© Schirmer / Berliner Philharmoniker
Away — but not far from the Mitte’s crowd
Metallica fans may remember the 1999 S&M tour. The only European stop was Berlin — not surprising given that the city’s artistic leanings go ever which way. Equally unsurprising is that the heavy-metal band performed with one of the most versatile classical orchestras in the world: the Berlin Philharmonic.
Don’t care for classical music? So what. The magnificence of the orchestra will still blow you away. And 729 TripAdvisor users who ranked it number one among the capital’s 390 top attractions agree. Many noted the excellent acoustics of its organic honey-coloured building. It was designed in the 1960s and eventually became a symbol of a reunified Berlin.
There are over 2000 seats in the hall — not one more than 30 metres from the rostrum, which means that wherever you sit, you’ll feel like you’re front row centre.
If you’re an aficionado of design and acoustics, take the hour-long tour that happens daily. Even better, catch a free concert in the foyer Tuesdays at 1pm. Performances vary and last between 30 and 60 minutes. If you arrive a half hour to an hour in advance, you might be able to score a table at the restaurant and watch the performance over a glass of German wine and some food. Otherwise, you'll have to stand or sit on stairs as seating is for people with limited mobility.
Of course, the best would be to see none other than conductor Sir Simon Rattle before he retires in 2018. The orchestra tours a lot, but it’ll be in the house on April 25 for a 10:30pm concert in memory of contemporary composer Hans Werner Henze. If you can make it, it’ll certainly be a Berlin night to remember.
For more concert dates and to reserve tickets: berliner-philharmoniker.de.
You could say that the vast 210-hectare Tiergarten is Berlin’s equivalent to Hyde or Central Park. This is where locals and tourists alike gather to take a breather from the commotion of the city.
Rent a bike and tour the storied park. Or, just stroll one of its 23 kilometres of footpaths until you come across a choice piece of lawn or an outdoor cafe. Tourists are drawn to the self-serve Café am Neuen See (Lichtensteinallee 2; cafeamneuensee.de). Sit in its outdoor beer garden and sample the thin-crust pizza. If it’s too cold to sit outside, the restaurant is bright and relaxing in the day, and warm and inviting at night.
If it is warm out, the park has lots of wide-open space perfect for a picnic. For the best selection of locally baked and delicatessen food, head to the 6th and 7th floors of the famous KaDeWe (Tauentzienstraße 21-24; kadewe.de/en for directions).
The department store has about 150 cooks, bakers and confectioners who provide goodies to 30 gourmet counters — the equivalent of two football fields if you’re to believe the advertising. Or, skip the picnic and head to the mall’s top floor Winter Garden, which has a 1000-seat restaurant surrounded by an all-windowed wall offering an amazing view of the Wittenbergplatz.
This is where you can stroll and see one of the top collections in the world of the old masters. Expect Van Eyck, Bruegel, Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Raphael, among others.
The museum is not impressive on the outside and actually confusing to find: the sign at the entrance reads Kulturforum Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Inside though you’re in well-hung, beautifully ordered heaven.
There are nearly 70 small galleries organized geographically according to Europe’s schools of art from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The rooms are well lit from skylights, the walls covered with velvet to absorb the diffuse light, and there are plenty of spots sit and stare — or to just rest.
Though you may not need to: the beauty of the Gemäldegalerie is how low-key it is. It doesn’t house any superstars and it doesn’t attract the tour crowds. It simply attracts lovers of art, a fact that may have gone unnoticed when the city announced in 2012 that much of the collection would be mothballed to make room for something more modern. Art lovers united, petitioned and protested until, yes, the city backed off. The old masters will stay put.
The best way to get to the Gemäldegalerie is to take bus 200 and get off at the Philharmonic stop. For more: smb.museum.
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