East Central District
A noisy cluster of cafes, bars, and trendy shops. Find interesting street art or some museums near the border to Mitte.
This is the infamous gateway between former East and West Berlin. There’s a reconstruction of the checkpoint here, complete with fake soldiers (and lots of tourists taking pictures). There is a nearby museum, “Mauermuseum (Haus am Checkpoint Charlie)”, but it didn’t look interesting and leaned more towards being a tourist trap. We avoided the museum and ate at the cafeteria next to the checkpoint to watch the tourists and their interactions with the checkpoint soldiers.
Checkpoint Charlie is one of those places that you need to experience. The site has become overwhelming cliche, but if you remember the history, and look past the tourists and shops, the symbolism of it’s importance shines through. Having been the best known border crossing point between East and West Berlin, this checkpoint is a symbol of the Cold War. Many GDR citizens left East Berlin through this loophole. After the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 this was the place where the famous standoff between US and Soviet tanks happened.
When we visited there was a wonderful outdoor exhibit showcasing the Berlin Wall. We spent a long time there reading the timeline of events and the extremes that Germany went through after the country split. I mean, really, read the extremes that went into the “Berlin Wall.”
Topography of Terror
This open-air museum, built on the site of the former SS Gestapo headquarters, documents the terror and horror of the Nazi regime. If you are looking for a respectful way to learn about the atrocities of the institutions that terrorized Berlin as a consequence of the Nazi regime; then look no further.
The exhibits are carefully crafted to be as informational and respectful of the people involved. I was truly impress with the museum’s simplicity as well as it’s ability to get to the core of the matters at hand. Newspaper clippings, photographs, and more walk you through a timeline of events that lead to the Nazi Party rise, terrorism, and fall in Europe. The goal of the museum is to educate it’s visitors about mechanics of state-sponsored repression and the role of individuals in workings of state terror.
You can see excavated prison cells outside, located under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. The wall here was never demolished. In fact, the section next to the Topography of Terror site is the longest segment of the outer wall untouched and in a preserved state of decay.
Cost: Free with a donation encouraged.
Shopping in Berlin
Shopping! We did our souviner and Christmas shopping in all the shopping centers from Potsdamer Platz to Friedrichstraße. Christmastime had each mall sparkling and full of busy shoppers, you had so much to see and do.
The mall at Potsdamer Plaz was our favorite because it was less crowded and had beautiful decorations to quietly enjoy.
The Mall of Berlin, being fairly new, was clean and big with more than 270 shops consisting of large brand names like: H&M, Guess, Hugo Boss and Armani. There is also a selection of less pricey fashion, jewelry, and cosmetics. You can get your nails done or even go grocery shopping! We bought our gifts and headed upstairs.
While shopping, if you are feeling hungry, don’t slink away from the food court, the Berlin Mall has the largest food court in all of Germany. You couldn’t ask for a more diverse amount of food all in one location.
Where We Ate:
This is a classic cafeteria shop that can be found scattered all around Germany. The Back-Factory had hot and cold sandwiches, soups, fruit cups, pretzels, waffles, and made to order salads. It was the perfect place to pop in for a light lunch and to site down after all the touring.
Being in a prime tourist spot we usually avoid these kinds of restaurants because the quality can be low and the prices high, but this place was clean and quiet with great food variety. They were not overpriced and we had a great view on the second floor to people watch as we ate and discussed all we learned in the morning.
Currywurst House in the Berlin Mall
I know what you’re thinking. Mall food? Really? Yes. The Berlin mall has an amazing variety of food all at cheap prices, plenty of seating, and in an clean environment. After a long day of touring and shopping we had dinner in the Mall and it wasn’t that bad!
Hubby LOVES Currywurst and he practically had it for every meal while in Berlin. So he made a bee-line to the Currywurst House; because at that point of the day we just wanted some good ol’ German comfort food.