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Berlin  is the capital city of Germany and one of the 16 states (Länder) of the Federal Republic of Germany. Berlin is the largest city in Germany and has a population of 4.3 million within its metropolitan area and 3.4 million within the city limits. Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, for its lively nightlife, for its many cafes, clubs, and bars, and for its numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin's architecture is quite varied: though badly damaged in the final years of World War II, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, and it is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the compact city center, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultramodern glass and steel structures in Potsdamer Platz.
In Berlin there is more than one downtown area. Berlin has many districts or boroughs, called Bezirke, and each district has its unique style. Each Bezirk is composed of several Kieze - a Berlin term referring to "neighbourhood", with their unique style. Some districts of Berlin are more worthy of the traveller's attention than others.
Following are the districts of greatest interest:
Areas of interest that are not districts but known rather by name than by district:
Berlin has been officially divided into 12 large districts (Bezirke) since January 2001, a simplification of the previous 23 smaller districts (Stadtteile, Bezirke) that was undertaken purely for administrative efficiency. The smaller districts remain foremost in popular conceptions of the city, however, and are generally of a more practical size and cultural division for the purposes of the traveller. New names are usually compounded from the old names (e.g. Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf merged to Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf).
The foundation of Berlin was very multicultural. The surrounding area was populated by Germanic Swabian and Burgundian tribes, as well as Slavic Wends in pre-Christian times, and the Wends have stuck around. Their modern descendants are the Sorbian Slavic-language minority who live in villages southeast of Berlin near the Spree river.
In the beginning of the 13th century two towns (Berlin and Cölln) developed on each side of the river Spree (today the Nikolaiviertel and the quarter next to it beyond the river). As the population grew, the towns merged and Berlin became a center for commerce and the region's agriculture, but stayed small (about 10,000 inhabitants) up to the late 17th century - also because of the 30 years' war in the beginning of the 17th century, which led to death of about half of the population.
Since the the late 17th century, when large numbers of French Huguenots fled religious persecution, Berlin has welcomed asylum seekers, religious, economic or otherwise. 1701 Berlin became capital of Prussia and 1710 Berlin and surrounding former autonomous cities were merged to a bigger Berlin. In 1871 Berlin became the capital of the new founded German Reich and a few years later, also because of the immensely growing industry, a city with more than one million inhabitants. Shortly after the first world war, in 1920, the last of the annexations of surrounding cities of Berlin led to the foundation of the Berlin as we know it nowadays. After the coming into power of the National Socialists, Berlin became the capital of the so called Third Reich and the domicile and office of Hitler (though the triumph of Hitler and his companions started in the south of Germany).
WW II led to destruction of most of central Berlin, thus many of the buildings which we see nowadays are reconstructed or planned and built after the war, which led to a very fragmented cityscape in most parts of the inner town. Berlin was divided into four sectors (West Berlin into the French, American and British sector, East Berlin belonged to the USSR) because of the 2nd World War and in 1949 the GDR was founded with East Berlin as its capital - West Berlin belonged to West Germany (with Bonn as capital) and was an exclave (political island) in East Germany. Because of the growing tensions between West Germany and the GDR, latter built a wall between the countries - and around West Berlin, so the division was complete.
In 1989 the reunification started, the wall fell and in 1990 West and East Germany were merged officially together. Berlin became the capital of the reunified Germany in 1999.
Berlin is also a youth-oriented city. Before German unification, West Berliners were exempt from the West German civil/military service requirement. Social activists, pacifists and anarchists of all stripes moved to Berlin for that reason alone. Musicians and artists were given state subsidies. It was easy to stay out all night thanks to liberal bar licensing laws, and staying at university for years without ever getting a degree was a great way to kill time. In contrast with most of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg is said to have the highest per-capita birth rate in Europe (in fact it just seems so because of the high percentage of young women in the district).
After the fall of the wall, Berlin - especially the former East - has evolved into a cultural mecca. Artists and other creative souls flocked to the city in swarms after reunification, primarily due to the extremely low cost of living in the East. Despite the increased prices and gentrification as a result, Berlin has become a center for art, design, multimedia, electronic music, and fashion among other things. The particularly high number of students and young people in the city has only helped this cause. Just stroll down a street in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, or Mitte to get a glimpse of the new East Berlin.
