The “Alex” TV Tower
The 368m- (1027ft)- high TV tower of Alexanderplatz can be seen from almost any point in the city and has been iconic of Berlin ever since it was built by the GDR in 1969. The giant steel- clad sphere atop houses a revolving restaurant and café as well as a viewing platform. The elevator ride lasts 40 seconds. Arrive early to avoid lines. Daily 9am– midnight (Nov– Feb from 10am). €13/8.50. www.tv-turm.de. Panoramastr. 1a. T: 030.24757537. S+U Alexanderplatz. F3
The city's neo- Renaissance cathedral was begun in the late 1700s, finished in 1905, and renovated in simplified form after WWII damage. Walk up 267 steps for glorious views of the city from the dome, or stay on the ground floor to gaze at elaborate sarcophagi containing the royal remains of Hohenzollern family members. Thanks to the church's perfect acoustics and a 7200- pipe organ, the Dom is also an important concert venue. Mon–Sat 9am– 8pm, Sun 9am– 8pm (winter until 7pm). € 7/5. www.berlinerdom.de. Am Lustgarten. T: 030.20269119. S Hackescher Markt. E3/F3
MUST SEE The definitive Berlin icon,
Gotthard Langhans' Neoclassical triumphal arch has witnessed the city's best and worst moments, from the military parades of the Third Reich to the Wall being raised and torn down. Formerly behind GDR borders, today the gate acts mainly as the backdrop for festivals, New Year's Eve parties, and tourist snapshots. U Brandenburger Tor. D3/E3
The summer home of Sophie Charlotte, wife of King Friedrich I of Prussia, reflects the grandeur of the Hohenzollern family. Begun in 1695, the luxury Baroque complex consists of a main building with a central cupola and two side wings, added in later years, that enclose a courtyard. The picturesque park surrounding the castle includes a formal French-style garden, English garden with pond and statues, belvedere, and mausoleum. The castle hosts temporary art and history exhibitions. Tue–Sun 10am– 6pm (winter until 5pm). €12/8. www.spsg.de. Spandauer Damm 20-24. T: 030.9694200. U Sophie- Charlotte- Platz. A3
Breitscheidplatz. T: 030.2185023. U Zoologischer Garten, U Kurfürstendamm. C4
Before the war, this Moorish- Byzantine- style synagogue was Berlin's largest Jewish place of worship. The synagogue was seriously damaged during the infamous Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938, while Allied bombs gave it the coup de grâce in 1943. The exotic gold dome is today the icon of Berlin's Jewish rebirth, and the partially reconstructed building now houses a Jewish center and a museum. Open daily 10am– 6pm (to 5pm Fri). Museum: € 3.50/3. Dome € 2/1.50. Under6s free. www.cjudaicum.de. Oranienburgerstr. 28-30. T: 030.88028300. S Oranienburgerstraße, S Hackescher Markt. E2
Nikolaiviertel and Knoblauchhaus
The Nikolaiviertel is where Berlin was born, and the area still retains its ancient character, although most of the buildings in the narrow medieval alleys are replicas of destroyed originals that dated back to the 1200s. The late- Gothic Nikolaikirche, Berlin's oldest surviving building, is now a museum. Other points of interest include the Ephraim Palais Museum and the Biedermeier- style Knoblauchhaus, a 19th- century middle- class townhouse that escaped WWII damage. Knoblauch Haus: Tue–Sun 10am– 6pm. www.knoblauchhaus.de. Poststr. 23. T: 030.240020171. S+U Alexanderplatz. F3 The city reached its highest population in 1942. At that time, 4,478,102 people lived in Berlin. Today, there are 3.5 million. An intricate series of interconnected courtyards provides an example of early-19th- century German Secessionist style. The first courtyard is entirely decorated with glazed blue-and-white tiles in geometric designs, while the apartment buildings and narrow, maze-like alleys lined with cafés, shops, and theaters give the an atmosphere both familiar and fascinating. Rosenthaler Str. 40- 41. S Hackescher Markt. E2/F2
The church's bombed- out bell tower has been an anti-war memorial and symbol of West Berlin ever since its ruins were restored to their present state in 1957. The old church now hosts an exhibition of before-and-after photos documenting its and Ku'damm's former splendor. Inside, look up to admire what remains of the old mosaic. Daily 9am–7pm. www.gedaechtniskirche- berlin.de.
Panoramapunkt am Potsdamer Platz
In 20 seconds, an elevator whisks you to the top of a 100m-high platform with one of the best views in Berlin. Visitors can enjoy drinks and cake at the café, with the city's skyline as a backdrop. Daily 10am– 8pm (until 6pm Nov– Mar). €6.50/5. www.panoramapunkt.de. Kolhoff Tower, Potsdamer Platz 1. S Potsdamer Platz. D3
Before the war, Potsdamer Platz was the city's beating heart, with department stores, banks, internationally known theaters, dance halls, and cafés. WWII bombs obliterated 80 percent of the square, which was left in limbo for a few years and then enclosed in a no-man's-land between the Wall and barbed wire fences. The square came back to life in the 1990s as a modern reinterpretation of its original self. Divided in three slices, it includes the Sony building with its central plaza; Daimler City, home to a large shopping mall; and the Manhattan- style Beisheim Center building. S+U Potsdamer D3
Reichstag and Foster’s Glass Cupola
MUST SEE In the last 100 years, the massive neo- Renaissance building, now the seat of German Parliament, has been bombed, set on fire, wrapped by artist Christo, and renovated by Lord Norman Foster. Climb the glass cupola for a 360-degree view of the city, then gaze down at parliament in session. The plenary hall can be visited only on guided tours. Cupola: Daily 8am– midnight by appointment only. Free. Register on website; it is recommended to do so at least three days prior to your visit. Audio tours available. www.bundestag.de. Platz der Republik 1. T: 030.22732152. U Bundestag. D3/E3
Siegessäule ( Victory Column)
The triumphal column on the Straße der 17. Juni, in the middle of Tiergarten park, commemorates victory in the Prusso- Danish war, while the angel Berlin kids are lucky kids: The city invests ample money and creativity into making its playgrounds spectacular, and each of the 2000+ play areas has its own personality and theme. Here are our favorite five:
DRAGON PARK (FRIEDRICHSHAIN)
This small playground hidden between two buildings at Schreinerstr. 48 features a green dragon you can walk into and slide down, plus climbing facilities galore.
THE RUBBER PLAYGROUND (SCHöNEBERG)
Kids love jumping around, and this adventurous playground on Winterfeldtplatz is made entirely of bouncy rubber sheets.
THE ARKONAPLATZ PLAY AREA (PRENZLAUER BERG)
Tunnel slides, cableways, climbing towers, and jumping mattresses are just some of the attractions you will find at this 1600 sq.m (17,222sq.ft) play park.
THE SNOW WHITE PLAYGROUND (CHARLOTTENBURG, MOMMSENSTRASSE)
There's the prince's castle with real rooms and lots of ladders and slides, the dwarves' house, and the mine with a real water pump so kids can splash around on hot days.
THE SHIP PARK (KREUZBERG)
Little buccaneers will enjoy the gigantic pirate ship inside the Görlitzer Park playground.