Sights: The Reichstag Dome is free and excellent with a very good (free!) audio guide pointing out landmarks and some history BUT you need to register in advance: http://www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/visits/kuppel/kupp/245686
To avoid the crowds and see a section of the Berlin Wall ‘as it was’, there is a untouched section at Bernauer Strasse with a good (free!) exhibition and viewing platform. http://www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de/en/
Führerbunker: Near to the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is the site of Hitler’s Bunker. It’s marked by a simple sign in the middle of a carpark at the corner of Gertrud Kolmar Straße and In Den Ministergärten.
The DDR Museum capitalises a little on the market for Ost-Tourism but is a good introduction to some of the culture of Eastern Germany but does not shy away from the political and economic hardships of the period.
Christmas Markets: Many of the Christmas Markets were busy but the one at Alexanderplatz included large tents with beer, chips and traditionally clad servers. The market at Charlottenburg Palace were quieter and made a good afternoon when coupled with a walk around the palace gardens.
Travel: We flew via Berlin Schoenefeld; the train station is a few metres walk from the terminal and the S-Bahn takes you to the centre in about 30 minutes. The city is flat and walkable but the U- and S-Bahns help cover some of the distance.
Accommodation: Generator Berlin Mitte (Oranienburger Str. 65, 10117) A modern, design-led hostel which could easily be confused for a 2* hotel with its walk-in ensuite shower rooms and private doubles. Good location. http://www.booking.com/hotel/de/generator-berlin-mitte.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=2&room1=A%2CA
Food & Drink: Aufsturz (Oranienburger Str. 67, 10117) was an excellent pub near our hostel served a good selection of Wheat bears and platters of food. There are also live bands some nights of the week.
Further Reading & Listening: Do check out my reference list from my forthcoming blog post on Berlin.
Guide books: I travelled with photocopied pages from my Lonely Planet – Europe on a Shoestring and a good free map from the hostel:
DVDs The excellent series by Matt Frei on Berlin traces the history and some of the sites that you can see as you travel around the city. Some clips are available on Youtube but it is worth watching the whole series.
For some of the atmosphere of the time, the series Deutschland 83 is also worth a watch. In addition, if you’re not familiar with Cabaret, it’s based on Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood and the related play I am a Camera. It’s an atmospheric story of the changes affecting the bohemian people of Berlin in the 1930s that resonates today.
Music: Berlin is a city filled with music – there’s a lot of music being created there currently which is innovative and exciting both on the ‘classical’ and ‘pop’ sides.But Music is important historically: music also helped bring down the wall – gigs by Bowie (in 1987) and Springsteen (in 1988) meant, through song, the East heard the sounds and freedoms that they were missing out on. I also enjoyed listening to Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat as it reminded me of the late 80s.
As mentioned above, David Bowie spent time in the city and there is an excellent documentary on his time in the 70s in the city: http://www.thisdayinmusic.com/pages/bowie_in_berlin
And every week This Week in Germany produces a podcast with recent news and perspectives: http://www.thisweekingermany.de/ This edition from the 25th anniversary of the falling of the wall is particularly good: http://www.thisweekingermany.de/latest/2016/11/9/berlin-wall-special