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Berlin is an exciting and fun-packed city, with so many things to see and do. From contemporary art galleries, to great food, and landmarks rich in history. However, this can leave you feeling overwhelmed when visiting for the first time, trying to narrow down your list of things to do in the small amount of time you have. Fear not! I'm here with my list of the top five things you must do when visiting this fine city.
1. Reichstag Building
The queues to gain a day and timeslot in advance for the experience of going into the dome atop of the Reichstag building can put some people off this opportunity. But don't be one of these people! With a free, and extremely well put together, and detailed audioguide which gives you an insight into the amazing view you'll have over the city, as well as the history of the structure, it's really not to be missed. To get the chance to do this you need to go to the visitor centre, just nearby the entrance, with a form of ID and select a date and time. I would recommend a slot just before sunset, that way you experience the view during the day, as the sun is setting, and at night. You also get an official letter entitling your entry to the government building, which looks pretty neat.
2. Try some local food.
In particular, make sure you try some currywurst. As a vegetarian, I actually found it quite easy to find this German dish in veggie form, at a place called Curry at the Wall Berlin Mitte, close to the Topography of Terror and Checkpoint Charlie. Whilst you're in Berlin get your chops around a giant doughy pretzel, a great thing to eat for breakfast, or as a snack on the go. With butter and chives, these things are addictive! Wash all that food down with a good German beer from one of the many craft beer places across the city.
3. Spend your afternoon at the Jewish Museum.
Not necessarily the first museum in the city that people flock to, but the architecture of the building is worth the trip itself. The museum contains a core collection of items, personal possessions, and letters from Jewish families that tell the history of Jewish people in Germany. Just off from this part of the museum is the Holocaust Tower, a 79-foot tall empty room. Sound and light are only let in through a small slit in the very top of the tall walls, giving you time to pause and reflect on the importance of preserving Jewish history, especially in a city like Berlin. The upstairs features contemporary Jewish art which often explores what the identity means for different people. Also, ensure you take a trip into the garden just off the old section of the museum.
4. Museum Island
If you enjoy museums and art galleries, go all out and devote a day to exploring all the museums of the island, with the special Museum Island pass. The island consists of five museums; Pergamon, Altes, Neues, Bodes-museum, and Alte Nationalgalerie. Pergamonmuseum is the most popular of the five, currently undergoing major refurbishment that won't be finished until 2025, it houses the Ishgar Gate and a collection of Islamic art amongst many other pieces. Bodes-museum contains an extensive collection of sculptures, from the Medieval period to the 18th century. Neuesmuseum consists of a large amount of Ancient Egyptian pieces, the bust of Nerfititi being the star of the show. Alte Nationalgalerie is a must for art lovers, in particular, displays art from world-renowned artists all the way from Romanticism to the early Modernist period. Finally, Altesmuseum specialising in Ancient Greek and Roman art and sculptures. The museums are a sight to behold just studying their architecture.
5. Go on a walking tour round the city.
With so many landmarks across Berlin in close proximity, and accessible by the mighty U-Bahn and S-Bahn, walking and taking public transport is a nice way to sightsee. Start off the day at Alexanderplatz to see the iconic television tower, the world clock and what was once the capital of East Germany. From here, make your way to Rotes Rauthaus, the town hall. Behind this beautiful architecture is the spectacular museum island. You can then catch the underground, or take a scenic bike ride along the river to the East Side Gallery. A thing once of division and pain now turned into something beautiful. Start the next day by visiting Checkpoint Charlie, and even get a picture with an American checkpoint soldier. Then head to Potsdamer Platz where you can oggle at the giant Mall of Berlin, one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe. Keep walking and you'll eventually find yourself at the Jewish memorial, keep your eye out for the museum in the middle of the memorial and pay a visit. Walk a little further and you get to Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building. Finally, take a stroll down the road coming off the Reichstag to the Victory column, stopping on the way to visit the Soviet war memorial.