Berlin – the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany and the largest city in the country and the most populated among the cities of the European Union. Its inhabitants have immigrated to a place full of less than 180 countries, which gives it a colorful and unique hue, abundance and texture characteristic only of it and it has no second in European cities in this respect. It is full of historical sites, cultural sites and a lively night scene which makes it one of the pearls that Europe has to offer and indeed it has so much that one visit will not be enough.
spoken language: German, but most locals have a good command of the English language as well
residents: 3.5 million
hour: Israel +1
visa:Israeli passport holders do not need a special visa
electrical power: As in Israel, 220 volts
phone in case of emergency: Embassy of Israel in Berlin -00-49-30-890455 | Address: Auguste Victoria Straße 74-75
History on the edge of the fork
Originally, the city was divided into two separate cities which were united at the beginning of the 14th century and ruled by the vassals of Frederick VI, to the dismay of the city’s residents. The residents rebelled against the royal family during the 15th century, in an unsuccessful rebellion, and their political and economic rights were denied and the city was divided Secondly. Since then the city has gone through hardships and sufferings, it has been conquered and looted, its houses have been destroyed and half of the city’s population has been killed.
In the 17th century, Friedrich Wilhelm was appointed governor of the city. He promoted an immigration policy and showed religious tolerance, which made it possible to absorb residents and increase the area of the city and it received its image as a “city of immigrants”. During the 19th century, the city changed its face following the industrial revolution, the population grew and the city’s economy grew rapidly until it became the capital of the German Empire and later the capital of the new republic.
With the rise of the Nazis to power, the city became the capital of the Third Reich and had about 160,000 Jewish residents. These were imprisoned, robbed and murdered, starting from Kristallnacht until the end of World War II. During the war, large areas of the city were destroyed and after the surrender of the Nazis and occupation by the Red Army, the city was divided once again – this time into four districts which were later united into two – West Berlin and East Berlin.
In November 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city was united for the last time.
Berlin is known as a city that is convenient and easy to navigate and move around in. Networked with buses, train stations and trams, and with the exception of taxis and night lines, this is a uniform travel card that allows travel by all means. Savers are advised to purchase weekly or monthly tickets or a Welcome card which also includes discounted entry to sites and museums.
It is important to note when purchasing the tickets that Berlin is divided into three central areas marked with the letters A (city center), B (the area around the center where most of the tourist sites are located) and C (outskirts of the city and airports).
Costs: A normal travel ticket is valid for two hours and costs about 2.5 euros. If you buy 4 tickets at once you can save 1 euro, but it is better to buy a daily ticket at a cost of 6.5 euros. For those who intend to stay in the city for a longer time, it is recommended to purchase a weekly ticket (about 28 euros) or a monthly ticket (about 75 euros). It is recommended to have a small amount of money (it is not always possible to pay with credit).
Taxi: the most expensive means of transportation in the city, with an average cost of about 20 euros. It is important not to forget to ask for a receipt because if you forget equipment in the taxi – this is how you will get it back to you.
In addition, it is important to know that short trips that do not exceed 2 km are at a fixed price of 4 euros.
Bus: over 150 bus lines are active in the city and this is the cheapest means of transportation for those who prefer to purchase a single trip.
Train: The fast train is called S-Bahn and the subway U-Bahn. Both are a quick and convenient way to cross the city.
Bicycles: an excellent way to get to know the city and keep fit. There are places where you can rent bikes but the daily price is relatively high (10-15 euros). Travelers in the city for at least a week are advised to purchase a used bicycle (100 euros) and sell it at the end of the trip, or use the public bicycle rental system – use is free for half an hour and a credit card is required to activate the service.
Tram: called MetroTram and connects Berlin with about 30 lines. The trip is convenient and fast and included in the uniform ticket price.
Car rental: traveling on the roads is considered convenient for private vehicles and there are parking lots even at the busy tourist sites. Pay attention to signage and payment requirements to avoid heavy fines.
Arrival from Schönfeld airport: the most recommended ways are traveling by bus (lines 171, X7 or N71) or by high-speed train (lines S9 or S45). A taxi to the city center will cost about 50 euros.
Arrival from Tegel Airport: There is no direct train but there are many bus lines that reach the city center (109, 128, X9 and TXL). A taxi ride will cost about 30 euros for a pair of passengers without excess luggage.
Culture and must see sites
Culture lovers will be able to enjoy about 50 state museums and a larger number of private museums, orchestra performances, opera and live music in almost every genre, cinemas, theater shows, street shows as well as universities and colleges that open their doors to tourists.
Must-see sites for the beginner tourist:
Monuments: Berlin Wall, New Guard House, Memorial to the Jews of Europe, Check Point Charlie, Victory Column, Brandenburg Gate.
Museums: New Museum, Old Museum, Jewish Museum, Museum Island, Pergamon Museum, Old National Gallery, New National Gallery, German History Museum, Natural History Museum, Topography of Terror.
Palaces, churches and government buildings: Reichstag Building, Bellevue Palace, Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin TV Tower, French Cathedral, Berlin Cathedral, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
Parks and Gardens: The White Lake, Trafto Park, Tiergarten, Berlin Zoo.
Tourist Information: Look for a red square with the letter i in it, this is the tourist information and you can find maps there, order tickets to sites, tours and events and even hotel stays. This is the place to point out that Berlin offers free city tours almost every day of the week and at the end of the tour each of the participants pays according to their desire and/or ability.