Some famous artists of the region and their best-known works include Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucas Cranach the Younger, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel), Leni Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will), Bertolt Brecht (Threepenny Opera), Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Tucholsky, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Nosferatu), Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire (German: Der Himmel über Berlin)), Blixa Bargeld/Einstürzende Neubauten, Christopher Isherwood, Gunter Grass (The Tin Drum), members of the Bauhaus architectural movement and many more.
Berlin is a relatively young city by European standards, dating to the thirteenth century, and it has always had a reputation as a place filled with people from elsewhere. Someone who has lived in Berlin for ten years will see themselves as a "true Berliner," looking down on the person who has only been there for five. It may seem tough to find someone born and raised here! This is part of Berlin's charm: it never gets stuck in a rut.
A certain uneasy detente still exists between some former residents of East and West Berlin (and Germany). Wessi evolved as a derogatory nickname for a West German; its corollary is Ossi. The implication here is that after reunification, the West Germans automatically assumed the way they do things is the right way, and the way the Easterners should start doing it, too. Westerners got a reputation for being arrogant. They saw the Easterners as stubborn Communist holdouts only interested in a handout from the "rich West". Consider a shirt for sale in a shop inside the Alexanderplatz Deutsche Bahn station: Gott, schütze mich vor Sturm und Wind/und Wessies die im Osten sind ("God, protect me from the storm and wind, and Wessies who are in the East"). However, most of the younger generation do not share such biases.
One of the most important "products" produced in Berlin by both academic and company-sponsored institutes is research. That research is exported around the world just like tangible goods. German labor is highly efficient but comes at high cost. Strong trade unions, the end of West Berlin's pre-reunification subsidies and Germany's dense regulatory environment forced industry to concentrate on high quality and expensive products. Students went on strike in Berlin to oppose tuition fees in recent years. The universities have grown to their limits and most schools do not get sufficient funding. Students, housewives and self-employed people are not included in Berlin's official unemployment rate, currently standing at 14 percent (june2008).
Berlin is - at least in many parts - a beautiful city, so allow enough time to get to see the sights. A good map, such as the Rough Guide Berlin map, is highly recommended. While the public transport system is superb, it can be confusing to foreigners, due to a lack of signs in some of the larger stations, so a good rail map is also essential. Roads into Berlin can also be confusing, so plan your route and drive carefully. Signs point to city districts rather than indicating compass directions, so it's a good idea to get to know where the various districts lie in relation to each other. This also applies to cyclists.
Berlin's Tourist Information OfficeTourist Information Office is an excellent resource for finding out more about Berlin, providing a wealth of practical information and useful links.
 Get in
As the city was divided into two during the Cold War, many major parts of Berlin's infrastructure — such as airports — were built on both the east and west side. After the demolition of the Wall, the challenge has been to merge these formerly independent systems into one that serves all people in the metropolitan Berlin area.
 By air
Berlin has three airports :
Construction of the new Airport Berlin Brandenburg International has started at Schönefeld and the new airport is scheduled for opening in 2011. After this, all air traffic in the Berlin-Brandenburg region will be bundled at BBI, and other airports in the region closed down.
There are numerous direct flight connections between Berlin and major German and European cities. But for historical reasons it still can be difficult to find a direct flight to Berlin from outside of Europe. Especially the German flag carrier Lufthansa will mostly fly to its major hub airports Frankfurt and Munich and offer connecting (or code-share) flights to Berlin.
Since end of 2005, Delta and Continental Airlines have established daily direct flights from New York (JFK and Newark).
 By bus
Berlin is serviced from over 350 destinations in Europe. Due to a german law supporting the german national railway there is only one bus corporation connecting Berlin with these destinations. Long distance buses arrive at Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (Central Bus Terminal) in Charlottenburg. From there take the S-Bahn (station Messe Nord) or bus into town.
 By train
Berlin is served by ICE, InterCity and EuroCity trains by the national German train corporation Deutsche Bahn  (DB) which offers connections between Berlin and other German and major European cities. If you arrive in Berlin on a national (non-regional) DB trip, you are entitled to use your ticket in the whole local transport to your final destination within the city (Zone A).
