The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in museum opening hours, musical performance schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes buffet breakfast daily and 2 evening meals indicated in the itinerary where B=lunch and D=evening meal.
Berlin - 8 nights
Day 1: Monday 18 September, Arrive Berlin
Arrive Berlin in the afternoon. Participants will be required to make their own way to the Swissôtel Berlin to join the tour (check-in time is 3.00pm). In the late afternoon, we shall meet up and take a brief orientation walk around the area of the hotel in the former West Berlin city centre, situated around Kurfürstendamm, the famous KaDaWe department store and the ruined remains of Kaiser Wilhelm- Gedächtniskirche. (Overnight Berlin)
Day 2: Tuesday 19 September, Berlin
- Deutscher Bundestag Dome
- Brandenburg Gate
- Guided tour by local architect, including Reichstag & government area, DZ-Bank (exterior), Pariser Platz
- Walking tour of the Mitte
- Sightseeing Bus Tour of Berlin
- Group Dinner at Restaurant 44
This morning, we travel by public transport to the Unter den Linden, one of Berlin’s most famous boulevards and make our way towards the Brandenburg Gate. Our first visit is to the Deutscher Bundestag, one of the most interesting constructions in Europe. Sir Norman Foster designed an extraordinary glass dome from which visitors gain a wonderful panorama of the city. Across the road at the Pariser Platz we visit Frank Gehry’s – architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – fabulous DZ-Bank, a spectacular modern building that contrasts dramatically with the stately architecture of the Brandenburg Gate. Here we see the vibrant strength of Berlin’s cultural and physical renewal, an explosion of imaginative architecture built on the foundations of the old imperial city.
From the Pariser Platz we walk back along the Unter den Linten on a tour of Berlin’s Mitte (Central) district, a veritable microcosm of the city’s entire history. Nowhere else in Berlin do the buildings reflect so much of the city’s evolution. We visit the Russian Embassy, built in a typical Stalinist ‘wedding cake’ style (1950), the former palace of Prince Heinrich, now the Humboldt University (1753), Schinkel’s Classical New Guardhouse (Neue Wache, 1818), the beautiful Baroque Arsenal designed by Schlütter (Zeughaus, 1695-1706), the neo-Renaissance Berlin Cathedral (1905) and the Gothic Marienkirche (late 14th century).
A brief detour will give us the opportunity to view one of Berlin’s loveliest squares, the Gendarmenmarkt, with its two cathedrals and Konzerthaus designed by Schinkel in 1821. Nearby is what remains of Frederick the Great’s grandiose plans to build a cultural centre called the Forum Fredericianum, and the State Opera House (Deutsches Staatsoper), constructed by Knobelsdorff between 1740 and 1743. Behind the Opera House is the copper-domed St Hedwig’s Cathedral (1747-1773), modelled on the Roman Pantheon by the architects Lequay and Boumann.
We then take a local tour bus which will allow us to further understand the topography of Berlin, its past east-west divide and its present day unity. Tonight we enjoy the creative and innovative cuisine at the Swissôtel Berlin’s stylish Restaurant 44 (Overnight Berlin) BD
Day 3: Wednesday 20 September, Potsdam
Just beyond the south-west border of Greater Berlin is the historical city of Potsdam. Set in beautiful natural woodlands with many lakes and river tributaries, Potsdam boasts an idylic location, and gained its most impressive monuments during the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), who commissioned a series of palaces set within landscaped parkland.
The entire Sanssouci complex, with its many palaces and beautiful gardens, makes an excellent comparison to the French Palace at Versailles. Although Potsdam was heavily bombed, Sanssouci escaped damage during the last world war and thus the palace is still preserved in its original condition. The artistic importance of Sanssouci has been recognised by UNESCO, which has included the entire complex in the list of world heritage monuments.
In the morning we visit the Chinese Teahouse, a charming 18th-century pavilion, decorated with gilded statues, which many consider to be the most beautiful building in the park. Our tour then continues to the Great Painting Gallery (1764), commissioned by King Frederick II.
