Berlin is a very unique city, and here are five things to know and do before visiting.
1. Do your research: Berlin has a very dark past and coming in with some background knowledge will be very helpful. A hazy memory of your high school history class will not be enough to completely wrap your head around all of the information you will learn from museums and tours. In order to gain the most knowledge from your experience in Berlin and not feel lost, be sure to research Berlin’s role in both World War II and the Cold War. Make sure that you understand the history of the Berlin Wall and the connotations with both sides.
2. Book in advance: If you plan on climbing to the top of the Reichstag Dome, then book tickets right away. Climbing the dome will give you a great view of the city of Berlin, and the audio guide provided will help explain the sites that you are looking at. Beyond the climb, a bike tour is a great way to see the city. Fat Tire Bike Tours does a great job hitting the major sites and giving you a history lesson along the way.
3. Pick what you want to do in advance: Berlin has a ton of landmarks and museums, and you will not be able to do everything. If you are only in the city for a weekend, be sure to pick and choose what is most important for you to see. Definitely do not miss the museum at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Topography of Terror.
4. Be on the lookout for memorials: Memorials to those who lost their lives from the Nazi Regime extend beyond museums. Stolpersteine, or little cobble-stone sized bronze squares, can be found on city streets inscribed with names of victims of the Holocaust at many victims' last place of residency.
5. Don’t expect a charm: With the exception of the few historical buildings that survived the wars and the bombing, the city of Berlin is filled with gray concrete slabs for buildings. If you are looking for a quaint city where you can stroll the city streets and take in the beauty, then Berlin may not be that place for you. Although there is little charm, the city is full of history and is definitely a place worth traveling to. With that being said, change your mindset and think of your trip to Berlin as an opportunity to learn rather than just another city to Instagram.