Berlin is, in my humble opinion, the city in Germany that has the most fun. If it were not for atrocious unemployment (13.6% compared to a national average of 7%), I would certainly be looking for work there. The crowd is diverse, the entertainment offerings are plentiful, the living is cheap, and the people are nice (Berlin is to Mother Teresa what Munich is to Pol Pot). You can’t ask for much more.
The city was formerly served by three airports, and will soon be served by just one. Berlin Tempelhof Airport shut down in 2008 as part of the consolidation-to-Schönefeld effort, and the former airport is now a public park with businesses occupying some of the terminal area. Matt has great pictures of the two of us wreaking havoc on the former airport, and he should post them immediately. Tegel is still running, and will be until 2012, when an expanded Schönefeld will take on the whole load. Most of us will be sad to see Tegel go – as it takes a grand total of 30 seconds to get from the end of the jet way to the curb. Transportation between the airport and the main train station by bus takes about 20 minutes, but the bus is often full, so a cab for ~20 Euros is never a bad idea if you have more than one bag.
Getting into Berlin by air isn't the easiest thing from the US. Delta and Air Berlin fly to Tegel non-stop from JFK, but otherwise, using a major European hub is your best choice. Air France, KLM, British Airways, and Lufthansa all run shuttle-style services from their major hubs.
Berlin is easily managed with public transportation, provided by the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (available in English). A day ticket for zones A and B (which contains anything you would want to see) costs 6.30 Euros, and a group day ticket for the same area, which is good for up to 5 people, is 15 Euros. Endorse your tickets - public transportation is on the honor system, and if you are caught, the fine is 40 Euros.
I’ve stayed at a few hotels in Berlin, including the Westin Grand Berlin, which Matt reviewed several months ago. I have also stayed at the Courtyard Berlin City Center, about which I have nothing but good things to say. The Courtyard lies in what was East Berlin (just on the border, actually) and the building feels new and clean. The Spittelmarkt subway station is a 5 minute walk (at the most), and the hotel is easy to access by car. The staff are friendly, and with rates usually below 100 Euros per night (including the standard European buffet breakfast), there really isn’t anything to complain about.
There are a million things to do in Berlin during the day – but just in case you aren’t familiar with the usual suspects (in no particular order):
- Brandenburg Gate
- Potsdamer Platz
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Alexanderplatz / Fernsehturm
On the topic of Berlin's greatness, I introduce Florentine Lahme:
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