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Germany See And Do

Altstadt
Hamburg
Germany

The area known as the Altstadt is centered on Rathausmarkt. Here, you can visit the 647-room Rathaus (Rathausmarkt; 49-40-428-312-470), one of the most interesting city halls in Germany, and the baroque Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Englische Planke; 49-40-376-780), located just a few blocks west, which has sweeping views of the city and port from its elevator-accessible tower. Stroll down to the port, one of the busiest in the world, and take in Hamburg's oldest fish market, which dates back to 1703 and is teeming with locals and visitors alike.

Altstadt and Neustadt

To get a quick visual history of the city, start at the 19th-century Hauptbanhnof (central train station), restored under the eye of architect Sir Norman Foster and given a Teflon-coated fiberglass canopy (49-351-46-10; www.bahnhof.de, website in German). Walk up Prager Strasse into the inner precincts of the Altstadt and you're soon surrounded by a gorgeous rococo world of buildings resurrected from WWII ruins (you can tell by the checkerboard mix of scorched stone and new blocks). Altstadt highlights include the Zwinger palace and the gothic Residenz royal palace, once the residence of Saxony's monarch Augustus the Strong (2 Taschenberg; 49-351-49-192285; www.skd-dresden.de); the Hofkirche, a Catholic cathedral worth the climb to its steeple for the grand view (1 Schlossplatz; 49-351-49-192100); the Brühl Terrace, built in the 18th century as a see-and-be-seen elevated walkway for the aristocracy; and the Albertinum complex of art schools and museums (now closed until 2008). At the end of the terrace and down a flight of steps is the New Synagogue, a windowless, textured cube that replaces the synagogue burned down by the Nazis in 1938.

Across the river is the Neustadt, with its long, gradually inclined banks leading up to grand old buildings. Starting at the Hofkirche, cross the river via the Augustusbrucke Bridge and head up the Haupstrasse, a bizarre hodgepodge of prewar architecture and postwar Soviet-style facades. To the left is the medieval maze of the Inner Neustadt's pristine streets, with galleries and shops packed in the courtyards around Königstrasse, and Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace (1 Palaisplatz; 49-351-49192100) and the riverside gardens beyond. Or keep walking to Albertplatz and around to Alaunstrasse, the high street of Dresden's counterculture. Cut through the Kunsthof Passage (70 Alaunstrasse; www.kunsthof-dresden.de), an avant-garde cul-de-sac of brightly colored apartments, and head south down Rothenburger Strasse, another grungy thoroughfare.

Architecture Walks
Berlin
Germany

Berlin boasts more new buildings designed by top international architects than perhaps any other European city. At the turn of the last century, it was, after all, presented with the unique opportunity to rebuild a modern cosmopolitan capital almost from the ground up. You can prepare for an architectural tour by reading Michael Wise's fantastic book Capital Dilemma: Germany's Search for a New Architecture of Democracy (Princeton Architectural Press), an in-depth account of the politics involved in building new symbols of national identity and historical consciousness. Many companies, among them Original Berlin Walks (49-30-301-9194; www.berlinwalks.com), offer guided tours of the city's architectural highlights, including Peter Eisenman's Holocaust Memorial, completed in 2005, Norman Foster's Reichstag, Renzo Piano's Potsdamer Platz, and Frank Gehry's DG Bank. A self-guided amble is a good leisurely alternative. Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbH (11 Am Karlsbad, 49-30-250-025; www.berlin-tourism.de) publishes an inexpensive 36-page bilingual guide titled "Architecture in Berlin," which is available at BTM tourist information centers throughout the city or can be ordered by mail.

