What to do in Germany next week?
November 3, 2005 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Places to go and things to see (and photograph) in Berlin, Dusseldorf/Essen/Cologne and Vienna.

On Sunday morning, I'm heading out on a little two week eurotrip, starting in Berlin and working my way to Dusseldorf/Essen/Cologne, then down to southern germany, swinging by Zurich and finishing up in Vienna. I'm going to be in each city/area for about 3 days (other than Zurich).

My main interest on this trip is photography, and as the days are way too short right now, I'm looking for stuff to see/do in the daylight (7am-4pm) - parks, buildings, squares, sights with views - a lot more than nightlife. Outdoors more than indoors.

The only one of these cities I've been to is Berlin, otherwise I'm quite the "n00b".
posted by jedrek to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Secession Building in Vienna is really stunning. Of course, in Vienna, can't shake a pastry without hitting incredible Secession buildings, ornamentation, etc., so if you like that sort of thing the only thing you'll have to worry about is having enough film (or digital capacity) for the thousands of photo opportunities you'll see.
posted by scody at 5:28 PM on November 3, 2005


The spanish riding school?

Mariahilfer strasse. The main shopping street, lots of chesnut stands this time of year.

The Donnau (danube) has some nice open spaces for walks and stuff.

The Hoffberg palace and surrounding buildings are amazing. The opera...

Theres a lot to do in vienna. Many grand buildings, great resteraunts and bars. Just sart within the burgring and have a wander....
posted by gergtreble at 5:43 PM on November 3, 2005

Well, it's indoors, but the the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin is one of my favorite museums in the world. It's small and incredibly focused so it won't consume your entire day but crammed full of information and incredibly moving exhibits. A highlight: a collection of artifacts used in successful (and unsuccesful) escape attempts, including a handmade hot-air balloon, an armorerd car and a double-suitcase designed to carry a human being.

It's a short walk from the actual site of Checkpoint Charlie though. That location has been reserved for office buildings and the Checkpoint Charlie Mall ...
posted by zanni at 5:49 PM on November 3, 2005

Response by poster: I've actually been to Checkpoint Charlie and that general area (including the incredible Jewish Museum not too far from it).
posted by jedrek at 6:08 PM on November 3, 2005

Well I dunno if it's your thing, exactly, but the Cologne Cathedral is quite the sight to behold. Plus, it has a fairly substantial treasury holding various ancient communion chalices, robes, and the like. As I recall, there's a reliquary with a piece of the True Cross. I'm not Catholic myself, but it was kinda neat in any case.

Also, one nice thing about the Cathedral is that it's right next to the train station. And by that I mean literally across the street. It's quite incongruous.

Something else to do, which is a bit touristy, and only applies if you don't mind eating pork (and lots of it) is to go to any one of the traditional restaurants in that area and order Schweinehaxe. My favorite place for it is Alt Köln, which is a short jaunt up from the Cathedral. Probably best to have some friends with you for this, though.

Another thing about the Cathedral is that you can climb to the top of the spires. It's quite a long trip up a somewhat claustrophic stone staircase, but the views are pretty nice.

Other Cologne stuff: the Roman-German museum has some great coverage of Cologne's ancient history as a Roman colony (hence the name) and the Cologne city museum is quite enjoyable.

There's also a National Socialist Documentation Center, which serves as an historical record of the Nazis in Cologne and as a monument to the political prisoners and POWs that were kept there during that era. I found it fascinating. The cell walls have been kept in their original condition, replete with all the messages scratched upon them by their various occupants. Everything from tick marks counting the passage of time to "If anyone ever finds this, tell my wife I love her" kinds of messages. Also, they have a collection of things showing the (at least early) opposition to the Nazi party. Things like political campaign posters for opposition parties. Anyway, that may or may not be your thing. Also, of the things I've talked about, it's probably the least accessible for people who aren't reasonably comfortable with German.

Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. I could talk about Vienna, but other people are probably more up on it than I am.
posted by jedicus at 6:20 PM on November 3, 2005

If you're leaving or arriving at Cologne via Frankfurt, definately take the slow train (not the ICE), alone the Rhine. Very scenic, lots of castles, etc. Gorgeous. I second the Dom in Cologne. Its not like you'll be able to avoid it if you go there. You'll know what I mean when you see it. It was the tallest building in Europe before the Eiffel Tower was built. I also did the chocolate factory there, but wouldn't recommend it unless you're fascinated by the history of the cocoa bean. That Nazi center sounds cool, I would have went if I had heard of it. Have fun.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 8:59 PM on November 3, 2005

Vienna will fill your time immediately--the Upper and Lower Belvederes, the Secession stuff, the Kunstlerhaus, and they have whole Museum quarter now

Berlin too--there's tons to see and neighborhoods to wander in. Definitely go to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum--fascinating.
posted by amberglow at 9:10 PM on November 3, 2005

I was in Berlin and Köln just a couple of weeks ago. Two of my very favorite cities.

In Berlin right now (until Nov. 14), there's a photo exhibit called After the Fact, at the Martin Gropius Bau museum, a short walk from U- and S-Bahn Potsdamer Platz.

If you're more interested in taking photographs, you might try the recently opened Holocaust Memorial, which is pretty photogenic. But maybe cliche already (as a photographic subject) after only a couple of months.

