In Berlin, you’ll find history everywhere and plenty of high-culture museums and galleries, but also street art, jazz and currywurst. The city is a living textbook on architecture, with plenty of palaces and memorials, but also easily accessible forests and lakes.

The 18 episodes in this series bring you all the background history and culture you need to fully understand Berlin. We help you ‘meet’ Frederick the Great, seek out the Berlin Wall, discover Germany’s best artists and decide whether to visit Charlottenburg or the lakes outside the city.

In short, here is all the research you’d do yourself if only you had the time! So, let’s go, or as the Germans say ‘Los geht’s!’


The Reichstag (German Parliament) , Berlin

Episode 1: Introduction to Berlin

Willkommen in Berlin: welcome to Berlin. There’s nowhere quite like it: a turbulent history, an unrivalled cultural richness, green and modern and laid back all at once. The city of Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie, … Read more
The Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Episode 2: The Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag

Berlin’s two big-hitters, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (German Parliament) are conveniently close together. It is true of both that knowing a little of their history will enhance your visit: for Berliners themselves, their … Read more
Berlin Cathedral (taken from a window in the Alte Nationalgalerie)

Episode 3: Berlin’s Unter den Linden

A good plan for your first day in Berlin is to explore Unter den Linden, the mile-long boulevard which begins at the Brandenburg Gate and extends eastwards to Museum Island and the River Spree. It … Read more
Signs at the Tiergarten, Berlin

Episode 4: The Tiergarten and the Ku’damm

There might be fewer ‘must-sees’ in the western half of Berlin than further east, but they are winners: a glorious park which began life as a 16th century royal hunting ground and is today the … Read more
Bebelplatz, Berlin

Episode 5: Four Berlin Squares

Four Berlin Squares: here’s our idea for a walk which takes in four squares in what was East Berlin. They include everything from baroque splendour to the ultra-modern, via memories of East Germany.  We’ve covered … Read more
Photo of a sign outside the Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin

Episode 6: Finding World War 2 in Berlin Today

You can’t really go to Berlin without mentioning the war. In fact for anyone with an interest in history it might be the main focus of their visit. There are lots of places in the … Read more
The Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

Episode 7: Berlin: Holocaust and Remembrance

Berlin does everything possible to make sure the Holocaust is never forgotten. This post is a guide to a number of places in the city where you can learn what happened and remember the victims, … Read more
Sign at Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

Episode 8: In Search of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall is undoubtedly one of the 20th century’s most fascinating stories and this post will give you a little background, then describe three places you can visit in Berlin today to see what’s … Read more
Sign at the DDR Museum in Berlin

Episode 9: In Search of East Berlin

What has happened to the GDR (German Democratic Republic), the country which was created when the Berlin wall went up and then disappeared when it came down? It was home to 17 million people for … Read more
Painting: Two Men by the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich

Episode 10: Berlin’s Top 3 Art Galleries

Visiting Berlin’s art galleries can be confusing. Which is the main one? The best answer to that is that there are three, which between them display German and international art in roughly chronological order. The … Read more
The Bauhaus Archive in Berlin

Episode 11: More Berlin Art

There’s so much more to art in Berlin than the Top 3 Galleries from our last post. So here’s a look at an artist who has a museum dedicated to her (Käthe Kollwitz), a 20th … Read more
Theater des Westens, Berlin

Episode 12: Music and Theatre in Berlin

Berlin has a rich history of music and theatre and adding a visit to a concert or a performance to your itinerary will let you peek into the city’s culture in a way nothing else … Read more
DSCN0223 scaled

Episode 13: Film and Cinema in Berlin

Berlin and cinema have long been linked and there’s lots for film fans to explore in the city: a film museum and a working film studio which you can visit, a host of cinemas and … Read more
New Synagogue, Berlin

Episode 14: Finding Jewish Culture in Berlin

Jews first settled in Berlin centuries ago and their culture has marked the city profoundly. A previous blogpost was about the holocaust and remembrance in Berlin; this one covers the places in the city where … Read more
Charlottenburg, Berlin

Episode 15: Charlottenburg, Berlin’s Summer Palace

The Palace of Charlottenburg, the former summer palace of the Hohenzollern family who ruled Prussia for five centuries until 1918, is in the west of the city, a ten minute walk from the Sophie-Charlotte-Platz stop … Read more
LAKES Peacock Island Sep12 img 07 scaled

Episode 16: Berlin: A Day at the Lakes

If you ever fancy a day out of the city, do what Berliners do and visit one of the nearby lakes. This post focuses on Lake Wannsee, a favourite lakeside bathing spot just a short … Read more
Cover of the book Stasiland by Anna Funder

Episode 17: Writers on Berlin

Writers have had much to say about Berlin.  For David Bowie, Berlin was ‘the greatest cultural extravaganza one could imagine’, while Lonely Planet editors highlighted its ‘combo of glamour and grit.’  For the Cold War … Read more
NOVELS Book of Clouds

Episode 18: Novels set in Berlin

Every author who sets a work in Berlin brings a different slant: new ideas which often show the city in an unexpected light. So, here are eight novels to inspire you. Read them before or … Read more

berlin: links and reading

2 useful websites for tourists
Berlin Tourist Information
Inspiring Germany Travel Information 

Most useful and comprehensive guidebook
Lonely Planet Berlin by Andrea Schulter-Peevers

2 more guidebooks which provide all the basics
Eyewitness Berlin
The Pocket Rough Guide to Berlin

2 useful books which focus more on where to eat, drink and shop
Berlin like a Local  by the people who call it home
Wanderlust in Berlin by Julian Tompkin

History and biography
The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding
Stasiland by Anna Funder
Tunnel 29 by Helena Merriman
Red Love by Maxim Leo

8 Novels set in Berlin
Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane
The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite by Beatrice Collin
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Fatherland by Robert Harris
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré
Friedrichsstrasse 19 by Emma Harding
Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis

2 Literary anthologies
City Lit Berlin edited by Heather Reyes
Berlin, A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger



Golden Triangle 011200

Episode 8: Food and Shopping in Bordeaux

City Breaks
Wheat Treading in the Camargue, Rosa Bonheur, Musee des Beaux Arts, Bordeaux

Episode 7: 3 Bordeaux Art Galleries

City Breaks
Bordeaux wine shop

Episode 6: Bordeaux Wine

City Breaks