There are endless layers to this super-cool city sitting at the heart of European geography and global history. It's one of Europe's best destinations for investigating world-changing events, then uncovering neighborhood delights on an intimate scale.
Berlin is not all thought-provoking museums and monuments to a turbulent past - though these are found here in abundance. The city is also a magnet for Europe's current creativity and coolness. You'll be rubbing shoulders with music-makers as well as history-makers, plus plenty of artists and creative types.
Some major 20th-century events were born here: check out the Reichstag (Parliament) and Brandenburg Gate, visit the moving Holocaust Memorial, and see what's left of the iconic Berlin Wall. Get reflective in the museums showcasing dark times in recent history, and get your fill of ancient art on treasure-filled Museum Island. Then dive into highlights that reflect modern-day Berlin, be they hipster bars, underground clubs, vibrant street art or flavor-filled farmers markets.
You can get a taste of the city's favorite fast flavors from a local imbiss, or fast-food stall. Currywurst (curry sausage) is a classic local snack, and there are loads of places selling döner kebabs. Fast and cheap dining is well covered, but so is fine and fancy, with a smorgasbord of options in-between: everything from cool coffee bars and rustic wood-paneled taverns to stylish gourmet temples serving on-trend locavore or international flavors. Then there are Spätis - classic 24-hour cornerstores selling everything you need, including late-night snacks.
Head to neighborhoods like Scheunenviertel, Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Prenzlauer Berg to explore streets lined with cafes, indie stores and fun diversions. And you can raise a glass to the city's remarkable reunification at shady beer gardens like the Prater Garten (opened in 1837) and at buzzing 'beach bars' along the Spree River.
Kurfürstendamm is the city's prime retail strip (it's also a mouthful, so feel free to call it Kudamm like the locals). It's more than 2 miles long, and lined with boutiques and stores. Luxury-seekers should turn the corner into Fasanenstrasse, and food-lovers shouldn't miss the sumptuous food hall inside the landmark KaDeWe department store.
All that Berliner creativity finds great form in the indie boutiques scattered all over the city - if you prefer, it's easy to avoid chain stores and mega-malls and hunt down unique finds and local designers. Make your way to districts like Scheunenviertel, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, or combine flea-market treasure hunting with history at the Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, a jam-packed market held every Sunday right where the Berlin Wall stood.