Arts + Museums
Munich
Germany

Munich's third Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne, opened in September 2002. It's the little sister to the Old Pinakothek, which houses 14th- to 18th-century European painting, including Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Leonardo da Vinci (49-89-238-05216; www.pinakothek.de/alte-pinakothek; closed Mondays), and the New Pinakothek, which has 18th- to 19th-century European painting and sculpture, including English landscapes, French Impressionists, Biedermeier, and Art Nouveau (49-89-238-05195; www.pinakothek.de/neue-pinakothek; closed Tuesdays). Then there's the Glyptothek (49-89-286-100; www.antike-am-koenigsplatz.mwn.de/glyptothek; closed Mondays) and the Staatliche Antikensammlung for the ancients, such as Greek and Roman sculpture (49-89-599-888-30; www.antike-am-koenigsplatz.mwn.de/antikensammlung; closed Mondays), plus the major visiting exhibitions in the recently reconstructed Kunsthalle der Hypo Kulturstiftung (49-89-224-412; www.hypo-kunsthalle.de), and the contemporary and avant-garde in the Aktionsforum Praterinsel (49-89-212-3830; www.praterinsel.org) and at the Lothringer 13 (49-89-448-6961; www.lothringer-dreizehn.com; closed Mondays). The major science and technology museum, the Deutsches Museum, celebrated its centenary in 2003 by opening the first stage of its Transport Museum extension—a collection ranging from the first car to the latest ICE Experimental (49-89-217-91; www.deutsches-museum.de/en), located in historc halls on the Theresienhöhe. Right off the imperially huge and empty Königsplatz is the intimate yellow Italianate villa that houses Lenbachhaus, a small but important collection of 19th- and 20th-century as well as contemporary art. The main focus is on paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and photographs by his partner, Gabriele Münter, though temporary and permanent additions include Paul Klee and recent work by Gerhard Richter and the German photographer of the moment, Thomas Demand (49-89-233-320-00; www.lenbachhaus.de; closed Mondays). These are just a few of the city's 46 museums. There are also 56 theaters, including the ornate Staatsoper, the State Opera House, one of the classic sights—because however modern Munich becomes, we still want to witness the history (49-89-218-501; www.bayerische.staatsoper.de).

Art Scene
Berlin
Germany

Berlin remains a place where artists can rent studios and gallery spaces can be opened for a reasonable sum. But Mitte no longer has the lock on the gallery scene, a victim of its own success and the accompanying high rents. Though many powerhouse spaces still call Auguststrasse and Linienstrasse home, others have closed, and many have now moved to the former Western neighborhoods of Wedding and Tiergarten. In Mitte, strong players still include Contemporary Fine Arts, Eigen + Art, and Barbara Weiss. And try the Sammlung Boros in western Mitte, near the government quarter—a private collection housed in a huge WWII concrete bunker (guided tours are €10/$12). Branching out, the multi-culti, heavily Turkish neighborhood of Wedding has Galerie Max Hetzler, which deals in international superstars like Jeff Koons. Just south of the Neue Nationalgalerie on Potsdamer Strasse are former Mitte stars Klosterfelde, Matthias Arndt, and Esther Schipper. And in the newly hip Neukölln neighborhood in the south of the city, Berlin's most personality-driven gallery sits in a former industrial space— Peres Projects has had shows by James Franco and Terence Koh, and keeps the rest of Berlin guessing.—Updated by Ralph Martin

Beer
Munich
Germany

The unavoidable Oktoberfest was invented in 1810 to celebrate the nuptials of Crown Prince Ludwig (later Ludwig I) and Therese von Saxe-Hildburghausen. It occurs every year for 16 days from the second-to-last Saturday in September till the first Sunday in October—a huge fair with rides and stalls and sideshows, carousels and cotton candy and just a little beer, dispensed from marquees erected by the Munich breweries, of which there are now a mere six major players: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrä, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten-Franziskaner (49-89-233-965-00; www.oktoberfest.de/en). Even if you miss Oktoberfest, you still have to do the beer thing here. This is easily accomplished in any number of beer gardens, but best achieved at the 1589 Hofbräuhaus at the Platzl in the Old Town's heart (9 Platzl; Altstadt; 49-89-290-136-0; www.hofbraeuhaus.de). Because beer does remain in the old town's heart.

BMW Factory Tour
130 Petuelring
Munich
Germany 80788
Tel: 49 89 382 233 07
www.bmw-plant-munich.com

BMW's headquarters are a formidable part of the Munich skyline—its four cylindrical towers suggest a car engine. The factory below is a car freak's heaven, and the two-and-a-half-hour tour (register online) takes visitors right onto the plant floor. Sparks literally fly as you shuffle past the forklifts and robots in your safety goggles and blue factory coats. The factory itself is a spotless, climate-controlled complex visually dominated by automated assembly lines and insectoid robots that do most of the actual work. The ballet of these alien-looking machines as they weld a door panel is pure industrial poetry. And if you'd like to take a 3-series BMW home with you (other models are made elsewhere), the factory can arrange a little discount.

