Berlin is known for...
1. Cold War History:
For fifty years, Berlin was the axle around which the Cold War in Europe turned. The Berlin Wall tore apart a city and a nation, and for almost half a century, West Berlin lived an isolated capitalist life deep within European communism, equal parts hostage and envied role model. Even today, more than twenty years after reunification, it's hard to go a day without seeing evidence of the conflict, whether it's the special pavement stones that mark the path the Wall took through the city or one of the many museums commemorating the subject. Even a glance to the horizon is likely to serve as a reminder – the TV Tower, shining beacon of Communist East Germany, still dominates the skyline.
2. Clubs and Riverside Bars:
Ask anyone under thirty (and a good number of people older than that) where the best city to go clubbing is, and chances are, they'll say Berlin. And after a night out here, you'll believe them. Clubs here typically open their doors Thursday night and don't usually bother closing them until Monday morning. Though it's possible to find Top 40 or rock clubs, the vast majority trade in the minimal electronic style, in fact so much so, that the music is sometimes referred to as "Berlin-style techno." In the summer, the club culture gratefully makes its way outdoors, to the multiple riverside establishments catering to the club lifestyle. All summer long, Kater Holzig (Spawn of the original Strandbar, Bar 25), Club der Visionaire, and many others project pounding electronic beats across the smooth surface of Berlin's river Spree.
3. International Culture:
Walking down the street in certain parts of Kreuzberg, it can be easy to forget that one is in Germany. English, and to a lesser extent Italian and Spanish, can be heard in the street almost as frequently as German. Berlin's status as an art and nightlife destination inspires thousands of expats to move here each year. Though some Germans lament this perceived ebb of German culture, it's really par for the course in Berlin. Ever since WWII, different groups have made Berlin their home-away-from-home, beginning of course with the Turks, Berlin's largest minority, and later Vietnamese, Russian, and Polish immigrants. This new wave of internationals is simply the next stage of Berlin's development as a true world capital.
Art is an indelible part of the fabric of Berlin. With hundreds of art galleries in the city, there are dozens of openings every night, running the gamut from high society events in museums showing works of world-famous artists to tiny, barely attended shows from unknown artists in back rooms and basements of bars and cafés. World-class art museums like Hamburger Bahnhof and the Alte Nationalgalerie only serve to complement the sheer volume of artwork the city produces and showcases.
5. Parks and Lakes:
After WWII and the Battle of Berlin, the city was utterly destroyed. In the years that followed, Berlin's civic engineers on each side of the Wall had a unique opportunity. Unconstrained by the need to preserve historic buildings – of which there were precious few remaining – large swaths of formerly densely developed areas were transfermed into parks and open green spaces. This tradition continued through the fall of the Berlin Wall and into the 21st Century. When Tempelhof Airport closed in 2008, its grounds were turned into the one of the world's largest inner-city parks, now used to host events and festivals.