The lighter, brighter side of Berlin

by gill19

The German city is renowned for its world-class art and modern architecture… but did you know about its urban beaches, canals and exotic Balinese gardens? This is the fun side of Berlin

Berlin, Germany’s heartbeat, is a city of the unexpected. Think beach bars and sand ….. yes, absolutely! On the banks of inner-city streams and canals, gorgeous sandy islands have been created, each one equipped with sun loungers, cocktail bars, pools, beer gardens and colourful sun umbrellas. Strand bars in the heart of the city, a not-to-be-missed trend, are where locals and tourists alike can enjoy a barbecue, listen to live music, enjoy an aerobic work out, join in a game of beach volleyball, chill out under palm trees or relax on floating pontoons.

This is the country’s greenest city too, with acres of parkland. The Marzahn Park is a great place to escape from the city’s bustle, with playgrounds, exotic Balinese gardens and Italian Renaissance Gardens, as well as a paved labyrinth and maze modelled on the one at Hampton Court Palace. This park is also home to Germany's largest Chinese Garden with a tea house, lake and pavilion.

Oh-so-trendy Friedrichstrasse, one-time centre of East Berlin, is a welter of street life, galleries, cafés and bustling bars and wherever you go in town, don’t expect the nightlife to stop until the sun comes up – after all, isn’t early bed for wimps?

Berlin has more bridges than Venice and is surrounded by waterways. Take a boat trip on the Havel River and enjoy idyllic landscapes, admire the architecture of the Potsdamer Platz from the Landwehrkanal Canal ( or pootle past buildings from the Prussian era on the Spree River.

If sailing doesn’t do it for you, you can see the city from the air on a Raisin Bomber time travel flight, a true blast-from-the-past way to travel, or from the Berlin Hi-Flyer, one of the biggest helium balloons in the world. (Ticket hotline +49 30 5321 5321.)

Culture vultures will be in their element here too, with an incredible 170 museums, three opera houses, eight symphony orchestras, a host of variety theatres and galleries galore. The Friedrichstadtpalast is Europe's largest revue theatre which draws the crowds with its high-stepping chorus girls and breathtaking stage shows.

Getting around

Trams, overhead and underground trains all operate efficiently to make your sightseeing simplicity itself. If you prefer, hop in a taxi. They’re plentiful and relatively inexpensive.

The Berlin Welcome Card gives unlimited travel on the public transport network for periods ranging from 48 hours to five days, with discounts of up to 50 per cent at about 140 tourist attractions and cultural highlights. It's on sale at public transport locations and many Berlin hotels, or telephone the service centre (+49 30 250 025).

Where to stay

See Make It Happen, top left.

Where to eat

For fine German-French dining in elegant surroundings, try Renger-Patsch (+ 49 30 784 2059) at Wartburgstrasse 54. Abendmahl (+49 30 612 5170, at Muskauer Strasse 9 serves gourmet vegetarian food as well as some fish dishes. Florian (+49 30 313 9184) at Grolmanstrasse 52, Western Downtown, serves German food with a trendy twist. Borchardt is a fashionable venue and a great place to play 'spot the celeb'. (+49 30 818 6262) at
Französische Strasse 47.

Where to shop

Swanky Ku’damm. The KaDeWe department store (Tauentizenstrasse 21-24) is a tourist attraction in itself. Stilwerk (Kantstrasse 17) is a mall for cutting-edge interior design and household goods. Department stores on Friedrichstrasse include Galeries Lafayette (Französische Strasse 23), selling all things French. For upmarket goods, visit the designer heaven that is Quartier 206 (Friedrichstrasse 71). If it’s antiques that make you go weak at the knees, try Suarezstrasse in Charlottenburg, Keithstrasse and Goltzstrasse in Schöneberg… and, if you really have to, you could buy a "Berlin, Berlin wir fahren nach Berlin" T-shirt….