Posted: 20 January 2016

James' Guide to Berlin

Berlin is one of my favourite cities; it has so much to offer its visitors, particularly school groups, and so I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the city again this December. Having previously visited in the summer, it was magical to see the city transformed into a winter wonderland for the Christmas season.

There are so many to choose from, but below are some of my highlights and top tips for history groups visiting Berlin.

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I normally recommend this visit to all of my history groups, as it provides students with a more thorough understanding of the general history of Berlin. A multimedia exhibition consisting of over 20 themed rooms takes the visitor through 800 years of the German capital's development. A particular highlight of this visit is the guided tour through an original nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War era!

As an alternative, for an overview of the history of Germany as a whole, I would recommend the Deutsches Historisches Museum.

The DDR Museum really is a must-see for anyone studying the Cold War. The DDR Museum will demonstrate to your students what life was really like for those living in East Berlin during the communist era. Students (and teachers!) will really enjoy the interactive, hands-on exhibits which include the inside of a typical GDR high-rise apartment- make sure you have a good rummage through all the drawers and take a seat in the living room to watch some authentic GDR TV programmes! You can also take a ride in the iconic Trabi, watch some East German newsreels and even experience a Stasi interrogation.

Another great option for groups studying the Cold War is, of course, Checkpoint Charlie.

House of the Wannsee Conference

A visit to the Wannsee villa will most certainly be a very thought-provoking and moving experience for your students as it was here, in 1942, that the infamous Wannsee Conference took place. It was at this conference that the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Question' was planned, leading to the attempted extermination of the Jewish population of occupied Europe). Guided tours are provided free of charge for school groups and include the room in which the conference took place.

A fantastic alternative for groups studying WWII, the Nazis and the Holocaust is the Jewish Museum.

This year I had my first taste of the Berlin Christmas markets and had a fantastic time. Certainly, for groups visiting during the festive season, the abundance of Christmas markets dotted around the city are a great way to keep your group entertained in the evenings, when the markets really come to life. The markets are great for sampling local German delicacies, or even to purchase traditional, seasonal gifts and souvenirs. Some of my favourite markets were the Winter World Market at Potsdamer Platz and WeihnachtsZauber at Gendarmenmarkt.

I hope that this has provided you with some inspiration for your next school history trip to Berlin.

If you need any further information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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