YOUR HOSTEL IN BERLIN
Around the EastSeven
Travelling with kids
- Usefull advice if you are travelling with your kids.
Wasserturm – The unofficial symbol of Prenzlauer Berg, this 30m high tower was built in 1877 as the local water reservoir. Once used by the Nazis as a prison, today the round brick Wasserturm has been converted into trendy apartments.
TIP: Check for art exhibitions next to the tower, in the underground reservoir.
Kollwitzplatz – Käthe Kollwitz, the famous left-wing, anti-war artist, would no doubt take great pride that not only is there a square named after her (complete with bronze statue) but that its one that was once a meeting point for intellectuals and artists during Prenzlauer Bergs nasty East Germany days.
TIP: Dont miss Kollwitzplatz`s famous market on saturdays
TIP: Enjoy amazing cakes and delicious coffee at the Anna Blume café on the corner of Sredzkistrasse and Kollwitzstrasse.
TIP: Just round the corner is Rykestrasse Synagogue, Germany's largest synagogue.
Helmholzplatz – According to local legend, Prenzlauer Berg has one of the highest birth rates in all of Germany. Helmholzplatz is just one of the places in the district where mummies and daddies come to push their new-borns around in expensive pushchairs and gorge on a little brunch.
Kastanienallee – Dubbed Casting Alley by the locals, this long strip of little cafes, indie fashion designers trading their wares and tasty restaurants is the ideal place to hang out and watch the surprisingly large number of beautiful faces walk by at all hours.
Kulturbrauerei – This huge complex of night-time hangouts originally housed Berlins Schultheiss brewery for more than 150 years. By night the Culture Brewery turns into a popular meeting point for determined drinkers, eager to explore the buildings wealth of bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants, or just hang out in the huge courtyard.
TIP: The Kulturbrauerei is also a popular venue for famous live acts.
Zionskirchplatz – Life in a resistance group fighting either the Nazis or East German government was often a dangerous affair. Finding somewhere quiet and warm to hold your secret discussions therefore being a number one priority = PBergs 19th century Church of Zion. It is now surrounded by small cafes and restaurants.
TIP: Go to the Weinerei, where you can pay for a glass of wine what you think its worth.
Mauerpark - If you are over 20 and still like to play (particularly with beer bottles), then this is your playground. Its the best place in Berlin for relaxed outdoor boozing and there are hilltop swingsets which are a great spot for watching the sun sink lazily in the West.
TIP: Dont miss the fabulous flea market on Sundays.
Berlin City – the most important must-see sights
TV Tower – Built in 1969 as a symbol of East German socialism, this 368m tower, the largest structure in Germany, even has its own revolving café/restaurant. A trip to the top also offered a rare chance for East Germans to see what life on the other side of The Wall was really like.
TIP: If youre going up the TV tower - go after dark, when most of Berlins landmarks are illuminated.
DDR Museum - Using the paraphernalia of shopping, fashion and family life Berlins DDR museum attempts to introduce visitors to what for millions of East Germans was once everyday life. Play Hausfrau in an authentic DDR kitchen and living room, or experience first-hand what it was like to be spied on.
TIP: In the museum check out the Trabant, THE typical East German car, parked in the front room.
Berliner Dom – Perhaps the most over-decorated protestant church in the world and once home to the Nazi partys Reich church. Bombed out during WW II, the Berlin Cathedral was restored to its current glory in 1993 - complete with a whopping great 7,200-pipe pipe organ.
TIP: You pay to get into the Berlin dome, but if theres an organ concert on its definitely worth it.
Museum Island – Surrounded on all sides by the River Spree, Museum Island is literally an island with museums on it, isnt that clever? It is not only home to some of the citys top class museums such as the Altes Museum and the Pergamon Museum, but also the Berliner Dom and the tranquil Lustgarten.
TIP: Visit the island on a Thursday between six and ten for free entrance to the museums.
Lustgarten – Dont be confused by the name, Berlins naked people are running around the citys 500acre Tiergarten just down the road. The Lustgarten started its life as a cabbage patch for the nearby city palace, later used as a military parade ground, now a grass garden.
TIP: One of the most pleasant places in Berlin to relax in the summer - near some of the citys most magnificent buildings.
Brandenburg Gate – Every 10, 20 and 50 cent German Euro coin is minted with a picture of this big city gate on its reverse side. Stranded in a lonely no-mans land between 1961 and 89 thanks to the East German government, no other structure in Berlin better symbolises the temporary division of the city.
TIP: Take your camera and get snapping; its not going anywhere anytime soon.
Reichstag – The German parliament building, re-opened in 1999 after the government and most of the ministries moved from Bonn to Berlin. British architect Lord Norman Foster redesigned this place, complete with a huge glass dome with public access, so you can watch the politicians at work.
Holocaust Memorial – Berlins ultra-controversial memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe, 2,711 concrete blocks jutting off at offensive and suffocating angles. Co-incidentally only a stones throw away from the site of Adolf Hitlers former underground lair, the Führerbunker.
TIP: Walk through the memorial, youll quickly realise its not the kind of place you want to have a summer picnic at.
