Even true original Berliners can still discover something new in our city every day – the choice of fascinating sights, charming neighborhoods or beautiful nature is simply too great. That’s why we reached out to our colleagues and present to you – Berlin’s best kept secrets!
The Futurium lables itself the „house of futures“. Here, everything revolves around the question: How do we want to live? Visitors can discover many possible futures in the exhibition, discuss them together in the forum and try out their own ideas in the Futurium Lab – all free of charge.
The association „Berlin’s undergrounds“ explores, documents and maintains underground facilities in Berlin. They offer various guided tours to places normally out of sight, including bunkers and metro tunnels.
The Bergmannstraße in Kreuzberg is one of Berlin’s most beloved streets for shopping, eating, drinking and really experiencing what Berlin is all about. It’s surrounding kiez (small neighbourhood) is home to endless restaurants, locally-owned shops and picturesque corners.
The Berlin Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum are home to more than 22,000 different plant species. You can go on a trip from Alpine vegetation to the tropics – all of that not too far from campus in Steglitz.
The Liepnitzsee, just outside of Berlin’s border in Brandenburg, prides itself with being one of the cleanest in clearest lakes in the region. Not only in summer, this is an amazing getaway from the big city.
The Pfaueninsel „peacock island“ is located in the river Havel and is part of the UNESCO palaces and parks of Potsdam and Berlin. It’s a car free nature reserve, including many (you guessed it) trusting peacocks to feed.
Zenner offers a modern take on a classic German beer garden, all in a beautiful spot in Treptower Park. Combine having a drink outside in the sun with strolling along the river or visiting the Sovjet memorial a few minutes away.
Do you sometimes dream about what it would be like to study abroad not in Berlin but in Munich? The Café am Neuen See in the Tiergarten is probably the closest thing to an authentic Bavarian Biergarten in very much not-Bavarian Berlin (they also have really solid pizza).
Now that you have settled in and gotten a first impression of the FU-BEST Program as well as Berlin as a city, hopefully gotten to know your class mates a bit and survived your busy first week, it is time to venture out and get to know Berlin in all of its glory and diversity.
In order for you to easily find things to do and learn about the must visits in Berlin, we have compiled a list of important and interesting places in Berlin which you can visit this weekend (or later down the line).
Now, Berlin is huge and there are thousands upon thousands of other places and events to explore. I’m sure we could fill an entire term with impressive architecture, arts, museums, etc., but since you will have to start somewhere, these are our recommendations:
The Brandenburg Gate
The epic Brandenburg Gate is the first sight people think of when hearing about Berlin. Serving as the main gate for the ‚Straße des 17. Juni‘ which is a broad avenue leading directly to the Siegessäule (The Victory Column), an important national monument celebrating the ‚Einigungskriege‘ (Unity Wars) which took place from 1864 – 1871. We recommend visiting the Victory Column as well since you can tour the inside and take a nice walk through the ‚Großer Tiergarten‘ (the big animal garden), after which you can have a nice beverage in the ‚Café am Neuen See‘.
The Brandenburg Gate itself is located right next to several embassies such as the American, English, French and not too far away – the Russian embassy. At the center of the Pariser Platz (displayed on the picture), various (political) demonstrations take place almost around the clock. My personal favorite is visiting the gate towards dusk since the composition of clouds behind the gate is different every day and looks simply incredible.
We can also highly recommend getting bikes and touring the city that way.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Berlin is a fun and exciting city.
But underneath that fun and diversity are various dark chapters, oppression and a genocide. It is important to be mindful – not only of the various memorials you can find all over the city, but in particular with this one.
Germans, and as a matter of fact, us as citizens of the world should never forget the atrocities that took place in Germany during the Nazi regime and as globalized citizens, we all carry the responsibility to understand that something like the Holocaust should never happen again. As you might find out in some FU-BEST courses, genocides are comparable, however, this type of industrialized eradication of human beings has never happened on the same scale and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe will give you that impression while walking through it.
The design is specifically meant to make you feel small and irrelevant. It is supposed to scare you and send shivers down your spine to bring across the emotional helplessness of the time.
