Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts and a very high quality of living. The earliest evidence of settlements in the area of today’s Berlin are remnants of a house foundation dated to 1174, found in excavations in Berlin Mitte.
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Berlin contains three World Heritage Sites: Museum Island (Museumsinsel, map); the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (*Sanssouci, map); and the *Modernism Housing Estates.
Mitte (Mitte, Tiergarten, map) – The “heart” of Berlin. As well as many historically important sights there are also abundant cafés, restaurants, museums, galleries, and clubs in the district.
Other landmarks include the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, *Potsdamer Platz (map), the Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, map), the East Side Gallery (map), the *Victory Column, Cathedral (map) and the Television Tower (map), the tallest structure in Germany.
The Brandenburg Gate is an iconic landmark of Berlin and Germany; it stands as a symbol of eventful European history and of unity and peace. The Reichstag building is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. It was remodelled by British architect Norman Foster in the 1990s and features a glass dome over the session area, which allows free public access to the parliamentary proceedings and magnificent views of the city.
The East Side Gallery is an open-air exhibition of art painted directly on the last existing portions of the Berlin Wall. It is the largest remaining evidence of the city’s historical division. The Museum Island in the River Spree houses five museums built from 1830 to 1930 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Apart from the Museum Island, there are many additional museums in the city. The Gemäldegalerie (Painting Gallery, map) focuses on the paintings of the “old masters” from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery, map) specializes in 20th-century European painting. The Hamburger Bahnhof (map), in Moabit, exhibits a major collection of modern and contemporary art.
Unter den Linden (map) is a tree-lined east–west avenue from the Brandenburg Gate to the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss, and was once Berlin’s premier promenade. Many Classical buildings line the street and part of Humboldt University (map) is there. *Friedrichstraße (map) was Berlin’s legendary street during the Golden Twenties.
The area around Hackescher Markt (map) is home to fashionable culture, with countless clothing outlets, clubs, bars, and galleries. One of Europe’s largest delicatessen markets is found at the KaDeWe (map), and among the world’s largest chocolate stores is Fassbender & Rausch. ⇒ Flea Markets in Berlin.