Berlin: Modern Metropolis and Creative Capital

Today's Berlin combines the past and present at the crossroads of East and West in dazzling, manifold layers of diverse architecture; international diplomacy; world-class cultural venues; lively contemporary art, film and fashion scenes; vibrant festivals and nightlife; vast public transit networks; and cutting-edge technology.

View of Berlin along the Spree Enlarge image (© Colourbox)

The upshot: Germany's capital city is a very livable and lovable place that attracts movers and shakers from the fields of politics, media and science, as well as young people and artists embracing a liberal lifestyle and a modern zeitgeist.

City of change

"Berlin is the place to be ... Berlin is a political decision-making center in Europe, a cosmopolitan cultural center, a magnet for the creative scene and a modern technology location," Berlin Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit said in an interview with Deutschland Magazine.

"We're the city of change. Berlin's program consists of development, progress, change. The city is international, exciting, tolerant, open-minded and always new - you should definitely come to Berlin," he added.

Birthday bash - 775 years of Berlin

This year Berlin is celebrating its 775th birthday. Since August, this special anniversary has been marked by a wide range of exhibitions, urban installations, guided tours and events.

Berlin has both remembered its medieval roots and presented itself as a cosmopolitan city. In this context, two major open-air projects were planned in Berlin Mitte (the city center). The official birthday celebration was held on October 28 in St. Nicholas Church, Berlin's oldest parish church. That evening also saw the launch of a party in which the city's historic center was illuminated with fire and light, accompanied by sounds of the Middle Ages.

The fall of the Berlin Wall - see the sites

Beyond such special events, Berlin is also always the place to be to relive heart-stopping history. The overnight fall of the Berlin Wall from November 9-10 in 1989 was an event of global significance that signaled the end of the Cold War era spawned by peaceful protests across eastern Europe.

The city's iconic Brandenburg Gate, which was once cut off from western Berlin by the Wall, today is an international symbol of freedom and democracy. Traces of the former East Germany and the wall that once divided the city are no longer as palpable as they were more than 20 years ago. But some remnants remain, such as the colorful East Side Gallery, where artists could for the first time ever paint the hitherto uniformly drab gray eastern side of the Wall (the western side, by contrast, was always covered in graffiti!).

Berlin Redux

Berlin is both Germany's capital city and one of its 16 states. With a population of 3.4 million, it is also Germany's largest city. And it is the center of the wider northeastern Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, comprised of 5 million people from more than 190 nations.

First documented in the 13th century, Berlin has served as a German capital since 1701. After World War II, the city was divided: East Berlin became the capital of East Germany, while West Berlin became a western exclave, with the Berlin Wall artificially cutting the city in half from 1961 to 1989. Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained in 1999 from Bonn its status as the capital of a united Germany hosting more than 145 foreign embassies.

Berlin's largely service sector oriented economy includes creative industries, media corporations, environmental services, and convention venues, as well as logistics, IT, medical, and biotech industries. The city serves as a major transport hub and a popular tourist destination.

Berlin's cultural program is amazing: The city boasts three opera houses, over 150 theaters and playhouses, over 170 museums and collections and over 200 private galleries. In addition, the capital plays host to numerous top acts, artists and bands - every day nearly 1,500 events are on Berlin's cultural calendar.

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2011 Festival of Lights