I sincerely recommend both visiting the memorial and also taking a few minutes to really take in this feeling and pay respects to the victims of the Nazis‘ hatred.
Please make sure to be respectful and not climb any of the stones.
Alexanderplatz, the Fernsehturm and the World Clock
One of the signature buildings installed in formerly Soviet-occupied cities were the enormous television towers used to broadcast domestic state media. This is how the Berlin Alexanderturm came to be.
Located in the center of East Berlin on the Alexanderplatz, it has been an important monument ever since the Cold War and naturally lots of infrastructure developed around it. There are several malls, restaurants, bars and public transport as well as the ‚Rotes Rathaus‘ right around the corner.
In addition, it is always fun to visit the World Clock to find your own country or city and get a spacial and visual understanding for time. Furthermore, there are various events and flea markets every other weekend, so it is always fun to be surprised by ther buzzing city life.
Museum Island and the Berlin Dom
By now, you are likely tired of hearing how broad Berlin’s cultural landscape is. Nonetheless, Museum Island around the Berlin Dom is an essential place to get an idea about how Berlin became the city it is today.
Since you all received a free pass to all state museums in Berlin, we can but recommend planning a whole day or even several days exploring these exceptional museums, the grand architecture (highly influenced by Karl Friedrich Schinkel) which has gone through several eras from epic to renaissance-type buildings and, of course, the Berlin Dom itself.
Located next to the famous ‚Lustgarden‘ (garden of lust), the Dom is the biggest evangelical church in Germany and can be toured both inside and on top of the roof. Although Berlin is by far the least religious city in Germany, it goes to show how big of an influence the German church has had.
Either way, the whole area along the Spree is simply beautiful and it is absolulety worth it planning to visit the Berlin Dom.
East Side Gallery
One of the most significant modern historical remnants of the Cold War is – without a doubt – the Berlin wall.
As you probably already know or will find out in many of our classes, West Germany was the Allies‘ „bulwark“ against the Soviet Union after World War II. No matter how you think about world politics, the wall which is now adorned with several graffitis and art works, displays the main theme of our university: freedom.
Freedom of thought, freedom of mobility and freedom of information are some of the most important values in most western constitutions and democracies and the innate desire of people was on full display when the wall came down on November 9th, 1989.
As former German President Horst Köhler said: „The wall was an edifice of fear. On November 9th, it became a place of joy“. More than 33 years later, this still holds true and as a living piece of history, the East Side Gallery serves as a reminder that walls will always create tension, hatred and limit personal freedoms.
A must visit during your term in Berlin.
The Reichstag Building
While most of you have already seen and toured the Reichstag Building, we figured it still deserves a spot on this list. Not only has this building been the focal point to many historical events (both good and bad) throughout the several regimes Berlin has been through, but you can also visit the plenary halls and even listen in on some policy-making in the process by registering for a tour here. Additionally, if your friends or family come to visit, this is an excellent place to show off the political heart of Germany and the many facets Berlin has to offer.
Honorable Mention – Silent Picture
As it turns out, your visit is beginning at the start of the Stummfilm Festival (Silent Picture Festival) in Berlin at the Babylon Cinema.
Given that some of you do not yet speak German well (yet), FU-BESTers have traditionally been to Silent Picture screenings and have only given us positive Feedback about their experiences.
It is certainly worth checking out and the Festival started on August 31st and will go on until September 10, so you have enough time to find a fitting time slot. For those who are taking the „German Cinema before 1945“ course with Dr. Stiasny, this is a must-visit!
For more information, feel free to email us, come to the office or refer to previous Blog entries such as this.
I sincerely hope you found some interesting sights and are able to enjoy your first couple of weeks in Berlin!
And remember: no matter what you do, what counts in the end is who you did it with! So don’t be shy and ask your fellow FU-BESTers to join you on your Berlin adventures and create some unforgettable memories together!
