Plenty of European cities have history, art and nightlife. So why is Berlin so popular? Pull up a seat and let's talk about what makes Berlin unique.
- In a rush? Check out our 24 hours in Berlin itinerary for what to do in Berlin in one day.
Why is Berlin so popular?
Berlin. The world seems to love you but I’m not quite sure why. I went, once, and the two of us had a pretty good time. Your Christmas Markets glittered, your Currywurst tickled me pink and the history from your Wall (and the years that surrounded it) seeped deep into my soul. I was tired, almost broken. Searching for missing pieces and finding them in your winter heavy rain.
But I can’t help but notice that others talk about you in a very different way.
“I love Berlin,” they gush whenever I mention your name. “It’s such an exciting city.”
In Toronto, people told me “We want Toronto to be like Berlin. A place people can’t wait to go to.”
And then I understood. Simply put. Berlin is cool.
So why is Berlin so popular? Here's what locals, both German and not, had to say. Their collection of unique things to do in Berlin, reasons why they find Berlin so special.
What makes Berlin unique? Freedom
Why is Berlin so popular? For its history and the sense of freedom.
That doesn't seem quite right, at first, for a city steeped in the history of oppression and ultimate cruelty. Yet that's what the people who live here say.
To understand, we need to remember firstly that the World Wars and Cold War are not the only history linked to this land. And second, it's precisely because that history was so bad that people cherish freedom so much now.
As Nuremberg has found its soul with a focus on human rights, so Berlin pursues freedom, design and self-expression with the almost tangible knowledge of just how precious it is.
5 Reasons Berlin is so popular
Berlin has been at the centre of, arguably, the three biggest conflicts of the 20th century and the evidence is everywhere.
From the fragments of the Berlin Wall to the remnants of Allied Bombs, you can reach out and touch evidence for everything you studied at school.
Plenty of cities have statues of kings on horseback, and Berlin does too, along with beautiful, grand museums. But when it comes to what makes Berlin unique... It's standing on the ground of where events took place.
The second thing that makes Berlin so special is the way the city tackles the issue of remembrance. Plenty of countries have atrocities in their past. But they're often hushed into the sidelines in favour of pomp and glory.
Not so Berlin.
Museums that catalogue the rise of the Third Reich in the Gestapo Headquarters, for example, are unflinching and free to enter.
The Memorial to Jews Murdered in Europe wits within walking distance of the German government headquarters at the Reichstag.
Heck, even the Reichstag itself has a glass dome to symbolise the transparency required by a government towards its people.
Museums and memorials are free to enter, there is no profit to be made.
Why is Berlin so popular? She isn't stuck in her past.
She remembers and reflects but does not live there forever. In spite of what I've written so far, Berlin is not defined by historic monuments and memorials.
Ambitious art, design and music projects take place all year, with creatives actively welcomed through flexible international visa arrangements.
There's a pulse, a vibe, an energy here and all eyes are on the future, without forgetting the past. It's Berlin cool.
4) Some Cosy European Culture
For all that's already been said, Berlin also has some of the highlights of many a European city.
You'll find rich renaissance and baroque architecture brimming with sculptures, paintings and curious ceramic urns.
Snuggle up with friends at cosy Christmas markets, amid mulled wine, freshly scented wooden ornaments and candy canes.
And in the summer? Head to an outdoor festival with tankards of beer...
Shop at designer shops, boutique shops, international shops and quirky shops.
And taste food from everywhere in the world.
5) A space to be you
Berlin is big enough and varied enough to appeal to almost everyone. I mean, seriously appeal to almost everyone, rather than in that commercial, cheesy advert kind of a way.
Want to go clubbing all day and night? Done. Want to painstakingly delve into the past? Museums aplenty. Want to wander from gallery to gallery throughout the day or take a street food tour or feast your eyes on street art?
Done, done and done.
Berlin caters for luxury travellers and budget travellers, with easy public transport and a whole lot of people who can make life easy by speaking the English language.
She packs a serious punch in terms of standing on the world stage in terms of diplomacy and art. And in clubbing all day and all night.