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Unlike other cities, Berlin has no single city centre. One reason for this is the division into East Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic and West Berlin, state of the Federal Republic of Germany, for forty years. The other reason is that Berlin as it is known today, is the sum of several townships which have been united to the city of Greater Berlin in 1920.
Therefore there are at least two major city centers: in the east around Alexanderplatz and in the west around Breitscheidplatz and Zoologischer Garten, both divided by Tiergarten, a vast inner-city park.
Beside this the former townships mainly form today's distinctive boroughs with their neighborhoods, each with a special feel and a sub-center. And even in these neighborhoods you will find quarters that can be completely dfiferent from each other. In most inner-city areas, housing is mixed with shops, restaurants and bars, which means all areas are busy day and night, rather than having specific shopping areas which are busy with people only during the day.
In the following, you can read about Berlin's most interesting neighborhoods, the quarters within these neighborhoods and the central areas.
Today's borough of Mitte is the combination of the former boroughs of Mitte, Tiergarten and Wedding and exists since 2001. Within this borough there is the Mitte neighborhood (could be translated "Midtown") which is mainly the area between the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz. It is the neighborhood which includes the oldest sections of the city in its eastern part. Mitte is Berlin's cultural and administrative centre. Rotes Rathaus, the Reichstag building, Berlin House of Representatives and the main museums are located in Mitte.
If you want to experience the new feel of Berlin, have bars, restaurants, brand stores and some nightlife nearby and at the same time all major sights within walking distance you should choose to stay in this area. Within Mitte you will find the following quarters:
Alexanderplatz is the heart of Mitte and has undergone several changes during its history. It pretty much reflects Berlin's history in small from the 13th century when the first settlers erected their small cottages in front of the city wall to today's transport hub with its buildings from classicism (Koenigskolonnaden, relocated to Kleistpark), modernism (Alexanderhaus and Berolinahaus), socialism (Haus des Lehrers, Haus des Reisens, Haus der Elektroindustrie) to modulation (former Centrum Warenhaus, former Interhotel Stadt Berlin).
On November 2nd, 1805 the place, which had developed from a cattle market to a parade ground by that time, was named after Russian czar Alexander I upon his visit to Berlin. With the growth of the city Alexanderplatz gained more and more importance and with the electrification of the former horse-trams it became the busiest transport hub in the city. Tietz (on the location of today's Galeria Kaufhof) and Wertheim (on the location of today's Alea 101) department stores were raised in 1910 when the in 1896 built market hall (on the site of today's Brauhaus Mitte) had already been there.
In the golden 1920s Alexanderplatz was the busiest place beside Potsdamer Platz and needed a new urban design. Alexander and Berolinahaus by German Jugenstil architect Peter Behrens are the remaining results of this. At the end of WW II Alexanderplatz was almost destroyed and had to be rebuilt. But instead of reconstruction, the Socialist Unity Party of the GDR decided to redevelop the place. In the 1960s streets and buildings have been reorganized, supplemented with a landmark: the Television Tower. With the fall of the Berlin Wall everything changed again to what you can see today
Regional trains as the Airport Express to Schoenefeld airport and S-Bahn lines S5, S7 and S75 stop at Alexanderplatz station as well as underground lines U2, U5 and U8. Besides that it is a hub for several tram and bus lines. Buses TXL to Tegel airpoirt, 100 and 200 stop here as well as trams M2 and M4 to Prenzlauer Berg.
If you want to stay at Alexanderplatz and meet under the Urania Worldtime Clock, the Park Inn Hotel is on Alexanderplatz itself and Ibis Styles Berlin, Motel One Berlin Alexanderplatz, Holiday Inn Berlin Centre, Hotel Indigo Berlin - Centre Alexanderplatz, ONE80 Hostels, H2 Hotel and Ramada Hotel are close.
Places of interest could be the Alexa shopping mall including LOXX model train exhibition and already mentioned Galeria Kaufhof department store, which has a food department on the 5th floor with nice views across Alexanderplatz.
Once located between Spittelmarkt in the west and Alexanderplatz in the east, Berlin Old Town, being the fusion of the two townships Coelln and Berlin, had been taken down almost completely after WW II destruction and was replaced by large roads, vast squares and huge office and apartment blocks during the time of the GDR. The Television Tower nowadays points quite exactly to the location where Berlin's historical heart once was. There are only very few historical streets and buildings left. In the 1980's, GDR built the so called Nicholas Quarter (Nikolaiviertel) around St. Nicholas Church, a neigbourhood of a few old and several new buildings imitating parts of the former old town of Berlin. Nicholas Quarter is located between Rathausstrasse, Spandauer Strasse, river Spree and Muehlendamm. It is home to the municipal museum (in Ephraim Palais) and the Hanf Museum (hemp museum).
