Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the united German capital has become a melting pot of diversity and creativity. Dripping in graffiti, art, and hedonistic nightlife, it's been famously described by Mayor Klaus Wowereit as 'Poor, but sexy'.
Berlin is a living monument, and a stroll down the Unter den Linden street reveals much of its turbulent twentieth century history, with monuments from the Third Reich and the Soviet era. You can also visit the Reichstag, the seat of the federal government, and the famous Brandenburg Gate, which was once the border between East and West Berlin.
Plenty of traditional German pleasures can also be found in the city, from a hearty slice of Black Forest Cake to a stein of beer in one of the many lively beer gardens.
Berlin is one of Europe's main culture and entertainment hubs, and its jam-packed event calendar offers something for everyone.
One of Berlin's most flamboyant festivals is the annual Carnival of Cultures parade, which represents the ethnic diversity of the city. Held every April, the parade features world music, dancing, and plenty of tasty street food.
Film from around the world can be appreciated at the annual Berlinale Berlin International Film Festival, which is widely accepted as one of the most cutting-edge and prestigious in Europe. More culture can be enjoyed at November's jazz festival, and at the Transmediale new media and design festival in February.
For museum lovers, The Long Night of The Museums is not to be missed. For one night in August, over 100 museums throughout the city stay open to host concerts, talks, and theatre events.
Of course, one of the most popular summer events is August's Beer Mile Festival, which features enough local and international beers, sausages and pretzels to rival Munich's Oktoberfest.
If you want a break from the tourist trail, take some time to experience Berlin like a local. Must-do activities include:
1. Foraging through flea markets.
2. For vintage clothes and records, spend a Sunday morning perusing Boxhagener Platz market in Friedrichshain. For a finer selection, Strasse 16 de Juni in Tiergarten has some beautiful antiques in its Saturday market.
3. Kaffe und Kuchen: A beloved Berlin tradition is an afternoon coffee and slice of cake. From fine cafes to cheery bakeries, there are plenty of places to pick your poison.
4. Get your bum to the beach: Berlin isn't near an ocean, but that doesn't stop locals enjoying sand and sun. For your tropical fix, visit one of the many man-made beach bars that pop up along the Spree River in summer.
5. Beer gardens: After a long day, try and find a seat in one of Berlin's many crowded beer gardens. Kastanienalle in Prenzaluer berg is home to some of the oldest and most traditional in town.
It's hard to walk a block in Berlin without seeing an 'Imbiss' or snack bar offering kebabs and felafel, at very reasonable prices. The strong Turkish influence in the city means these offerings are usually top quality, and often served with yoghurt drinks.
Currywurst, a popular sausage covered in ketchup and curry powder, is another popular dish, and can be easily found in most snack bars, served with fries or a bread roll.
Bakeries are also common, offering giant slabs of cake, rye breads, and seeded rolls full of ham and cheese for people on the go.
Restaurant dining is also plentiful, and visitors can choose to enjoy traditional German treats like pork and potatoes, schnitzel, and Bavarian specialties at restaurants throughout the Kreuzberg, Mitte and Charlottenburg districts.
Despite its many hedonistic offerings, Berlin is the perfect place for children. There are plenty of parks and playgrounds to be enjoyed by the whole family, like Prenzlauer Berg's Mauer Park and Kollwitzplatz, or the central Tiergarten Park, which was originally the hunting ground of Prussian kings.
A short walk from Tiergarten is The Berlin Zoo, the most visited zoo in Europe. Complete with baby elephants, polar bears, and a nocturnal basement, an entire day can easily be spent admiring the creatures from near and far.
For a touch of Hollywood, the Babelsberg Film Studios just outside Berlin are a must see. Kids will love seeing the props from major films, including the flying dog from The NeverEnding Story.
With plenty of bike lanes, flat roads, and relatively little traffic, renting bikes is another fun way to explore Berlin as a family. Several tour companies offer family bike tours, complete with ice cream and cupcake stops along the way.
Only a half-hour train ride from Berlin lies Potsdam, a historical town home to the Sanssouci Palaces, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. Situated on the River Havel, Potsdam is full of picturesque parks and walking tracks, as well as quaint patisseries and cafes, making it the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
If you're feeling exotic, an hour's train ride will take you to Frankfurt (Oder), a border town between Poland and Germany. Crossing the border is as simple as walking over a bridge, and there are plenty of flea markets and restaurants serving traditional Polish food to be enjoyed on the other side.
Many lakes and natural reserves surround Berlin, in the Mecklenburg Lake District. A short drive or train ride, or a long bike ride, will take you to one of several popular green spaces where you can enjoy swimming, hiking and water sports in some of Europe's cleanest waterways.
If you're looking for accommodation in the heart of the city, there are plenty of Berlin city hotels in the western districts, close to the famous Kurfürstendamm shopping avenue and KaDeWe department store. The central Mitte district is perfect for visitors who want to explore the modern art and fashion scene, and enjoy quick transport connections, while the eastern districts are surrounded by edgy street art and the underground club scene.
Whether you spring for a more luxurious hotel, or opt for one of Berlin's boutique offerings, you can be sure to enjoy modern-day amenities with historical touches.