Berlin Wall, Berlin
The defining symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall functioned as both a literal and figurative barrier between capitalist Western Europe and Communist Eastern Europe for nearly 30 years between 1961 to its collapse in 1989. The most recognisable modern landmark of the city, the Berlin Wall’s collapse catalysed the reunification of East and West Germany, and its remains function today as a potent reminder of the country’s recent history and former divisions. Today, the Berlin Wall remains a focal tourist attraction, with a number of auxiliary sites, most notably the East Side Gallery, an open-air gallery specialising in street art and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which specialises in the history of the Wall itself. One of the most important historical sites of the 20th Century, the Berlin Wall is an essential destination for those visiting the German capital
Museum Island, Berlin
Arguably the city’s most significant cultural centre, Museum Island is located in the Mitte district in the centre of Berlin. A complex comprised of the city’s most significant museums – the Island includes the Altes (Old) Museum, which dates back to the early 19th Century and specialises in antiquities. The Neues (New) Museum, built initially in the mid-19th Century and was redeveloped in 2009, is known for its neoclassical design and impressive collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts including the iconic Nefertiti Bust. The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), built in the mid-19th Century, is one of the city’s most impressive art collections, specialising in Neoclasical, Impressionist and Early Modernist art. The Bode Museum, built in the early twentieth century, specialises in Late Antiquities. Lastly, the Pergamon Museum, built in 1930 after 20 years of construction, is known for its recreations of iconic ancient structures such as the Ishtar Gate. An additional museum, the Humboldt Forum, is due to open in the Berlin Palace in 2009, hosting the pre-existing Museum of Asian Art and Ethnological Museum of Berlin. For those looking for their cultural fix in Berlin, this is the best place to start.
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
Another iconic site of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate was built at the end of the 19th Century in 1791 under the instruction of Prussian King Frederick William II. The Brandenburg Gate is notable for its distinct neoclassical design and its huge significance in German political history over the past 200 years. The gate has been the site for a number of political processions, being first utilised for this purpose by Napoleon Bonaparte following his military victory over the Prussians in 1806. During the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Brandenburg Gate was a notable symbol of Nazi power, and despite sustaining considerable damage towards the end of the Second World War, it was successfully restored through joint efforts of East and West Berlin, thus outliving the conflict and the Nazi co-opting of its likeness. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the cessation of the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate became a prominent symbol of unification and freedom. Today, it remains a valuable celebratory symbol and plays host to a number of national celebrations, most notably the German National Football Team’s World Cup victory rally in 2014.
Reichstag Hall, Berlin
One of Berlin’s most recognisable historical buildings, the Reichstag Building dates back to the turn of the twentieth century, having opened in 1894. Initially housing the Imperial Diet (Parliament) of the German Empire, it fell into disrepair following a devastating fire in 1933 shortly after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It was not until the aftermath of the Cold War in 1990 when the building was finally afforded an extensive refurbishment. It is difficult to believe that such a magnificent site remained neglected for so long, but since its reconstruction it has become one of the city’s major tourist sites, the second-most visited in the country, known both for its historical significance and the glass dome, which offers stunning views of the city.
Cologne Cathedral, Cologne
The most-visited landmark in the entire country, the Cologne Cathedral is one of the most iconic masterpieces of Gothic Architecture in the world and draws an astounding 20,000 visitors a day. An incredibly striking building with notably tall spires, the Cologne Cathedral was constructed over a period exceeding six centuries. Construction began in 1248 and was finally completed after several hiatuses towards the end of the 19th Century in 1880. One of the most impressive cathedrals in the world, the Cologne Cathedral is one of the Christian religion’s most enduring and impressive buildings.
Lake Constance, Bavaria
Straddling the borders of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the immense Lake Constance draws an enormous 70 million visitors per day across all seasons. It is known for being a popular outdoor sports destination, particularly for watersports in the summer and for skiing during the winter. Truly one of the most spectacular sites in Germany, the lake is also one of the last places in the world in which one can board a Zeppelin, which offers unparalleled views of the breathtaking Alpine scenery.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria
One of Germany’s most notable castles and popular tourist sites, Neuschwanstein Castle is an impressive relic of 19th Century Bavaria, designed in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Built under the orders of Ludwig II, he died shortly after its completion, following which the castle was opened to the public. Nestling atop a hill, the castle is one of the most striking buildings of its kind, known as much for its stunning backdrop as it is for its elaborate Romantic design.
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg
Arguably the most impressive ruins in the whole of Germany, Heidelberg Castle dates back to the early 13th Century and its exterior has somehow sustained considerable damage from a number of different natural and man-made disasters over the time since. The Heidelberg Castle is considered to be the definitive Renaissance structure of Northern Europe and when visiting the vast, picturesque ruins, it is easy to see why.
One of the most singularly German experiences one can find, Oktoberfest is an annual beer festival held in late September/early October and draws millions of visitors per year. A celebration of Bavarian culture, Oktoberfest is a significant German institution held in the city of Munich. A true sight to behold, Oktoberfest is worth a visit for revelers as well as those with an interest in German culture.
Christmas Markets, Nuremberg
Few countries celebrate Christmas as well as Germany, and there is no better place to soak up the Yuletide festivities than Nuremberg. One of the largest and most famous Christmas markets in the world, the Christkindlesmarket caters to those of all ages. Playing host to stalls specialising in food, alcohol and local craftsmanship, Nuremberg is transformed during the Advent period, exuding one of the most festive atmospheres in the world.