I have been dying to go to Berlin for quite some time- it was on my list of places to visit before I left to study abroad in Montpellier! I didn`t make it there during my junior year abroad and placed it #1 on my travel list when I found out I was accepted to TAPIF! I majored in history in college, after all, and grew up with my dad teaching me episodes during the Cold War. Berlin just has so much to offer for me to learn about WWII and the Cold War, I couldn’t wait. Luckily, there was a flash sale on Ryanair linking Berlin and Adam’s #1 travel destination, Bratislava, so our Christmas trip was practically planned out for us!
There’s just so much to see in Berlin that I felt like I barely scratched the surface!
All. The. Christmas. Markets.
I admit it, I’ve been known to plan wintertime trips based on how pretty a city’s Christmas markets are! German Christmas markets (or Christkindlmarkt) are just amazing! Since we were arriving on the morning of Christmas Eve, we had to think fast- most markets closed at 2 PM! (but there were open all day after that, never fear!) We managed to see 4 major markets in our 4 days in Berlin: Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, and Berliner Weihnachtszeit. To read more about Christmas markets click here.
Christmas Day in the Reichstag
The iconic Reichstag building is the seat of the German Parliament., or Bundestag. Bundestag met in the building from its construction in 1894 until 1933, when the famous Reichstag fire forced them to relocate. Because of this, interestingly, Hitler supposedly never set foot in the Reichstag! While Germany was divided during the Cold War the Reichstag was in need of renovation and only took up its role as the home of the Bundestag until 1999. The dome on top of the building is open to the public, free of charge, but only with advance online registration, so I’m glad I looked that up! It was a fascinating way to spend Christmas morning- the top of the building offers incredible views of the sprawling city, and the inside of the dome has a photographic display for the history of the building- very interesting to see the photos and hear the story of the Nazi Party taking over in the Reichstag!
The Brandenburg Gate-Symbol of Berlin
The iconic Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the country! Built in the 18th century, the gate rose as a symbol of unity during Berlin’s division during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall ran directly in front of the famous gate, and was the scene of many protests for reunification. The Brandenburg Gate was also the site of President Ronald Reagan’s world-famous speech in 1987 calling Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev to “Open this gate! Tear down this wall!” Today, the gate is a major tourist attraction and borders many embassies!
Remnants of the Berlin Wall
The wall that separated the city of Berlin for nearly 30 years still has a presence today. There are slabs of graffiti-ed concrete placed around the city, memorials for those who were killed attempting to scale it, and of course, the famous East Side Gallery. Over 1 km of wall is left standing in Berlin, with a mix of old and new graffiti present. These reminders were like history was stepping out of a book for me, as I’ve studied the Cold War in college and was fascinated to see the Berlin Wall in person.
The Berlin Cathedral an impressive structure! Located on the Museum Island in the River Spree that houses 5 art museums, the Protestant Cathedral is really an amazing view from all sides.
I first learned about Checkpoint Charlie from my dad, and it was literally #1 on my sights to see while in Berlin! This is the most well-known border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War and is now a major tourist attraction, complete with street performers charging a couple euros to take a picture with them in full military dress (which we did not do).
Topography of Terror Museum
On our fourth and final day in Berlin we visited the (free!) museum on Nazi atrocities and terror, located on the grounds of former Nazi headquarters. It was very well done and featured a lot of information, but apparently due to the frigid weather, everybody else in Berlin had had the same idea and it was incredibly cramped. Regardless, we learned a lot!
Assorted sights of Berlin
Have you ever been to Berlin? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!