Berlin, Germany’s Most Exciting City

Berlin is the capital of Germany, as well as its largest city with an area of 344.1 square miles (891.1 square kilometers). It is also the European Union’s most populous city, with a population of 3.8 million as of 2019. It has become known for its vibrant cultural environment and lively economy that draws people from all over the world.

Berlin is home to many internationally renowned universities, which include ten institutions selected by the government as “Excellence Universities”. The city is also home to the University of the Arts, the largest of its type in Europe, and the Charite University Hospital, the continent’s biggest medical facility.

There are three UNESCO Heritage Sites found in Berlin.

• Museum Island, a complex of five museums highlighting how museum design has evolved during the 20th century
• The Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, which highlight how the progressive policies of the Weimar Republic (1919-23) resulted in welcoming and light-filled housing for ordinary residents that heavily influenced architecture in the 20th century
• The parks and palaces of Potsdam and Berlin, which were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries and whose breathtaking beauty continues to inspire architects and artists from all over the world.

Millions of tourists every year flock to Berlin’s many renowned landmarks of historic importance and cultural interest. These include the

• Brandenburg Gate
• Berlin Wall Memorial
• Potsdamer Platz
• The Reichstag Building
• Charlottenburg Palace and Gardens

A Rich Cultural Scene

Berlin is arguably the live cultural center of Germany. As it had the cultural infrastructure of two major capitals during partition, there are theatres, operas, and universities galore. These are a drag on the empty municipal coffers and lead to complaints by people from other parts of Germany about subsidies, but they help keep one of the most vibrant cultural scenes in Europe alive.

A comprehensive platform that lists cultural events is offered by Berlin Bühnen on behalf of about 80 venues. Berlin’s notable cultural institutions for performed arts, both classical and modern, can mostly be found in Mitte and City West. Even if you aren’t going to see a play or concert, many of the venues are architectonically impressive and as such attractions in themselves.

On the theatre side, the “grand old” title might go to Deutsches Theater, a classical theatre with an impressive lineup of actors and directors. Overall, however, famous theatres in Berlin tend to have a more modern character.

The city also has an English theatre in East Central Berlin, if you prefer performances in English. Some theatre venues are known for their musicals: the historical Theater des Westens, the Theater am Potsdamer Platz, and the Friedrichstadt-Palast, which focuses on revue type shows and offers Berlin’s biggest show with over 100 artists on the biggest theatre stage in the world.

Berlin is home to the Berlinale, the annual Berlin Film Festival, which is one of the world’s most prominent film festivals. It is notable for actively encouraging the participation of the general public. With 500,000 admissions annually, the Berlinale has the largest public attendance of any ongoing yearly film festival.

Getting around Berlin:

As Berlin is a major metropolis with pretty decent public transit, you should take buses, trains, and trams whenever possible as those cover most of the city and are often the fastest way to get to places. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) lists all its fares on its website. Consult their Berlin route planner (in English) to get excellent maps and schedules for the U-Bahn, buses, S-Bahn local trains (RB and RE), and trams, or to print your personal journey planner.

Cruising from Berlin:

Berlin offers day Harbor cruises as well as multi-day cruises along the Elbe River south to Prague and north to Hamburg and the Havel and Oder Rivers cruising north to the Baltic Sea

Distinctive Travel and Tours can assist with rail tours, multi-day tours, and hosted stays in Berlin with excursions.

Distinctive Travel and Tours, located in Spring Texas, has been offering tours of Germany and Switzerland since 1998 and is an Arc credited and bonded travel company.

For more information or assistance with planning a Germany or Switzerland tour, contact Distinctive Travel and Tours at 888-843-7914 or or visit

Nuremberg’s Imperial Castle –

the City’s Most Significant Historical Landmark

Nuremberg's Imperial Castle
Nuremberg’s Imperial Castle

If you are planning to take a cultural Nuremberg tour, your first stop must undoubtedly be the Imperial Castle. Nuremberg’s Imperial Castle is actually a complex of fortified buildings built on a sandstone ridge on top of the city. Due to its historical importance, the Imperial Castle is recognized as the symbol of Nuremberg

The Imperial Castle was built by the Hohenstaufen dynasty over the remains of older buildings. The Hohenstaufen ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1138 to 1208, and the Castle became a symbol of the Empire’s power. Rulers traveling through the empire would make it a point to stay there. It was also the site of important events such as Imperial Diets and court assemblies.

If you visit, there are no organized tours so you are free to wander around on your own. Here are some of the interesting sights you will see:

The Deep Well. This was the only source of water for the castle and its residents. The well’s shaft runs to a depth of 47 meters or 164 feet. This is the only part of the castle requiring a tour guide, who will demonstrate how deep the well is by lowering a candle down the shaft.

The Sinwell Tower. This is the Castle’s major keep and was originally built in the 13th century for defensive purposes. You ascend 385 meters to an observation platform at the top using a wooden spiral staircase. Once you get there you will be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the city. There is also an exhibit of photographs showing Nuremberg at the end of WWII.  

The Palais. This is the main building of the castle and a significant cultural Nuremberg attraction. It has two floors that include the emperor’s residence and halls for official functions. It also has a “double chapel”, two chapels on different floors but with identical floor plans.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Castle, you might want to visit the Imperial Castle Museum. This is one of the museums of Nuremberg that is a branch of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum and features armor and weapons and astronomical devices as well as objects from the residents’ daily lives.

Check out our city stays to Nuremberg to visit the Imperial Castle and other sites. Alternatively, we offer a 7 day German Rail tour that features an overnight in Nuremberg.

Contact us for more information: jan@distinctiveeurotours or 888-843-7914 or 281-362-0777.