Berlin, Germany, Spree River
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Berlin and Spree River iStock.com / bluejayphoto
Berlin, Germany, Part of the Berlin Wall
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Part of the Berlin Wall iStock.com / AndreyKrav
Berlin, Germany, Brandenburg Gate
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Brandenburg Gate iStock.com / Noppasin Wongchum

Berlin, Germany

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of East and West Germany, this sprawling capital city on the Spree river shines with a renewed cultural vibrancy while simultaneously preserving the past. There is a dizzying array of sights spanning from historic to new. And thanks to the fact that the buzzing city is a magnet for young artists and musicians, the nightlife scene is among the edgiest in Europe.

What We Love

Mitte: The historic heart of what was formerly East Berlin is home to many top sights, popular museums, and impressive architecture. Tour the massive Baroque-style Berliner Dom Cathedral, marvel at the centuries of antiquities housed in Museum Island’s five museums, and gaze at the beautiful 18th-century twin cathedrals of Gendarmenmarkt. Don't miss a glimpse of Checkpoint Charlie and the graffiti-covered remnants of the wall.

KaDeWe: Like Macy’s in New York and Harrods in London, Germany’s biggest department store is a must for anyone who loves to shop. Its massive sixth-floor food hall is a destination itself.

Best Known For

The Reichstag: The post-unification home of the German parliament was reimagined by British architect Norman Foster, who in 1999 added a visually compelling glass-and-steel dome to the 1894 Italian-Renaissance building.

Brandenburg Gate: Set at the end of treelined boulevard Unter den Linden, this historic chariot-topped sandstone monument erected in 1791 once symbolized Cold War division. Today, it's the setting for New Year’s Eve festivities and other events.

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Who It's Best For

History Buffs: From the temples and treasures in the Pergamon Museum to the 2,711 concrete pillars of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, you can experience thousands of years of human triumph and tragedy.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

It's Groß: That's German for "big." Trying to see all of the sights on foot is exhausting. Luckily, the U-Bahn train system is easy and efficient, and currywurst stands are affordable spots to refuel.

Donna Heiderstadt

Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.

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