Buchenwald
Weimar
Germany
Tel: 3643 43 00
Fax: 3643 43 01 00
buchenwald@buchenwald.de
www.buchenwald.de

Only a few bone-chilling remnants are left of this concentration camp, where 250,000 people suffered and 56,000 died between 1937 and 1945. From 1945 to 1950, the Soviet occupation forces used the site as an internment camp, where over 7,000 more lives were lost. A museum inside the old storehouse reflects the site's tragic past. To get there via public transportation, take the Buchenwald bus (No. 6) from Hauptbahnhof and travel 4 miles northwest of Weimar. Open April–Oct, Tues–Sun 10–6; Nov–March, Tues–Sun 10–4. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Admission is free.

Charlottenburg
Berlin
Germany

When the Wall went up, Charlottenburg became the commercial heart of West Berlin, as it remains today. The Lehrter Bahnhof is the point of entry for many first-time visitors to Berlin. Behind it is the Helmut Newton Stiftung, a museum exhibiting the body of work donated to the city by native son and photographer Helmut Newton (2 Jebensstrasse; 49-30-3186-4856; www.helmut-newton-stiftung.org). Much of the area—especially along the main shopping drag, the Kurfürstendamm —was heavily damaged during WWII and rather unimaginatively rebuilt in the 1950s, and is now unabashedly commercial. The KaDeWe department store (the largest department store in continental Europe) remains a monument to consumer capitalism. Further west toward Savignyplatz, where there's a sophisticated enclave of cafés and bars, the situation improves, giving a glimpse of prewar Berlin. Just southeast of the Zoo on Breitscheidplatz, the burnt-out remains of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, which was bombed during the war and left unreconstructed as a monument, is a reminder of the ill fate of a totalitarian state.

Eastern Berlin
Berlin
Germany

Remnants of the Berlin Wall are few and far between these days, and most locals are happy about that. Nostalgia for the former German Democratic Republic, dubbed "Ostalgie," did linger for several years in the 1990s, and whether people considered it amusing or pathetic, the fact that films like Good Bye Lenin! can now freely comment on it is a sure sign it's over. Some interest remains in collecting iconic East German paraphernalia such as Communist logos, and books like Anna Funder's Stasiland (Granta) have been best-sellers. But however innocent these souvenirs might seem, they'll remind many here of the dark side of the not-so-long-ago Communist police state. Think twice before parading around East Berlin wearing an East German border patrol hat.

One of the final remnants of the Communist state, the Palast der Republik (Schlossplatz), is now an enormous hole in the ground. The destruction of the Palast, the parliamentary chamber of the East German government, was the subject of an odd pitched battle between conservationists and traditionalists, who pointed out that the former Hohenzollern Castle had been dynamited to make room for the Palast. Plans are now afoot to rebuild the Royal Palace and use it as a museum and library.

From Schlossplatz, walk east toward Alexanderplatz, which was rebuilt in a Communist style in the 1960s by Erich Honecker, who hoped the development would symbolize the modernity of the socialist state. In the center of the square, ascend the almost 1,200-foot-high Fernsehturm, or Television Tower, and linger in the revolving restaurant or on the observation deck for panoramic views. Next, go underground: In the Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station, there's M. Koos-Ostprodukte, a shop that stocks kitschy Communist-era products, including cosmetics, wines, and candy (49-30-242-5791).

Heading east away from Alexanderplatz, you'll come to Karl-Marx-Allee. The Communists' answer to the Champs-Élysées, it's a wide, impressive boulevard built entirely in the Stalinist neoclassical style and lined with apartment buildings. In the Café Sibylle, named after East Germany's popular women's magazine, there's an exhibition about the history of the avenue, which was known as Stalinallee until 1961 (72 Karl-Marx-Allee; 49-30-2935-2203). Alternatively, you can peruse the stacks of the Karl Marx Buchhandlung for copies of the Communist Manifesto and more (78 Karl-Marx-Allee; 49-30-293-3370). Turn right at the Frankfurter Tor and walk down Warschauer Strasse until you get to the Spree River. Then turn right onto Mühlenstrasse, where you will find the East Side Gallery, one of the largest remaining segments of the Berlin Wall and now a graffiti-art open-air museum of sorts. Further east, the former headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police, has been turned into a museum called the Forschungs-und Gedenkstätte Normannenstrasse (103 Ruschestrasse; 49-30-553-6854; www.stasimuseum.de).

