Visiting Berlin

Berlin SkylineFounded in the 13th century, Berlin boasts a full and eventful history. Located in northeastern Germany, Berlin is one of the largest European capitals and a major center of politics, media, science and culture.

Berlin was established in 1307 from the union of two settlements: Berlin, situated on the northern banks of the Spree, and Cölln, located on the present-day site of Museum Island.

From the 1400s to the 1600s, Berlin suffered a dark period with many wars, plagues and fires. Finally, under the rule of Friedrich Wilhelm (1640-1683), Berlin's prosperity and economic and political stability turned around. The city was heavily fortified and the first round of lavish building construction began.

In 1701, when Friedrich III was crowned King Friedrich I of Prussia, Berlin became his royal residence and the capital city of Prussia. During this period, many of the famous Berlin buildings were constructed.

In 1871 the German Empire was founded and Berlin was declared its capital, under the command of German Emperor Wilhelm I of Prussia. From 1871 to 1895, Berlin's population grew from 800,000 to more than 1.5 million. Following Germany's defeat in the first World War, its last emperor, Wilhelm II (1888-1918), was forced into exile.

The crisis that followed the first World War forced the creation of the first German Republic. Despite these trying times, Berlin prospered and grew into a renowned cultural center.

In 1933, the darkest chapters in Berlin's history began. Adolf Hitler seized power, becoming German Chancellor and initiating a regime of persecution against communists, political opponents, Jews and many others. On Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler attacked Poland and began the second World War. At this time, Berlin had a population of almost 4.5 million. In 1943, the Allied forces began bombing Berlin, destroying at least a third of the city's historic buildings and homes. After Germany lost the second World War, the victorious Allied powers divided the city into four sectors, each under control by one of the powers.

In 1961, Berlin was divided in two parts, East Berlin and West Berlin, separated by a great stone wall— the Berlin Wall. This wall made the travel between East Germany and West Germany almost impossible. However, on the night of Nov. 9, 1989, Berlin and the rest of Germany celebrated the opening of the Berlin Wall. On Oct. 3, 1990, Berlin was once again chosen as the capital city of Germany, following its official reunification. Today, Berlin is a vibrant city with a rich history.

For more information, visit Berlin's official tourism website.

  • Shopping:  As TimeOut Berlin wrote in its Oct. 8, 2015 edition, "In Berlin, shopping is a jumble of wildly diverse elements: the traditional, with classic department stores like KaDeWe; the local, with lively markets offering up the best regional produce; and a love of craft and art fanzines galore at shops like Motto. The best thing to do is just start walking." Shopping destinations in Berlin are limitless!
  • Dining:  Find time to explore the varied and excellent restaurant options in Berlin.  Two individuals who work at Princeton University, and know Berlin very well, have also provided their thoughts on Berlin restaurants.
  • Museums:  Berlin is full of history and art -- with ample museums to keep you busy during your stay.
  • VAT tax:  Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged at 19 percent on most goods. Goods purchased by non-EU visitors and taken out of the country within three months may qualify for a VAT refund. Please see more detailed information on claiming back VAT.
  • Tipping: Leaving 10 percent is a reasonable tip for good service. Even a five percent tip is acceptable, especially if you've only ordered a small item. The 10 percent rule mostly applies to restaurant bills of 10 euros or more.
  • Currency: Germany uses the euro.
  • Smoking: The ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, is now nationwide in Germany.
  • Electricity: Across Europe, 230 volts is used.
  • Time: Germany is in the Central European Time Zone (CET), and is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
  • Weather: March weather in Berlin tends to be on the colder side; however, temperatures do start to warm and the weather dries out somewhat near the end of the month. Low temperatures average 0 degrees Celsius/32 degrees Fahrenheit, with highs averaging 8 degrees Celsius/46 degrees Fahrenheit.  On average, March experiences 13 days of precipitation, so umbrellas are also advised.