WHY GO NOW?
Next Saturday, 100 museums and exhibitions will stay open until 2am, and four days later the two-week Berlin Music Festival begins. The focus this year is on eastern European, and particularly Czech, music (00 49 30 254 89 100; www.berlinerfestspiele.de).
British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow to Berlin's Tegel airport; Air Berlin (0870 738 88 80; www.air berlin.com) flies from Stansted to Tegel; easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyJet.com) flies to Schönefeld from Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool, Luton, Gatwick and Newcastle; Ryanair (0906 270 5656; www.ryanair.com) flies from Stansted to Berlin Schönefeld.
Bus X9 goes from Tegel to Stand 1 at Zoo station every 10 minutes, and there are frequent trains from Schönefeld.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
The spine of the city is the straight, broad avenue that runs east-west with the Brandenburg Gate at its eastern end. It bears a number of names from Kaiserdamm in the west to Unter den Linden in the east, where it adjoins the Museuminsel, the island on which some of the most important museums are clustered. Roughly paralleling the route are the river Spree and the core section of the S-bahn (above ground) railway network, between Charlottenburg, Zoologischer Garten - Berlin's main railway station until the full opening of Hauptbahnhof - Friedrichstrass, Hackescher Markt, for the Museuminsel, Alexanderplatz and Ostbahnhof.
The main tourist information centre is at the Europa-Center, Budapesterstrasse 45 (00 49 30 25 00 25; www.berlin-tourist-information.de), which opens 10am-7pm daily (9am-6pm Sundays). It sells the Welcome Card, which offers unlimited use of public transport in Berlin and Potsdam and discount vouchers on attractions. It is valid for one adult and up to three children and costs €16 (£11) for two days, €22 (£16) for three.
Close to Zoo station is the elegant Kempinski Hotel Bristol at Kurfürstendamm 27 (00 49 30 88 43 40; www.kempinski-berlin.de), with two restaurants and an exotic swimming pool. Specials can be as low as €140 (£100) for a double, including the sumptuous breakfast. The Artist Riverside Hotel & Spa comprises two hotels at Friedrichstrasse 106. It is in the Mitte area near Friedrichstrasse station, with art nouveau-styled rooms (00 49 30 284 900; www.tolles-hotel.de). Doubles from €120 (£86). For something radically different, with in-your-face design, the Propeller Island City Lodge (10) at Albrecht-Achilles-Strasse 58 near Adenauerplatz is quintessential hip Berlin (00 49 30 891 90 16; www.propeller-island.de). Doubles from €95 (£68), breakfast €7 (£5).
TAKE A VIEW
For the best panoramic view of Berlin head to the Fernsehturm , the TV tower opened in 1969 in former East Berlin on Panoramastrasse near Alexanderplatz (00 49 30 242 33 33; www.berlinerfernsehturm.de). It's 368m high, but the viewing platforms are at 200m, where there's a bar and restaurant that revolves twice an hour. It's open 9am-midnight daily (from 10am between November and February), admission €7.50 (£5).
TAKE A RIDE
Try a guided bike tour. Berlin's Best runs a 16km, four-hour tour of the major sights and hidden places at 3pm on Tuesday and Saturday (00 49 30 440 48 300; www.berlinonbike.de). The tours run from the KulturBrauerei near Eberswalderstrasse U-Bahn station; price €15 (£11). This, incidentally, is a magnificent 19th-century brick brewery that has been converted into a cultural centre with restaurants, cafés and a tourist information centre (00 49 30 44 35 26 0; www.kulturbrauerei-berlin.de).
On Kurfürstendamm, a pair of Porsches are shoes, not cars; Bulgari, Gucci and Prada are in evidence, too. If boutiques and collectors' shops are more your scene, try Bleibtreustrasse and Mommsenstrasse to the north of " Ku'damm", as the locals call it. Round the corner at the eastern end of Ku'damm, at Tauentzienstrasse 21-4, is KaDeWe, continental Europe's largest department store; its sixth-floor food hall is on a par with Harrods.
