The best places to visit in Germany

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Germany A-Z travel guide 2019: Berlin – the inner east

For travellers searching for things to do in Berlin, the inner eastern areas of the city provide endless fascination. People visiting Berlin always find parts of the Berlin Wall attractive and there is a recreated section of it along a historic stretch of Bernauer Straße, along the boundary of Prenzlauer Berg.

Bernauer Straße is guaranteed a place in history, and in any Berlin travel guide. It was one of the centres of the drama surrounding the raising of the border wall in 1961 and it is not hard to find online images of people dropping from windows to the promise of a better life on the western side.

Today, among places to visit in Berlin, the string of open-air memorials and exhibition sites known as Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer is among the most informative and poignant. A linked documentation centre is opposite. Between Nordbahnhof and Brunnenstraße are the remains of barriers, information boards, audio and visual posts and memorials to victims. Small plates on the footpath mark some of the successful escapes through the barrier and a smartphone app helps guide.

An exhibit in the Nordbahnhof station subway explains the strange divided rail network of the Cold War years and how the guarded ‘ghost’ stations of East Berlin were closed to the West Berlin rail passengers who travelled under East Berlin territory.

At the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the first place East Berliners managed to get through to West Berlin was from this inner suburb, on the east side of the Bösebrücke rail bridge on Bornholmer Straße. Following the announcement by the East German government that frontiers would open, a noisy crowd of East Berlin’s first travellers gathered at a border post that had been sealed to them for 28 years, demanding the guard unit let them through. After tense minutes, and lacking clear official guidance despite his desperate phone calls, the officer in charge of the post resolved to open the gate.

Today, Platz des 9. November 1989 commemorates the moment the first East Berlin residents were able to cross to West Berlin. Information boards record the history of the border post and the night the bridge reopened forever. It was a momentous 24 hours of history.

It was also in Prenzlauer Berg, at the corner of Eberswalder Straße and Bernauer Straße near the popular weekend market area now known as Mauerpark, that the first formal crossing was created through the Wall, 15 minutes after midnight on November 10.

The tumult surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall began the latest chapter of the story of what had long been a working-class suburb. In the early 1990s many of the district’s streets were shabby hangouts for a youth frustrated during the declining years of the GDR, in need of social investment. This soon gave way to counter-culture lifestyles.

Kollwitzplatz is the focal point of a new, upwardly mobile Prenzlauer Berg. There is an irony in this. In the playground is a copy of a work by the proletarian artist-sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, who lived in the precinct for more than 50 years and now lends her name to the square. Prenzlauer Berg’s working-class traditions belong with the period of Berlin’s industrial growth from the 1870s.

Now parts of Prenzlauer Berg rank among Berlin’s prestigious addresses, thanks to the gentrification that has transformed parts of Berlin since reunification. The conversion has been profound and has crept into nearby district.

Hundreds of the buildings from the late 19th century that survived World War II have been heritage-listed. Among young families, Kollwitzstraße, now lined with restaurants, bars and cafes, is one of the most leafy and desirable streets of today’s Berlin. Kastanienallee and Sredzkistraße (linked by Oderberger Straße) are streetscapes for high-value apartments and eateries, cafes and occasional boutique shop fronts.

Nearby, on Knaackstraße, there is a darker past to remember. On a hill once dotted with windmills, the city authorities in 1875 built a water tower that is now an attractively restored industrial monument, surrounded by a small public garden. But it was also the site of what was probably the first Nazi concentration camp. Dissidents were confined, tortured and killed in the water tower’s engine house and boiler room from 1933 and a memorial to the victims today marks the spot.

Another monument to the industrial heritage of the Prenzlauer Berg is the Kulturbrauerei, the former Schultheiss beer site on Schönhauser Allee that in its heyday was one of the world’s great breweries. It has been transformed to a centre for performance, cinema, bars and shops, with a small tourist office and a museum maintaining a standing exhibition on everyday life of the German Democratic Republic.

Prenzlauer Berg shares Berlin’s heritage of parks and gardens, but not through the foresight and planning of Berlin’s 19th century landscape architects. Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg was created in the 1960s from three mounds of World War II rubble from the centre of Berlin. There were already hills and gardens on the 30 hectare site but these were enlarged by millions of cubic metres of debris. Walking paths were laid and small sculptures were added in the 1970s.

Prenzlauer Berg retains some of its urban grit in outer areas around busy Schönhauser Allee, Eberswalder Straße and Danziger Straße. Here, budget visitor accommodation, largely aimed at the young, has increased to balance the several mid-priced small hotels and pensions around Kastanienallee.