As Berlin is unofficially known as Europe’s gay capital, we would like to take the opportunity and give you a little overview of Berlin’s most gay friendly districts (obviously in no way is this a complete list). The neighborhoods featured have a rich density of queer bars and clubs and convey a general feeling of inclusiveness.
S c h ö n e b e r g
When the city was divided into East and West Berlin, the Schöneberg district slowly began to develop a vibrant gay and lesbian community. As the wall came down in 1989, Schöneberg’s queer community continued to grow. Today it is known for being Berlin’s most gay-friendly district and is considered the traditional center for gay culture in Berlin. Along Fuggerstrasse, there are dozens of clubs, pubs, restaurants and all manner of other businesses catering to the queer community. A hot spot for gay culture is also Schöneberg’s Motzstraße. For a more extensive list on queer pubs and clubs in Schöneberg see a map here.
Schöneberg’s queer set up also makes it a very fitting location for Berlin’s Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum), which moved from Kreuzberg to Schöneberg’s Lützowstraße a couple of years ago. The museum presents a number of regularly changing exhibitions on everything queer. It also organizes talks, lectures and get-togethers evolving around gay culture. And! If you like to get a little bit of reading in on the topic of gay culture, their library consists of more than 20,000 volumes covering all areas of scientific inquiry from humanities, social science, sexology, fine arts and popular science. In this context it is also worth mentioning that in the last couple of years they have made a bigger effort to collect literature on female homosexuality, queer feminist theory and trans and inter experiences.
Where? Lützowstraße 73, 10785 Berlin
Opening Hours: Sun, Mon, Wed, Fri 2pm - 6 pm, Thu 2 pm - 8 pm,
Sat 2 pm - 7 pm, closed on Tuesdays
Approx. 15 minutes from the subway station Nollendorfplatz
K r e u z b e r g
The queer scene in Kreuzberg started as an alternative to the scene in Mitte. Although Kreuzberg’s queer culture has changed over the years, there are still a few staples to be found. One of them is Möbel Olfe, which is always incredibly crowded, but a real institution. It’s an old furniture store that has been remodeled into a bar with changing events and DJs. No chance for boredom.
Close to Kottbuser Tor at Mariannenstraße you find the women’s café Oya, which mostly caters to women, lesbians, trans, inter and queer individuals. This being said, all identities are welcome (except on Thursdays, which is reserved for wltiq). They offer vegan and vegetarian dishes for lunch, reasonably priced coffee for 1,80€ and drinks in the evening hours. Events at the café revolve around queer-feminist and anti-racist topics.
No chance for understatement provides Roses in Kreuzberg, where chairs and walls consist of fur fabric. The interior is a mixture of trashy and cheesy and definitely worth a visit.
At Mehringdamm you find the queer bar Rauschgold, which is also a good location for karaoke. What you’ll get at Rauschgold is a mixture of relaxing bar venue and alternative party location. Besides karaoke, they organize regular events, with a focus on drag shows (some shows are fee-based). Stay up to date with their event calendar or visit their Facebook page.
S c h w u Z and S i l v e r F u t u r e i n N e u k ö l l n
Neukölln is not necessarily known as a particularly gay district. This being said, a couple of years ago SchwuZ, one of Berlin’s favorite gay clubs, moved from its old location in Kreuzberg to its new and bigger one in Neukölln (close to the subway station Rathaus Neukölln). Besides having a bigger venue at hand, the decision to move was also a political one. The club’s move to the culturally very distinct Neukölln represents SchwuZ’s aim to combine different lifestyles and, as the owners state, „Neukölln’s exciting Kiez is an important catalyst for this.“
The bar SilverFuture located in Neukölln’s Reuterkiez could have easily been named PinkFuture, stemming from its interior. So get prepared for some serious pink and silver vibes. The cosy queer bar is fully packed at peak times and features concerts, DJ sets and vernissages.
On the fourth Thursday of November, people in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, probably the biggest national holiday and with that something that will be missed while abroad. Thankfully, there are a lot of American expats that brought the tradition to Berlin with them. Here’s a few places that offer authentic American Thanksgiving food as well as tips on where to find ingredients if you want to cook for yourself!