For a very different experience, explore the streets in the area of former East Berlin known as Prenzlauer Berg. Behind the trees of the cobbled streets such as Kollwitzstrasse and Rykerstrase are designer shops, restaurants and cafés that have been created in the elegant 19th-century buildings.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
Mutter Hoppe at Rathausstrasse 21 (00 49 30 241 56 25; www.mutterhoppe.de) offers generous portions of traditional German and Berlin fare amid old photographs of the city. Dishes include marinaded pork with onions, potato pancakes, and peas, mushroom and tomatoes (€14/£10). A shared main course or appetiser such as Berlin pea soup with sausage slices (€5/£3.50) may be enough for light appetites.
A major exhibition of Goya's compelling, if disturbing, paintings and drawings is at the Alte Nationalgalerie at Bodestrasse 1-3 (00 49 30 2090 5801; www.smb.museum) until 3 October; open 10am-6pm daily except Monday, admission €8 (£6). A Picasso exhibition opens on 30 September at the Neue Nationalgalerie at Potsdamerstrasse 50 (00 49 30 266 2651; www.smb.museum); open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, weekends 11am-6pm; admission €6 (£4). A Dakota suspended from the roof announces the fascinating Technical Museum , housed partly in an old locomotive depot at Trebbinerstrasse 9 (00 49 30 90 25 40; www.dtmb.de); open Tuesday to Friday 9am-5.30pm and weekends 10am-6pm, admission €4.50 (£3).
TAKE A HIKE
Take the S- or U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz , once Berlin's equivalent to Piccadilly Circus and the location of the first traffic light and public electric lighting in Europe. The area is now covered in office buildings such as the DB tower and Sony Europe's headquarters, which incorporates the façade of the Esplanade Hotel and its dining room. Walk up Ebertstrasse to the Brandenburg Gate , originally built in 1789-91 and inspired by the Acropolis. It stands on the site of one of the 17 gates that pierced the city wall, which was dismantled in 1866. To the north is the seat of the German Parliament since 1999, the Reichstag , surmounted by Sir Norman Foster's dome, inside which is a spiral staircase. The dome is open free of charge from 8am-midnight (last admission 10pm).
Just to the east is the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which opened in May. It is on the angle of Zwischen Ebertstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse and was designed by the New York architect Peter Eisenmann. The 2,711 dark concrete stelae are based on a disorienting experience of the artist, and that feeling is induced by walking among them.
Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, and at the Saphire Bar at Bötzowstrasse 31 you can sip more than 300 cocktails and 200 whiskies on leather sofas (00 49 30 25 56 21 58). For elegance, the lobby of the Adlon Hotel (22) (00 49 30 22 61 22 22) is hard to cap: it's on Unter den Linden by the Brandenburg Gate.
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
If you've had enough heavy local food, try the maroon glow of Kula-Karma at Rosenthaler Strasse 36, in the lively district north of Hackescher Markt station. It serves unusual Thai-Californian fusion cuisine, such as seafood gumbo ragout of Royal fish, with mushrooms and asparagus in lime coconut milk with green rice and Asian salad (€15/£11), or vanilla cream with fresh fruit in a wafer blossom with pinenuts and cinnamon (€6/£4) (00 49 30 27 58 20 35; www.kulakarma.de).
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
The Protestant cathedral, the Berliner Dom , has an immensely impressive dome, comparable to St Peter's in Rome. Restoration of the 1905 neo-baroque building is largely complete. Don't miss the crypt, where the elaborate coffins of more than 90 members of the Hohenzollern dynasty from the 15th to the 19th centuries are gathered, and where a number of tiny coffins testify to the indiscriminate nature of infant mortality.
OUT TO BRUNCH
Media types head for Rosalinda on Knesebeckstrasse 16 (00 49 313 59 96), where brunch begins at 9am.
A WALK IN THE PARK
The Tiergarten in the heart of Berlin was once the hunting ground of the Prussian Electors. In the 19th century the grounds were landscaped in informal English style, but by the end of the Second World War barely a tree had survived the search for firewood. The garden was replanted with over a million trees.
WRITE A POSTCARD
Sit in a wicker beach chair on one of Berlin's eight new beaches with bars along the river Spree, one with a swimming pool in a converted barge.
ICING ON THE CAKE
For a very different perspective on Berlin, take a boat trip over part of the 180km of navigable waterways, which has even more bridges than Venice. Stern und Kreis offers a wide range (00 49 30 53 63 60 0; www.sternundkreis.de). Its 105-minute city cruise between Hafen Treptow, Jannowitzbrücke and Schlossbrücke/ Charlottenburg costs €11 (£8) one way, with food available on board.Reuse content