The extension of gentrification to Friedrichshain and the southern district of Kreuzberg has created a new Berlin chic.

Friedrichshain’s urban origins are in the rapid industrialisation of Berlin late in the 19th century. Like many parts of the former East Berlin, its surviving examples of Art Nouveau housing have benefited from the makeover. But for travellers the district is also a centre for budget accommodation, including a hostel that plays on ‘Ostalgie’ with its 1980s decor, and has a lively scene of small cafes.

Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, separated by the Berlin Wall between 1945 and 1989 and still separated by the river Spree, are now one municipal district. They are joined by the curious Oberbaumbrücke, a Spree bridge carrying both road traffic and a U-Bahn line. The bridge was modelled on medieval tower styles, recalling a long-disappeared city gate, and opened in 1896.

Friedrichshain is best known for two features strung parallel to the line of the Spree. Karl-Marx-Allee was the premier boulevard of the GDR when constructed as Stalinallee – emerging from the remains of post-war Berlin in the years 1950-65 and new apartment blocks were developed at a time when the rubble of Berlin still lay in piles.

In a ruined city, the area was one of those especially hard-hit. But a stretch of the boulevard almost 2km long was greatly widened and the Strausberger Platz, the area of the earliest post-war buildings, made into a communist showpiece. The strip closer to Alexanderplatz is in the 1960s style. The buildings were occupied by party officials and the workers who built them and remain monuments to the architecture of the Stalinist period. But a statue of Stalin built as part of the development no longer stands.

The other big Friedrichshain attraction, the Kunstmeile or East Side Gallery, comprises more than 100 separate works of art painted 1989-90 on the longest surviving length of the Berlin Wall on the Mühlenstraße or east bank of the Spree. Political comment is the focus of these works by international artists and photographs added on the river side of the wall depict human rights themes. After controversy over the restoration of some works, four painted sections of wall were removed from their site as part of a real estate development in March 2013. At the time the developers declared their intention to return them, but a lobby of artists called for UNESCO world heritage listing to protect the site, an ambition heavily promoted but still unrealised.

Beyond Karl-Marx-Allee’s high-rise blocks are the more modest proportions of Boxhagener Platz, a leafy square amid a residential precinct noted for its cafes and regarded as typifying Friedrichshain’s developing social life. This is the place to observe the new Berliner at the Trödelmarkt am Boxhagener Platz, a flea market that takes place on Sundays.

Volkspark Friedrichshain, the source of the district’s name, was first laid out in the 1840s by the master landscape gardener Peter Joseph Lenné and extended in the 1870s. It provided an example for later developments that provided relief for working-class Berliners as the city’s development intensified and sprawled. Its wooded areas encompass two hills providing lookout points including Mont Klamott, at just over 70m one of the highest points in Berlin.

Long the centre of Berlin counter-culture, including a squatter population, Kreuzberg’s large post-war population of Turkish and otherwise immigrant backgrounds – also a feature of neighbouring Neukölln – provides a contrast with Friedrichshain. This, overlaid with Kreuzberg’s inherited tolerance, equals variety and excitement. In recent years two writers of Turkish background contributed an online research article entitled In Kreuzberg, there are no Foreigners! This is also true of the north part of Neukölln, which now seems to have more in common with Kreuzberg south of the Landwehrkanal than Kreuzberg’s more recently gentrified northern part around Oranienstraße.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the Türkenmarkt, a market of many foods, fabrics and a passing parade of motley patrons, snakes along Maybachufer, the Landwehrkanal’s south bank at the north end of Neukölln, another exhibit of diversity.

But Kreuzberg’s gentler shades are worth appreciation. A short walk from the U-Bahn at Mehringdamm is the restaurant and cafe district around Gneisenaustraße. Just to the south at Bergmannstraße, a stroll east towards Marheinekeplatz leads to an indoor market. Further walking takes in some of the more fashionable cafes and bars as well as leafy streets of what is widely known as the Bergmannkiez.

Two monuments in the district offer further contrasts typical of Berlin. The Kreuzberg-Denkmal (1821) on the peak in Viktoriapark was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who had earlier designed the decoration of the Iron Cross for the king Friedrich Wilhelm III for Prussia’s Wars of Liberation against Napoleon. Also cast in iron, this Neogothic monument to those wars carries the cross that gave the hill (and the district) its name. The monument carries the names of victorious battles with symbols of Prussian might. Cascades were added to the hill late in the 19th century and the terrace above them today provides one of the city’s best views.