1. Tasty Take Away at Stella
Pick up the year’s most special dinner at Fortuna’s Table & Stella, located in the heart of Neukölln! If you order for a minimum of 6 people before Nov 17th, you will get to indulge in their originally American-style turkey (they also have vegan options.) You can choose between 3 different courses, with prices ranging from 38€-70€.
Ready made heat and serve menus by pick-up or delivery. On offer are a full menu (39,50 € per person) or a lite menu (29,50 € per person), including a vegetarian option. They also offer to cater your party with a whole turkey and all the fixins by request.
Thanksgiving – for all who prefer to cook themselves
Germans eat turkey for Christmas, if at all, so it’s good to organize your bird in advance. Most Fleischereien will be able to sort a bird out if you give them a week’s notice. Plan on 500 grams per person when ordering, more if you’re fond of leftovers.
… and where to get it:
Rogacki, Wilmersdorfer Str.145/46, Charlottenburg: Fresh turkeys available for ~9 €/kg. Giblets are included for no additional charge. Some have said Rogacki can be relied on to have turkey in stock, but it is recommended to place an order. Open: Tue-Th 10am-6pm, Fr 9am-6pm, Sat 8am-2pm, Tel. 030 3438250
Kaufhauf des Westens (KaDeWe), Tauentzienstraße 21, Schöneberg: Battery turkeys are ~7 €/kg, organic ones are ~13 €/kg, giblets for ~6 €/kg. Open: Wed-Sat 10am-8pm, Mon-Tue 10am-8pm, Tel. 030 21210(poultry counter)
Fleischerei Domke, Warschauer Str. 64, Friedrichshain: Frozen turkeys are ~10 €/kg, while fresh ones are ~12 €/kg (without giblets). They say it’s best to come by in person to place an order, but Domke always has a few turkeys (presumably frozen) on hand. Open: Mon-Fr 6:30am-10pm, Sat 8am-9pm, Su 11am-9pm Tel. 030 2917635.
Make your own vegan loaf:
This vegan meatless loaf is so moist and flavorful that you won’t need stuffing or even gravy. It’s gluten-free and soy-free, too!
Since you can’t turn to admittedly-terrifying bags of stuffing mix, you’ll want a sturdy white bread that won’t fall to bits nor stay too stodgy. We suggest cubing Soluna’s La Boule or else what’s called französisches Landbrot, which is sold at many organic bakeries. Vacuum-packed chestnuts are easy to find in Berlin grocery stores and often more affordable than in the States, so they’re suited well as an addition to your stuffing.
The mashed potatoes
Look out for potatoes described as mehlig or mehligkochend (i.e. floury potatoes): they’re the best substitute for russets.
The pumpkin pie
You can find canned pumpkin at KaDeWe and Broken English. As a cheaper alternative, fresh pumpkins are available at most general supermarkets at this time of the year.
The sweet potatoes
If you want to make a sweet potato casserole, Süßkartoffel and marshmallows are sold in most grocery stores in the city.
The cranberry sauce
Cranberries can be found at most large grocery stores like Edeka and Kaufland, as well as most organic shops.
For those of you who need a break from the (at times overwhelming) bustle of Berlin and want to reconnect with nature, be sure to visit Domäne Dahlem!
Domäne Dahlem is an organic farm in a historic country estate with a blacksmith shop and an open-air museum for agricultural and food culture. So if you’re at all interested in what organic farming in Germany looks like, this is the place to go!
Domäne Dahlem is an organic farm in a historic country estate with a blacksmith shop and an open-air museum for agricultural and food culture. So if you’re at all interested in what organic farming in Germany looks like, this is the place to go!
At their traditional potato festival, you can harvest organic potatoes from the field yourself. Both modern and historical potato varieties with different cooking properties and very different tastes and appearances are grown here. You can harvest the popular „Linda“ yourself as well as rarities, e.g. „Bamberger Hörnchen“ and „Blauer Schwede“.
