Berlin, Germany

Nestled along the banks of the River Spree in northeastern Germany, Berlin is a major cultural center with a storied history. The largest city in Germany and the nation’s current capital, Berlin has played an influential role on the world stage throughout its history.

Berlin was founded as a Slavic town in the 12th century by Albert the Bear, the first Margrave of Brandenburg. After the founding of nearby Cölln, the two towns merged into one German municipality in 1432. The dual city was called “Cölln-Berlin.”

The royal House of Hohenzollern had risen to power in 1415, proclaiming just two years later that Berlin would be the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, an important sovereign state of the Holy Roman Empire. Two centuries later, the Margraviate formed a dual state with the Kingdom of Prussia, again naming Berlin its capital in 1701. The city continued its prominence, heading the German Empire in 1871, the legislature of the Weimar Republic in 1919, and the Third Reich as Nazis rose to power.

World War II destroyed much of Berlin, and after the Nazi regime was defeated in 1945, the city was divided into four zones. These zones were administrated under the four allied victors: the Soviet Union, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Administrative tensions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union grew, which eventually divided Berlin into East and West. The former aligned with surrounding East Germany’s Democratic Republic and the latter joined forces with West Germany’s Federal Republic. Construction on the Berlin Wall began in 1961, closing off West Berlin from the surrounding East German region. Following the end of the Cold War in 1989, the 29-mile-long Berlin Wall was torn down, reuniting the two territories.

Today’s Berlin is a cultural epicenter of Germany and of Europe. A journey through this historic city reveals how the new Berlin is making an indelible mark on politics, government, arts and entertainment.

Berlin Lifestyle and Culture

Berlin is a lively, globally minded city thriving in media, film, television and the performing arts. The visual arts scene is also rich and vibrant. Many of the city’s cultural and artistic institutions are spread along the banks of Museum Island, in the River Spree. Here, more than 150 different galleries are devoted to various aspects of the visual arts and other aspects of German, European and world culture.

The nightlife in Berlin is diverse and unparalleled. Travelers and revelers from all over the world come here to indulge in the city’s unique nightclubs and cabarets. Forty-four theaters bring world-class music and shows to the city, from the Berlin State Opera to the renowned Berlin Philharmonic.

Berlin Sights and Entertainment

Berlin has an abundance of sightseeing and entertainment opportunities – many of which mark profound periods in the city’s history. At the Allied Museum, you can explore the remnants of the Berlin Wall and visit “Checkpoint Charlie,” the notorious guardhouse that stood between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

For shopping and a meal, head to historic Alexanderplatz, the largest square in Berlin. This former 19th-century cattle market is now a wide-open venue for shops, pubs and restaurants. Alternately, a pre-booked tour of the Reichstag German Parliament will earn you a reservation at Kafer Restaurant; its stunning setting under the building’s glass cupola offers unmatched views of the city.

Outside Berlin, visit Neuschwanstein Castle, rising up from the Bavarian countryside. This fairytale castle, the model for Cinderella’s castle in Disneyland, was built both as King Ludwig II’s getaway and as a tribute to the king’s favorite composer, the German genius Richard Wagner. Admire the Romanesque Revival style of the castle, its richly adorned rooms and magnificent views of Bavaria.

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