Several night trains from/to Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Vienna (special offer for 29 euros in one direction) travel every day. They are popular with backpackers so reservations are recommended. Long-haul trains to Eastern European cities (Warsaw, Kaliningrad and Moscow) mostly use the Bahnhof Lichtenberg in Eastern Berlin. Make sure you have a reservation because these lines are also very popular.
Some private train companies such as Veolia  offer connections to smaller cities in Eastern Germany.
During the times of its division, Berlin had two main train stations: Zoologischer Garten (colloquial nameBahnhof Zoo) in the West, and Ostbahnhof in the East. The new 'Hauptbahnhof' may be titled 'Lehrter Bahnhof' on older maps & is situated between the S-Bahn stations Friedrichstrasse and Bellevue.
The new building for the central station Hauptbahnhof  was opened in May 2006 and together with Südkreuz (southern cross) and Ostbahnhof (eastern station) - plus minor Gesundbrunnen in the north and Spandau in the north west - form the backbone of all connections. All are connected to either S- or U-Bahn (planned is both). All trains travel through central station and a second major hub (depending on the destination you travel to or arrive from). Trains in the regional area (Berlin and Brandenburg) mostly use these stations. Regional trains stop at several stations within Berlin.
 By car
All main roads and motorways join the Berliner Ring, or the A10, from which you can access the inner city. The city motorway is usually very crowded during rush hour.
As of January 1, 2008, Berlin requires all cars to have a "Low Emissions" sticker in order to enter the city center (Low Emmision Zone, "Umweltzone"). Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several weeks in advance) is available here .
 Get around
Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is free), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English.
Check the Berlin route planner  (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn and trams, or to print your personal journey planner. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have a detailed fare list on their web site .
If you don't know how to get somewhere, or how to get home at night, call +49 30 19449, the Customer Service of the BVG. There are also facilities in most U-Bahn and some S-Bahn stations to contact the Customer Service directly. In 2005 the BVG introduced Metro lines (buses and tram) that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All lines are marked with a big orange plate and a white M.
It's also worth noting that the house numbers do not necessarily run in one direction (up or down). On a lot of streets, the numbers ascend on one side and descend on the other. Especially on long streets check the numbering scheme first: you can find the name of the street and the numbers on that block at nearly every street corner.
 Public transport ticketing
Berlin uses a zone system, but you are unlikely to need to go beyond zone A & B, except on trips to Potsdam or to the Schönefeld Airport (SXF). This is a very large area. The public transport system (U, S-Bahn, bus, tram) uses a common ticket.
Standard tickets (€ 2.10 for A & B) are valid for any travel within two hours of validation, in a single direction, within the appropriate fare zones. There is no limit to transfers. For a single journey you can buy a cheap Kurzstrecke for €1.30, but this is only valid for 3 stops on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn (six stops by bus or tram); no transfers are permitted.
Several options are available for unlimited travel. Prices listed here are only for zones A and B, prices for A, B, and C cost marginally more. Check the machines for the actual prices:
All tickets are available at vending machines at U- and S-Bahn platforms. English and other European languages are available. Payment is mostly by local bank cards and coins. A few vending machines accept banknotes (up to € 20). If you need assistance most larger stations have staffed ticket counters where you can ask questions and buy tickets. Buses will accept cash, and make change for tickets. Hotels may sell tickets as well.
In some places like Zoologischer Garten and Eberswalder Straße, people will try to sell used tickets to you. Be aware that you can go only one direction with a single-journey ticket (check the validation stamp and be careful as this could also be a pickpocket trick). Don't pay more than half the price.
You need to validate your ticket using the machines on the U- and S-bahn platforms or in the bus. The machines are yellow/white in the U-Bahn and the bus, and red on S-Bahn platforms. Validation simply means the machine prints a time stamp onto the ticket. Once validated, a ticket which is still valid will not have to be re-validated before each single trip. You will pay a €40 fine if you are caught with an unvalidated ticket.
 By train
Berlin has an amazingly efficient S-Bahn , trains run roughly every 10 minutes during daytime, every 5 minutes during rush-hour and every 20 minutes during the night and on weekends. Most S-Bahn lines run on an east-west route between Ostkreuz and Westkreuz via the stops Warschauer Straße, Ostbahnhof, Jannowitzbrücke, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt, Friedrichstraße, Hauptbahnhof, Bellevue, Tiergarten, Zoologischer Garten, Savignyplatz and Charlottenburg. Other lines run along a circle track around the city, most notably the S 8 and the S 41, S 42, S 45, S 46 lines.