Frauenkirche
Neumarkt
Dresden
Germany 01067
Tel: 49 351 656 06 100
www.frauenkirche-dresden.org

The Frauenkirche is Dresden's signature monument. Destroyed in the 1945 bombing that took down most of the city with it, the protestant church's dome had long been the pride of the Dresden skyline, known as the "fat lady" for its squat proportions. From a pile of blackened rubble, the cathedral was rebuilt at a cost of more than $250 million over the course of the 1990s and finally reconsecrated in 2005. The interior is unlike any other cathedral most visitors are likely to have seen: It's a multitiered space full of light, with pastel-colored porcelain and painted wood in place of the severe stone of historic Catholic cathedrals. The altarpiece, including a huge pipe organ, is several stories tall, a 3-D fantasy of brightly colored angels and biblical scenes. Lines are long (but move quickly) and entrance is free (although if you want to climb to the cupola, it'll cost €8). The church may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's Dresden's pride and joy, the final step in restoring the Altstadt to its former glory.

Open daily 10 am to noon and 1 to 6 pm. Hours subject to change according to church services on Saturdays and Sundays.

Friedrichshain
Berlin
Germany

As the true bohemians were squeezed out by the bobos taking up residence in the increasingly pricey Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg neighborhoods in the late 1990s, they migrated further east to Friedrichshain. Sections of the district alternate between "Plattenbau," depressing Communist-era high-rises now considered retro-hip, and neighborhoods where freshly renovated five-story buildings are inevitably linked to crumbling neighbors by the indiscriminate smear of graffiti. It is possible to imagine what life was like in East Germany, but the restrictions of communism are all but a distant memory for its current youthful population of punks, students, and other alternative types. Stretching east from Alexanderplatz, Karl-Marx-Allee—lined on both sides by socialist housing estates—was the Communist answer to the Champs-Élysées. Along the banks of the Spree River, the East Side Gallery on Mühlenstrasse, which hugs the north bank, is the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. With a young hipster population replacing the workers who once lived here, a social scene has developed around Boxhagener Platz, particularly along Simon-Dach-Strasse, where many spend their days (and nights) at the bars, cafés, and restaurants.

Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister
1 Theatrplatz
Dresden
Germany 01067
Tel: 49 351 49 142000
www.skd-dresden.de/de/museen/alte_meister.html

In the 19th century, Dresden architect Gottfried Semper designed the Semper wing of the Zwinger palace to house the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, which contains some of the most important paintings in Western art. There are key works by German masters such as Cranach and Dürer, but the greatest hits are Italian, most notably Giorgione's Sleeping Venus and Raphael's Sistine Madonna, the latter's grumpy angels having become Dresden's unofficial mascots. Bernardo Bellotto's precise Dresden cityscapes are a particular pleasure, depicting the adjoining Zwinger and the Frauenkirche, a few blocks away. Once you've had your fill of Renaissance art, check out the collection of 19th-century impressionists and 20th-century German expressionists at Gemaldegalerie's sister museum, Galerie Neue Meister, temporarily located in the Semper wing.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 6 pm.

Goethe's Homes
Weimar
Germany

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's home from 1782 to 1832 (located at Frauenplan 1) is Weimar's premier tourist attraction. The nobleman's former home is a fine, ochre-painted Baroque mansion filled with antiquities and books. A 15-minute walk away in the Park an der Ilm is Goethe's Gartenhaus. This small cottage was Goethe's first residence in Weimar, and even after he made his fortune, he continued to use it as a modest summer retreat.

Government Quarter/Tiergarten
Berlin
Germany

Tiergarten, Berlin's version of Central Park, is also the name of the neighborhood that includes the Regierungsquartier (Government Quarter). Per square mile, Tiergarten has more powerhouse architecture than anywhere else in Berlin, and that's really saying something. The highlight is Sir Norman Foster's revamped Reichstag, reunified Germany's parliament building, which was completed in 1999. Its distinctive glass dome has become one of Berlin's most iconic structures and is worth a visit for both the close-up view of history (you can still spot Soviet-era graffiti on the roof) and the panoramic views of Berlin. Entrance lines are long, but you can skip them by making a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the rooftop restaurant, Käfer (49-30-2262-990).

From the Reichstag, walk south along Ebertstrasse—look for the line of cobblestones indicating where the Berlin Wall once stood—past the Brandenburg Gate, where Ronald Reagan gave his famous "Tear down this wall" speech in 1987. One block further, on the southern side of the U.S. Embassy, is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and opened in 2005. The 4.7-acre, open-air site consists of large concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a grid. Walking between the pillars, with the ground sloping up and down, evokes a chilling—and unforgettable—sense of disorientation and isolation. Eisenman's memorial has been criticized by some for referring only to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Across the street is a smaller memorial to gays and lesbians murdered by the Nazis, which opened in 2008.

