Visiting Berlin: Top things to do

Last week marked 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is hard to believe that so recently this vibrant city with its pulsating party scene and hub of creativity was so fractured. Berlin is changing fast and constantly. It’s a city in flux as it continues to re-establish itself and rise from the ashes of its turbulent past. I travelled to Berlin last month, and whenever I asked locals I met how they’d describe their city, one response that kept popping up was that it is constantly changing.

Everybody has their list of things that they want to see in any given city. From climbing to the domed top of the historical Reichstag building, to taking in the street art, and sampling the dividing culinary sensation that is currywurst, these are my personal top ten things to do when visiting Berlin…Berlin

Walk around the Tiergarten

The expansive urban park is in the middle of the city. 210 hectares of dense woodland, walking paths, canals and ponds. Tiergarten translates to ‘animal garden’ and indeed, the Berlin Zoo sits within its borders.

My favourite path is along the Landwehrkanal on the edge of the zoo, where you can peer in on the lamas and goats as your stroll by the water’s edge. Autumn is a lovely time of year to visit, when the Tiergarten is dotted with red and orange trees, and every light breeze delivers a shower of leaves.Tiergarten Berlin-4 Tiergarten Berlin-3 Tiergarten Berlin-2

Tour the Reichstag building

With advance registration, members of the public can visit the rooftop and glass dome on top of the Reichstag building, which has 360 degree views of the city. When Parliament is not in session, visitors can also take guided tours of the interior of the historical building by pre-arrangement.

The architecture spans so many periods of the city’s tempestuous past, with many different styles present. From the exterior the contrasting Neo-Renaissance and modern glass dome, designed by Norman Foster, is a striking sight. More info on guided tours here.  Reichstag building Berlin-1 Reichstag building Berlin-3 Reichstag building Berlin-4Reichstag Building Dome,  Berlin, Germany(image)

Take in the view from the top of the Fernsehturm

Speaking of good views, the highest vista is undoubtedly from the iconic Fernsehturm TV tower. From 203 metres at the observation platform or 207 metres high at the restaurant level, visitors can enjoy 360 degree views over Berlin. It’s considered the most popular tourist attraction in the city, so book ahead and expect a bit of a crowd.TV Tower Berlin(image)

Sample some Currywurst

Berlin’s much-loved street food is as divisive as marmite. Pork sausages cut into bit-sized pieces and smothered in a mixture of ketchup and curry powder, served with a side of fries or bread. It’s oddly tasty, but once was enough for my taste buds. Sample it for yourself and see where you stand on the matter: Delicious or disgusting?Currywurst Berlin-2 Currywurst Berlin-3Currywurst Berlin-1

Wander around the Berlin Zoo

If zoos are your thing, Berlin’s is a good’un. Open since 1844, it is the most popular zoo in Europe and home to more than 20,000 animals.

Once home to the beloved polar bear Knut, who passed away in 2011, there are lions, Asian elephant, giraffe, seals, penguin and more to be found.Berlin Zoo

Visit the Helmut Newton Exhibit

If cute and cuddly animals are at one end of the spectrum, the work of Helmut Newton is at the opposite. I was familiar with the photographer’s work previously, but during my visit to Berlin last month we stopped by the Helmut Newton Foundation.

Two exhibitions are currently on display: ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Sex and Landscapes’ – both are fascinating. I particularly loved the former, a photographic journal of Helmut’s life with wife June, aka Alice Springs. The couple loved a selfie, and the exhibit compares portraits of actors, models and others taken by each of them.

What I was particularly struck by was the correspondence between Helmut and his peers in the fashion industry. He would scrawl over faxes sent by Anna Wintour, his replies so humorous and irreverent. The exhibition gives a true insight into his personality. Worth a visit, if you don’t offend easily.Helmut Newton Foundation(image)

Take a stroll along the East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 kilometre section of the Berlin Wall that remains. It is a ‘memorial for freedom’ that originated in 1990 when 105 artists painted on the East side of the wall shortly after it was declassified.

While many of the original works have been damaged by vandalism, it is still a remarkable monument to history, and captures the spirit of the time when the Wall fell.

On sunny days, the grass between the Wall and River Spree is a buzzing gathering spot.East Side Galery Berlin Wall-1East Side Galery Berlin Wall-3Berlin Wall-3East Side Galery Berlin Wall-2

Take selfies in a Photoautomaten

The photo booths scattered around the city have become a ‘must do’. What with the immediacy of the smart phone selfie, these retro black and white photos trips are a fun bit of nostalgia.

Want more? You can read my other posts from Berlin here.