 By underground
The Berlin U-Bahn (subway/metro) is something to behold; it is so charmingly precise! There are no turnstiles to limit access, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checkers you will be fined €40 so it is probably not worth the risk. All U-Bahn stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.
Detailed maps can be found in every U-Bahn station and on the trains. Don't be confused by the alternative tram maps. U-Bahn stations can be seen from far by their big, friendly blue U signs. Together with the S-Bahn  (which is administered by Deutsche Bahn and mostly runs aboveground), the U-Bahn provides a transportation network throughout greater Berlin that is extremely efficient and fast. On weekend (Friday to Sunday), as well as during the Christmas and New Year holidays, all U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines (except line U4) run all night, so returning from late night outings is easy, especially given the average start time of most 'parties' in Berlin (11PM to 1AM). During the week there is no U-Bahn or S-Bahn service from appr. 1AM to 4:30AM, but metro trams/buses and special Night Buses (parallel to the U-Bahn line) run every half an hour from 12:30AM to 4:30AM.
 By tram
The trams are mostly in East Berlin, as in the West the tram lines were removed to facilitate more vehicular traffic. If you don't have a ticket already, you can buy one inside the tram.
Two types of tram service are available. Metrotrams frequent more often as well as by night. Tram routes not so identified stop more frequently and may even include picturesque single-track rides through forested areas far east of the Mitte district.
 By bus
Although buses are the slowest public transport vehicles, these yellow double-decker buses are part of Berlin's transit landscape and they will get you in every corner of Berlin. Besides the normal and metro busses there are also express busses (marked with a X) which don't stop at every station.
The most famous bus line especially for tourists is bus route 100, which leaves from Zoo Station ("Berlin Zoologischer Garten") or - if you want to go the other way round - Alexanderplatz, and crosses most of historic Berlin, including many of the sites listed here. For the price of a city bus ticket or daily pass, it's possible to see much of the landmarks of Berlin from one of these yellow double-decker buses. Sit up top as it's easier to see the Reichstag, as well as the many historic buildings on Unter den Linden. If you're lucky, you'll get the legendary bus-driver who delivers a commentary (in Berlin-accented German) on the trip. Line 200 takes nearly the same route, but it goes through the modern quarters around Potsdamer Platz. Either ride is a must for any visitor to Berlin.
 By bicycle
Cycling is another great way to tour Berlin .
Berlin has few steep hills and offers many bicycle paths (Radwege) throughout the city (although not all are very smooth). These include "860km of completely separate bike paths, 60km of bike lanes on streets, 50km of bike lanes on sidewalks, 100km of mixed-use pedestrian-bike paths, and 70km of combined bus-bike lanes on streets (City of Berlin, 2007)" (Pucher & Buehler, 2007). Bicycles are a very popular method of transportation among Berlin residents, and there is almost always a certain level of bicycle traffic. Bicycle rentals are available in the city, although the prices vary (usually from €7.50 per day). In addition, the Deutsche Bahn (DB) placed many public bicycles  throughout the city in 2003. These can be unlocked by calling a number on the bicycle with a cellphone (called "handy" in German). Seeing Berlin by bicycle is unquestionably a great way, that will acquaint the traveller with the big tourist sites, and the little Sprees and side streets as well. Although it's good to carry your own map, you can also always check your location at any U-Bahn station and many Bus Stations. You can create your own bicycling maps online, optimized by less busy routes or fewer traffic lights or your favorite paving . If you are not familiar with searching your own way through the city or you want more explanation to the sights you visit you can get guided bike tours (with bike included) on Berlin Bike .
German is of course the main language in Berlin but you can easily find information in English and sometimes in French. Since the football world cup in 2006, all the public transportation staff got language training and should be able to help you in English. If you seem to be lost or hesitating in a metro station, a member of the staff could come to you to help you.
Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people aged 16 or older - usually €6 to €8 (only available is a day ticket with which one can also visit the other state museums - except special exhibitions) for the big museums, discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. However, the state-run museums  grant free entrance four hours before closing every Thursday. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass for €19 (reduced €9.50), which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the appr. 50 state run museums. Note that most museums are closed on Mondays!
