Berlin is a city chock full of culture and with more events going on every day than you could possibly attend in a month. Exhibits, lectures, concerts, performances – you name it, Berlin offers it. But with the lowest and highest forms of culture right in front of you, it can be hard to make a choice. Luckily, we have a short guide to Berlin’s institutions of capital H High culture that you should have been to – or at least read about.
Throughout its tumultuous history, Berlin has always managed to play a central role in the cultural life of Europe, be it during the feverish cultural heyday of the roaring Twenties, as the adopted home of countless international artists attracted by the city’s open and vibrant atmosphere, or as the home to generations of German artists, among them painters, musicians, writers, and many more. To kickstart your journey into the German capital’s cultural landscape, here are three must-see institutions. The Holy Trinity of high culture, if you will: ballet, opera, and classical music.
The eminent Berlin State Ballet, or Staatsballett Berlin, as it is called in German, is the principal ballet company in Germany and ranks among the largest in all of Western Europe with a total of about 90 dancers. And little wonder: the company was founded as the result of the merger of three smaller companies working at the city’s opera houses. Today, the company performs a blend of works from its rich historical repertoire as well as new pieces. And although the company’s home is the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany’s second largest opera house, it also performs at the German State Opera in Berlin.
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, German for State Opera below the Linden Trees, is the country’s biggest and most famous opera company and stage. With a rich tradition going back to 1742, the opera stages a varied program throughout the year. And located in walking distance west of the famous Tiergarten park, the opera house, built in the Classicist style of a Grecian temple, is a spectacular sight even for those with no mind for ballet.
The Berliner Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, concludes our cultural trifecta. The orchestra has a long and storied history going back to its first iteration as Frühere Bilsesche Kapelle in 1882. Since then, it has developed into one of the world’s leading and most visionary orchestras and has been conducted by such giants of classical music as Herbert von Karajan and Sir Simon Rattle. The orchestra house, however, is slightly younger, although not less fascinating. Built between 1960 and 1963, the modernist building resembles an asymmetrical tent glowing ina golden hue and offers excellent acoustics in its concert hall.
And best of all: the Philharmonie is located just south of the Tiergarten and west of Checkpoint Charlie, a monument to the history of the Berlin Wall and the divided city of Berlin, making it the ideal starting or ending point for a sightseeing trip through the city.