By the end of World War II, Berlin had had its fill of battle. The city was in ruins and about three-quarters of its civilian population were women. The story of the Trümmerfrauen, the women who helped clear the streets brick by brick, is commemorated by the Trümmerfrau-Denkmal (1955) by Katharina Szelinski-Singer in Volkspark Hasenheide, another of the places where the rubble of Berlin was eventually carted and used in landscaping. Today it stands near the park’s northern boundary, about 50 metres from the Graefestraße entrance, not far from Hermannplatz. Just to the south is the former Tempelhof airport, now a state recreation park.

The Soviet occupiers of East Berlin would not forget the battle for the city. Just over the eastern boundary of Friedrichshain, on the west bank of the Spree, is Treptower Park, site of the Sowjetisches Ehrendenkmal Treptow (1949) and a grove to the Red Army’s fallen. The works were created by the architect Yakov Belopolski and Socialist Realist sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich. The central memorial shows the Soviet soldier as allegorical protector, smashing the Nazi Hakenkreuz (swastika). There are frescoes inside the pedestal by Alexander Gorpenko. White stones flanking the terrace carry reliefs and quotes from Josef Stalin and the monumental triangular gates were raised from red marble from the ruins of Hitler’s Reich chancellery.

The Raven Travel Guides Germany updated 2019 Berlin PDF travel guide can be downloaded from the Berlin section below.

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Culture Encounters

Jewels of the Past

Berlin

Great Cities of Germany

Füssen

Füssen travel guide PDF in 3 pages

The tiny town at the foot of the Alps has its own medieval castle and Baroque monastery as well as being the jumping-off point for visits to the famous Romantic castles nearby.

● How to visit Schloß Neuschwanstein and Schloß Hohenschwangau

● The Wieskirche, a UNESCO-listed Rococo pilgrimage church, is a short ride away

● The town’s own castle, churches and museums

Hyperlink access to essential tourist and accommodation information

Aachen

Aachen travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The Romans developed the hot springs at Aachen, then 1200 years ago the Frankish king Charlemagne set up his court there and the town became the centre of his empire. The 2018 Raven Guide to Aachen is available for free download now.

● A guide to Charlemagne's church, which grew to become the present Aachen cathedral, one of the first world heritage sites

● The Roman and medieval survivals of the city and details of the city tour

● Essential services with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Eisenach

Eisenach travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The new Raven guide to the Thuringian town, birthplace of Bach and hiding place of Martin Luther early in his revolt against the established church. It is also the site of one of Germany’s great medieval castles, with links to another great German composer, Wagner, and a centre of automobile making.

● Guide to the Wartburg castle

● Guides to the Bach museum of his life and work and museum of car manufacture

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Wittenberg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

More than 500 years after Martin Luther's Reformation, this free guide covers the place where it all began. The town was the cradle of the religious movement that threw off the structures of the Catholic church and shaped new ideas and ways of worship, but also more than a century of bitter conflict that shaped Germany forever.

● Key sites, now world heritage monuments, include Luther's house and the castle

● The church where Luther's revolt began and churches Luther and his associates preached

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Bamberg

Bamberg travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The layout of the UNESCO heritage-listed city centre and a range of Baroque and medieval architecture makes Bamberg one of Germany’s most beautiful cities.

● The Romanesque cathedral, the opulent bishops’ Residenz palace, and its Renaissance predecessor dominate the old town

● The old town hall in the middle of the river Regnitz and the mysterious statue Bamberger Reiter attract millions of travellers

● Summaries of 35 historic sites and museums

● Information on tours, parks, food and the arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Trier

Trier travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The Roman Trier was at one time second only to Rome itself. It was home to one of the most powerful Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, and later to Karl Marx. Signs of its past greatness remain for travellers to marvel at. Germany’s oldest city – and one of its oldest cathedrals – remain and are world-heritage listed.

● Read about the ancient Roman city gate Porta Nigra, the Roman bath complexes, a well-preserved amphitheatre and Constantine’s former imperial palace, plus the buildings of the medieval city

● The guide includes more than 30 sites, churches and museums, with essential services, *transport links, transit and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg travel guide PDF in 4 pages

Completely walled with more than 40 towers, the cobbled pedestrian streets of the Romantic Road town perched above the Tauber valley are little changed since the 17th century, with medieval and Renaissance half-timbered houses and stone churches.

