Over the last 25 years, Berlin has shot into the premier league of European tourist destinations. The quiet revolution of 1989 in East Germany paved the way for Berlin to emerge as the capital of a newly unified Germany. The city which symbolised the Cold War division of Europe has reinvented itself as an assertive world-class city. It has managed to do that without losing its radical traditions.
A sluggish economy and Berliners’ disdain for corporate capitalism combine to work to the advantage of visitors. Berlin is extremely good value. Reaching the city is made all the easier by the wonderful range of trains serving Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof. This crystal cathedral devoted to trains opened just in time for the Football World Cup in 2006.
There are direct daytime international services from Berlin to Amsterdam, Prague, Brno, Bratislava, Budapest, Basel, Berne, Interlaken, Poznan, Gdansk and Warsaw. Additional destinations served by overnight trains include Minsk, Moscow, Paris, Smolensk, Vienna and Zurich. This excellent range of international links is complemented by hourly departures to principal cities across Germany such as Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich.
All this makes Berlin the perfect jumping-off point for rail journeys to cities across central and eastern Europe. But don’t neglect places closer to hand. There are frequent trains from Berlin to Germany’s Baltic coast resorts and a dense web of rural regional routes gives access to the city’s beautiful hinterland – a region of lakes and forests which is cherished by Berliners but overlooked by many visitors to the German capital.
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Image credits: Michal Bednarek