Complex, conflicted and evolving: Berlin is a unique city with an infamous past and a vibrant present. Divided for more than a generation, the reunification of the city signalled a modern-day renaissance, creating one of Europe’s most interesting and diverse capital cities with a thriving contemporary cultural scene. This 12-day study tour provides a detailed examination of Berlin’s history, through museum and gallery visits, walking tours and background lectures. Accommodation is in centrally-located, self-contained apartments, providing an ideal base for independent exploration for those with a passion for modern history and the arts.
The Third Reich’s lingering impact, in the architecture and memorials that colour the city’s landscape
The Cold War Capital, where history was part of daily life in the divided city
Contemporary Berlin, including the KW Institute for Modern Art, cutting-edge galleries and street art
The German Baroque at Charlottenburg and Sanssouci palaces, and their modern histories
Live like a local: the freedom and flexibility of a fully-equipped apartment
In-depth lectures, providing a crucial context for this fascinating city
Days 1–4: Explore the 19th-century city and the Weimer Republic. Visits to the German Historical Museum, Museum Island, and the Reichstag. Experience a burlesque cabaret.
Days 5: Charlottenburg and Museum Bergguren.
Days 6–7: Examine the rise of the Third Reich and WWII Berlin, including a Third Reich walking tour, visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial, and thematic museums.
Day 8: Excursion to Potsdam and stunning Sanssouci Palace.
Days 9–12: Survey the impact of the Cold War, a city and people divided by the Wall, Berlin’s extraordinary revival post-reunification, and its contemporary cool.
The tour begins and ends at our apartments in Berlin. Qatar offers direct flights into and out of Berlin from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B and D.
Monday October 17: Arrive
The tour starts in the late afternoon, when we meet in the foyer for an orientation walk of the local neighbourhood, becoming acquainted with the shops, cafes and bars that populate our lively district. We will also explore some of the iconic street art that characterises the area. In the evening, we have a welcome dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Tuesday October 18: Overview – Berlin from above
While Berlin is one of Europe’s most intriguing cities, it does not have the same reputation for physical beauty and great vistas as other European capitals. It is nonetheless rewarding to survey the city from above, as a birds-eye view provides insight into the city’s history and progress following unification. After a talk on the early history of Berlin, we visit the iconic Reichstag, the seat of German parliament and a key building in Berlin’s story since its opening in 1894. We walk up Sir Norman Foster’s spectacular glass dome that has topped the building since 1999, learning about the building, its surrounds and the cityscape as we ascend. After a break for lunch, we walk through the architectural symbol of Prussia’s power in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Brandenburg Gate, and then along Berlin’s main boulevard, Unter den Linden, to the German Historical Museum. Here, we are guided through exhibits that map Berlin from the Middle Ages to the fall of the Berlin Wall, providing a comprehensive overview of its evolution. The later afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)
Wednesday October 19: Museum Island
Berlin’s reputation as a cultural centre and repository of great treasures owes much to the unique complex of five museums on Museum Island. A UNESCO World-Heritage site and the location of one of Berlin’s original settlements, the island is home to world-renowned institutions including the Neues, Pergamon, and Altes Museums, which were born from a great Enlightenment enterprise to bring the best of the world to the German public in the new capital. We begin today with a guided tour of the highlights of the Neues Museum, including Nefertiti’s bust, before continuing onto the impressive Near Eastern collection, whose highlights include the Ishtar Gate from Babylon. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to continue exploring the museums, including the Bode Museum of sculpture, whose works range from Byzantium to the Renaissance, and the Altes National Galleries, whose highlights include recently restored paintings by Caspar David Friedrich. Evening at leisure. (B)
Thursday October 20: Weimar, Art and Burlesque
Understanding the events that shaped Berlin between the wars, and the impact they had far beyond the confines of the city, is crucial to contextualising this key epoch in Berlin’s history. The humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles and the establishment of the Weimar Republic created a climate of unrest, uncertainty and protest that manifested itself in a variety of ways: confronting art, boundary-pushing theatre and extreme politics. We begin today with a guided visit of the Hamburger Bahnhof. Originally the main train station for the Berlin-Hamburg line, and today an impressive art museum, its exhibition spaces include excellent collections of Weimar period art from the Neue National Gallerie (which is currently under restoration) and of post-war German art. In the afternoon there is the option of travelling to the Brücke Museum, a collection dedicated to German expressionist art. In the evening we meet to have dinner at a cabaret club and enjoy a burlesque show, which continues the traditions of Weimar Germany. (B, D)
Friday October 21: Charlottenburg Palace & Museum Berggruen
Today we take a day trip to nearby Charlottenburg. The rococo palace – begun by Friedrich I of Prussia and completed by his grandson, Friedrich the Great – was inspired by Versailles and is a testament to the ambitions of the Hohenzollern dynasty to rival the older royal families of Europe. In the afternoon, we visit the nearby Museum Berggruen, one of Berlin’s premier collections of modern art. The collection was given to the city in 1996, by the art collector Heinz Berggruen, who left Germany in 1936 to follow a very successful career as a collector and dealer in the US and Europe, working closely with many artists whose work had been declared ‘degenerate’ by the National Socialists. Returning to the hotel, the evening is at leisure. (B)
Saturday October 22: Berlin in the 1930s and 40s – I
