It’s more than 15 years since the wall came down and Berlin is still on the up. The German capital blends an intriguing past with a multi-cultural influence unseen in any other German city, creating a truly vibrant short-break destination.
It is unmissable for its restaurants, bars and frenetic cultural mix: where dirty blues clubs sit next to trendy bars, and flea markets nudge up alongside designer boutiques.
This neo-Baroque edifice housing the German Bundestag (Parliament) survived wars, Nazis, fire, bombing and the country’s division, only to return as a symbol of a new era in German politics. A trip to the top of this open, playful and defiantly democratic space, designed by Sir Norman Foster, is a must, but note that you can’t just rock up any more: following a series of terrorist threats in 2010, you must now book in advance by filling in an online form at visite.bundestag.de, including three possible time slots you can make, at least three working days in advance
Make like a Berliner and stretch your legs with a stroll, jog or cycle through the city’s most famous park, which comes into its own during spring and summer. Whether you’re hunting famous monuments, a beer and a sausage, or a spot to sunbathe naked, you’ll find what you’re looking for. This 5km (three-mile) circuit will return you to your starting point ready for your next adventure within an hour or so. Don’t worry if you get lost – the park is full of maps with ‘you are here’ markers.
Brandenburg, the north-eastern state surrounding Berlin, is known as the land of 3,000 lakes. Starkly beautiful in winter and especially appealing in the warmer months, many lakes are easily accessible by public transport and each has its own character. While some may be better for swimming and others for sunbathing, you’ll certainly be able to find one that’s right for you (just like the locals). Such idyllic scenes offer the perfect antidote to a hard night’s partying in the centre.
Germany is the world capital of avant-garde theatre, and the most renowned of its many, many lavishly state-funded theatres is the striking Schaübuhne am Lehniner Platz. A former cinema – built in 1928 in a Bauhaus style – it became home to the radical Schaübuhne ensemble in the late ’70s and has been run since 1999 by influential director Thomas Ostermeier. The Schaübuhne plays host to first-rate leftfield names from Germany and beyond – Switzerland’s Milo Rau and Britain’s Katie Mitchell are notable regulars. As with most German theatres, it operates a rep system, with productions from years back frequently popping back into circulation – Ostermeier’s gloriously anarchic 2008 ‘Hamlet’ is a regularly-revived oldie well worth catching. Performances are mostly in German, but every month a solid smattering are surtitled in English or French.