The tenth in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to Berlin, Germany, features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
Berlin is a dynamic place, still in the process of self-reinvention a quarter-century after the collapse of its infamous Wall. Most traces of World War II have been obscured, and although vestiges of Eastern Bloc prefabricated construction (plattenbau) remain, modern economic forces are rapidly remodeling the city. The transition is most evident at Potsdamer Platz, the historic public square laid waste by Allied bombing and neglected during the Cold War, which now boasts buildings designed by some of the world’s leading architects. The Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is the cultural heart of the city, centerpieced by the Pergamon Museum, which contains an astonishing collection of classical antiquities, including the immense Pergamon Altar and Babylon’s blue-tiled Ishtar Gate.
When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in Berlin.
The best weather can be found between May and September, when outdoor activities such as strolling through parks and relaxing at riverfront cafés are the most enjoyable. Summer is the most popular time to visit, so expect more tourists and higher prices. Winter can be quite chilly, with temperatures averaging between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Want to experience Berlin like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industry.
Andrew Harper, Editor in Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel
Many people make a point of reserving advance tickets to go inside the glass dome of the Reichstag, but it’s also fun to reserve a table for lunch at the Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant on the roof adjacent to the dome. The other roof terrace I love is atop the Hotel de Rome.
Tyler G, Web Producer, Andrew Harper Travel
My family recently took a trip to Berlin and I thoroughly enjoyed climbing to the top of the Berlin Cathedral just before sunset. Looking down at the people on the grassy front lawn made for visually interesting photos and the light was just perfect as the sun began to lower behind the surrounding domes.
Berlin has a vibrant culinary scene, ranging from flavorful Turkish street food to palace-style Michelin two-star establishments such as Fischers Fritz and Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer. New German cuisine, in which chefs reinterpret traditional dishes for modern palates, reaches its height here.
Tim Raue’s eponymous restaurant deserves its two-star rating, but this time I wanted to try his wildly popular informal restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg, La Soupe Populaire, housed in the 19th-century headquarters of the Bötzow Brewery. Walking past a crashed bus sculpture into what appeared to be an abandoned factory, we had no question that we were in Berlin. The permanent menu offers modern versions of local classics, and a second rotating menu draws inspiration from the changing contemporary art exhibition displayed on the exposed brick walls among the old girders and pipes. I loved my sweet and spicy red prawns with cumin-spiked couscous, and the delicate Königsberger Klopse, traditional meatballs made here with veal, tête de veau and veal tongue served with wine-spiked chicken gravy, beets and buttery potato purée. Very friendly English-speaking staff. Closed Sunday-Wednesday.
Chef Kolja Kleeberg presents a creative Continental menu in a gleaming setting of steel, glass and slate. Representative dishes include sea bass in miso with bok choy, lotus and licorice; and crispy suckling pig with Riesling sauerkraut, potato confit and watercress. The wine list is exceptional. Closed Sunday.
Chef Thomas Kammeier has created a stir with his contemporary German cooking at this glamorous restaurant on the top floor of the Hotel InterContinental. His tasting menus change regularly, but run to dishes such as pan-fried sea bass with celery and caramelized whey, grilled veal fillet with oxtail tortellini and truffles, and almond soup with mandarin orange and carrot. Closed Sunday and Monday.
This one-star restaurant also has a great sense of place, being housed in the gymnasium of a former Jewish girls’ school. Three-tiered amber glass Murano chandeliers provide most of the decoration, aside from a red-and-gray missile perched above the window to the kitchen, making the atmosphere feel at once elegant and edgy. The four-course menu on the night of our visit consisted of a refreshing coupe of cold shrimp, gazpacho-like cucumber sorbet, onions and avocado; rich Bavarian-style pork belly with fried snails and smoked onion purée; a deeply flavored but light dish of turbot with crisped veal, fried oysters and oyster mousseline; an unusual presentation of duck “pastrami” with pickled vegetables; and an aromatic dessert of a vanilla cream-filled chocolate cylinder with elderflower-pickled apricots, almond ice cream and lavender meringue. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Chef Daniel Achilles won two Michelin stars for his Continental cooking served in a chic dining room within the renovated former workshops of the AEG electrical company. Expect unusual and dramatic dishes such as venison ham with meadow grasses, berries and shallots; ox marrow with scallop tartare, macadamia nuts and water dock leaves; and sunflower seed bread with nougat and ice cream. Closed Sunday and Monday.
One of Berlin’s newest and most anticipated restaurants, Nobelhart & Schmutzig is religiously devoted to local and seasonal ingredients, going so far as to avoid anything not produced in the region, including citrus and black pepper. I feared the food might be gimmicky, but almost every course on the tasting menu was delicious, as were the ambitious wine pairings (thankfully not confined to the immediate region). One of my favorites was a dish of char roe and sour cream served atop rapeseed flowers instead of blini. I also loved the savory blood pudding with barely bitter radishes and refreshing parsley purée, and the wonderfully clean celery broth enriched with beef fat and crunchy leeks. Almost all seats surround a long counter facing the open kitchen. Closed Sunday and Monday.
This attractive restaurant serves both French and German dishes in a dining room adorned with art nouveau mosaics. Start with oysters from the North Sea island of Sylt, then try the excellent Wiener schnitzel with hot German potato salad, a steak or salmon. Open late, this is a particularly useful address for supper after a concert or ballet.
The opulent food hall on the sixth floor of this venerable department store is a terrific place for a quick lunch. Counters serve different foods, so you can opt for oysters, sushi or smoked salmon — or experiment with some 1,200 varieties of sausage and cold cuts. Closed Sunday.
Don't overlook these important attractions while visiting Berlin.
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