With historic sights and an open-minded attitude, Berlin is one of the most charismatic capitals in Europe. From iconic museums to trendy neighborhoods, there’s much to see and do in the German capital. Not much time to spare? Want to get off the beaten path? Take a look at these five recommendations in this quick Berlin guide for an alternative experience. Perfect for enjoying free time during your next business trip!
Hike to Teufelsberg hill for sunset
What about standing on a mountain made of rubble, watching see the sunset? Located near Grunewald forest and rising 120 meters above sea level, Teufelsberg (German for Devil’s Moutain) is a man-made hill, created by piling up debris from Berlin in the years following the Second World War. Buried in the mountain, there’s the rubble of Nazi military technical college and on top of it, you can see the radomes of an abandoned US listening station.
Say hello to Berlin’s oldest tree
Berlin is a city with centuries of history. It sounds strange but one particular tree in the city has seen it all – well about 800 or 900 years of it. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Hafenbrücke bridge in Tegel, Dicke Marie, an impressive English oak stands 26 meters high and has a trunk with a diameter of more than two meters. Taller than any house when the name of Berlin was officially mentioned for the first time back in 1244, Marie has seen the city grow through medieval times, the plague and wars. Legend says two boys, who are thought to have been brothers Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, named the tree after their cook: Fat Mary.
Explore the underworld
Every Berlin guide covers the sights above ground, but there are many other things to see beneath your feet. Underground, there’s a network of bunkers, basements and tunnels that Berliners used for shelter in the Second World War and years later, to prepare for a nuclear attack during the Cold war. Even some East Germans went underground in their attempt to flee the communist regime. A green door in the Gesundbrunnen underground railway station is the starting point of group tours to explore the underworld.
Discover the secrets of the Stasi main prison
The Stasi kept East Berliners under strict surveillance, effectively imposing a system of political and artistic oppression. Thousands of dissidents and opponents to the GDR regime were victims of reclusion and torture in the 200 cells and interrogation rooms of the Hohenschönhausen prison. The complex, part of a restricted military area in the far eastern section of the city, did not appear on any maps and was hermetically sealed off the outside world so few people knew what happened inside its walls. Nowadays it’s possible to take a four-hour tour of the prison, which closed its gates in 1990.
Hey, ho, let’s go with the Ramones
It would be more natural to find this museum in New York, the hometown of the legendary American punk rock band. However, starting with a ticket stub and a shirt, fan Flo Hayler accumulated so many items and memorabilia over 20 years that the most logical step was to build a Ramones museum. From setlists and posters to clothes and gear, there are more than 500 objects on display, covering every period of the Ramones history. The museum also doubles as a small bar and hosts live shows from time to time.