Berlin's essential must-see attractions

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by Hertz - 04 October 2019

Few cities let their landmarks do the talking like Berlin. The Reichstag’s fusion of ultra-modern engineering with traditional construction. Long stretches of intimidating wall – once divided, now memorialised. And some of the continent’s most scenic sights by serene lakes.

With car hire in Berlin you’ll have the chance to discover it all for yourself. Here’s our guide to the unmissable sights both in the city and further afield.

Reichstag building




Following German reunification in 1990, the decision was taken to restore parliament to the old Reichstag building, which had suffered from decades of neglect in divided Berlin.

Originally opened in 1894, the Reichstag served for almost 40 years before being ravaged by a fire in 1933. Damage suffered from air raids during World War II made sure the grand old building wouldn’t see political action again for more than 50 years.

The building’s restoration took the bulk of the 1990s to complete. Careful decisions were made to retain certain elements of the war-torn remnants – look closely and you might spy the odd bullet hole – contrasting with modern elements, such as the magnificent steel-and-glass dome. It’s open to the public and serves as a viewing platform of the city, as well as peering down into the Bundestag’s chamber below, a reminder that the people are above the parliament.

Museum Island




Comprising five magnificent museums, Museum Island is one of Berlin’s most impressive sights – and that’s just from the outside. Sitting on the Spree River, each museum collects artefacts and exhibits from across time and space for the benefits of more than three million visitors a year.

Highlights include the bust of Nefertiti, one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous figures, and stepmother to Tutankhamun, which can be found in the Neues Museum along with a range of other amazing Egyptian artefacts. In the Pergamon Museum stands the restored majesty of the Ishtar Gate – one of the gates that fortified the inner city of Babylon.

This collection of buildings gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 – a fitting tribute to the importance of Berlin’s beautiful bounty displayed in this fantastic setting.

Checkpoint Charlie




One of Berlin’s staunchest reminders of the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie marks the line drawn between the Allied and Soviet occupiers when Berlin was divided into two following the Second World War.

A recreation of the original guardhouse sits on Friedrichstraße, straddling the line between East and West Berlin, the most frequent site for crossing between East and West during the days of occupation.

A nearby museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, is dedicated to the history of Allied-Soviet tensions and their effect on the population. It displays some of the vehicles and props which savvy East Germans used to make their escape over (and under) the Berlin Wall, as well as a memorial to those who lost their lives trying.

East Side Gallery




Berlin is packed with museums detailing its rich history, but the foreboding Berlin Wall does more than any exhibit ever could in demonstrating the sense of loss that once shrouded the city. The longest-surviving stretch of wall runs alongside the river in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and is known as the East Side Gallery due to its fascinating final purpose.

Months after the fall of the Wall, artists from all over the world gathered to splash a spectrum of colour and personality on the Wall’s east side. The result is one of the most vibrant kilometre-long walks in the whole of Europe, as colourful messages of hope and peace permeate through the imposing, drab dividers that kept families apart for decades.

Wannsee




Physically only a short drive from the city centre, but spiritually so far separated from Berlin, you’ll find a group of lakes that has long served as a luxury weekend getaway for city slickers.

Here on Grosser Wannsee, among specially imported white sands and pretty buildings held over from Berlin’s own Roaring Twenties, yachts sail on beautiful blue waters. When conditions are at their best, the prime sunbathing spots fill up quickly – as do the dozens of restaurants dotting the pretty promenades. The region is also brimming with architectural prowess – several locations including Glienicke Palace and the fairy-tale Pfaueninsel have attained UNESCO status.

Since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the city’s character has grown immeasurably from both sides’ contribution to culture. Along with attempts to immortalise the past, the city has also built for the future with some amazing tourist attractions and natural wonders.

To see them for yourself, hire a car in Berlin and enjoy a route through history.

 

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Article by Hertz

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