If I went there only to take photographs, I might consider shooting a bunch of U-Bahn stations. In a more documentary vein, consider going to Kreuzberg and Neuköln and doing some street photography in these Turkish neighborhoods.

Unter den Linden (Berlin's equivalent of the Champs Elysees) is undergoing major construction right now -- they're putting in a subway line underneath the street in anticipation of the 2006 World Cup -- so don't try there.

If you could make some interesting photos of the old Plattenbau apartment buildings along Karl Marx Alee east of Alexanderplatz, I'd be really impressed. Much like redwood trees, they resist my best efforts to capture them on film. Let me know if you succeed -- I'd love to see them.

Have a fantastic trip!
posted by donpedro at 10:40 PM on November 3, 2005

Maybe the villa (outside Berlin) where the Wannsee Conference was held to plan the Final Solution. (Conspiracy is a fascinating reenactment of the conference; the exteriors were filmed at the Wannsee house, and the interiors are faithful reproductions.)
posted by kirkaracha at 12:20 AM on November 4, 2005

Well, it doesn't really fit your outdoor requirements, but I really loved the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. I'm thinking one could take some interesting pictures in there, or maybe just from the outside?
posted by bering at 1:58 AM on November 4, 2005

If you are interested in architecture and art, go see the Medienhafen in Düsseldorf. The site I linked is in German, and unfortunately they don't have many good pictures, but you can see a few here. For example, take a look at this building by Gehry, the Colorium or old buildings like the Mälzerei. You can see more photos if you go here and click on the numbers of the map in the upper right corner.

You asked for things to do during the daylight, but don't miss the cathedral in Cologne after dark. It is illuminated and makes for some great shots, even in bad weather.
posted by amf at 2:26 AM on November 4, 2005

The Landschaftspark in Duisburg (just north of Düsseldorf, west of Essen); once an enormous steelworks, now a park.

If the weather is good, theTetrahedron at Bottrup (near Essen) has great views of the Ruhrgebiet and is a remarkable structure in itself.

In Berlin, corny though it may be, the best views are from the river - and there are many tours available.
posted by James_in_London at 3:17 AM on November 4, 2005

November 11th at 11:11 is the start of the carnival season. There will be many people in costume on the street in Cologne for the occasion. In Vienna, the Hundertwasserhaus is interesting architecture. And I can second James_in_London's recommendation for the river tours in Berlin, if the weather is nice.
posted by ltl at 7:35 AM on November 4, 2005

Best answer: As a current Berliner, I guess I would have to advise you that when the weather is less-than-schön, Berlin isn't particularly photogenic at all until the sun (or "sun" in the autumn months) goes down.

So, here's what I'd do: at the magic hour, climb to the top of the Berliner Dom for some good aerial views of Berlin (you can see all of the sights from there as far as I can recall). Then, after the sun has gone down, go back to street level and see how gorgeous that neighborhood right around the Dom is at night; it's right on the Spree, with the Altes Museum and the Nationalgalerie and lots of other cool old buildings all stark and lit up, plus some fascinating, tottering disasters like the Palast der Republik. There are often outdoor installations of various kinds, like short films being projected on walls and that sort of thing. The Nikolaiviertel (the genuine/fake restored old quarter of Berlin) is right near there too. It's also close to Hackescher Markt, which is cute in a dubious there's-going-to-be-a-Pottery-Barn-here-any-minute-now kind of way.

If you plan to come back when it isn't grey and grim, please take the fine advice above and don't miss out on a boat tour, and stroll on some of the many tree-lined canalsides -- I'm particularly partial to Paul-Lincke-Ufer. Berlin, as Berliners will (somewhat defensively) tell you, has more bridges than Venice, but visitors often miss this sweet, almost-pastoral aspect of the city. You can also do it with the weather as it currently is, and it's still interesting, but a lot less photographable.

If you want any suggestions for what to do in specific neighborhoods, feel free to drop me a line.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 9:02 AM on November 4, 2005 [2 favorites]

Second Medianhafen in Duesseldorf. Nearby along the river is also the Rheinturm (Tower) with a great view and decent restaurant that is not as pricey as you'd expect (service above average, too), and the Landtag, the equivalent of a state capital.

Not included in your list, so a side trip you might consider, is over to Aachen. This was Charlemagne's capital.

Also in Duesseldorf is Kaiserswert (via subway/UBahn). A little old suburb with the ruins of a castle on the Rhein that dates back to Charlemagne. (real old stuff tickles me). It is a pretty area for pleasant weather outside.

Another outing is north of Duesseldorf (D'Dorf), and a bit north and west of Duisburg is Colonia, a Roman town archeology site.

In Duesseldorf, also be sure to sample the local Altbier. It is an ale specific to this immediate area. Go to the Altstadt (old town) and you'll find the local breweries. For a simple, fast, traditional meal with altbeir, go to the Schlussel in the Altstadt, or better, on Oststrasse, Schumachers (walking distance from Hauptbahnhof/Main train station).

If you'd like any more specific stuff about Duesseldorf, feel free to write. I lived there 5 years, moved in 2002.
posted by Goofyy at 1:00 AM on November 6, 2005

Just felt compelled to follow up and say that after my dour prognostications about this week's weather in Berlin, the city pulled a fast one on me -- it's been sunny, blue-skied and charming here since Sunday, the day of jedrek's arrival. Hope you took a boat tour after all!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:48 AM on November 9, 2005

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