Pleasant in the summer and freezing in the winter, which makes the city a desirable destination in the months of June-September but it has a lot to offer in the transition seasons as well.
In the summer, the average temperature is 24 degrees, which for most Israeli tourists is considered pleasant weather. It is recommended to stock up on summer clothes for the day and light long outerwear for the evening hours.
The seasons of transition are fickle. The average temperatures are 7-20 degrees and in any weather – take an umbrella with you. If it’s not too cold it’s a wonderful time because the sites are less crowded, the lines are shorter and romance is in the air.
Winter itself is quite cold and temperatures drop below zero. The lakes and canals freeze and the surface of the streets is covered with a white layer of snow and ice. Lovers of the European cold will enjoy the drop in prices, but you have to take into account that some of the tourist sites are closed.
locals and general atmosphere
Many mistakenly think that the locals in Berlin are cold-tempered. Well, they are indeed thoughtful and polite, but they are welcoming, kind and smiling when addressed in the same way.
If you want to enjoy their company, it is important to observe basic etiquette and observe the rules and laws: when you go up the stairs, stick to the right, be sure to stamp the tickets, drive only on the designated paths and at the speed limit, at every opportunity be sure to say “yes”, “thank you” or “please” And don’t forget to keep a physical distance of at least 40 cm from the stranger standing in front of you.
As for the general atmosphere, don’t think that the gray weather matters to anyone – the city lives and breathes 24/7 and you can find somewhere to eat, drink or dance at almost any time of the day in any weather.
The city is divided into districts that differ from each other in the composition of the population, places of entertainment, the prices of services for tourists, the price of rent and even in the architecture:
Mita: the central and more touristic of the Berlin districts. This is the district where most of the attractions, government institutions and shopping areas are located. In this district are the most central areas of the city:
- Alexanderplatz and the Nikolaikirche area – the east of the quarter, with inner courtyards, narrow alleys and a magical atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
- Orneenburgstrasse and Schönenfirtel – the north of the district and what before the war was the great Jewish center of Berlin.
- Tiergarten and Potsdam Square – immigrant neighborhoods and commercial and government buildings next to a green park where it’s nice to walk around on sunny days.
- Korpoorstandam – the destination for shopping enthusiasts and the place where most of the city’s business activity and the famous zoo are concentrated.
Museum Island: a small island surrounded by the tributaries of the Shepra River. It is possible to find museums, palaces and historical buildings that have been standing since the glorious days of the Brandenburg dynasty.
Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain: residential area of workers, students and young families who make the place happy and full of life. In the area of second-hand shops, colorful bars and places to stay at a comfortable budget.
Kreuzberg: The quietness that characterizes the neighborhood today does not even slightly hint at its wild days and its free atmosphere. Today you will find mainly cafes and alternative cultural centers.
Schloss-Charlottenburg: Villas and mansions, green areas and magnificent boulevards are a reminder of the days when the rich of the city lived in the area. Even today the area is considered prestigious and those who are looking to enjoy themselves on a low budget – do not sit on its charms.
In this field too, Berlin is among the best in the world, and you can find all types of cuisine and in any budget – luxury restaurants alongside working-class restaurants, street stalls and colorful markets.
It is recommended to also try shopping at the local supermarket branches and enjoy a romantic picnic in the park.
Must-see sites for food lovers: Gorlitzer Park with its street food stalls, the Haksha Market food market, the “Lemka” brewery that also offers wonderful food, and don’t forget to try at least once a real hot dog and a hot Schnitzel alongside a cold beer.
Tip: unlike in Israel, in Berlin the workers’ wages are not based on tips and even if the minimum wage is not high, neither is the cost of living. This means that the service is included in the final price to be paid, but it is also acceptable to give a symbolic tip in addition: 10-12% in the restaurant, 10% for the taxi driver and 2-3 euros for the hotel employees.
Concerts, music and nightlife
The name of the city’s nightlife scene precedes it. From sunset to sunrise, you can hear the laughter of the revelers who frequent the city, so no matter what scene you’re interested in and what your favorite type of music is – you can find everything in Berlin relatively easily.
In the last decade, Berlin has become one of the must-see sites for amateur artists and on an international level, and many performances, festivals and concerts are held there. Before visiting the city, it is recommended to be updated on the websites and purchase discounted tickets, but ticket booths are scattered throughout the city and some of them you can also purchase through the hotel. Remember that the city is networked with night lines that you can use to get to the show, so you can continue your night out without worries.
Compared to other large European cities, Berlin is considered cheap, at least when it comes to the popular fashion chains. The main shopping street in the city is called Friedrich Straße and it has all the mainstream stores, and if you’re in the mood for designer clothes or second-hand stores, you’d better take a train to Haksha Market and wander through the nearby streets and inner courtyards.
For your attention, if you are visiting the city during the weekend, it is recommended to check in advance, as some of the shops are closed on Sundays – but don’t worry, this is the time to visit the flea markets, for example the one located on June 17th Street or the one located in Mauer Park.
As mentioned, Berlin is divided into different districts and each one has a different and special character: the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, which has many entertainment centers and popular attractions, is also a favorite place to stay, but if you don’t mind going a little further, you can also look for a place to stay in the Kreuzberg neighborhood or the Friedrichshain neighborhood.
You can find hotels, Airbnb apartments, or hostels according to your preference and if you want to stay overnight “for free”, you can find two social networks in Berlin: Hospitality and Couchsurfing, which offer accommodation with locals (just don’t forget to carefully check the social profile of the hosts and talk to them beforehand ).