South of the Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz, for a time Europe's largest construction site, has risen up in a barren wasteland once traversed by the Wall. Despite (or because of) buildings designed by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, Helmut Jahn, and Hans Kollhoff, the completed development has received mixed reviews. Potsdamer Platz is marked on its western side by the State Library, whose airy, multileveled interior featured prominently in Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire, as well as Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, an early-1960s extravaganza designed around the acoustic requirements of the orchestra, resulting in a tentlike structure clad in a studded golden skin. On the other hand, it doesn't get any more minimal than Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie, a slab of black steel atop slender black columns, framing a glassed-in, light-flooded display space that features rotating art exhibitions.

The Green Vault
Residenz Palace
2 Taschenberg
Dresden
Germany 01067
Tel: 49 351 491 42000
www.skd-dresden.de/en/museen/gruenes_gewoelbe.html

The New Green Vault and the Historic Green Vault museums, in the old Residenz palace, have been one of Dresden's biggest draws since their dramatic reopenings in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The New Green Vault, paradoxically, opened first in 2004 on the first floor of the palace and contains room after room of statuary and porcelain collected by Augustus the Strong and his progeny. The Dresden Green Diamond is especially noteworthy, a 41-carat wonder that is among the most valuable jewels in the world. Downstairs is the real draw, however: The Historic Green Vault is a painstakingly reconstructed, largely original-condition series of rooms that house Augustus's collections. It's a dizzying series of treasures, going from the Amber Cabinet through chambers filled with ivory and then porcelain, silver, and gold. Tickets for the Historic Vault are sold out months in advance, as only 100 people are allowed in per hour (and visitors must enter individually through an air-locked entrance that protects the exhibits from humidity and contamination).

Open Wednesdays through Mondays 10 am to 6 pm.

Hamburger Kunsthalle
Glockengiesserwall
City Center
Hamburg
Germany 20095
Tel: 49 40 428 131 200
www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de

This art museum's collection spans from the 14th century to the present. Don't miss the work of Master Bertram, Hamburg's first known painter—the altarpiece he painted in 1379 for the St. Petri Church is on display here. If the old masters aren't your scene, you can also find the work of late-19th-century Impressionists such as Manet, Renoir, and Monet, as well as the more modern work of Munch, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, and Warhol.

Closed Mondays.

Kreuzberg
Berlin
Germany

Boxed in on two sides on the West German side of the Wall in the years following the war, Kreuzberg was somewhat isolated from the rest of West Berlin and became a world unto itself. Packed with slightly crumbling tenements, it was affordable, if not downright cheap, and therefore popular with newly arrived Turkish immigrants as well as punks and anarchists from around the world. Always an alternative enclave, it lost some of its luster in the years after the Wall fell and eastern neighborhoods such as Prenzlauer Berg drew the crowds. But with the latter in the final phases of gentrification, local magazines are heralding the return of Kreuzberg's cool factor. Bergmannstrasse and Oranienstrasse, both lined with cafés, bars, and restaurants, are popular with students and hipsters. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has remained multicultural. The open-air Türkischer Markt (Turkish Market) stretches along the Maybachufer every Tuesday and Friday. Closer to Mitte, Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum is one of Berlin's most architecturally significant new buildings (9-14 Lindenstrasse; 49-30-2599-3300; www.juedisches-museum-berlin.de).

Landmarks
Munich
Germany

The Altes Rathaus (old town hall) that anchors the central square, Marienplatz, was reconstructed after World War II to appear just as it looked in the 15th century (49-89-294-001); the 1488 Frauenkirche (cathedral) was also rebuilt to its old plan (1 Frauenplatz; 49-89-290-082-0). Just outside the city center, and of more recent vintage, is Olympiapark, site of the 1972 games—tragically, forever associated with the Israeli team massacre.

Lange Nacht Der Museen
Munich
Germany
Tel: 49 89 306 100 41
www.muenchner.de/musiknacht

A beloved tradition: Every October about 80 museums, collections, galleries, art societies, and churches coordinate programs of tours, concerts, and performances and stay open all night. Munich's public transportation system provides shuttle buses to all events at ten-minute intervals.