A short list of important museums (for a more detailed list check the district articles) are:
 Private art galleries
As Berlin is a city of art, it is quite easy to find an art gallery on your way. They provide a nice opportunity to have a look at modern artists' work in a not so crowded environment for free. Some gallery streets with more than about a dozen galleries are Auguststraße, Linienstraße, Torstraße, Brunnenstraße (all Mitte, north of S-Bahn station Oranienburger Straße), Zimmerstraße (Kreuzberg, U-Bahn station Kochstraße) and Fasanenstraße (Charlottenburg).
There are some historically interesting and architecturally remarkable churches which are the following:
 Landmarks with observation decks
While Berlin has relatively few high-rise buildings, there are several monuments with observation decks. Probably the most famous of all is the TV Tower near Alexanderplatz, the tallest tower in Germany and second largest in Europe, which has a rotating café at the top spinning 360 degrees in just 30 minutes! 40 seconds is all it takes to reach the top by lift. But there are also other great observation desks, the main ones are listed below (for others have a look in the district pages).
Berlin does not attempt to hide the less savoury parts of its history: a visit to the Topography of Terror  (Mitte), for example, provides interesting but sobering insights into the activities of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years (1933-1945). Many of the walking tours also discuss scenes both of Nazi activity and of Cold War tension and terror.
Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the City West is the historic zoo that has been a listed company since its foundation. It's an oasis in the city and very popular with families and schools.
Go on a Walking Tour of Berlin - the Mitte and surrounding districts are sufficiently compact to allow a number of excellent walking tours through its history-filled streets. You'll see amazing things you would otherwise miss. Details are usually available from the reception desks of hostels and hotels. Some options include:
Special themed tours:
Berlin is also great for cycling due to its many bike paths and flat geography.
Trips for gays
Pick up a copy of Exberliner , the monthly English-language paper for Berlin to find out what's on, when and where. It provides high quality journalism and up-to-date listings. If you understand German, the activity planners for the city, zitty  and tip , are available at every kiosk or get Stadtkind  for free at several clubs and bars. Be prepared to choose among a huge amount of options.
Berlin has many great parks which are very popular in the summer. Green Berlin  operates some of them.
 Theatre, Opera, Concerts, Cinema
Berlin has a lot of theater houses, cinemas, concerts and other cultural events going on all the time. The most important ones are listed here.
There are about a hundred cinemas in Berlin, although most of them are only showing movies dubbed in German, without subtitles. Listed below are some of the more important cinemas also showing movies in the original language (look for the OmU - "original with subtitles" - notation). Most movies which are dubbed in German are released a bit later in Germany. Tickets are normally €5 to €7. Monday to Wednesday are special cinema days with reduced admission.
 Concert Houses
In Berlin you can do virtually all sports
Spas are very trendy.
Berlin has three major universities:
There are several smaller universities and colleges in Berlin but the current restructure of the university makes it difficult to give an overview. The responsible senator of the City of Berlin has a good overview page.
The current economic climate is getting better but work is still not easy to find in Berlin. If you don't have a sound level of German it's unlikely that you will find work easily. Any kind of skills (especially languages) that separates you from the mass will definitely improve your chances for a job.
If you are an EU citizen, a student or have a work permit you may be able to scrape by teaching English (Spanish, French, Latin are good, too) or working in a bar but it'll be tough, there's not much work around. Chances are better when big trade fairs or conventions are in town, so apply at temp agencies. Hospitality and call centers are constantly hiring but the illegal workforce is keeping wages low.
Berlin has a growing media, modelling and film industry. For daily soaps, telenovelas and movies most companies are looking for extras with something specific. Apply at the bigger casting and acting agencies.
For English-language jobs, if might be worth checking out the classified ads of the monthly magazine for English-speakers, Exberliner .
Due to federal liberalisation, shopping hours are theoretically unlimited. Nevertheless, many of the smaller shops still close at 8 p.m. Most of the bigger stores and nearly all of the malls are open additionally until 9 or 10PM from Thursday to Saturday. Sunday opening is still limited to about a dozen weekends per year, although some supermarkets located at train stations (Hauptbahnhof, Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichstraße, Innsbrucker Platz and Ostbahnhof) are open also on Sundays. Many bakeries and small food stores (called Spätkauf) are open late at night and on Sundays in busier neighbourhoods (especially Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain). Stores inside the Hauptbahnhof central station have long opening hours (usually until about 10 or 11PM), also on Sundays.
