If you're looking for picturesque sights, you might want to head somewhere else. However, what Berlin lacks in ancient ruins, it more than makes up for with modern ones. A turbulent 20th century has left scars and reminders all over town.
The city's Prussian past is reflected in a ceremonial centre, while its unified future as the capital is represented by a whole new layer of architectural landmarks, cutting-edge public collections and postmodern memorials.
Berlin by area
Most Berlin sights that could properly be described as unmissable, either because you ought to see them or couldn't avoid them if you tried, are in the central Mitte district. From the Unter den Linden to Brandenburger Gate and Museum Island, you can discover vast sweeps of history here. But Mitte is only a small segment of this sprawling city, which is carved up by rivers and canals, and fringed with lakes and forest.
Prenzlauer Berg & Friedrichshain
After Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain are the two districts of former East Berlin that have changed the most. Prenzlauer Berg retains pockets of radical energy but is now mostly gentrified. Although there are few conventional sights here, it's a relaxed place for a meal or a drink. Friedrichshain is Berlin's new bohemia, managing a firm connection to the old East Germany and a forward-looking, youthful scene.
Kreuzberg & Schöneberg
Kreuzberg has correspondingly lost its monopoly on the arty and the anarchic, but it remains fascinatingly diverse and seems to be staging a recovery. Neighbouring Schöneberg is quiet and mostly residential, but it does contain some great bars and cafés in its northern reaches, and is a major hub of the city's gay scene.
Tiergarten & Charlottenburg
North of Kreuzberg and Schöneberg, Tiergarten is dominated by the park of the same name, and is flanked along its southern fringe by some fine museums, a zoo, the reborn diplomatic quarter and the Potsdamer Platz. Charlottenburg also has plenty to offer visitors. The shop-rich area around Bahnhof Zoo and the Ku'damm was the centre of old West Berlin. To the west, the historic Schloss Charlottenburg and its surrounding museums are a major attraction.
Beyond the Centre
Beyond these central districts, attractions include the Dahlem museums complex, the vast Grunewald forest and the Havel river in the south-west, the proud town of Spandau in the north-west, and the villagey charms of Köpenick and Müggelsee in the south-east.