Mini guide to Berlin

In the past 100 years alone Berlin has staged a revolution, headquartered fascists, been divided, then reunited – a past that feeds the city’s experimental character. Avant-garde museums, eclectic galleries, grand opera and late-night clubs – they’re all here. Lonely Planet Magazine has some suggestions of what to see and do in Germany's capital.

Visit in May and June when you can catch the Culture Carnival and Gay Pride festival. Otherwise September is good for art and jazz festivals, and in December you can shop in the Christmas markets.

What to see

The Pergamon Museum is a feast of classical Greek, Babylonian, Roman, Islamic and Middle Eastern art and architecture. The highlight is the marble Pergamon Altar.

For great city views, take the lift to the observation deck of the Panoramapunkt. From here it’s easy to see that Potsdamer Platz is divided into three: Daimler City, the flashy Sony Centre, and the Beisheim Centre inspired by American skyscraper design.

For an eye-opening exploration of 2,000 years of Jewish history in Germany visit the Jüdisches Museum. Learn about Jewish cultural contributions and leading figures, as well as the Holocaust.

Berlinagenten specialises in private customised tours off the beaten track and into unique boutiques, bars and restaurants – even private homes. For the culinary scene try the Gastro-Rallye tour.

Little more than a mile of the Berlin Wall survives as a symbol of the triumph of freedom over oppression. The best-preserved stretch is the East Side Gallery, turned into an open-air gallery by artists in 1990. A Wall Guide maps its course, with commentary and GPS.

Where to eat and drink

Anna Blume lures patrons into its velvety art-nouveau interior all day long. Perfumed by homemade cakes, java coffee, and flowers from the attached shop, it has a good people-watching terrace too.

The lamps and Meissen tile mural are from the old GDR-era Palast der Republik (former East German parliament), but Tartane is a contemporary gastro pub. Bohemian clientele enjoy burgers and Kölsch beer from Cologne.

Engelbecken is a lakeside charmer with impeccably crafted German soul food. Local organic meat and seasonal produce might include roast organic veal meat loaf.

At hip Spindler & Klatt in a former Prussian bread factory, loll on a platform bed while eating creative fusion dishes such as beef bavette and sesame potatoes.

Try Michael Kempf’s Michelin-starred cuisine at avant-garde Facil. Expect elegantly presented dishes such as alba truffles or saddle of poulting hare.

Where to sleep

Helmut Newton studied with fashion photographer Yva at the Hotel Bogota in the 1930s and this landmark still hosts glam photoshoots. It has great vintage charm, period panelling up the staircase and retro furnishings. Room sizes vary greatly and the cheaper ones share a bathroom.

Propeller Island City Lodge was inspired by Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and each of the 32 rooms is a journey to a unique, surreal world. Wake up in a Disney-style castle, a padded prison cell or a kaleidoscope.

Arte Luise Kunsthotel bills itself as a ‘gallery with rooms’. Each room reflects the vision of a different artist, who receives royalties whenever it’s booked. You might sleep in a bed built for giants, in the company of astronauts or in a red ‘Cabaret’. Courtyard rooms are quieter.

Arcotel John F pays homage to John F Kennedy with whimsical detail, including rocking chairs (because he used one to combat a bad back) and curvaceous lamps inspired by Jackie’s ball gown.

Once a 19th-century bank HQ, the Hotel de Rome has since been transformed by designer Tommaso Ziffer into a modern  hotel. The former vault is now the pool/spa area and the directors’ rooms, still with wartime shrapnel damage, are now suites with luxurious furnishings.