The rise and fall of the Third Reich have left an indelible mark on Berlin and Berliners, and its actions and legacy continue to be felt. While much of the Berlin of this period was destroyed in the Allied air raids of 1944 and 1945, its traces continue to have a presence and a role in delineating historical memory. Today, after a morning lecture, we explore the Berlin of this period, beginning with a historical and architectural walking tour of the Wilhelmstrasse area, ending with a visit to the Topography of Terror. This museum and documentation centre constructed on the location of the former headquarters of the SS, SD and Gestapo, preserves the material remains of the site, and charts the different forms of oppression practiced by the Nazi party from its rise to its collapse. The afternoon and evening are free. (B)
Sunday October 23: Berlin in the 1930s and 40s – II
We continue our focus on Berlin during WWII today. In the morning, we take a historical walking tour of the Ku’damm district, which had, in the 1920s, been the centre of Berliner night life, and later became the heart of West Berlin. Our walking tour of the district ends with a visit to the Kathe Kollwitz Museum, which commemorates the artist who lived through the Nazi period, documenting in her work the impact of fascism and warmongering on ordinary people. In the afternoon, we visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Museum, north of Berlin on the outskirts of Oranienberg (where the first camp was built in 1933). Sachsenhausen was built in 1936, and more than 200,000 people were incarcerated there between 1936-1945. A tour of the site and memorial will be conducted by a specialist guide from the memorial foundation. Returning to Berlin, the evening is free. (B)
Monday October 24: Cold War Berlin I
The division of Berlin after WWII made it symbolic of the Cold War, and more recently a representation of a divided world that is the focus of several miniseries and docudramas in English and German. Over the next two days, we explore the divided city in detail. After a morning lecture, we join a private guided tour of the former Tempelhof Airport, the lifeline of West Berliners during the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. The main terminal building is of particular interest as it dates from the height of Nazi power during the late 1930s. In the afternoon, we take a walking tour of the Aleksanderplatz district, the centre of East Berlin which has retained some of its socialist-era buildings, and whose recent developments highlight some of the complexities in the relationship between historical memory and urban development. There is also the option to visit the nearby DDR Museum, in which a series of exhibitions document everyday life in East Germany. The evening is free. (B)
Tuesday October 25: Cold War Berlin II
We continue our examination of Cold War Berlin today, looking at some of the more traumatic aspects of socialist rule. We begin the day with a guided visit of the Stasi Museum. The museum was established in House 1 of the Stalinist Ministry of State Security in 1990 following the reunification of the city, and documents how the ruling Socialist Unity Party used a system of rewards and punishments to coerce or encourage East Germans to comply with and participate in the new state. We then visit the East Side Gallery – a section of the inner Berlin Wall that has, since unification, been preserved as an open-air gallery of street art articulating an ongoing fight against political oppression of all varieties. Late afternoon and evening are free. (B)
Wednesday October 26: Potsdam and Sanssouci
Today we take a step back in time to Potsdam, the residence of the kings of Prussia and the Kaisers. The town takes its current form from Friedrich the Great, who as the new King of Prussia, applied Enlightenment principles of order, harmony and man’s relationship to nature to shape a new capital befitting the newest king in the age of reason. Our tour of Potsdam includes the UNESCO World Heritage listed Palace of Sanssouci, with the palace, gardens and pavilions covering 287 hectares, and the Cecilienhof Palace, the location of the Potsdam Conference, where the allied leaders divided up Europe, and set the borders of what would become the Cold War shortly afterwards. Returning to Berlin, the evening is at leisure. (B)
Thursday October 27: Contemporary Berlin
The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of the most significant, and well-remembered, political events of the past 50 years. The dismantling of the wall, however, is no less remarkable than the speed of Germany’s revitalisation post-unification and the phenomenal rise of Berlin as the culturally cool, cosmopolitan heart of a new Europe. Today we explore the new Berlin, with a morning visit to the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the gallery that has been driving the Berlin Biennale, now among the funkiest and most respected art shows in the world. After a guided walk through the neighbourhood and free time for lunch in one of the trendy cafes, in the afternoon we visit Sammlung Boros, an extraordinary exhibition space in a converted WWII air raid bunker. The private Boros Collection features contemporary art from 1990 until the present. In the evening, we have a farewell dinner together. (B, D)
Friday October 28: Departure
The tour ends this morning, after breakfast in the hotel. Please check your individual travel documents for details of your ongoing trip. (B)
Specialises in the music, art and architecture of Germany, studied in the USA and Paris, and has lived in Berlin since 1987.
Thomas has lived in Germany since 1988 and has led many cultural tours throughout Germany with leading UK and other organisations, specialising in the architecture of Berlin, the art of 18th-century Germany and the Bauhaus.
In order to avoid unnecessary transfers and allow for individual exploration, we select comfortable, centrally-located hotels wherever possible. Designed to provide in-depth intellectual stimulation for the independent traveller. Study Tours feature: daily background lectures; guided site visits; longer walking tours of historical cities and use of public transport for short journeys; time for individual exploration; and, self-contained accommodation where possible, allowing you to live like a local.
Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin Hackescher Markt (11 nights)
For the duration of this tour, we stay in well-appointed one-bedroom apartments in Hackescher Markt. The hotel includes daily breakfast, along with access to the gym, sauna and whirlpool. Since unification, Hackescher Markt has been a lively inner-city district with many small bars, restaurants, shops and galleries. The district provides you with the convenience of inner-city life, including a market twice a week, and has excellent public transport connections to the rest of Berlin. www.adinahotels.com/en/
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate, taxis or public transport are also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity