Wohnstadt Carl Legien
From anti-park to Berlin’s most vibrant urban oasis, Mauerpark has become the go-to place in Prenzlauer Berg, and not just for the famous Flohmarkt am Mauerpark (Sunday flea market) and Bearpit Karaoke . Pretty it ain’t, with its scraggly bushes and anaemic lawn, but then you might forgive such aesthetics when realising that it was forged from the former death strip.
Unless some mad scientist invents a magic time-travel-teleporter machine, the Museen Dahlem, which unite three vast collections of art and objects from around the globe, will be your best bet for exploring the world in a single afternoon.
Mighty and majestic, the Bodemuseum has pushed against the northern wedge of Museumsinsel like a proud ship’s bow since 1904.
The world’s first indoor Legoland is a fantasy environment made entirely of those little coloured plastic building blocks that many of us grew up with. It’s very cute but quite low-tech and best suited for kids aged three to eight.
t may have a terrifying name, but at 115m high, the Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), just south of the Olympic grounds, ain’t no Matterhorn. It is, however, the tallest of Berlin’s 20 ‘rubble mountains’, built by citizens, initially most of them women, during the clean-up of their bomb-ravaged city after WWII. It took 20 years to pile up 25 million cubic metres of debris.
In the waning days of WWII, this building served as the headquarters of the Soviet army. On 8 May 1945, German commanders signed the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht here. The war was over. Since 1995 a joint Russian-German exhibit has commemorated this fateful day and the events leading up to it.
After the fall of the Wall, this graffiti-slathered art squat became a permanent fixture on Oranienburger Strasse, drawing locals and tourists to its galleries, cultural venues, bizarre sculptures and beer garden. Although over time it lost much of its anarchic edge, it was still one of the few bastions of alternative spirit in this heavily gentrified area.
On this treeless square, books by Brecht, Mann, Marx and other ‘subversives’ went up in flames during the first full-blown public book burning, staged by the Nazi German Student League in 1933.
West of Kleistpark, the imposing 1913 Kammergericht was the courthouse that staged the notorious show trials of the Nazi ‘people’s court’ against the participants – real and alleged – in the July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler.
Pompous yet majestic, the Italian Renaissance-style former royal court church (1905) does triple duty as house of worship, museum and concert hall. Inside it's gilt to the hilt and outfitted with a lavish marble-and-onyx altar, a 7269-pipe Sauer organ and elaborate royal sarcophagi .
Standing a bit lost and forlorn within the Kulturforum, the Stüler-designed Matthäuskirche (1846) is a beautiful neo-Romanesque confection with alternating bands of red and ochre brick and a light-flooded, modern sanctuary that doubles as a gallery. Climb the tower for good views of the Kulturforum and Potsdamer Platz.
Like arms of a starfish, five roads merge into the roundabout called Grosser Stern at the heart of the Tiergarten. At its centre is the landmark Victory Column, built to celebrate 19th-century Prussian military triumphs and now a symbol of Berlin’s gay community The gilded lady on top – irreverently called Goldelse – represents the Goddess of Victory.
Today's Café Sybille is as old as Karl-Marx-Allee and was one of East Berlin's most popular cafes. Still oozing original 1960s GDR charm, it makes for a dapper coffee break and also features a small exhibit charting the milestones of KMA from inception to today.
Just like Potsdamer Platz, this historical square has risen from the death strip. The octagonal Leipziger Platz was first laid out in 1734 and later became one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares courtesy of the urban planning ‘dream team’ of Schinkel and Lenné.
Fans of classical modern art will be in their element in this delightful museum, which just completed a major extension. Picasso is especially well represented with paintings, drawings and sculptures from all major creative phases.