Meissen
Dresden
Germany

Half an hour by train from Dresden, the medieval citadel of Meissen survived the war unscathed and has had a rigorous spring cleaning since German reunification. If you're interested in the city's eponymous porcelain, you can tour the local factory (Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur, 9 Talstrasse; 49-352-14-680; www.meissen.de; open daily 9 am to 6 pm) and buy fine china in the adjoining showroom, although you can often pick up secondhand pieces for less in the antiques shops around the Altstadt or at the company's boutique inside the Hilton Dresden.

Mitte
Berlin
Germany

At the height of Cold War tensions, the name of this neighborhood, Mitte (Middle), seemed anachronistic. Once the heart of prewar Berlin, Mitte, subsumed into East Germany, was pressed up against the Wall and marred by concrete and barbed wire. The Prussian-era Baroque and classical buildings lining the once fashionable Unter den Linden, an aristocratic boulevard leading to the iconic Brandenburg Gate, fell into disrepair, and Socialist Realist monstrosities like Alexanderplatz and the now dismantled Palace of the Republic, the Communist government's headquarters, cast a long shadow. Today, Mitte is once again Berlin's cultural and commercial heart, and it's the best place to take in the city's (sometimes uneasy) mix of old and new. The buildings along Unter den Linden have been fully restored; galleries and independent boutiques have moved into the Scheunenviertel, the turn-of-the-century Jewish quarter that's now a creative enclave; and international labels (Gucci, Escada) have established themselves down the street from Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstrasse, now one of Berlin's most stylish shopping destinations.

The Museumsinsel, or Museum Island, is a massive complex of five world-class museums in Mitte whose imposing neoclassical buildings—most of them designed by the great Prussian architects Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich August Stüler—are gradually undergoing refurbishment. With the reopening of the Neues Museum in October 2009, all five museums are once again open to visitors. The Neues Museum includes works from ancient Egypt, such as the famous bust of Nefertiti, as well as pre- and early-history collections. Classical antiquities, including an impressive Etruscan collection, can be found in the Altes Museum; Byzantine art, sculptures, and one of the world's largest numismatic collections are housed in the Bode-Museum. The Alte Nationalgalerie contains work by 19th-century artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Adolph Menzel, and the French Impressionists. But the island's biggest spectacle is the Pergamonmuseum, whose trove of important ancient architecture includes the Hellenistic Pergamon Altar and the bright blue Ishtar Gate from Babylon.

Each of the five museums maintains separate opening hours and admission fees. More information is available on the Web site of the Berlin State Museums or by calling 49-30-266-42-4242. The master plan for reconstructing the Museumsinsel calls for its completion in 2015.

Altes Museum, Bode-Museum, and Pergamonmuseum open Fridays through Wednesdays 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays 10 am to 10 pm.

Alte Nationalgalerie open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through Sundays 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays 10 am to 10 pm.

Neues Museum open Sundays through Wednesdays 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 10 am to 8 pm.

Munich Residenz
1 Residenzstrasse
Munich
Germany 80333
Tel: 49 89 290 671
www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/mu_res.htm

The seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty, Bavaria's ruling clan for 500 years, the Residenz was begun in 1385 and grew by fits and starts over the next several centuries. One courtyard, the Königsbauhof, juxtaposes three architectural styles on its three facades—Italian Renaissance, stern imperial Prussian, and Baroque each testify to shifting eras of construction and taste. The Renaissance facade looking onto Max-Joseph Platz gives no clue to the riches within: This huge complex, and its adjoining State Treasury with the crown jewels et al, could easily swallow whole days. Highly recommended are the Grottenhof, an early Baroque folly of a grotto featuring classical statuary and a fountain of Neptune encrusted in mussel and clam shells, and the gorgeous Antiquarium, a long, frescoed hall of Roman statuary that features buttressed ceilings and a hauntingly perfect sense of proportion and light. Much of the complex was destroyed in World War II and painstakingly restored subsequently at staggering expense, but trompe-l'oeil facades in some courtyards betray the budget limitations of rebuilding. Nonetheless, an over-the-top must-see.

Pinakothek der Moderne
40 Barerstrasse
Munich
Germany 80333
Tel: 49 89 238 053 60
www.pinakothek.de

The third Pinakothek, a $170 million building exhibiting contemporary art, opened in fall 2002, bringing together pieces formerly scattered throughout the city. There are sections on art, design, architecture, and graphic art, including works by Picasso, Magritte, and Max Beckmann.

