After exploring the main sights in Mitte, visitors to Berlin should make time for the western part of the city. Bombed heavily during the war, the neighbourhoods of Charlottenburg, Schöneberg, Tiergarten and Wilmersdorf were rebuilt in the 1950s and still represent the centre of high-end retail trade in Germany's capital. Today, five star hotels are settled amongst the wide streets and tall buildings, with many cafés, art galleries and international restaurants (including many chains) to keep the wealthy residents busy. The area's cultural and historic sites, however, should not be overlooked.
1. Berlin Zoological Garden
Famous as the home of the late polar bear, Knut, Berlin's zoo is home to 1,500 different species of animals (around 17,000 in total), the most comprehensive collection in the world. It's no wonder then that this is Europe's most visited zoo. They recently welcomed a baby hippo as the latest addition and visitors can also visit the 9,000 animals at the adjacent Aquarium. www.zoo-berlin.de
2. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche)
Preserved as a reminder of German liability during World War II, the bombed church was originally built in honour of the German emperor in 1895. A modern tower and chapel were constructed next door in 1961, featuring 22,750 beautiful blue stained glass windows. The facade of the original church will be concealed for restoration until mid-2012 but it is still possible to wander inside for a look at its gilded mosaics and visit the new chapel. www.gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de
3. 100 & 200 Buses
Catch one of these two public double decker buses for the cheapest sightseeing transport in town. They run between the Zoo Bahnof and Alexanderplatz and it's possible to take the 100 past the Tiergarten and Reichstag, while the 200 goes by the embassies and Potsdamer Platz before joining on Unter den Linden. Just purchase an AB ticket for Euro 2.30 and be sure not to exceed the two-hour ride limit per ticket.
4. Bauhaus Archive
Under the direction of its founder, Walter Gropius, this museum was created to house the collection of exhibitions and catalogues of the Bauhaus movement, an important school of 20th century architecture, design and art. The works and artists were scattered following Nazi persecution but today the Archive houses examples of interiors, models and furniture. www.bauhaus.de
5. Victory Column (Siegessäule)
This somewhat controversial 69 metre tall monument was designed in the mid-1800s to celebrate Prussian war victories. The 35 ton bronze sculpture of the goddess of victory was added later. The column features mosaics of battle scenes and was originally located in the square in front of the Reichstag before being moved by the Nazis to its current location. Visitors can enjoy excellent views from the observatory at the top.
This 255 hectare park is also a city district. It started as a hunting ground for the Great Elector in the 1600s and evolved over the years into the grand public space it is today. Brandenburg Gate lies to the east and after a leisurely stroll around the grounds visitors can easily access the zoo, Kulturforum museums or Potsdamer Platz to the south.
7. Shop along the Kurfürstendamm
Still the home of Berlin's most expensive shops, this extensive shopping street features hundreds of international designers, brands and stores. Nearby in Wittenbergplatz you can also find Germany's famous KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store on the continent, and even more shops on Tauentzienstrasse.
8. Helmut Newton Foudation
Established by the famous fashion and portrait photographer himself, this museum contains many of his original works as well as those of other artists and photographers. It is the largest exhibition space dedicated to photography in Berlin, with changing exhibitions, including his well-known female nudes. www.helmut-newton.de
9. Käthe Kollwitz Museum
Though not the largest of the museums featuring her work, this is a great introduction to the German artist. Her life and influences are as interesting as her strong emotional works, which embrace the pain and suffering of 20th century people in sculpture, paintings and graphics. www.kaethe-kollwitz.de
10. Story of Berlin
This multimedia exhibition contains more than 20 themed room tracing 800 years of Berlin's development through models, audio-visual shows and reconstructions. Admission includes a guided tour of an original nuclear bomb shelter that's still in working order. www.story-of-berlin.de
Our stay in Berlin City West was sponsored by Hecker's Hotel, a beautiful boutique four star property just steps from the Kurfürstendamm. This is the perfect place to lay your head after a day of shopping and exploring the neighbourhood.
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