Berlin: 6 things that surprised me

I have a confession to make. Berlin is not my kind of city. To me, it has neither the charm of towns like Seville, Prague, Tallinn or the big city feel of London or New York. We visited Berlin in December 2017 (another long overdue post, sorry!), and although I didn’t fall in love with Berlin, the city still surprised me. In this post, I will tell you why.

1. Modern Architecture

Berlin is full of contemporary and bold architecture. From the train-station to many government buildings around the Reichstag, the buildings are all various shapes and sizes. I’m not a big fan of such architecture, but in Berlin, I found that all the buildings suited their setting.

Reichstag as seen from the State Park

2. It’s a Young City

In my head, I expected Berlin to be full of buildings that are centuries old, but this was not to be the case. You wonder why, until you realise that most buildings have been built in the last 50 to 60 years, after World War II. So in an architectural sense, it is a young city.

Berlin Station
Berlin Skyline – seen from top of the Reichstag

3. Christmas Markets

In Berlin, I finally got to visit a German Christmas market actually in Germany! Berlin had many Christmas Markets scattered across town. Coming from Birmingham I was used to one very large Christmas market in the town centre. But in Berlin, the Christmas Markets of varying sizes were spread across the city – some were large enough to have their own ferris wheel and beer halls, whilst the others were only a few stalls big. The Christmas Market at the Gendarmentmarkt is the most impressive, and busiest.

Christmas Market near St Mary’s Church
Christmas Market at Gendarmentmarkt
Christmas Market at Gendarmentmarkt

4. The Wall

Nothing is more synonymous with Berlin than the Wall. But to truly appreciate the scale and size of the wall, and its impact on the community, you have to go to Berlin. Some parts of the wall, like the famous East side gallery are still preserved. For the rest of it, there is a line of two bricks marking where the wall used to be.

Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery
Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery
Line of two bricks marking the location of the Berlin Wall
Line of two bricks marking the location of the Berlin Wall

5. The Reichstag Building

The Reichstag building is the home of the German Parliament, the Bundestag. The building was originally built in 1894, but was damaged by a fire in 1933. The building fell into disused after World War II, and was restored in the 1990s, after German re-unification. The renovations kept the original old facade of the building, but the interiors are designed in the modern style. One of the most striking features is the glass dome, added as part of the renovations. You can get great views of the Berlin skyline from the terrace surrounding the dome.

The Reichstag building
The Reichstag roof terrace
Berlin skyline from Reichstag

The Reichstag is the second most visited attraction in Germany (behind the Cologne Cathedral). It is advisable to book in advance if visiting the Reichstag, but it is also possible to book on the day if free passes are still available.

6. The Food

Not a surprise per se, but I was impressed by the food we had in Berlin. Portions were huge, and there was a lot of variety.

A typical starter
Main course
Main Course
Dessert

Have you been to Berlin? What did you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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