If you have any interest in history whatsoever, Berlin must be near the top of your bucket list. As someone whose friends have to tell me to shut up because they "don’t need another fun facts about the Cold War,” it was understandable that my visit to Berlin was something I’d been planning for years.
Berlin is a city that is so rich with history, that everywhere you look there’s something that makes history nerds like me squeal. And these places most definitely made the wait worthwhile ...
The walk across the short bridge to the island is stunning as you see the blue dome of the Berlin Cathedral peers over the trees. The island consists of five internationally significant museums, which are the perfect place for an ancient history fix. This includes the Neues museum which contains the famous bust of Nefertiti – which I even got told off for taking a photo of!
Even if ancient history is not your cup of tea the island is definitely worth a visit, even just to relax on the grass with some lunch and a view of the magnificent architecture of the museums.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Opening sixty years after the end of World War II, the memorial encompasses the famous concrete slabs and an underground Documentation Centre. As you wander through the grid of concrete the walls get higher and higher creating an atmosphere of confusion and claustrophobia.
Inside the Documentation Centre rooms, one is dedicated to projecting a name of a holocaust victim onto the walls followed by a short biography. If they were to do this for every holocaust victim, it would take seven years.
Berlin Wall Memorial
After the East Side Gallery, you might want to head over to Bernauer Straße for a more informative view of the Berlin Wall. Located on the former border strip, the site of many attempted escapes from East Berlin is now an open-air exhibition of the history of the Wall.
It features various information points that tell you about the creative ideas used to escape East Berlin (one was legitimately using a hot air balloon). Whilst the remaining standing sections of the grim concrete wall marks a stark contrast to the vibrancy of the East Side Gallery.
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There are certain monuments that you instantly associate with a particular city when you see them on an insta feed: the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Colosseum and in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate (or maybe that’s just my history-addled brain). With over two hundred years of history, the Brandenburg Gate has really been through it.
Built in the Prussian era, the gate has seen the chariot atop it be stolen by Napoleon’s forces, the procession to celebrate Hitler’s seizure of power, and the Soviet flag following the end of World War II. It was also the site of Ronald Reagan’s, “Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall!” speech.
The DDR Museum is a small museum located just across the river from the Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island. Focused on the everyday life of citizens in East Germany, it presents information in an extremely lively and interactive format – with various cupboards and drawers to open in order to discover photos, information and relics of East German life.
This is the perfect place to replenish your stores of random fun facts that will probably never come in handy such as how good East Germany was at the Olympics.
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