● The guide includes 17 sites and museums and an excursion to the Franconian open-air museum at nearby Bad Windsheim

● Essential services, transport links, food tips and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and websites for many of the town’s small accommodation houses

Potsdam

Potsdam travel guide PDF in 8 pages

The Stadtschloß palace was the first Prussian royal residence and more gradually multiplied in the city's extensive parklands. The city’s minorities grew with waves of immigration, leaving the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel and the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its tiny Orthodox church.

● The delicate Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci and the palaces and pavilions of Park Sanssouci with brief histories

● Potsdam’s ornate city gates, its Baroque streetscapes and 10 museums

● Essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Regensburg

Regensburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The streets, archways and buildings of this medieval city, which grew from remains of a Roman legionary camp, remain. The range of ancient monuments and its streetscapes justify Regensburg’s world heritage listing.

● One of Germany’s classic Gothic cathedrals, several medieval churches, rare Gothic tower houses and one of Germany’s oldest stone bridges

Almost 30 sites and museums, including the nearby Walhalla gallery of great Germanic figures of history

● Information on essential services, transport links and urban transit and fares plus listings of travel essentials

● Hyperlink access to accommodation websites and further tourist information

Würzburg

Würzburg travel guide PDF of 7 pages

The prince-bishops who controlled Würzburg for centuries built wealth, power and influence expressed in Baroque by their huge palace, the UNESCO world-heritage Residenz. Their medieval castle still commands the city, reached by a stone bridge.

● Summaries of Würzburg’s grand residences, the medieval cathedral, churches and other sites

Museums and galleries including one of Europe’s prominent Jewish museums

Tours, essential services, transport links, transit services and fares and food tips

● Hyperlink access to accommodation and further tourist information websites

Passau

Passau travel guide PDF in 4 pages

The border city of three rivers includes the Baroque cathedral of St Stephan, with one of the world’s largest organs, the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the well preserved old town.

● Descriptions of 13 sites and museums, including the exhibits of Passau’s Roman past and history of glass manufacture

● Details of essential services, transport links and urban buses including fares, accommodation, food, tours and spectacular views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Dinkelsbühl

Dinkelsbühl travel guide PDF in 2 pages

This short guide covers a tiny medieval walled town, left unchanged by a royal decree and now a favourite of artists and a small number of travellers.

● Dinkelsbühl’s town walls and many Gothic and Renaissance buildings keep its atmosphere alive

● Small hotels, pensions and restaurants complement the historical scene

● Essential services, tourist and transport information are included with hyperlinks to accommodation

Augsburg

Augsburg travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The wealth and influence of Augsburg’s powerful families brought the Renaissance to Germany at a time when the city was also the site of key events of the Reformation.

● The home of Germany’s onion-domed towers, museums with magnificent works of art, and one of the beautiful Renaissance streets of Germany, the Maximilianstraße

Guides to more than 30 sites, including monuments to Roman settlement

Transport links and fares, food and tours

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Heidelberg

Heidelberg travel guide PDF in 7 pages

The most common description for Heidelberg is Romantic. This comes from its valley location, half-ruined castle and the towered stone bridge crossing the river Neckar.

● Explore Heidelberg’s cobbled streets in search of the essence of the city – Germany’s oldest university, the churches, monuments to its religious struggles, and its restaurants and cafes

● Discover the castle, its history, and thefunicular railway that makes the climb – and vantage points above the city – much easier

● Several budget hotel and private hostels that help make Heidelberg accommodation affordable, plus hyperlink access to other accommodation and tourist information sites

● Guides to 27 sites and museums

Goslar

Goslar travel guide PDF in 5 pages

The medieval town has hundreds of colourful half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches and the Kaiserpfalz, one of Germany’s oldest palaces. Its ancient Rammelsberg mines were the source of its wealth and are partly responsible for the town’s world heritage status.

19 sites and museums including the finest town houses

● A town walk and Rammelsberg tour

● Information on transport links plus listings of travel essentials and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● An excursion to the nearby half-timbered Harz town Wernigerode

Lübeck

Lübeck travel guide PDF in 7 pages

Trade made Lübeck the centre of the Baltic and the red-brick Gothic old town its merchant wealth built is now UNESCO world heritage-listed. Its churches, town houses and civic institutions are preserved and restored.

● The commercial and civic culture of the city through guides to 30 sites, museums and galleries

Tours, the best views and food options with other travel essentials

● Information on transport links and transit services including fares

● Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation

Berlin

Berlin travel guide PDF updated for 2019

Get 34 pages of things to do in Berlin free. Berlin is used to crisis, novelty and immigrants – so to visit Berlin is to visit many Berlins. The city that the Enlightenment and industrial progress created survived years of destruction and division.