The main shopping areas are:
Ku'Damm and its extension, Tauentzienstraße remain the main shopping streets even now that the Wall has come down. KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) at Wittenbergplatz is a must visit just for the vast food dept at the 6th floor. It's reputedly the biggest department store on Continental Europe and still has an old world charm, with very helpful and friendly staff.
Friedrichstraße is the upmarket shopping street in the former East Berlin with Galeries Lafayettes and the other Quartiers (204 to 207) as main areas to be impressed with wealthy shoppers. The renovated Galeria Kaufhof department store at Alexanderplatz is also worth a visit. The main shopping area for the alternative, but still wealthy crowd is north of Hackescher Markt, especially around the Hackesche Höfe. For some more affordable but still very fashionable shopping there is Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain with a lot of young designers opening shops, but also lots of record stores and design shops. Constant changes make it hard to recommend a place though, but the area around station Eberswalder Straße in Prenzlauer Berg, around Bergmannstraße and Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg and around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain are always great when it comes to shopping.
For cheap books, a nice choice is Jokers Restseller in Friedrichstraße 148 (tel +49 30 20 45 84 23) where there is a wide variety of secondhand books. For souvenirs, have a look just in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, these shops sell almost the same items as others, but are cheaper, not all the staff speaks English though. You can also get cheap postcards there (from €0.30 while the average price for normal postcard is €0.50-0.80). For collectible stamps go to Goethe Straße 2 (Ernst Reuter Platz, U2), where you can find a Philatelic Post Office from the Deutsche Post. They generally speak English. For alternative souvenirs (design, fashion and small stuff from Berlin designers and artists), go to ausberlin  near Alexanderplatz, it's a bit hidden at the other side of Kaufhof at the Karl-Liebknecht-Straße.
 Gifts + Souvenirs
 Flea markets
You can find dozens of flea markets with different themes in Berlin (mostly on weekends), but worth checking out is the big one at Straße des 17. Juni:
A staple in Berlin is currywurst. It's a bratwurst covered in ketchup and curry powder. You can find them all over Berlin by street vendors. It's a must try when in Berlin. Two reknowned Currywurst stands are "Konnopke's Imbiss" below Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn station on line 2 and "Curry 36" opposite the Mehringdamm U-Bahn station in Kreuzberg (only two stops south of Checkpoint Charlie). Both of these offer far friendlier service than many of Berlin's more upmarket eateries.
Eating out in Berlin is incredibly inexpensive compared to any other Western European capital or other German cities. The city is multicultural and many cultures' cuisine is represented here somewhere, although it is often modified to suit German tastes. Vegetarians can eat quite well with a little bit of research and menu modification even if Berlin seems like a carnivore heaven with all the sausage stands. Many kebab restaurants have a good selection of roasted vegetables and salads. Falafels are also tasty and suitable for vegetarians.
All prices must include VAT by law. Only upmarket restaurants may ask for a further service surcharge. Note that it is best to ask if credit cards are accepted before you sit down -- it's not that common to accept credit cards in some parts of the city. Most likely to be accepted are Visa and Mastercard, all other cards will be only accepted in some upmarket restaurants.
One of the main tourist areas for eating out is Hackescher Markt / Oranienburger Straße. This area has dramatically changed during the years: once full of squats and not-entirely-legal bars and restaurants, it had some real character. It is rapidly being developed and corporatized, and even the most famous squat - the former Jewish-owned proto-shopping mall "Tacheles" - has had a bit of a facelift. There are still some gems in the side streets, though: the "Assel" (Woodlouse) on Oranienburger Straße, furnished with DDR-era furniture, is still relatively authentic and worth a visit, especially on a warm summer night. Oranienburger Straße is also an area where prostitutes line up at night, but don't be put off by this. The area is actually very safe since several administrative and religious buildings are located there.
For cheap and good food (especially from Turkey and the Middle East) you should try Kreuzberg and Neukölln with their abundance of Indian, pizza and Döner Kebap restaurants (Berlin was the birthplace of the Döner Kebab about 30 years ago). Prices start from 1,50 € for a kebab or Turkish pizza (different from the original Italian recipe and ingredients). If you are looking for a quick meal you could try getting off at Görlitzer Bahnhof or Schlesisches Tor on the U1 line - the area is filled with inexpensive, quality restaurants.
