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Long weekend in Berlin:10 must-see places and museums

Long weekend in Berlin:10 must-see places and museums

Is there a city in Europe with a more fascinating destiny over the past hundred years than Berlin? Place of the capitulation of Nazism, the already disfigured city became the symbol of the Cold War in the second half of the 20th century. Divided into four parts, three of which form a capitalist island within the GDR, the Berliners and their families separated overnight for decades are seen as martyrs of this conflict, before representing the hope of a peaceful and fraternal future. in the 1990s. From these, a wind of freedom blows on a background of techno music, in the city finally reunited, an irresistible spirit of celebration, which is reminiscent of the decadent excesses of the Weimar period embodied by the figure of Anita Berber. The circle is complete.

Berlin is therefore obviously an ideal destination for history buffs. And with a selection of museums and galleries that does not have to blush in front of other European capitals, art enthusiasts are not left out. Above all, it is an extended city, with wide and quiet streets, at the corner of which is often hidden a park that looks like a small wood. Far from the stress of metropolises like Paris and London, Berlin can boast of having the cultural offer of a city of its stature while breathing a serenity that makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing weekend. Here are some suggestions to fill your days there.

1 - Museum Island

The Museuminsel is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. On a small island in the middle of the Spree, there are indeed five museums housed in imposing buildings dating from the Prussian era. Among them, the unmissable Pergamon, whose collection of antiquities makes it the first museum in Berlin in terms of number of visitors, and Alte Nationalgalerie, where a collection of art ranging from the classical period to the beginnings of the modern period is exhibited among the most comprehensive in the world. It's not a particularly original suggestion, but Museum Island is truly unmissable for any lover of ancient and classical art.

2 - The Hamburger Bahnhof

Contemporary art lovers will go to the Hamburger Bahnhof, a former train station converted into a museum. In addition to the permanent collection, which retraces several major movements in minimalist and conceptual art since the 1960s, the building's huge hall hosts monumental and immersive installations that make wonderful use of its characteristics, while various temporary exhibitions bear witness to the 'a vision of contemporary art that generally manages to avoid its most austere pitfalls.

3 - The C/O

The C/O is a museum dedicated to photography located in the west of Berlin. Not much to add about this museum, except that the programming here is consistently excellent, which more than earns its inclusion. We would almost advise you to go there with your eyes closed, but you will probably need it to admire the photos.

4 - The galleries of Mitte

The central district of Mitte is witness to Berlin's artistic boom, and at the same time to the inexorable march of gentrification in the city. If many galleries have established themselves here, it is indeed thanks to public policies favoring their establishment after the fall of the Wall, abandoned buildings being made available to artists with the specific aim of making the district attractive. With wild success:galleries, nightclubs and squats left their mark on the city, the image of which was quite rightly captured by the then mayor Klaus Wowereit:poor but sexy! But today, a stone's throw from the KW contemporary art gallery, for example, you will pass in front of the carcass of the mythical Tacheles, a former squat and cultural center transformed into a vulgar apartment complex, which also allows itself the affront of take back the name of its illustrious predecessor, taking advantage of its aura after having emptied it of its soul. A tour of the local galleries will therefore awaken the ghosts of a district that has become wildly gentrified in barely 30 years.

5 - Alexanderplatz

In Berlin, all roads lead to Alexanderplatz, also to Mitte and a short walk to Museum Island. Certainly not the most beautiful, nor even the most interesting square in Berlin, since there are mainly shopping malls there, the Alex for friends is nevertheless a symbol of East Berlin, of which it was the heart. Huge and architecturally haphazard, the square is a fascinating relic of Soviet times, and still one of Berlin's hotspots. This is where the young people zoned out in the evening and where the biggest spontaneous demonstration was organized before the fall of the Wall. It is here that stands the famous Fernsehturm ("television tower"), icon of the Berlin panorama, at the top of which spreads out a 360° view of the German capital. From there starts the largest avenue in the country, the Karl-Marx-Allee, lined with austere buildings typical of Soviet architecture, raw and massive. In short, Alexanderplatz will take you back to a not-so-distant era when there were as many spies as citizens in East Germany.

6 - Beyond the Wall

Speaking of spies… As in Berlin, history with a capital H is never far away, so take a look at the remains of the Wall still erected on the banks of the Spree. And to push the historical visit, forget Checkpoint Charlie, unless you absolutely want to be photographed with the pantomime guards who are now camped there, and prefer the GDR Museum. This interactive museum will immerse you in the daily life of East Germans. It is also impossible not to leave touched by a visit to the Tränenpalast ("Palace of Tears"), a former customs post separating the two Berlins, the scene of heartbreaking farewells which earned him his surname.

7 - The exhibition "Hitler – wie konnte es geschehen?"

For those for whom Berlin remains inseparable from the Second World War, this exhibition located in a former bunker dating from the conflict is unmissable. It looks back on the seizure of power and the installation of National Socialism, then on its fall, and ends with a stop in a replica of the bunker in which Hitler ended his life and the deadliest conflict in the world. history of mankind. Creepy but instructive, the exhibition therefore deals with the question that has constantly plagued philosophy since the discovery of the concentration camps and their horror:how could this have happened?

8 - The Holocaust Memorial

Finally, a visit to the Holocaust memorial is perhaps more eloquent than any museum visit. In the middle of its slabs, the ambient din is suddenly engulfed and produces a striking effect:many are those who find themselves seized with a certain uneasiness, which is precisely the effect expected by its designers. The memorial is located a few steps from the Brandenburg Gate, the Prussian symbol of the capital, as well as from the German parliament, the Bundestag, whose dome can be visited by reservation and offers an excellent view of the city. This juxtaposition of the memorial with the country's past and future reminds the Abgeordneten (the elect) of their responsibility, silently reprimanded by the solemn ensemble.

9 - Teufelsberg

For the more adventurous, an expedition to Teufelsberg (the "devil's mountain") is highly recommended. A former spy base dating back to the Soviet era, the building that stands there is something to impress, with its distinctive white domes. Its decrepitude only adds to the strange character of the place, once popular with lovers of urban exploration. The former squatters have appropriated the place and have commercialized it somewhat, now organizing guided tours.

10 - The lakes

Berlin is surrounded by lakes, easily accessible by public transport. In summer, locals rush there to bask on their banks. Be careful not to get the wrong beaches though:many are indeed FKK, that is to say naturists, which is surprising for the French. The lakes are real oases in the city, already spoiled by its many wonderful parks lungs - this is what makes it so pleasant to live. What would a vacation weekend be without a little dip?

Finally, a little local advice:do not hesitate to drop your tourist itinerary and stroll around the city. It does not have the beauty of a city like Paris, but its architecture, sometimes at first sight unattractive, has its charm, particularly in summer, when it is good to walk in its tree-lined streets and its many parks. Discover the impressive memorial to the Red Army fighters erected by the Soviets in Treptower Park, stroll through the Tiergarten or in the Kreuzberg district, historically one of alternative culture and end the day with a sunset on the huge expanse of the Tempelhofer Feld, before you find a small restaurant in the adjacent Shillerkiez. The former Tempelhof airport (active until 2008!) sits proudly in the heart of the city, ignoring real estate pressure, to the delight of Berliners who have made it their favorite Sunday destination.