After lunch we explore the New Rooms (1747), which were built on either side of the Sanssouci Palace. One side was designed in the form of an Orangery, and acted as the palace guest house.
We will then take an official guided tour of the Sanssouci Palace, a magnificent mansion located at the top of a great staircase ascending through a series of terraces. The exterior is a tour de force of Rococo design. The interior boasts several fine rooms, among them the Ante-chamber, the Library in the form of a rotunda, the Bedchamber and Study of Friedrich the Great (including the armchair in which he died), the magnificent Concert Hall, the Reception Hall with paintings by Coypel and Van Loo and the equally splendid Hall of Marble with its superb decoration of Carrara and Silesian marble. In the late afternoon we return to our hotel in Berlin. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 4: Thursday 21 September, Berlin
- Gemäldegalerie in the Kulturforum, Tiergarten
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening performance at the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Alain Altinoglu (Máté Szucs – viola)
This morning we will travel by public transport to the museum complex which houses the art collection of the former West Berlin, the Kulturforum. In this complex is found the new Gemäldegalerie. Among the 1200 paintings housed in the Gemäldegalerie are masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rogier van der Weyden, Dürer, Holbein, Rubens, Rembrandt (one of the world’s largest collections), Vermeer, Watteau, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Velazquez, Goya and many more. In the afternoon there will be time to remain in this wonderful museum or to explore the other museums in the Kulturforum area.
Tonight we shall attend a performance at the magnificent Berliner Philharmoniker. Conductor Alain Altinoglu’s debut programme with the Philharmoniker features Béla Bartók’s final composition, his Viola Concerto, Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, and two orchestral suites from stage works by Claude Debussy and Albert Roussel. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 5: Friday 22 September, Berlin
- Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in the Neues Museum
- Pergamon Museum
- Alte Nationalgalerie
Today we shall visit three important museums on the Museuminsel (Museum Island), each housing remarkable collections of art.
We first visit the redesigned Egyptian Museum to see the celebrated bust of Queen Nefertiti, created about 3300 years ago. The museum also contains the wonderful Kalabasha Gate, which was presented to Germany as a gift for the help given in saving the Temple of Kalabasha during the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt (1960-70), and another great treasure, the so-called Berlin Green, which is a remarkably realistic portrait bust of a man carved out of green stone c.500-400 BC.
In the afternoon we explore Berlin’s remarkable Pergamon Museum. This huge building houses an awe-inspiring collection of Greek, Babylonian, Roman, Islamic and Middle Eastern art. We view some of the most important pieces including the celebrated the Gate of Miletus (120 AD), the Babylonian Ishtar Gate (604-562 BC) and the wonderful Aleppo Room from Syria (1600 AD).
We then visit the Alte Nationalgalerie, which has been restored to its former glory. Designed by August Stüler between 1866 and 1876, the Alte Nationalgalerie stands on a pedestal like a classical Greek Temple, with dramatic red sandstone stairways & pillars. It was planned as a cultural icon of the German nation, a temple to education for the young, and houses a wonderful collection of 19th century art. Two newly refurbished rooms hold the gallery of romantic painting, with masterpieces by Caspar David Frederich and Karl Frederich Schinkel, previously housed in the Charlottenburg Palace. This is the most significant collection of Friedrich’s work in the world and boasts examples of his style from every period of the artist’s development. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 6: Saturday 23 September, Berlin
- Guided tour with a local architect: the Schloßplatz, including Humboldt Box and Potsdamer Platz
- Topography of Terror Installation
- Checkpoint Charlie
This morning we will start our day with a visit to the Humboldt Box, a futuristic museum structure on the Schloßplatz in the centre of the city. It was built as a temporary exhibition space and viewing platform for the Berlin Palace – Humboldt Forum construction project and intended to inform the public about the future use of the site. Schloßplatz was originally the site of the 18th-century Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloß), which was extensively damaged during bombing raids in 1945 and demolished in 1950. Following the division of the city into east and west, the Socialist government decided to build the “Palace of the Republic” and construction began in 1973. In addition to serving as the seat of the GDR parliament, the greater portion of the building, however, consisted of various rooms and halls dedicated to cultural events. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the palace was closed and steps were undertaken to dispose of the asbestos in the main body of the building, which was finally razed in 2008. Our architect guide will today explain the controversial rebuilding projects, which combine the reconstruction of the baroque façade with a modern core housing an ethnological museum and other cultural spaces.