Kastanienallee is a good choice too - but again not what it used to be since the developers moved in (much less exploited than Hackescher Markt, though). It's a popular area with artists, students and has a certain Bohemian charm. Try Imbiss W, at the corner of Zionskirchstraße and Kastanienallee, where they serve superb Indian-fusion food, mostly vegetarian, at the hands of artist-chef Gordon W. Further up the street is the Prater Garten, Berlin's oldest beer garden and an excellent place in the summer.
 Waiters and tipping
The custom in Berlin is to tell the waiter how much you're paying when you receive the bill - don't leave the money on the table. If there is confusion with the tip, remember to ask for your change, Wechselgeld (money back).
Normally a 5-10% tip is OK (or round up to the next Euro) if you are satisfied with the service, but remember that even if waiters don't get paid much anywhere, in Western Europe they are not dependent on tips to make a living as they are in the U.S., and it is possible to live on one's hourly wage. If the service has been very good and friendly feel free to tip more (especially when they help you with the language!).
All restaurant recommendation are in the corresponding borough articles of
It is very common to go out for breakfast on weekends for brunch (long breakfast together with lunch, all you can eat buffet, usually from 10AM to 4PM and for 3 to 10 euro - sometimes including coffee, tea or juice). Here are some special tips (see the district pages for further):
Buffet breakfast (brunch)
Pub crawling is popular in Berlin, especially among backpackers. There are several tour companies but the best known pub crawl for backpackers is organised by New Berlin Tours. Keep in mind that you won't get into the cooler bars that way as they try to keep the doors closed for pub crawl tourists.
Berliners love to drink cocktails, and it's a main socialising point for young people. Many people like to meet their friends in a cocktail bar before clubbing. Prenzlauer Berg (Around U-Bahnhof Eberswalder Str., Helmholtzplatz, Oderberger Straße & Kastanienallee), Kreuzberg (Bergmannstraße, Oranienstraße and the area around Görlitzer Park and U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor), Schöneberg (Goltzstraße, Nollendorfplatz, Motzstraße for gays), and Friedrichshain (Simon-Dach-Straße and around Boxhagener Platz) are the main areas. There aren't as many illegal bars as there was in the 90s but bars open and close faster than you can keep up with - check out the bar and cocktail guides in the bi-weekly magazines Tip or Zitty. For recommended bars, have a look at the district pages.
For more clubs, have a look at the district pages.
The club scene in Berlin is one of the biggest and most progressive in Europe. Even though there are some 200 clubs in the city, it's sometimes difficult to find the right club for you since the best ones are a bit off the beaten track and most bouncers will keep bigger tourist groups (especially males) out. Entrance is cheap compared to other big European cities, normally from 5 to 10 euro (usually no drink included).
The main clubbing districts are in the east: Mitte (especially north of Hackescher Markt and - a bit hidden - around Alexanderplatz), Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (around Schlesisches Tor) and Prenzlauer Berg (around station Eberswalder Str.). Some mainstream clubs are located in Charlottenburg and at Potsdamer Platz. Electro and techno are still the biggest in Berlin, with lots of progressive DJs and live acts around. But there are also many clubs playing 60s beat, alternative rock and of course mainstream music. Clubbing days are Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday, but some clubs are open every day of the week. Partying in Berlin starts around midnight (weekends) and peaks around 2AM or 3AM in the normal clubs, a bit later in many electro/techno clubs. Berlin is famous for its long and decadent after hours, going on until Monday evening.
After the end of the Cold War, Berlin witnessed a construction boom of hotels and offices. The boom has meant that there are tons of hotels which results in comparatively cheap prices even in the 5 star category (off-season price of 100 Euros per night). Especially for a short visit, it may be best to stay at a place in Berlin-Mitte (around Friedrichstraße or Alexanderplatz for example), as most of the main sights are located there. Due to its history, most hotels in Berlin are still located in the western part of town (i.e. Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf). You won't find any hotel located directly at the new main train station but they plann to build some in the near future. Cheapest are youth hostels (called Jugendherbergen, only for members) and hostels (similar to youth hostels, but for everyone, mostly backpackers stay here, usually also with one and two-bed rooms), you will find also bed and breakfast offers (often private) and boarding houses (Pension, more familiar and smaller then hotels).