Closed Mondays.

Prenzlauer Berg
Berlin
Germany

After 1989, Berlin's bohemians came to settle in this former East German working-class neighborhood of gray, unrenovated tenements, many of them with coal ovens instead of central heat. Moving into illegal squats and opening up secret unlicensed bars and clubs, so-called "Geheimtips" (secret tips), they helped define the "Wild East" days of Berlin in the 1990s. More recently, significant gentrification has taken its toll: The facades have been given a pastel-hued makeover, the interiors have been brought up to code, and now they rent for high sums. Still, "Prenzl Berg," as it's affectionately known, remains indisputably hip. The wide tree-lined boulevards, particularly those around Kollwitzplatz, Helmholzplatz, and Kastanienalle, are packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops that attract the nouveau bourgeois in droves.

Reeperbahn
Hamburg
Germany

A tangle of streets in the bohemian St. Pauli district down by the riverbank, the Reeperbahn is notorious throughout Europe as one of the Continent's biggest red-light districts. The area is fascinating—unsavory, but nonetheless safe. Prostitution is regulated, and the streets are always full. The "upscale" Herbertstrasse is gated to admit men only and features scantily clad ladies beckoning from storefront windows, a civilized spectacle compared with the scene on the streets closer to the river, where the come-ons are much more aggressive. The Grosse Freiheit packs more sleaze into its two blocks than do most cities: It's the home of anything-goes shows, though the posters and decor seem to date from a simpler age of shock and are almost kitschy today.

Schillerhaus
Schillerstrasse 9
Weimar
Germany
Tel: 3643 54 54 01

From 1802 to 1805, Friedrich von Schiller spent his last years in this much-photographed house. His last works, including Wilhelm Tell, were written here, and his books remain on the shelves. The second-floor rooms look much like they did during his time—the house was turned into a museum in 1847, and careful restorations were made in the 1980s. Admission: $4.25 adults, $3 students and children 6–18, free for children under 6.

Schlossmuseum
Burgplatz 4
Weimar
Germany
Tel: 3643 54 59 60
www.kunstfreunde-weimar.de

This three-floor museum houses European art from the Reformation through the 20th century. Highlights include the paintings by Lucas Cranach on the first floor, a large collection of works by German painters and a great deal of religious iconography from the 19th and 20th centuries. Admission: $5.50 adults, $4.25 seniors and students, free for children under 6. Open April–Oct, Tues–Sun 10–6; Nov–March, Tues–Sun 10–4.

Schloss Nymphenburg
Nymphenburg
Munich
Germany 80638
Tel: 49 89 179 080
www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/ny_schl.htm

The summer palace of Elector Ferdinand Maria and his consort, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, is a huge semicircle in an extended classical park on Munich's western edge. The gardens and buildings are restrained rather than Romantic, but the interior is another story, starting with the entrance hall, which feels like a wedding cake turned inside out, full of white marble, pastels and vivid frescoes on the four-story-high ceiling. Besides the usual gaspingly huge rooms with their silk wallpaper and priceless furniture, one particular highlight is King Ludwig I's Schönheitsgalerie, a portrait gallery that captures the many women in his life. The garden extends west into the suburbs and is full of fountains and the usual royal accoutrements.

Schöneberg
Berlin
Germany

Ever since Christopher Isherwood wrote The Berlin Stories, which served as the inspiration for the musical Cabaret, Schöneberg has been associated with gay Berlin. Isherwood lived at Nollendorfstrasse 17, not far from Nollendorfplatz, which is now the neighborhood's nightlife hub. Marlene Dietrich called Schöneberg home in the same era, and she was buried in the Friedhof Friedenau. Heading west off Nollendorfplatz, Motzstrasse is a favorite gay stomping ground, as is Martin Luther Strasse. And south of Nollendorfplatz, Winterfeldplatz hosts a popular organic market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Semper Opera House
2 Theaterplatz
Dresden
Germany 01067
Tel: 49 351 49 11 705
www.semperoper.de

Architect Gottfried Semper, one of Dresden's favorite sons, constructed the picture-postcard Semper Opera House in 1841. Since then, the theater has been destroyed twice (once in a fire and again during the Allied firebombing) but both times meticulously rebuilt. Today, it still packs in the crowds for opera, classical music, and dance concerts. Wagner premiered many of his works there, as did Strauss, and A-list conductors, orchestras, and opera stars appear regularly, including Zubin Mehta and John Eliot Gardiner. But check it out even if the performances aren't your thing: The exterior is an elegant combination of curved and squared stone whose overall shape resembles the prow of a ship. It's packed with details: Endless alcoves full of statues and gargoyles give the eye plenty to feast upon, an effect repeated in the frescoed interior. The main hall has four stories of balconies around the stage, in an acoustically near-perfect room that was a miracle of sonic engineering when it was first built.

