August 20, 2010 / 9:17 AM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Berlin

<p>A man serves grilled food in the backyard of the Tacheles alternative art centre in Berlin, August 7, 2010.Thomas Peter</p>

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to spare in Berlin? The city which proudly bares the scars of the turbulent 20th century history it overcame to become a political and creative powerhouse, bang in the center of Europe, has a lot to offer.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit to the German capital, this year celebrating 20 years since reunification:

FRIDAY

6 p.m - Berlin has always been a cultural hub so spend your first evening in the historic Jewish quarter of Berlin, home to countless galleries, boutiques and bars.

Start on Oranienburgerstrasse with a visit to Kunsthaus Tacheles -- a ruined department store that is now an artists' squat. Tacheles is just one of many forums for alternative culture in Berlin facing eviction from quirky historical properties which property developers want to spruce up. So check it out now -- before it's too late.

Further down the street, take a moment to admire the golden dome of the Moorish-style New Synagogue, before cutting through a courtyard to reach Auguststrasse, famed for its art galleries and array of international cuisine.

8 p.m. - Have dinner either at Kasbah, a cozy, Moroccan restaurant with Oriental decor serving a delicious lamb-prune tagine; or Monsieur Vuong, famous for its funky vibe, Vietnamese dishes and fruit smoothies.

10 p.m. - Then head to Claerchens Ballhaus, a timeless institution dating back to 1913. People of all ages come to the ballroom seven days a week to dance under a massive disco ball. Don't forget to check out the elegantly dilapidated mirror salon upstairs, harking back to a bygone era of glamour.

SATURDAY

10 a.m. - Get a feeling today for the difference between former Communist east Berlin and west Berlin, which were separated for nearly 30 years by an "anti-fascist protection barrier" that became the symbol of the Cold War.

Start in Friederichshain, a working-class eastern district strewn with bulky Communist buildings that has changed much less since 1989 than the gentrified historic city center.

Have a hearty (and cheap, very cheap) brunch at one of the many cafes peppered around Simon-Dach-Strasse before heading to the weekly market on Boxhagener Platz.

12 p.m. - Next, stroll down to the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall which was painted with murals by 118 artists from 22 countries in 1990.

Many of the gallery's 106 murals were inspired by the collapse of communism -- keep a look out for one of the most famous, the "Brotherly Kiss", showing former East German leader Erich Honecker kissing ex-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

2 p.m. - In the afternoon, head west across the border. The first stop is the appropriately named Kaufhaus des Westens (department store of the west), or KaDeWe -- Berlin's answer to London's Harrods and Paris' Galeries Lafayette.

The highlight of KaDeWe is its gourmet food department, boasting some 3,400 different wines and more than 1,300 cheeses.

Then hit the shops on Kurfuerstendamm. If you visit during Advent, Berlin's famous Christmas markets will be up and running, with mulled wine and roasted nuts aplenty.

4 p.m. - Finally, walk down to the Gedaechtniskirche (Memorial Church), a church that was bombed out in World War Two and was preserved in its ruined state to symbolize the folly of war.

6 p.m. - Grab a bite at one of the bustling restaurants around Savigny Platz then hop in a cab to the Philharmonie to attend a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, one of the world's most prestigious and conducted by Britain's Simon Rattle.

SUNDAY:

Spend a day walking around Berlin's historic center, tracing the many layers of its turbulent past.

10 a.m. - Start at Alexanderplatz, a vast square in East Berlin famous for its landmark Fernsehturm (television tower). Then walk down past the giant statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, over the Spree river onto the "Museum Island".

Pay a visit to one of the many internationally renowned museums, such as the Neues Museum which was restored and reopened last year, and is full of famous antiquities such as a bust of the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

12 p.m. - Carry on down the majestic Unter den Linden avenue, past the Humboldt University, the State Opera House and the plush Hotel Adlon Kempinski -- where the late singer Michael Jackson dangled his infant son out of a third-floor window.

Stop off for lunch at Cafe Einstein along the way, or at restaurant Theodor Tucher on Pariser Platz by the Brandenburg Gate -- a square that was flattened during the war and became a No Man's Land during the division of Germany.

Don't be fooled by the boxy facade of some of the buildings on the square - check out the interior of DZ Bank, designed by star architect Frank Gehry. In the atrium, a bulging filigree roof and a curved glass floor bring to mind an enormous fish.

2 p.m. - Pass through the Brandenburg Gate and turn left to the Holocaust Memorial -- a monument to Jewish victims of the Holocaust made of 2,711 huge slabs visitors can wander through.

Then head to Potsdamer Platz area, where what was once a tract of wasteland near the Wall has become a web of futuristic buildings housing business and entertainment complexes.

4 p.m. - Walk to the revamped Reichstag parliament building with its glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster.

Skip queues by booking a table at the roof restaurant in advance and taking their private lift to enjoy "Kaffee und Kuchen" (coffee and cake) with a panoramic view over Berlin.

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