Besides that you will still find some old-Berlin atmosphere with a number of original buildings, the ruins of Old-Berlin's minster
and the remains of the former city wall in the area around
Klosterstrasse and Littenstrasse, including Berlin's oldest restaurant Zur letzten Instanz.
will have access to Nicholas Quarter from Alexanderplatz station and to
the area around Klosterstrasse from underground station Klosterstrasse
with line U2.
If you want to discover former East Berlin, have some remains of the oldest parts of town on your doorstep and many important sights within walking distance, you should choose to stay in this area. Nearby hotels are the Hotel Nikolai Residence, Novotel Berlin Mitte and Radisson Blu Hotel.
Museum Island, which is the northern part of former township Coelln, and the Eastern part of Unter den Linden form Berlin's cultural heart. Museum Island includes Old Museum, New Museum, Old National Gallery, Bode Museum and Pergamon Museum. Besides that you will find the Berlin cathedral, the German Historical Museum, the GDR Museum, German State Opera, Neue Wache, Humboldt University and the City Palace, which is currently reconstructed, here.
Museum Island is in walking distance from Alexanderplatz. Buses 100 and 200 have a stop at Lustgarten (pleasure garden).
If you want to have all major sights on your doorstep, you should choose to stay near Museum Island in Mitte. Hotels close by are the Raddison Blu, Hotel Alexander Plaza, Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hackescher Markt or the Arcotel John F.
The so called Spandauer Vorstadt and within its eastern part the Scheunenviertel is the best preserved historic neigbourhood in Berlin. In the area surrounded by Torstrasse to the north, Fridrichstrasse to the west, the river Spree and the S-Bahn viaduct to the south and today's Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse to the east, gives you an impression what Berlin had looked like in the 17th century.
The area around S-Bahn station Hackescher Markt (S-Bahn lines S5, S7 and S75 and tram lines M1, M4, M5, M6 and 12) is the hotspot for restaurants, bars, small boutiques and brand stores. You will find several art galleries around Auguststrasse and Linienstrasse as well. Courtyard complexes like Sophienhoefe or Hackesche Hoefe show how Berliners have lived from the early 19th century until today. You will also find a Jewish community here which was first established by Frederick William, the Great Elector, who recruited 40 families that had been expelled from Vienna in 1671. The restored Neue Synagoge Berlin - Centrum Judaicum with its impressive cupola is a famous landmark in Oranienburger Strasse. Anne Frank Zentrum and Museum Blindenwerkstadt Otto Weidt next to Hackesche Hoefe visualize the persecution of the Jews during the Nazi regime.
Hotels and hostels in this area are for example The Circus Hotel and Hostel, Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hackescher Markt, Arcotel Velvet, Hotel Taunus, Hotel 38, Hotel Markischer Hof am Tacheles, Hotel Augustinenhof, Hotel Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Haus, Helter Skelter Hostel, Heart of Gold Hostel, Lux 11 or Generator Berlin Mitte.
Gendarmenmarkt is Berlin's most picturesque town square and the site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German Cathedrals. Friedrichstrasse with Galeries Lafayette and Bebelplatz with the Cathedral of St. Hedwig are around the corner and with underground station Stadtmitte you are well connected to public transport with lines U2 and U6. Besides that bus lines 100, 200 and TXL run along Unter den Linden, which is only a few blocks away. In December one of Berlin's most beautiful Christmas markets takes place on Gendarmenmarkt.
You find numerous hotels, most of them large and upscale around Gendarmenmarkt. Particularly well-located are Winter's Gendarmenmarkt Hotel, Melia Berlin, Hotel de Rome, the Regent Berlin, Westin Grand and Hotel Gendarm nouveau. Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt and Hilton Hotel Berlin are directly at the place itself.
In its southern part (south of Leipziger Strasse) the Borough of Mitte borders with formerly West Berlin neighborhood Kreuzberg. Checkpoint Charlie, the best known Wall crossing point between West and East Berlin was located here. Right here you will find the Berlin Wall Museum and some remains of the former Wall in Niederkirchnerstrasse, where the Berlin House of Representatives is located next to the Topography of Terror and the Martin-Gropius-Bau, which are already in Kreuzberg. If you continue further south in Kreuzberg you will get to the Jewish Museum in Lindenstrasse and Berlinische Galerie in Alte Jacobstrass.
