a 30m stretch of the Berlin Wall (used these days by graffiti artists). The Mauerpark flea market is a mainstay of Berliners and tourists alike. The market, open every Sunday, is engulfed with vendors selling all sorts of weird and wonderful items, including curious Communist mementos. If visiting Berlin, I highly recommend visiting Mauerpark at least once.
3. Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island)
Pfaueninsel or Peacock Island is a small island in the River Havel in southwestern Berlin. The island features exotic flora, a dreamy castle and peacocks which roam freely. The castle was constructed by a Prussian king. Later kings added the park as well as the menagerie. The island is designated a nature reserve and is part of the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When I first heard of this concept, it sounded too good to be true… especially for the wine lovers among us. The basic concept of Weinerei is that you pay a single euro ($1.35) for a glass, and drink as much wine as you like. The catch, if it can even be called that, is that at the end of the evening you simply pay what the evening was worth to you. The majority of the large selection of wines is produced in Germany. The food, typically German fare with organic ingredients, is also priced according to the honour system; 10-15 euros should get you a full meal and a few glasses of wine.
5. The Soviet War Memorial
The Soviet War Memorial is a large war memorial and military cemetery tucked away in the Treptow park. It is one of three memorials erected by the Soviets in Berlin; this one in Treptow park served as the main Soviet war memorial in East Germany. The memorial was built to commemorate the 80,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Berlin. The memorial is impressive and is the perfect place for a tranquil afternoon stroll.