Experience and discover selected stands with handicrafts and specialities, ecological delicacies with and without potatoes from their organic gastronomy, live music and lots of hands-on activities.
Welcome to Germany! To help you settle, you will want to have a local phone number and mobile internet available. For that, you have two options. Either you are getting a mobile contract that binds you for usually 24 months, or you can get a flexible and more affordable prepaid SIM card in Germany and choose the phone plan most suitable to you.
Make sure to only get a Prepaid option, do not commit to any long-term binding contracts!
Prepaid SIM cards offer the best value for money when it comes to mobile communication in Germany. To help you make a choice and not feel overwhelmed by the chaotic offer of mobile phone plans out there, we have selected the best prepaid SIM card in Germany.
Lidl Connect is the prepaid mobile offer from the big German supermarket LIDL. It uses the Vodafone network lines and offers LTE internet speed. Lidl offers different plans. Its basic Smart S plan was recently awarded as the best Prepaid Tariff by the renowned magazines CHIP and Connect.
The Smart S plan offers unlimited phone calls and SMS within Germany and 3 GB LTE data. It costs 7,99 euros for 4 weeks. The biggest plan, Smart XL brings 12 GB data for 17,99. The card costs 9,99 euros; however, it comes with a balance of 10 euros. So basically, it is for free.
Once you activate your card, you can select the data plan you would like to choose on your Lidl online account. You can change the tariff whenever you want or add data packages when needed.
With Lidl, you can either manually wire money every 4 weeks to your account or activate an automatic recharge from your bank account or via Paypal of let’s say 10 euros, each time your balance drops below 10 euros.
Instead of ordering your SIM card online, we recommend to buy it at one of the many LIDLs across Berlin. Just ask for the LIDL Connect Starterpack at the counter.
Aldi Talk is the direct competitor of Lidl, not only in terms of the prepaid mobile phone offer but also with its core product, the supermarket. Aldi offers a very similar product as Lidl; however, the most significant difference is that Aldi uses the O2 network, which is the smallest network in Germany. The O2 reception in cities is excellent, whereas, if you spend a lot of time in rural areas, it is not a good choice for you.
The Paket S plan offers unlimited calls and texts and 3 GB LTE data. It costs 7,99 euros for 4 weeks. The biggest plan, Paket L brings 12 GB data for 17,99. The card also costs 9,99 euros; however, it is preloaded with a balance of 10 euros. So it is basically free as well.
When you compare mobile phone contracts, those using O2 are always cheaper than those using Vodafone or Telekom. Therefore Aldi offers the same product for the same price on a weaker and cheaper network.
Once you activate your card, you can select the data plan you would like to choose on your Aldi account. You can change the plan online, whenever you want.
With Aldi, you can also manually wire money every 4 weeks to your account or activate an automatic recharge of let’s say 10 euros each time your balance drops below 10 euros.
Of course, you again have the option to buy a top-up balance card at an Aldi supermarket. You will find them at the cashier counter.
The Vodafone Germany prepaid sim card packages are called CallYa and they offer the following data packages valid for 4 weeks. Vodafone Germany has a very advanced 4G/5G network and their prepaid sim card deals are by far the best. For €20 you get 15 GB data + unlimited calling and texting in all of Europe.
Once you hold your card in hand, you need to activate it. Since July 2017, all prepaid SIM cards need to be registered in person or via VideoID, to prevent crime and misuse.
You will need your official ID card or passport and a German home address to register. Online is the fastest way and only takes a few minutes. However, not all passports are supported online. Should your nationality not be valid for online identification, you can go to your closest post office.
Once you activated the card, you can choose the tariff you like and your preferred top-up method in your online account.
If you ever find yourself at S+U Zoologischer Garten, it’s worth stopping by C/O Berlin, an exhibition space for photography and visual media. Located right next to Amerika-Haus on Hardenbergstraße, the nonprofit organization focuses on presenting works by respected artists as well as supporting emerging talents, and welcomes everyone to discover contemporary visual culture. As a place to exchange new ideas, C/O Berlin organizes Artist Talks, Panel Discussions, Film Screenings and guided tours, offering visitors a place to exchange thoughts on the exhibition program and engage in current debates on visual culture. Their upcoming exhibtion Queerness in Photography (Sep 17, 2022 – Jan 18, 2023) examines the representation of identity, gender, and sexuality in photography in three complementary exhibitions.