In the western part of Friedrichstadt reconstructed Leipziger Platz is the border to former West Berlin borough Tiergarten with flanking Potsdamer Platz and the Kulturforum. Potsdamer and Leipziger Platz are one of the main shopping areas in Berlin. Nearby in Leipziger Strasse the Museum for Communication is located.
Southern Friedrichstadt is crossed by underground lines U2 (west to east) and U6 (north to south), which have an interchange at station Stadtmitte. Besides that the main stations are Kochstrasse (Checkpoint Charlie) and Potsdamer Platz.
If you cannot decide whether you prefer to stay in West Berlin or in East Berlin, you should choose to stay in the area between Potsdamer Platz and southern Friedrichstrasse with a lot of sights in walking distance.Hotels in this area are for example Winters Hotel Berlin Mitte am Checkpoint Charlie, Hotel Gat Point Charlie, Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Checkpoint Charlie or Holiday Inn Express Berlin City Centre.
Dorotheenstadt is the older part of these two quarters. It is located south of the river Spree and west of Museum Island. Pariser Platz, the Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden are part of Dorotheenstadt. The southern border to Friedrichstadt is Behrenstrasse.
Friedrich-Wilhelm-Stadt is the neigbourhood north of the river Spree, west of Friedrichstrasse.
You could call these two quarters the "theatre district" with Berliner Ensemble, Deutsches Theater, Maxim-Gorki-Theatre and Komische Oper located there and Admiralspalast, Friedrichstadtpalast and Distel Cabaret right on the border to Spandauer Vorstadt in the east.
Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate are the symbols of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, 1989 and the reunification of the two German states on October 3rd, 1990. In 1989 the place was a vast abandoned square. The only buildings left have been the Brandenburg Gate and the remains of the Academy of Arts. With the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the square became the focus of attention again, being one of the three baroque civic centres of Berlin besides Leipziger Platz and Mehringplatz in Kreuzberg. Today the embassies of France, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are relocated here and Haus Liebermann and Haus Sommer again frame the Brandenburg Gate.
You will find the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime and the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Murdered under the National Socialist Regime close to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building, seat of the German Parliament north of it.
Buses 100 and TXL have a stop at Brandenburger Tor and underground line U55 to Hauptbahnhof starts here. Besides that S-Bahn lines S1, S2 and S2 stop at station Brandenburger Tor.
There is only one hotel located directly at Pariser Platz, the Adlon Kempinski, which is a reconstruction based on a new architectural design. The former building which became famous during the 1920s was destroyed by a fire a few days after German surrender ended WW II.
Charlottenburg is one half of the borough of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and the neighborhood which was the center of former West Berlin. The so called "City West" reaches from Wittenbergplatz, where Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) is located, along Breitscheidplatz (with Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) and regional train, S-Bahn and underground station Zoologischer Garten next to the Zoo, along Kurfuerstendamm to Adenauerplatz. Parts of the City West are in Schoeneberg, some in Wilmersdorf, the largest part is in Charlottenburg. In times of former West Berlin there used to be many (movie) theatres and nightlife venues in this area like Astor Film Lounge at Joachimsthaler Platz. Besides that the area was famous for its nightlife with clubs like the Big Eden or the Q Dorf.
The area from Uhlandstrasse along Kurfuerstendamm and Tauentzienstrasse to Wittenbergplatz is the main shopping zone within the City West. Remodeled Bikini House right next to the Zoo, Europa-Center at Breitscheidplatz, Kranzler Eck with the remains of once famous Cafe Kranzler or KaDeWe are the big names here.
In the City West the scale of different kinds of places to stay is still enormous. Well-located are Swissotel Berlin, Lindner Hotel am Ku'damm, Sofitel Berlin Kurfuerstendamm, Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Kempinski Hotel Bristol, Golden Tulip Berlin Hotel Hamburg, Hotel Sylter Hof, Askanischer Hof, Domero Hotel Brandenburger Hof, Berlin Plaza Hotel, Savoy Hotel Berlin, Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof or InterContinental Berlin, to name a few.
Savignyplatz as being part of the City West is located in the eastern part of Charlottenburg around Kantstrasse, not far from station Zoologischer Garten. You will find a lot of restaurant, bars and shops around here such as famous Paris Bar, Florian, Quasimodo Jazz Club, Schwarzes Cafe, which is open 24 hours. But there is also the Stilwerk Berlin, a design department store.
