48 hours in Berlin

A short flight from the UK and packed to the brim with culture, Germany’s capital city is perfect for a long weekend. Cox & Kings suggests how to get the best of a short visit.

Bradenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Schloss Charlottenburg

Schloss Charlottenburg

The Reichstag building in Berlin: German parliament

The Reichstag building in Berlin: German parliament

The French Dome, Berlin

The French Dome, Berlin

Get your bearings

With the Tiergarten – Berlin’s Hyde Park – in the heart of the city, Berlin does still lend itself to be divided geographically into East and West. Most of the historic sites and monuments are in the former East; the shopping district, and until recently, the most popular hotels were found in the West. In the last 10 years, huge investment has gone into restoring the old buildings in the east and it is this side of the city that is once again the place to be.

Worth walking

Starting at Checkpoint Charlie – one of the main crossing points along the wall from East to West and where there’s now a small museum – follow the cobbles in the road that mark the site of the Berlin Wall west to Potsdamer Platz. You will pass the Topography of Terrors exhibition on the site of the Third Reich’s Secret State Police headquarters. Documenting the harrowing history of the police state, it is well worth a stop. Outside the exhibition there is also an original section of the Berlin Wall, one of the few remaining pieces left standing. At the southeast corner of the Tiergarten is Potsdamer Platz. Having been left derelict, it is one of the city’s major redevelopment projects since reunification and now a modernist commercial and entertainment complex. From here, continue up Ebertstrasse to the iconic Brandenburg Gate, passing the controversial Holocaust Memorial which opened in 2005, and finish at the Reichstag, the seat of the German government. The glass dome is open to the public, but with lengthy queues forming through the day, it’s worth going early.

Cultural afternoon

Few cities can claim to have a Museum Island. Located on the northern tip of Spree island on the Spree river, and sitting alongside Berlin’s cathedral is the Unesco-protected complex of five impressive museums: Altes (old) Museum, Neues (new) Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie (old national gallery), Bode Museum and Pergamon Museum. You can easily dedicate a whole weekend here but definitely don’t leave without seeing the reconstructed Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate of Babylon in the Pergamon Museum and the bust of Nefertiti in the New Museum.

Dressing for dinner

For a bird’s eye view of Berlin, book a table for dinner in the revolving restaurant of the Fehnsehturm – the television tower. Visible across the city, the tower is 207 metres high and affords fantastic views. Taking one hour to complete a rotation, the city reveals itself slowly below as you eat. If you want a real gourmet-adventure, head to Michelin-starred Tim Raue Restaurant near Checkpoint Charlie. Born in nearby Kreuzberg, Raue serves DeSietra caviar on avocado ice cream, pink shrimps with Chinese rose wine and shiso and tissue-thin diamond label beef with Madagascar peppers. Goats milk ice lollies covered with white chocolate and fennel clean the palette between courses. Surely only the bill will be more breathtaking.

Easy life

Take a river cruise along the Spree to see the city, which with 1,700 bridges supposedly has more than Venice. With a variety of different lengths and routes available, highlights include the Reichstag, the modern government quarter, Museum Island and the Nikolaiviertel, Berlin’s birthplace. During the summer months, sections of the river bank get transformed into beaches and bars crop up complete with deck chairs. Lively in the evenings, they are a perfect spot for a relaxed drink on a sunny afternoon.

Window shopping

The Kaufhaus des Westerns – commonly known as KaDeWe – in West Berlin is the largest department store in continental Europe and perfect for a spot of retail therapy. As iconic in Berlin as Harrods is in London, the top two floors of the seven-storey store are dedicated to food, with more than 30 counters selling a vast array of food and beverages. If high-end fashion isn’t your thing, try the boutiques in Mitte; Hackescher Markt and Oranienburger Strasse are good places to start before venturing north to the fashionable area of Prenzlauer Berg. There are plenty of mainstream shops along Friedrichstrasse, the main shopping street in central Mitte including Galerie Lafayette, an upmarket French department store.

Out of town

Easily accessible on Berlin’s excellent public transport, Potsdam is an easy day trip from the city. Nearby Sansoucci Park is worth a visit. Home to Sansoucci Palace, a relatively modest home of the Prussian royal and German imperial family, it also hosts botanical gardens and other interesting buildings. Potsdam’s town has an interesting architectural style and includes a two-street Dutch Quarter, complete with 150 red-brick buildings in typical Dutch style.

Cox & Kings has a range of short-breaks to Berlin.