In the past 100 years alone Berlin has staged a revolution, headquartered fascists, been divided, then reunited – a past that feeds the city’s experimental character.
Avant-garde museums, eclectic galleries, grand opera and late-night clubs – they’re all here.
The Pergamon Museum is a feast of classical Greek, Babylonian, Roman, Islamic and Middle Eastern art and architecture. The highlight is the marble Pergamon Altar (00 49 30 2090 5555; Museum Island; 10am-6pm Fri-Wed, 10am-10pm Thu; £10).
For great city views, take the lift to the observation deck of the Panoramapunkt. From here it's easy to see that Potsdamer Platz is divided into three: Daimler City, the flashy Sony Centre, and the Beisheim Centre inspired by American skyscraper design (panorama punkt.de; Potsdamer Platz 1; 10am-8pm; £4).
For an eye-opening exploration of 2,000 years of Jewish history in Germany visit the Jüdisches Museum. Learn about Jewish cultural contributions and leading figures, as well as the Holocaust (00 49 30 2599 3300; jmberlin.de; Lindenstrasse 9-14; 10am-10pm Mon, 10am-8pm Tue-Sun; £4).
Berlinagenten specialises in private customised tours off the beaten track and into unique boutiques, bars and restaurants - even private homes. For the culinary scene try the Gastro-Rallye tour (00 49 30 4372 0701; berlinagenten. com; from £148 per person).
Little more than a mile of the Berlin Wall survives as a symbol of the triumph of freedom over oppression. The best-preserved stretch is the East Side Gallery, turned into an open-air gallery by artists in 1990. A Wall Guide maps its course, with commentary and GPS (mauerguide.de; £8 per day).
Eat and drink
Anna Blume, Prenzlauerberg, lures patrons into its velvety art-nouveau interior all day long. Perfumed by homemade cakes, java coffee, and flowers from the attached shop, it has a good people-watching terrace too (00 49 30 4404 8749; cafe-annablume. de; Kollwitzstrasse 83; 8am-2am; mains £4-£8).
The lamps and Meissen tile mural are from the old GDR-era Palast der Republik (former East German parliament), but Tartane is a contemporary gastro pub. Bohemian clientele enjoy burgers and Kölsch beer from Cologne (00 49 30 4472 7036; tartane.de; Torstrasse 225; 6pm-2am Mon-Sat; mains £7-£15).
Engelbecken is a lakeside charmer with impeccably crafted German soul food. Local organic meat and seasonal produce might include roast organic veal meat loaf (00 49 30 6152810; Witzlebenstrasse 31; dinner Mon-Sat; midday-1am Sun; mains £7-£18).
At hip Spindler & Klatt, in a former Prussian bread factory, loll on a platform bed while eating creative fusion dishes such as beef bavette and sesame potatoes (00 49 30 319 881 860; spindler klatt.com; Köpenicker Strasse 16-17; dinner, Thurs-Sun; mains £12-£18).
Try Michael Kempf's Michelinstarred cuisine at avant-garde Facil. Expect elegantly presented dishes such as alba truffles or saddle of poulting hare (00 49 30 59005 1234; facil.de; Mandala Hotel, Potsdamer Strasse 3; Mon-Fri; two-course lunch £25, dinner from £70).
Helmut Newton studied with fashion photographer Yva at the Hotel Bogota in the 1930s and this landmark still hosts glam photoshoots. It has great vintage charm, period panelling up the staircase and retro furnishings. Room sizes vary greatly and the cheaper ones share a bathroom (00 49 30 881 5001; hotel-bogota. de; Schlüterstrasse 45; from £53).
Propeller Island City Lodge was inspired by Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and each of the 32 rooms is a journey to a unique, surreal world. Wake up in a Disney-style castle, a padded prison cell or a kaleidoscope (00 49 30 891 9016; propeller-island.de; Albrecht- Achilles-Strasse 58; from £70).
Arte Luise Kunsthotel bills itself as a 'gallery with rooms'. Each room reflects the vision of a different artist, who receives royalties whenever it's booked. You might sleep in a bed built for giants, in the company of astronauts or in a red 'Cabaret'. Courtyard rooms are quieter (00 49 30 284 480; luise-berlin.com; Luisenstrasse 19; from £85).
Arcotel John F pays homage to John F Kennedy with whimsical detail, including rocking chairs (because he used one to combat a bad back) and curvaceous lamps inspired by Jackie's ball gown (00 49 30 405 0460; arcotelhotels.com; Werderscher Markt 11; from £100).
Once a 19th-century bank HQ, the Hotel de Rome has since been transformed by designer Tommaso Ziffer into a modern hotel. The former vault is now the pool/spa area and the directors' rooms, still with wartime shrapnel damage, are now suites with luxurious furnishings (00 49 30 460 6090; hotelderome.com; Behrenstrasse 37; from £330).
Berlin's public transport system is run by BVG and consists of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains, buses and trams (bvg.de). Buy train tickets from vending machines at stations. For taxi rides up to two miles, request the Kurzstreckentarif - short-trip rate (£3.50 per trip).
Many airlines fly to Tegel or Schönefeld airports, including Ryanair, easyJet and Air Berlin from various UK airports among others (from £70; easyjet.com; ryanair.com; airberlin.com). The Airport Express train connects Schönefeld to the city centre in 28 minutes (£2.50); a taxi there costs around £30.
The article 'Mini guide to Berlin, Germany' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.