Check the district pages for individual accommodation listings. Popular hotel districts include:
GrandCityHotels, owner of 13 Hotels in Berlin offers hotelrooms in almost all discricts. [GrandCity Hotels Berlin].
The four star Excelsior hotel Berlin is located in one of the best areas of Berlin, in walking distance to the famous Kurfuerstendamm and KaDeWe, commercial areas and the Zoological Garden. [Leonardo Excelsior Hotel Berlin].
Most people under 40 in Berlin are able to speak English in a varying degree of fluency, but it might not be as widely spoken as you might expect, so a few key German phrases are worth having, especially in the suburbs and generally in non touristic places.
Some people are afraid of speaking English due to their limited experience in talking to foreigners. So a lot of people pretend not to speak English but might understand your intention if you explain your desire with some gestures. Basic French and Russian is partly spoken because French in West Berlin and Russian in East Berlin were taught in schools.
There are some words in Berlin that differ from regular German, especially in the former East Berlin the language preserved a certain level of dialect.
Broiler: grilled chicken.
Pfannkuchen: doughnut (without a hole in the middle but with filling)
You can find internet cafes and telephone shops all around Berlin. Do a bit of research with the telephone shops because most have a focus region in the world. Many bars, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi for their guests.
The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country (eg. North America) check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility.
A free wireless network covers parts of Berlin, but requires special software on your computer. More information including maps of Berlin with coverage is available online, .
 Stay safe
Berlin is a safe place but it has some not so well maintained areas as well. No specific rules apply with the exception of public transportation and tourist areas where pickpockets are a problem. Watch your bags during rush hours and at larger train stations.
There are certain areas, especially in northern Neukölln and parts of Kreuzberg to the south of the city centre and Wedding to the north, where the risk of falling victim to robberies and assaults is slightly higher. Especially during the night, tourists should visit these areas with some caution as a mixture of drunken party people & poor neighbourhood can lead to trouble.
Since the 1980s there have been localized riots on Labour Day (1st May). In general they took and take place in Kreuzberg around Oranienstraße/Mariannenplatz. Nowadays they start usually in the night before May 1st, especially in the Mauerpark (Prenzlauer Berg), at Boxhagener Platz and in Rigaer Str. (Friedrichshain) and continue at the evening of May 1st in Kreuzberg and the mentioned areas. They became rather small since 2005 due to engagement of the citizens who celebrate the Labour Day with a nice "myfest" in Kreuzberg and well-planned police efforts. Even so, it is better to stay out of these areas after 8pm and until sunrise. Vehicles should not be parked in these areas either!
Racially-motivated violence is rare but the risk is higher on the outskirts of East Berlin. It is recommended for non-Caucasian tourists to be attentive in areas such as Lichtenberg, Hellersdorf, Marzahn, Treptow and Köpenick in the evening and night, especially if alone. Rule of thumb: when heading to the eastern part of Berlin, stay inside the S-Bahn-Ring (number S41, S42) and you'll be alright.
The police in Berlin are competent and not corrupt therefore if you try to bribe you are likely to spend a night behind bars to check your background. They are generally helpful to tourists. Most of the officers are able to speak English, so don't hesitate to approach them if you are frightened or lost.
The nationwide emergency number is 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is 110.
Prostitution is a legal business in Germany. Berlin has no major red-light district like Hamburg or Amsterdam though some big brothels were built (biggest is Artemis) or in the permission process. Berlin has no "Sperrbezirk" (restricted areas for prostitutes), therefore the "apartments" or brothels are spread through out the whole city. The Oranienburger Straße (Mitte) is (in)famous for its prostitutes, though. It is becoming more and more of a tourist attraction and the ladies focus mainly on tourists.
The proximity to Eastern Europe, more relaxed visa rules and the slowly improving economic situation in Berlin increases the number of prostitutes significantly. Advertisements are in the tabloids and especially the internet. Human trafficking and illegal immigration is a problem, therefore police raids regularly close down illegal places (Brothels & Prostitutes must be registered like normal businesses). In most cases, the police are not interested in the clients but you must have a photo ID with you. Otherwise you are likely to spend a night in prison until your ID is checked.
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