Potsdamer Platz – This was the glitzy centre of Germanys debauched 1920s metropolis, and the site Europes first traffic light system. Smashed into rubble during WW II, its now home to Europes fastest elevator and a mass of steel and glass buildings said to represent the future of Berlin.
Topography of Terror – Back in 1987 a group of students excavated, with little more than their bare hands, the cellars of Berlins former Gestapo and SS headquarters. The Topography of Terror is the fruit of their labour, an open-air exhibition documenting what happens when a totalitarian regime tortures its people to death for fun.
TIP: Pickup a headset from the reception for English audio commentary.
TIP: Next to the Topography of Terror is an excellent art museum called Martin-Gropius-Bau.
Checkpoint Charlie – Berlins most famous crossing point between East and West and a lasting symbol of the citys fragile Cold War relations. Commemorated today by an ersatz replica of the original American checkpoint and two historically inaccurate pictures of Soviet and American soldiers.
TIP: Avoid the museum, its disorganised, expensive, and there is way too much information.
Jewish museum – German-Jewish relations have had their bad times, and surprisingly, although the exhibition names wouldnt give it away, their good times. Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind New Yorks Ground Zero memorial, designed this Museum.
TIP: Perhaps the most depressing museum in the world, take a handkerchief.
Gendarmenmarkt – Touted by many guidebooks as the prettiest square in Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt is famous for its two churches - one Protestant, one Catholic - each built opposite each other by the opposing religion. Not often that happens.
TIP: Fassbender & Rausch, possibly the worlds greatest chocolate shop, is on the corner of Gendarmenmarkt.
Tacheles – One-time department store then SS headquarters in the heart of Berlins former Jewish quarter, the Tacheles was taken over by squatters in 91. Behind the buildings bombed out façade is a wealth of art studios, two cinemas, 3 bars, a beach bar, a café and a newly opened bourgeois restaurant.
TIP: Watch out for the fire-breathing dragon in Café Zapata!
TIP: Just opposite youll find delicious French fries served from a dodgy looking trailer called Beckers Fritten.
Hackescher Markt – Hackescher Markt was once home to booming businesses during the Industrial Revolution. Its now famous not only for its attractive station, but as a jumping off point to the nearby Hackescher Höfe complex.
TIP: Head to the Höfe and visit the Ampelmann shop to pick up souvenirs emblazoned with our little East Berlin mascot.
TIP: Get an impression of how this area used to look: 30m to the right of Starbucks is an entrance to a hidden courtyard. There you will find bars, a cinema and a high quality comic and graphics shop:
Karl Marx Allee - Rent a bike at the reception and explore this sweeping communist boulevard where the GDR Government used to proudly present their weapons of mass destruction at their May Day parades.
TIP: Along the way youll pass Café Moskau, which boasts an actual-sized replica of Sputnik. Youll think the Cold War never ended...
RAW Temple - An alternative entertainment hub including an indoor skate hall, a former Nazi hide-out used now for freestyle rock climbing, an open air cinema and regular live music.
TIP: Check it out before it becomes developed and turns into a shopping mall!
Volkspark Friedrichshain - A beautiful park, excellent for jogging or having a picnic. In the middle youll find Friedrichshains highest hill, which provides a 78-metre high view over Berlins flat terrain. The hill was actually man-made to cover up a destroyed anti-aircraft bunker from World War II, as well as several tonnes of bombed out rubble.
TIP: Go and discover the Beer garden Cafe Schoenbrunn
Stasi Headquarters - Take the U5 subway at Alexanderplatz to Magdalenenstrasse and visit the former headquarters of the Stasi – East Germanys cruel and meticulous secret police - in Normannenstr. The building has been transformed into a museum and you can walk through the preserved offices of some of the GDRs most powerful men. A disturbing look at Berlins very recent past.
TIP: Here people fill in an application form to find out if their name is linked to the Stasi.
Schloss Charlottenburg - If you are interested in Prussian architecture and history but dont have time to travel to Potsdam, then Schloss Charlottenburg is the perfect inner-city alternative. This outstanding palace and its surrounding gardens are not only visually stunning, but will also give you a detailed insight into the lifestyle of the Prussian emperors.
TIP: Have a picnic in the surrounding park
Bauhaus Archive - Founded 1919, the school of crafts, design and architecture was closed down by the Nazis in 1933. Get a feel for the design movement that had a major impact on architecture and the style of everyday goods.
TIP: There are often exhibitions being shown in this building.
Olympic Stadium - Built in 1936, the Olympic stadium is one of the few Nazi buildings still in use. It was completely refurbished before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but the stadiums darker political past still looms large.
TIP: Hire an audio guide for detailed information about Hitlers fondness for imperial architecture and the 1936 Nazi-hosted Olympic Games.
TIP: It is also home to Hertha, Berlins most popular football team. Tickets can be bought here.
For an in-depth look at all of these sights, and many more besides, join the Brewers Best of Berlin Day Tour. Brewers Berlin also offers a free sight seeing tour, which covers most of these sights. Tours also begin at our wonderful hostel.