Six of the best: Authentic Berlin experiences

Section of the wall at Potsdamer Platz.

Section of the wall at Potsdamer Platz. Photo: Visit Berlin

1. Walk the wall 

Berlin was divided for almost 30 years – from August 13, 1961, to November 9, 1989 – a city with a wall cut through its very heart. Today, reminders include the East Side Gallery, with a 1.3-kilometre section of wall adorned with more than a hundred murals, the former border crossing known as Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin-Hohenschonhausen Memorial and the Berlin War Memorial in Bernauer Strasse. In places the route of the wall is marked by a double row of cobblestones. To learn more join the Berlin Wall tour led by a local expert in 20th-century history with Context Travel. See contexttravel.com/cities/berlin

The Reichstag where David Bowie held his 1987 concert.

The Reichstag where David Bowie held his 1987 concert.

2. Follow the music 

Berlin and Bowie go together like curry and pork sausage, the late singer/songwriter having recorded many of his hits while living in West Berlin in the '70s. The guided Bowie Berlin Walk with Berlin Music Tours starts at the legendary Hansa Studios, where David Bowie recorded his "Berlin trilogy" comprising Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). Other artists to have recorded here include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Tangerine Dream, Iggy Pop, U2, Bon Jovi, and Snow Patrol. The tour stops at the corner that inspired Bowie's hit Heroes, Schoneberg where Bowie and Iggy Pop lived and the Reichstag, where Bowie held a concert in 1987 during his Glass Spider Tour. See musictours-berlin.com

Bike paths abound.

Bike paths abound. Photo: Visit Berlin

3. Get on your bike 

Primarily flat (meaning pedal friendly) the only hard part about biking Berlin is deciding which route to take. From the big-ticket items such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag to the hip neighbourhoods of Neukolln and Mitte everything is more accessible on two wheels. Follow the 160-kilometre cycle route along the former GDR border or rent a bike for a few hours from one of the many hire stations. To get inside the heart of this gloriously gritty and gutsy city sign up for an "Alternative Berlin" tour with Berlin on Bike. See berlinonbike.de 

Community gardens at Tempelhofer Field.

Community gardens at Tempelhofer Field.

4. Go green 

Bombed, defeated, occupied and divided the Berlin of the past has morphed into one of Europe's most intriguing (and sustainable) cities. A bohemian kind of place, where freedom and creativity are revered more than labels or luxury, and there's a vegan cafe on every corner. A customised "green tour" with Green Me Berlin visits the eco-minded people and places behind the fair fashion stores, social start-ups working with refugees, zero waste projects, organic manufacturers and artist collectives. Green Me also offers a Circular Economy Tour and Dinner. Tours are offered on foot and public transport, or by bike. See greenmeberlin.com 

S-Bahn and U-Bahn link most of the city's main sights.

S-Bahn and U-Bahn link most of the city's main sights.

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5. Ride the rails 

Berlin's extensive network of city (S-Bahn) and metro (U-Bahn) trains is safe, comfortable and affordable, linking most of the city's main sights. Separated into three fare zones – A, B and C – the major lines run on five or 10-minute intervals. The Ringbahn (S41 and S42) runs around the city centre stopping at 27 stations and taking 60 minutes to complete the circuit. As the one place where bankers, buskers, hipsters and tourists all cross paths, it's people watching at its best. The Berlin Welcome card (from €19.90 for 48 hours) includes free public transport. See berlin-welcomecard.de 

Berlin is an open-air gallery.

Berlin is an open-air gallery.

6. Take to the streets 

From stencils to spray paint, murals to stickers, Berlin is a veritable open-air gallery of urban art. The best-known area is around Rosenthaler Strasse in the Mitte district, but to learn about the artists behind the work and what motivates them it's best to join a tour. Alternative Berlin takes small, artist-led groups to the back streets; to meet the artists, to learn the techniques, to understand the history and origins of this art form. Some tours even finish with a workshop inside an abandoned margarine factory in the up-and-coming district of Lichtenberg. See  alternativeberlin.com/tours

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