City Information

Welcome to Berlin. A city of three and a half million awaits you - native Berliners with their dark sense of humour, "fugitives" from cities all over Germany, and the communities of Turkish, Spanish, Arabic, American, French, Polish and so many other nationalities and languages that contribute to the unique flavour of the city.

Potsdamer PlatzThe city lies across two rivers, the Spree and the Havel. Its buildings and monuments represent layers of history stretching back to the early years of the Middle Ages, its humble beginnings as a trading station, its growth to regional prominence as seat of the Hohenzollern Dynasty, its ascent to status of capital under Bismarck, and disastrous tumble from grace during the Third Reich. Despite 70% destruction during the Second World War, many older buildings have been reconstructed, and since the unification of the two Germanies in 1990 and the decision to relocate the German Government to Berlin, the building work goes on. In the 1990s Potsdamer Platz and its surroundings were dubbed the biggest building site in Europe, but now, where a patch of waste land once lay, a city within a city has grown up, sporting the the Sony tower and Forum with its surreal tent-like roof and a modern shopping center.

It's a green city with countless parks, canals and spaces to unwind in, but if you want action, it's there for the taking. Museums, Art Galleries, Theatres, Opera, Concerts are queueing up to be visited. And, at the same time, it's an exciting, busy, cosmopolitan city - every type of international cuisine is on offer. You can watch the world go by from a table at a pavement café, or retreat to the intimacy of restaurants like Pasternak in Prenzlauer Berg or Abendmahl in Kreuzberg.

Gedächtnis Kirche und KurfürtstendammThere are two major shopping districts.The Ku'damm in the old west is lined with designer shops, and continuing eastwards for a couple of hundred yards you can visit KaDeWe, the biggest department store on the continental Europe. On the newly developed Friedrichstraße in the old east, the famous French store Galeries Lafayette is to be found and a maze of underground shopping malls. Shops are generally open 09.00 - 20.00 in the week, and 09.00 - 16.00 on Saturdays. You can change money at most banks (opening hours vary, bank by bank, but all have cash machines that take Visa, Mastercard), around the main railway stations and at the airport. The local currency is the Euro (which is near equivalent in worth to the US dollar) which has become the official currency from 1st January 2002 throughout Europe. Although you may still find items whose price is quoted in DM, or Deutsch Mark, which was the German currency from 1949 to 2001.

Berlin is a safe and compact city, served by an efficient, clean and cheap public transport system. It's a city of culture and history, fantasy and fun, excitement and surprises.

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