Make the most of your short break in Berlin. No matter how brief your stay in a Berlin hotel, this street-smart itinerary will help you pinpoint the highlights.
Beat the crowds to the Reichstag (German parliament) for optical illusions in Norman Foster's light-refracting cupola before stepping onto the roof terrace for a far-reaching city panorama. Soaring Doric columns guide the eye to the horse-drawn chariot statue on top of the nearby Brandenburg Gate. The triumphal arch frames Unter den Linden boulevard, a throwback to Prussia's 18th- and 19th-century glory days.
Saunter down the boulevard, pausing to rest in the Berlin State Library's vine-strewn courtyard - a secret even to many Berliners. To the northeast, on Museum Island, watch legends come to life while gazing upon the Pergamon Altar's frieze of gods battling the Titans at the Pergamon Museum.
Nearest S-Bahn: Unter den Linden
Follow your nose south to the medieval district Nikolaiviertel to revive over Linseneintopf (lentil stew) and Berliner Weisse mit Schuss (wheat beer with a fruity syrup shot) on Zum Nussbaum's tree-shaded terrace. Right opposite is the 13th-century Nikolaikirche, Berlin's oldest church. Pass the brick-red Rotes Rathaus town hall, veering north to Neptunbrunnen fountain, where Neptune towers above buxom nymphs.
Slightly north, the needle-thin Fernsehturm tower, nicknamed the Telespargel (TV asparagus), sticks up above communist-era Alexanderplatz square, once the heart of East Berlin. A short walk east brings you to Hackescher Höfe's interlinking Art Nouveau courtyards for boutique shopping and a coffee break.
Start: Pergamon Museum
Nearest S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt
Work up an appetite trudging south past ruined medieval ring walls to 17th-century Zur Letzten Instanz, Berlin's oldest inn. Chefs pound schnitzels above the wood-panelled dining room, where Napoleon once dined by the tiled oven. The witty menu plays on the inn’s legal name ’of last resort’, with specialities like court clerks' Eisbein (pork knuckles).
Start: Zur Letzten Instanz
Nearest U-Bahn: Klosterstrasse
Start your day strolling briskly through Tiergarten park's groves and rose-fringed lawns, stopping to sneak a peak at animals in the Berlin Zoo from the Landwehrkanal's banks. Skirting Neue See lake brings you to the slender Siegessäule column, celebrating 19th-century Prussian war victories. Climb the spiral staircase or catch the lift to the lookout for views over Tiergarten's patchwork of greenery and up to the Victoria statue, which Berliners fondly call Golden Else. Tucked into Tiergarten's south-eastern corner is Berlin's architectural trailblazer Potsdamer Platz, a dramatic square ringed by skyscrapers. Dodge office workers en route to the Sony Centre mall for high-tech shopping under a tent-like glass roof.
Nearest U-Bahn: Zoologische Garten
Amble east to Kochstrasse for a quick Italian lunch at Sale e Tabbachi, near the former East-West border crossing Checkpoint Charlie, marked by a reconstructed soldier's post and guardhouse. History buffs should visit the museum, which recounts real-life tales of ingenious attempts to escape East Berlin – from hot air balloons to fake Soviet uniforms. Like a lightning bolt, Daniel Libeskind's zinc-clad Jewish Museum, slightly south, strikes all who pass it. Enter for an emotional tour through Jewish-German history, starting in the eerily claustrophobic Holocaust Tower.
Nearest U-Bahn: Kochstrasse
Round out your Berlin short break in Kreuzberg. Spices curl around your nostrils on Mehringdamm, great for authentic kebabs cooked by its Turkish community, and Currywurst (curried sausage) at hole-in-the-wall joints. Retreat to your Berlin hotel, or hit the nearby bars on Bergmannstrasse like gold-kissed Bar Nou, where the bartenders mix decadent cocktails.
Start: Mehringdamm, Kreuzberg.
Nearest U-Bahn: Mehringdamm