Courtesy of Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Stay: Simply put, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski (Unter den Linden 77; 49-30/22610; kempinski.com/adlon) recaptures the romance of travel. The original was destroyed at the end of World War II, and the reconstruction, which opened in 1997, re-imagines it very well. The location on Unter den Linden is central, and a room with a view of the nearby Brandenburg Gate is worth it. Service is exceptional and the restaurant is excellent; a soft-boiled egg at a recent breakfast wore a little hat to stay warm. In Berlin everyone rides a bicycle in dedicated bike lanes: You can rent one from the hotel, but ask the concierge for an upgrade from the so-so three-speeds parked out front.
See: Berlin’s Museum Island, the northernmost portion of an island in the Spree River, is home to wonderful cultural institutions like the Pergamon Museum (Bodestraße 1–3; smb.museum.com). But if you take a short walk from there along the river, you’ll find the privately financed DDR Museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1; ddr-museum.de), which shows what life was like in Communist East Germany during the Cold War. Climb into an iconic Trabant automobile and take a simulated drive through East Berlin, watch Communist TV programs in a typical living room of the time or submit to questioning in an interrogation chamber. The shop sells egg carriers and other items designed in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic), which disbanded in 1990.
Eat: Spend a day strolling along Bergmannstraße in the hip and culturally diverse Kreuzberg section and stop in at one of the numerous cafés that line the attractive shopping thoroughfare and its adjacent streets. Italo (Marheinekeplatz 4; 49-30/691-5637), located under a striped awning, specializes in Italian fare. You might have a priest pour you a beer at nearby Kreuzberger Himmel restaurant (Yorckstraße 89; 49-30/2574-3888; kreuzberger-himmel.de), part of St. Bonifatius Church, or stop by Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36; curry36.de) for an addictive currywurst (German sausage, curry powder, ketchup). End things at Vannile & Marille (Hagelberger Straße 1; vanille-marille.de), just a few blocks away, for one of Berlin’s best ice cream cones.
The Berlin addition to the Departures Ultimate City Guides iPhone app will be available in January 2014. Download the app here.