For frequent travellers, the last two years have brought a great change to their routine. Flights got cancelled, borders closed and plans were postponed. But now the travel restrictions have been lifted and we started making plans again. There is one more significant period in history when easing up travel plans was a reason to celebrate. On November 9, 1989, the East German government announced that it was easing up travel restrictions on its citizens. This was a great reason for German citizens to celebrate as the Cold War seemed to be coming to an end.
East Berliners gathered to the nearest border crossings at the Berlin Wall to get a chance to pass to the west side. Big crowds appeared especially Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing between the divided Berlin sides. Not long after that, citizens from the east and west began destroying the wall little by little. It had separated them for nearly three decades since the East German government split the city in two. Today you can still go back to that world while avoiding the conflict and angst of that period. By visiting Berlin, you get the chance to eat and drink in restaurants and bars dedicated to the German Democratic Republic. Furthermore, you can learn about the former East Berlin when you visit fascinating museums, architecture and shops. If you plan on travelling there, we can recommend 3 things you should definitely do when you visit Berlin.
1. First thing you should definitely do when you visit Berlin: Visit history museums.
The capital of Germany is full of interesting museums and historical monuments. If you want to take a better grasp of Berlin’s past, we recommend you look for museums dedicated to the history of the city and the country in general.
The first one you should definitely visit is the DDR Museum, one of the most interactive museums in the world. The DDR Museum provides a unique visitor experience and is for sure one of Berlin’s most popular museums. There you get to engage all of your senses to enjoy an experience of everyday life in former East Germany. The exhibitions were based on academic research and present accurate depictions of the past. From everyday life and the Berlin Wall to the Stasi and much more, visitors are encouraged to touch, feel and interact. The museum, which opened in 2006 is located near the Spree River. The admission is 9.80 euros, or about $10.80.
The next museum that’s absolutely worth visiting in Berlin is the Stasi Museum. The Stasi’s main job was spying on ordinary people who were not in line with party policies and values. Today the museum is located in House 1 on the former grounds of the headquarters of the GDR Ministry for State Security. There are three floors in the building and on every single one you have the chance to see some parts of the equipment that was used. There are hundreds of artefacts, such as bugging devices, hidden cameras and lock picks and also placards detailing every aspect of the organization as a whole. On the third floor, where the exhibition ends, there’s a cafe and bar. Note that after the museum, you might need a drink to fathom what you saw. There are free guided tours in English while admission is €8 and the tour is free.
2. Second thing you should definitely do when you visit Berlin: Walk around key parts of the city.
When you visit Berlin, there are two main places you should walk around to. The first one is very famous and every traveller definitely has it on their list. We are referring of course to the Berlin Wall. The wall, also known as Berliner Mauer, was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The Wall separated West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along the large concrete walls. Today the site is completely different. The walls are full of beautiful paintings that promote freedom, love and unity. There are three main attractions tied to the history of the wall. You can visit the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain, the long stretch of the Berlin Wall and the Wall Museum.
Another place you should pay a visit to is Karl Marx Allee. Built during World War II, this wide boulevard known as Karl Marx Allee today was initially called Stalinallee, Stalin Boulevard. It was renamed after Marx in 1961. You can easily find it between Frankfurter Tor in Friedrichshain and Alexanderplatz. While walking through this boulevard you will notice the monumental building that surround it. They will remind you of socialist Germany, with its Stalinist style and architecture. Karl Marx Allee is much more a historical site than a museum. Loads of placards are positioned along the way to explain the history of the buildings. Keep an eye out for Kino International, a still-working movie theatre as well as the dual towers, Frankfurter Tor.
3. Visit local restaurants and cafes.
When you are visiting a city as big as Berlin your choices are countless. This is definitely a good thing, as everyone can find what they need. But sometimes it can also be confusing, especially after a long day of sightseeing. There are a few key places you should visit when you go there anyway and the first one is Café Sibylle. Located in the Karl Marx Allee, Café Sibylle is one of the few businesses that still exist since the Cold War. You can find it about halfway through the boulevard, and you can stop for a coffee or a snack. It is beautifully decorated on the inside and it seems to be a mix of old and new. The wooden tables and high ceilings create a cosy atmosphere against the cold weather of the city.
There are also loads of restaurants located around the city that are perfect for a drink or a meal. One of our favourites is Restaurant Pasternak. It was named after the Nobel Prize-winning poet and author of “Doctor Zhivago”, Boris Pasternak and you can find it in the former East Berlin neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg. There you can taste an array of dishes from all around the former Soviet Union and in particular from Russia and Ukraine. Explore the extensive menu and ask for recommendations as most of the dishes may be unknown to you. Don’t forget to order some of the house vodka to complete the experience.