Ticket office open daily 10 am to 6 pm. See online schedule for performance times.

Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin
1 Schlossfreiheit
Schlossplatz
Berlin
10178
Tel: 49 30 25 76 20 40
www.kunsthalle-berlin.com

Berlin's 1970s Palace of the Republic is no more, but while the city draws up plans to replace it with the Stadtschloss Berlin (Royal Palace), a semipermanent art exhibit has taken up residence, complete with café and bookstore. Inspired by the flow of artists from around the world to Berlin, the Kunsthalle's mission is to showcase Berlin-based international artists who normally sell their wares outside of the city. To this end, the 6,500 square feet of space will feature group and solo shows through fall 2010 (projected). The building itself, by Austrian architect Adolf Krischanitz, is a jaw-dropper: A big box in electric blue and white, it looks like a suburban retail giant gone artsy, especially when exhibits are mounted on its facade, such as a pixelated cloud display.

Tierpark Hagenbeck
2 Lokstedter Grenzstrasse
Stellingen
Hamburg
Germany 22527
Tel: 49 40 530 033 0
www.hagenbeck.de

Founded in 1848, this sprawling zoo was the first to introduce moated—rather than gated—animal exhibits, and is now home to over 360 species. It boasts a tropical aquarium, a large playground, and pony and elephant rides. Bring along fresh fruits and vegetables to feed the elephants and giraffes, and share any snack you've got on hand with the goats in the petting zoo. The Tierpark is also a botanical garden—so avid gardeners can scope out the scenery while making the rounds.

Viktualienmarkt
Peterplatz-Frauenstrasse
Munich
Germany 80331

The original farmers' market, this has been the city's culinary center and more for around 200 years. More than just a market, it's the village green of this big city, as close to its heart as its beer—which can be drunk in the local beer garden.

Wallringpark
Neustadt
Hamburg
Germany

A mini-railroad connects this quartet of parks—the Grosse and Kleine Wallanlagen parks, the Planten un Blomen flower garden, and the Alter Botanischer Garten—all of which are meticulously well-kept. Within this complex, you'll find ice-skating and roller-skating rinks, restaurants, and gorgeous greenhouses. Planten un Blomen is at its most beautiful on summer evenings. Stroll through the tranquil Japanese Garden (the largest one in Europe) toward the small lake and watch a color light show brighten its waters (49-40-428-232-125; www.plantenunblomen.hamburg.de).

Weisser Hirsch & Elbe River Valley

Dresden's natural setting is a series of gently rolling hills around the Elbe river valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vistas that inspired generations of painters are easily accessible by car or, even simpler, via tram #11, which leaves the Neustadt's Albertplatz and is up in the hills in ten minutes. By car or foot, just take Bautzner Strasse from Albertplatz and keep going east and uphill. After a series of dilapidated Renaissance villas, you climb past various castles perched on the riverbank to your right. At the top of the hill is the Weisser Hirsch, or White Stag, neighborhood, an elegant 19th-century planned suburb and formerly one of the most expensive places to live in Europe. There are two cable cars that take you down the hill to the riverbank, where you can cross the Elbe on the Blue Wonder Bridge to the similarly posh neighborhood of Loschwitz, full of art galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques. Another worthy day-trip option is to take one of the many steamships that line up at the Brühl terrace in the Altstadt. Their two- and three-hour trips up the Elbe reveal the farther reaches of the valley, with dramatic cliffs, ruined castles, and lush vegetation as you approach the Czech border (49-351-86-6090; www.saechsische-dampfschiffahrt.de).

Wittumspalais
Am Palais 3
Weimar
Germany
Tel: 3643 54 54 01

For a grander take on domestic interiors, head for Wittumspalais, home of the Duchess Anna Amalia, whose salon played an important part in the intellectual life of the town. Her old house contains many mementos of the German Enlightenment movement. Admission is $4.25 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for children under 6. Hours: March 15–Oct 25, Tues–Sun 10–6; Oct 26–March 14, Tues–Sun 10–4.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.