If you happen to find time during your first week here in Berlin, there’s two more amazing artists being exhibited at c/o until Sep 07, 2022.
The exhibition Susan Meiselas . Mediations is the first retrospective in Germany of the Magnum photographer’s over 50-year oeuvre—from her early portraits of neighbors to intimate shots of strippers to her iconic photographs from crisis and war zones.
In her solo exhibition A Chance Encounter, Bieke Depoorter presents Agata and Michael, two series that begin with chance encounters. Personal relationships with the people featured in her photographs, which were developed over the course of several years, significantly influence Depoorter’s artistic practice.
Berlin is Germany’s unrivalled center of all things theater and music. Even though the stages of theaters, operas and music venues remain closed for the time being, some of Berlin’s most famous artistic institutions have offered virtual alternatives until their doors finally open again.
The Berliner Ensemble, founded by none other than Bertolt Brecht, is one of Berlin’s and Germany’s top theater addresses. Their digital offers at “BE at home” include on demand recordings of panel discussions and lectures, audiowalks, podcasts, streams of historic Brecht-productions, backstage impressions… more than enough content to get you through these times!
Dringeblieben is a collaboration of various cultural institutions across Germany bringing you streams and other digital formats directly to your home. Along with it: the Maxim-Gorki-Theater and the Deutsches Theater. No need to get lucky to get hold of theater tickets – you can just hit play!
The Berliner Philharmoniker are one of the world’s best orchestras – and in their digital concert hall you can get a front row seat for free! The playlist includes various performances, conducted by the philharmonic’s chief conductor, Kirill Petrenko. Listen to pieces by van Beethoven, Mahler and Tschaikowsky as well as an interview with Petrenko.
The Schaubühne is the place to be in Berlin when it comes to contemporary theater. As they remain closed at least until Easter, they have launched Schaubühne Online. Every couple of days you can get free, exclusive access to recordings of plays by famed theater director Thomas Ostermeier, documentaries or panel discussions.
Berlin’s clubs define the pulse of the city but were also hit hardest by the Corona crisis. “United We Stream“ aims to bring the clubs’ music and atmosphere into your home while supporting the clubs, artists and organizers at the same time. Discover different livestreams by world-renowned DJs from some of Berlin’s most legendary clubs, such as Watergate, Griessmühle or Sisyphos.
The Collegium Musicum is a joint venture of Freie Universität and Technische Universität Berlin. Its ensemble consist of 450 students, professors, and and other university staff from different departments, who meet up regurlarly to make music together. Traditionally, they give a number of concerts towards the end of the German semester in February.
Chamber Choir Concert
The 35 members of the chamber choir perform a unique selection of a capella music – ranging from classics to works by Jaakko Mänyjärvi and Francis Poulenc.
If you are a fan of classical music, this might be the perfect concert for you. The symphony orchestra and the Great Choir perform a number of classical pieces by Anton Bruckner, Felix Mendellsohn Bartholdy, and Francis Poulenc.
When? February 9, 2020, 8 p.m.
Where? Philharmonie Berlin, Herbert-von-Karajan-Str. 1 (S and U Potsdamer Platz)
Don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day yet? How about an evening with the UniBigband Berlin, where you might just discover your love for jazz?
When? February 14 and 15, 2020, 8 p.m.
Where? Kunstfabrik Schlot, Invalidenstraße. 117 (U6 Naturkundemuseum)
Welcome to our official FU-BEST blog! Here we share everything exciting in and around Berlin with our current FU-BESTers. Of course, everyone else who is interested in getting a glimpse into the perks of being a student in Berlin is cordially invited to join us along the ride.
You’ll find tips for interesting lectures on and off campus, free time activities, event information, our favorite eating spots, and many other things that make Berlin unique.