Our guided tour continues with a visit to Potsdamer Platz. It is perhaps here more than anywhere else in Berlin that the extraordinary re-invention of the city can best be experienced. Out of a previous wasteland, a whole new urban space has evolved. Nineteen new buildings including shops, apartments, hotels, theatres and offices are being crammed into a comparatively small area of some 60,000 square metres. The list of architects who are contributing to this project reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ in the field of contemporary construction design. The names include Lauber, Piano, Isozaki, Rogers, Moneo, Kohlbecker and the entire square may be regarded as a ‘gallery’ of contemporary architecture.
We shall then follow the line of the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie. On the way we pass the Topography of Terror installation. Situated around the excavated underground cells of the SS headquarters, this monument tells the story of those who were taken prisoner by the SS during the Third Reich. This chilling reminder of the horrors of pre WWII Germany is situated directly under one of the few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, a symbol of post WWII Germany. A short walk brings us to Checkpoint Charlie, perhaps one of the most evocative names of the cold-war city. Little remains of the bleak pressure point, but Checkpoint Charlie is particularly important in gauging the changes which have been wrought since the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 7: Sunday 24 September, Berlin
- Schloss Charlottenburg
- Bröhan Museum
This morning we take the U-Bahn to Charlottenburg Palace. Set in a landscaped park, this mansion was built in 1695 as a summer retreat for the ‘philosopher queen’, Sophie-Charlotte, by her husband, Friedrich I. Originally the palace, designed by Nering and Eosander, was comparatively small. Between 1740 and 1748, however, an extensive section was added at the behest of Friedrich the Great. Called the Knobelsdorff Wing after its famous architect, this is the most exciting section of the palace. We explore the Royal Apartments, Banqueting Halls, the White Room and the Golden Gallery which were designed in the Rococo style by the interior decorator/sculptor, Johann August Nahl in collaboration with Knobelsdorff. The apartments and halls also contain an excellent collection of masterpieces by French 18th-century painters, notably Watteau and Chardin, which were part of the king’s personal collection.
Across from Schloss Charlottenburg, in one of the former gatehouses, is the wonderful Bröhan Museum, which concentrates on the decorative arts and design. The ground floor contains a series of delightful rooms decorated and furnished in Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, as well as an exhibition of paintings by members of the Berliner Sezession. (Overnight Berlin) B
Day 8: Monday 25 September, Berlin
- The Jewish Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
- Farewell Dinner at Restaurant Alt Luxemburg
We begin this morning with a visit to Berlin’s Jewish Museum, perhaps the most significant example of contemporary architecture in Berlin. Designed by Daniel Libeskind, it is important for its unique architecture and exhibition layout, which capture the spirit of the exhibition perfectly and have led to a radical new understanding of museum design throughout the world.
This afternoon will be at leisure. Our program finishes with a farewell dinner tonight at one of Berlin’s finest restaurants, the Alt Luxemburg. (Overnight Berlin) BD
Day 9: Tuesday 26 September, Berlin. Tour Ends.
The tour concludes in Berlin. You may wish to extend your travels in Europe by combining this tour with Paris: The Great World City, Venice: Jewel of the Adriatic or Sicily & the Aeolian Islands. Those returning to Australia will need to make their own way to Berlin Airport (contact ASA for information about private transfers). Participants wishing to extend their stay at the Swissôtel Berlin are advised to contact ASA. B