● Descriptions of places to visit in Berlin including more than 60 historic sites, with guides to walking sections of the Berlin Wall, its museums and its memorials

● A complete guide to what to do in Berlin, including tours, cruises, parks and the best views

● Separate sections for the districts Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Schöneberg-Tempelhof, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Spandau, with local food and accommodation lists and quick guides to essential services

● Summary of major transport links with Berlin

● How to use urban transit services including Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn, with their differences and the fares

● Summaries of more than 50 Berlin museums of history, art and culture, and information on all major performance groups including orchestras, opera and theatre

● Short history of the city and its precincts

● Hyperlinks to websites for Berlin hotels and hostels and further tourist information

Bremen

Bremen travel guide PDF in 6 pages

One of Germany’s oldest cities includes UNESCO world heritage monuments, ornate Renaissance architecture with a regional stamp, the story of world travellers including emigrants to the US and arts precincts with works by some of the most innovative German artists.

● The ancient St Petri cathedral and 11 other sites including the giant Roland figure

17 Bremen museums including art and the remarkable Übersee-Museum, with exhibits of the wonders of the continents touched by Bremen’s worldwide trade interests

Transport links and the city’s complicated transit system explained

● Hyperlink access to websites for accommodation houses and further tourist information

Dresden

Dresden travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Twice over the centuries, Dresden has been an amazing place. The first period was the Baroque magnificence of the 17th and 18th centuries. The second is now, with much of the city’s splendour restored.

Dresden's city palaces with their museums and galleries, highlighted by the two Green Vault museums, are among the most remarkable in Germany

● The exquisite, rebuilt Frauenkirche

● The Saxon ducal and royal summer palaces of Pillnitz and Moritzburg

● In all, 30 museums and galleries of art and culture

● Information on tours, essential services, parks and views, food and performing arts

● Details of excursions to the medieval city of Meissen, centre of European porcelain, and the fortress of Königstein

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Hamburg

Hamburg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Germany’s mighty port city attracts travellers from all over the world and was the departure point for generations of migrants. ● 25 sites, ships, museums, monuments and churches that reflect Hamburg’s maritime and trading traditions

● The UNESCO world heritage Speicherstadt, centre of Hamburg’s former free port

● Essential services are listed with a choice of tours, including port tours

● Information on transport links and extensive urban transit services including fares

● Listings of essential traveller services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

● The city’s arts and music scene, including opera

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Nuremberg travel guide PDF in 8 pages

Modern Nuremberg has preserved or restored many walled and historic areas. The city’s leading late medieval citizens were some of the best known German personalities. Then came the Nazis.

● Guides to 20 buildings, historic streets and monuments, among them the Kaiserburg, the castle of early imperial German assemblies

● 13 museums, including Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany’s leading cultural history museum

● The courts of the post-World War II war crimes trials, now also a museum

Transport links, urban transit, tours and essential services

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Cologne (Köln)

Cologne travel guide PDF in 11 pages

Cologne is Roman, medieval and modern all at once, a city known for piety, carnival and perfume. Travellers can walk the historic centre and the remains of the Roman wall.

Germany’s mightiest cathedral, which took more than 600 years to complete

● Cologne’s Roman and medieval walls and gates picked out for travellers

● 12 precious Romanesque churches with historical background

● In all, 25 sites and 17 museums of art, history and culture including the Römisch-Germanisches Museum and associated archaeological sites

Transport links and urban transit services including fares

Tours, parks, views, food and performing arts

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites

Stuttgart

Stuttgart travel guide PDF in 6 pages

The Baden-Württemberg capital is one of Germany’s beautiful lifestyle cities, surrounded by hills and some of the country’s most beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions.

● 10 sites including Stuttgart’s castle complexes, Schloß Solitude and the magnificent palaces of Ludwigsburg nearby

● 10 museums and galleries of art

Tours, walks through the city’s extensive parks and views

● Guide to essential services and hyperlinks to tourist information and accommodation house websites and a guide to performance art

Munich (München)

Munich travel guide PDF in 13 pages

Munich was founded by monks and built up by dukes and kings, but became a centre of revolution as well as a home for arts, industry and travellers enjoying the good life.

● Germany’s largest museum, Deutsches Museum, and some of its richest art museums

● The city’s extensive palaces and palace gardens are featured

● Almost 30 museums of history, art and culture

● 30 historic sites in and around the city

● Information on major performance groups including orchestras and opera

Accommodation, food and a guide to essential services including transport links and urban transit services and fares

● A choice of city tours and some of its finest views

● Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites