Berlin - a city that's held centre stage in world history for the last hundred and fifty years

The capital of Germany, Berlin, a city of some 3.5 million people, has seen many of the great dramas of the 20th century enacted in its streets. It had to be largely reconstructed after the Second World War and was divided by the Berlin Wall for 28 years. Air France offer competitively-priced airplane tickets to Berlin from Johannesburg or Cape Town . The journey time can be as little as 14 hours.

Germany is of course a Eurozone and Schengen Area member, so be sure to check your visa requirements before your stay. Berlin is one hour behind South African time. As it is relatively far from the sea, the city has a continental climate with quite warm Summers and relatively chilly Winters.

The city's recent history has left it with a highly diverse cityscape, with no single architectural style dominating. One of the best places to gain an overview of this varied mix of styles is from the observation platform of the TV tower at Alexanderplatz. From 204 metres up, you'll get great views of everything from socialist architecture to the Neue Kirche (which now houses a museum about German parliamentary history) and the French Cathedral.

Many of Berlin's most iconic buildings are grouped in a relatively small area. Must-sees during your holiday include:

  • The Reichstag building (the German parliament)
  • The Berliner Dom (Berlin's largest church)
  • The Brandenburg Gate
  • The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, the ruins of the old church, destroyed during the last war, have been left standing beside the new church)
  • Schloss Charlottenburg (the largest palace in Berlin)

Berlin's museums and memorials will make any stay here special

Berlin has an unsurpassed collection of museums, many of the best known being concentrated on their own 'Museum Island': the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. Between them, these museums contain Greek and Egyptian artefacts and sculptures, 19th century art and perhaps most famous of all, the reconstruction of Babylon's Ishtar Gate. For a look at Berlin's more recent history, the Stasi Museum, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum are all very interesting.

The city also has a number of open-air memorials and museums that examine the darkest periods in recent German history, namely the Topography of Terror, detailing the crimes of the Nazi regime, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Berlin Wall Memorial.
People who travel to Berlin are often surprised at how green the city is. The Tiergarten is a massive urban park, which is also notable for the Siegessäule (victory column), commemorating victories in Prussia's 'unification wars', which offers beautiful views over the park. Berlin Botanical gardens are a much-loved attraction, as are the Gardens of the World, in Erholungspark Marzahn. This attraction contains Chinese, Italian, Korean, Japanese and Balinese-style gardens. Spring and Autumn are often good times to visit the gardens, especially so in the case of the Japanese gardens. Air France may have a good range of special offers available at this time of year. The Air France website is also a useful source of other travel information, including details of hotels and car hire options .

Prepare your perfect stay in Berlin with the aid of these handy websites

Get the inside track on Berlin with these websites: