Since reunification this city on the banks of the Spree has developed into an effervescent world capital. Areas of the city that hibernated and stagnated during the time of division have sprung back to life. Berlin's Mitte, Potsdamer Platz and Friedrichshain are living examples of the Berlin's new spirit.
The new city centre
The new focal point of the city is Potsdamer Platz, a stunning testament to the construction boom that swept the rejuvenated capital. Developed from scratch on drawing boards and computers, this 120,000 m² area has been transformed into a totally new city district, a meeting place for commerce, culture, and business.
A similar approach was taken for the area around the Reichstag. This small area houses not only the upper and lower houses of the German Parliament, but also the Chancellor's residence, various ministries, and a large number of embassies from all over the world. Now that building work on Lehrter Bahnhof, Europe's biggest rail intersection, has been completed, Berlin's status as a world metropolis has been further enhanced.
Lots to discover
The boulevard Unter den Linden began its life as a bridle path linking the central residences on Museum Island with the wooded area of the Tiergarten. Stunning Prussian era buildings have been complemented by modern embassies and office buildings - a stroll down Unter den Linden is a must for every visitor to Berlin.
Oranienburgerstraße and the area north of Alexanderplatz and Spreeinsel are characterised by their cosmopolitan atmosphere. Just a couple of minutes away, in Auguststraße and Linienstraße, you can find a large number of interesting galleries and an abundance of restaurants, trendy cafés and unique bars catering to every taste. Exploring the linked courtyards of the Hackesche Höfe will give you an insight into the courtyard-based life of many Berliners.
Potsdamer Platz has developed into the tourist attraction of central Berlin, and not only because of its annual film festival in February. The ultra-modern Sony Center and Potsdamer Platz Arkaden complexes, along with the new Beisheim Center, offer an interesting mixture of shopping, theatre, casino, cinema, multimedia and modern architecture.
At one time this was the busiest traffic intersection in Europe, but fell into disuse as the Berlin Wall cut directly across its centre. In 1993 this area was turned into the biggest construction site in Europe, and from this building site the new heart of Berlin has emerged.
Biking around Berlin is a practical alternative to taking public transport or driving. Bicycle couriers and velotaxis are an everyday part of the traffic on Berlin's streets. Approximately 10% of the city's streets have lanes especially for cyclists, and there are is also a network of cycle routes for you to get around without the hassle of traffic lights and car drivers.
If you want to explore Berlin, what better way to get around than on the extensive public transport system? Now that the underground and local train networks have been completed, there's no easier way to get from A to B. Even at night you can normally get a bus every 15 minutes, and at the weekend the underground and local trains run round the clock. The official web site for Berlin's public transport operator is •www.bvg.de.
Shopping and eating out
Designer clothes and off-the-wall fashion, department stores and exclusive boutiques, international flare and up-and-coming designers: Berlin has them all. Year after year the world's top designers have been opening new flagship stores in Berlin.
Whether you're looking for fine jewellery or exclusive designer clothes, collections from the rising stars of fashion or unusual footwear, you won't be disappointed. The annual fashion extravaganza “Bread & Butter“ should give you a good idea of awaits you in Berlin.
Apropos food: huge market halls, where you can find the full range of fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products and even clothing, all under one roof, are very popular in Berlin.
The whole world is at home in Berlin, with restaurants offering cuisine from every imaginable country and even a few unimaginable ones, from home cooked to haute cuisine.
If you fancy a culinary world tour or have a taste for innovative food, it's all on the menu here in Berlin. If local food is more to your taste, why not make yourself comfortable in one of the many restaurants in Berlin that offer traditional Berlin delicacies. Wash down your Boulette with a glass of Berliner Weiße and sample the richness of traditional Berlin cooking.
In summer, Berlin becomes an outdoor city. Enjoy the sun or kick back in the shade under a linden or chestnut tree. Even in the city centre you'll be able make yourself at home in one of the numerous beer gardens and relax from the hustle and bustle of big city life.
Escape the city
At the weekend, Berliners love to get off the city streets and head for the green oases of the countless city parks or to catch some rays on the shore of one of Berlin's many lakes. Schlosspark, Tiergarten, or Zoo: the options are unlimited for those who want to relish their free-time in natural surroundings.
If you want to get out of the city, there are so many places you can aim for in Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin. A variety of landscapes, extensive lakes and rivers, and a wide range of sport and relaxation options make Brandenburg worth a visit. Why not head for Potsdam, or the Spreewald lake area in Havelland, or to the Ruppiner Schweiz?
Although most visitors might not be aware of it, Berlin is a paradise for water lovers and water sports enthusiasts. The numbers speak for themselves: the city has 51.7 km² of water, that's almost 7% of the total surface area of the city. This includes a large number of lakes and approximately 180 km of navigable waterways.
Together with Brandenburg, Berlin has Europe's largest network of lakes, canals and rivers. If you have a thing for bridges, there's no need to go to Venice: with 1700 bridges Berlin has more bridges than the “City of Canals“ on the Adriatic.