Overview

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin © Thomas Wolf

For most of the latter part of the 20th century, Berlin was emblematic of the division between East and West. When the Berlin Wall was brought down in 1989, the city had two very distinct societies, both socially and economically. However, more recent decades have seen Berlin embracing unification and rebuilding itself as a cosmopolitan, exciting and efficient modern European capital.

More than 100 streets have been reconnected, and signs of the Wall's existence have all but disappeared. But years of division are still reflected in the new city's architecture, with a modern city of skyscrapers, retail centres and urban developments in the West contrasting with the remains of the pre-war city in the East.

For nearly 30 years, the Wall sealed off the imposing Brandenburg Gate from the West, but now traffic passes through it freely. Similarly, Alexanderplatz, which was one of the main centres of 1920s Berlin and post-war East Germany, has once again become one of the city's focal centres. The site of the infamous Checkpoint Charlie that ensured no one illegally crossed over from East to West is now a museum, and visitors can see the East Side Gallery, a surviving chunk of the Wall riotously decorated by street artists.

Apart from its unique historical status, Berlin is once again a vibrant centre for the arts, with many museums, galleries and theatres. At the Kulturforum, visitors will find a number of impressive museums and concert venues from the spectacular Berliner Philharmonie concert hall to the Picture Gallery, which houses a vast collection of European paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Berlin also boasts a fantastic nightlife, enjoying a vast array of venues and scenes catering to an extreme range of tastes and delights. Berlin's calendar is also packed with festivals and parties, from the Berlin Pride Celebration in June to Jazz Fest Berlin in November. All this contributes to an ever-evolving city, which ensures no two holidays to Berlin are ever the same.