Besides this the area has some interesting architecture. Have a look around the so called Kant Triangle building on the corner Fasanenstrasse/ Kantstrasse, the Berlin Stock Exchange (nicknamed "Armadillo") on the other side of Kantstrasse and the Delphi Theatre and the Theatre of the West.
From station Zoologischer Garten to Savignyplatz it is a ten minutes walk along Kantstrasse or take the S-Bahn to station Savignyplatz from Zoologischer Garten. Hotels in this area are Pension Peters, Sir K.F. Savigny Berlin, Savoy Hotel Berlin, Motel One Berlin Kuh'damm or Hampton by Hilton Berlin City West.
Kollwitzstrasse and Kollwitzplatz have been the touristic hot spot in the eastern part of Berlin during the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the quarter of creatives, punks and mavericks during the times of the GDR. South of Kulturbrauerei, a former brewery, which is also home of the Museum in der Kulturbrauerei, this quarter was packed with bars, restaurants and small businesses.
25 years later it has calmed down a bit. The times when former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had dinner with US President Bill Clinton in the Gugelhof restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg are over. The quarter now is mainly a residential area with a lot of young families living there, though most of the restaurants and bars are still there. You'll find them along Kollwitzstrasse and Kollwitzplatz as well as around the historic Watertower in Knaackstrasse. Also keep your eyes open for one of Berlin's typical corner pubs. One of the few left is the Metzer Eck in Metzer Strasse corner Strassburger Strasse. If you come on a Saturday, definitely take a moment and stroll though the farmers market that is on Kollwitzplatz every Saturday.
The easiest way of getting to Kollwitzplatz is taking underground line U2 to station Senefelder Platz, which is at the southern end of Kollwitzstrasse. You'll also find one of Berlins original urinals here. Only few of these so called "Cafe Achteck" (Cafe Octagon) are left in the city, but be aware this one is still in operation.
The quarter around Zionskirchplatz, Kastanienallee (some call it "Casting Alley") and Oderberger Strasse is a lively residential area with many restaurants, bars and small shops. lt is close to the Memorial of the Berlin Wall. Check out Berlin's oldest Pratergarten, Berlin's oldest beergarden, right at the nothern end of Kastanienallee. You can reach Kastanienallee coviently by underground (U2 line), get off at Eberswalder Str. station.
Boxhagener Platz is the most famous quarter in Friedrichshain, being one half of the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. With nearby Simon-Dach-Strasse the square became popular with young people in the late 1990s. A lot of restaurants and bars opened, followed by small boutiques and businesses during the following years. Besides this you will find a weekly market for groceries here on Saturdays and a within Berlin quite famous flea market on Sundays.
To get to Boxhagener Platz either take the U5 to station Samariter Strasse and walk along Mainzer Strasse which became home to squatters after the fall of the Berlin Wall until the 13 occupied houses had been evicted in a riot by the police on November 14th, 1990. Or take the S-Bahn to station Warschauer Strasse next to former train repair workshop which is home to several clubs today and walk along Revaler Strasse and Simon-Dach-Strasse.
Since Friedrichshain has become quite famous for backpackers, you will find a lot of hostels around.
Wrangelkiez is located in the eastern part of Kreuzberg next to the river Spree and Oberbaum Bridge and is part of the former postal zone SO (for south-east) 36. It was cut off by the Berlin Wall from Friedrichshain and Treptow and became home of a large Turkish community in former West Berlin. The quarter got its name from Wrangelstrasse, but the backbone is Schlesische Strasse starting at Lohmuehlen Island with Club der Visionaere and the Arena grounds in the south (including the Badeschiff), ending at underground station Schlesisches Tor (U1) in the north, where several clubs like Watergate, Lido or Magnet are located.
Bergmannkiez is the area of the former postal code "Kreuzberg 61" and stretches from Mehringdamm north and south around Bergmannstrasse to Suedstern, including the squares Chamissoplatz (which is a playground today) and Marheinekeplatz. It is a lively area with several restaurants, bars and small businesses and basically the part of Kreuzberg which made the former borough of West Berlin so famous.
You'll also find one of Berlin's market halls here, located at Marheinekeplatz. Besides that there are many more restaurants, bars and some small clubs around Mehringdamm and famous Cury 36 and Mustafas Gemuese Kebab are close, located at underground station Mehringdamm (lines U6 and U7). Viktoriapark with its picturesque waterfall is not far away either.