Though it doesn’t sit on the banks of the River Elbe, Germany’s capital is an obvious starting point for Elbe River cruises, being one of Europe’s most important cities and only a coach transfer away from Magdeburg, where many Elbe River cruises embark. Berlin has always been a lead player on Germany’s historic stage and will forever be associated with one of its darkest periods during the Second World War. Unsurprisingly, a number of its most popular attractions are related to the time of the Third Reich, but there are is a wealth of other attractions to be explored in the city. Some stunning architecture and absorbing museums, as well as plenty of beautiful green space, make Berlin a firm river cruise favourite.
The historic Reichstag Building is top of the list of must-sees for many visitors to Berlin and retains its classic architecture on the outside. Restored during German reunification, it lay disused for over 50 years following the infamous fire of 1933 which swept through it and today is where the parliament meets once more and is free for visitors to enjoy. A lift to the top floor offers you an excellent view over the city and it’s a great way of deciding where you want to go next.
One of the most popular attractions you can see from the top of the Reichstag Building is the iconic Brandenburg Gate, one of Germany’s most celebrated tourist attractions. Built by Wilhelm II on the site of the city’s former gate, it began life as a monument of peace, but its symbolism altered when it became known for marking the division of East and West Germany. Indeed, it suffered extensive damage during the Second World War but has been beautifully restored and is a truly impressive sight. The Berlin Wall Memorial is another popular attraction, offering a poignant look at what life was like during the time of the country’s division.
Further explorations into the city’s wartime past can be enjoyed on an informative and fascinating tour of the Gesundbrunnen Bunker, but for those wishing to delve deeper into the country’s past, the German Historical Museum is another very popular attraction. Berlin also offers one of the world’s finest ancient history museums, the Pergamon Museum, home to such fabled artefacts as the Altar of Zeus and Babylon’s Ishtar Gate.
Berlin is a green city in every sense, as around a third of it comprises gardens, forests, rivers and lakes. One of the most beautiful gardens you can explore is Potsdam’s, located close to the former royal residence Sans Souci Palace and landscaped in the classic German style. Running directly through the city’s centre, Tiergarten is a beautiful park popular with visitors and locals alike, offering a welcome escape from the hustle-bustle.
With so much to see, the city’s efficient underground system is an excellent way to get around and a Zone A and B ticket will take you most of the places you’ll want to go. For a taste of local cuisine try Berlin’s favourite on-the-move snack – currywurst – that’s bratwurst with ketchup and curry powder.