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Berlin, Germany

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Schloss Charlottenburg
Schloss Charlottenburg


Your last day is dedicated to the western district of Charlottenburg, an intense cauldron of restaurants, bars, boutiques and snazzy hotels. Since reunification, much of the attention has swapped over to historical Mitte, but its main draws are in no danger of disappearing.

The spire of Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche
The spire of Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche

Take the U-Bahn (the red line, No U2) to Wittenbergplatz station, lorded over by the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), Europe's second-biggest department store. The sixth-floor food hall with its mouth-watering displays of fine cheeses, pastries, meats, fish, breads, wines and other delicacies is a must see. If your stomach is growling, grab a chair at one of the many food counters for a fancy snack, perhaps paired with a glass of mid-morning bubbly. There's plenty more shopping as you head west on Tauentzienstrasse towards the fractured spire of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Emperor William Memorial Church). Struck by bombs in World War II, the church was left in its current ruined state as an antiwar memorial. It's one of Berlin's most enduring and photographed landmarks, standing quiet and dignified among the roaring traffic and commerce. Also check out the modern octagonal annex whose richly-hued blue glass walls create an almost mystical effect.

Beyond the church is the famous Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm for short). Sometimes called 'Berlin's Champs Elysées', its wide, leafy sidewalks are lined by fine eateries, elegant boutiques, stylish cafés and striking contemporary architecture. Standouts include Helmut Jahn's Neues Kranzler Eck, the Kantdreieck by Josef Paul Kleihues, and the armadillo-shaped Ludwig-Erhard-Haus by Nicholas Grimshaw. Also venture into the Ku'damm's pretty side streets, such as Grolmannstrasse and Fasanenstrasse. A highlight along the latter is the Café Wintergarten im Literaturhaus in a delightful Old Berlin villa whose idyllic garden makes a perfect alfresco lunching spot.

Thus fortified, spend the afternoon exploring the baroque Schloss Charlottenburg, one of the few places in Berlin where you can still soak up the one-time splendor of Prussian royalty. Tours take you into lavish ballrooms, flamboyant private chambers and galleries stocked with paintings, silverware, Chinese porcelain and other trappings essential to a royal lifestyle. Sprinkled among the lawns and leafy paths of the palace park are more buildings, including the white-confection Belvedere, a mini-palace now housing a precious porcelain collection.

KaDeWe department store
KaDeWe department store

Opposite the palace, Schlossstrasse is a veritable Museum Row with no fewer than four exhibit spaces, including the newly expanded Museum Berggruen with its famous Picasso collection, and the Bröhan Museum, a delicacy for fans of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau design and furniture. The latest addition is the Museum Scharf-Gerstenberg, which spotlights Surrealist art with over 250 paintings by Dalí, Magritte, Max Ernst and other genre hot shots.

When it's time for dinner, you could stay in Charlottenburg but we recommend you muster the energy for the quick S-Bahn ride to Prenzlauer Berg (board at nearby Westend station), one of Berlin 's liveliest and most pleasant residential areas packed with excellent restaurants and bars. Tourists tend to gravitate to pretty Kollwitzplatz square, where the Gugelhof restaurant is the best of the bunch. The earthy Alsatian food here is first-rate and much beloved by Berlin politicians. For a more local vibe head to Fellas, a neighborhood eatery whose chef weaves top-notch ingredients into feisty flavor tapestries. Another favorite is Oderquelle, an unfussy restaurant using market-fresh ingredients to create German dishes that are hearty without being heavy. The bohemian Rotte Lotte bar across the street is a great place for a relaxing nightcap or swing around the corner to wrap up the day in the Prater, Berlin's oldest beer garden.


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(Updated: 06/06/08 SG)

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