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Berlin city guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Germany’s hip capital | The Independent

Simon Calder’s Travel

Berlin is a city of contrasting seasons: long, dark winters when locals bundle up in layers to survive Siberian winds, followed by sweltering summers spent sprawled in parks and next to lakes.

In stately western Berlin, the wide boulevards are punctuated by shopping malls and Starbucks coffee shops, completely different in style to its former-Soviet eastern half, with its mass-produced, pre-fabricated Plattenbau apartment blocks. At Potsdamer Platz, visitors find a global capital city with gleaming glass skyscrapers. But a more transgressive side to the city persists at night in the clubs and bars, despite rising property prices. The many sides to the city joined together in 2019 to celebrate 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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What to do

Dive into history

Only 200 metres of the Berlin Wall remain, weathered to the wire, at Niederkirchnerstrasse, which marked the border between Mitte in East Berlin and Kreuzberg in West Berlin. It’s free to walk the length of it. Turn your head to see the Topography of Terror, a museum housed in the former headquarters of the Nazi secret police, where a free exhibition details the most horrifying period of German history. From here, walk north past Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz, which has been reconstructed since the fall of the wall with a dizzying number of skyscrapers. As you head towards the Brandenburg Gate, look out for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a gloomy sculpture of coffin-like concrete slabs that visitors can walk in between.

The Topography of Terror offers a free exhibition
The Topography of Terror offers a free exhibition (Getty Images)

Wander the museums

Five museums jostle for space on Berlin’s Museum Island, and visiting them all would take more than a day. With one ticket at €18 (£15), you can pick out the highlights: the bust of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen, at the Neues Museum; the Pergamon Altar built on the terraces of the acropolis at the Pergamon Museum; and the European sculpture collection at the Bode Museum. All are closed on Mondays.

Take a dip

If visiting in summer, the Badeschiff is essentially a swimming pool on a barge, where you can do lengths in turquoise water overlooking the…

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