City-West, the centre of former West Berlin, is back in vogue. During the Cold War, this area was the goal for those trying to escape the East. But with the fall of the Wall in 1989 and German reunification, the spotlight turned to eastern districts, leaving staid and stagnant City-West distinctly out of favour. In the past year, however, it has undergone a startling renaissance.
At its heart, the Zoological Gardens area spreads out from Zoo station, where a glitzy, new-build Waldorf Astoria opened last year, followed this year by the avant-garde Bikini Berlin complex. The renewal is gathering pace too, with a resurgent retail centre at Kurfürstendamm and the C/O Berlin gallery reopening on 30 October.
Get your bearings
Devastated, post-war Berlin was effectively rebuilt as two cities, with two transport hubs and commercial centres, and even two zoos. Access into City-West is via Zoo station, which connects U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Deutsche Bahn rail and buses. From Zoo, the leafy expanse of the Tiergarten is immediately adjacent, while Charlottenburg (with its castle and gardens) is to the west.
Berlin's other central hub, Alexanderplatz, lies across the Tiergarten, via Brandenburg Gate. Most of the city's major draws are in this easterly portion, including the districts of Mitte, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.
Take a hike
Start out at Brandenburg Gate: Berlin's signature sight. Strike out along Strasse 17 Juni (or wander through Tiergarten's woods and lawns) towards the Siegessäule (Victory Column), topped by a winged figure nicknamed "Golden Elsie". From here, continue along 17 Juni before turning left at the Gas Lantern Museum, where an open-air collection of 90 old-fashioned street lamps from across Europe (including London and Dublin) lines a cobbled pathway in the park.
Cross the bridge at the end of this path and stop at Schleusenkrug (schleusen krug.de), a café overlooking the Landwehrkanal. Grab a coffee in the garden and watch boats navigate the lock. Across the canal lie the Zoological Gardens, with more species than any other zoo (zoo-berlin.de; 9am-7pm daily; €13). The entrance is opposite Zoo station. The landscaped grounds are a real pleasure.
Lunch on the run
Head upstairs to Bikini Berlin's open-air, 3rd-floor "garden" and nab a table at Supermarket (supermarket.de). Part café, part design concept store, it serves a daily-changing set menu of regional specialities (beef medallions with potato salad) for €11.50pp for two courses, or €16.50 for three.
Back downstairs, get ready to splurge at Bikini Berlin (bikiniberlin.de), an all-new mall with youth-oriented streetwear stores, pop-up units highlighting home-grown design and a picture window looking into the zoo's baboon enclosure.
Kurfürstendamm (or Ku'damm) is City-West's main shopping street, though most flagship stores are closed on Sundays. The most interesting newcomer is 14 oz. at Kurfürstendamm 194 (14oz-berlin.com) for stylish, quality, urban fashions. Another City-West stalwart is Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe, at Tauentzienstrasse 21 (kadewe.de). Europe's largest department store sprawls over eight floors and has had a major renovation.
Dining with the locals
Back at ground level, try Ranke 2 for traditional dishes such as sausage and schnitzel, at Rankestrasse 2 (ranke2.de). Or try some Michelin-starred fine dining at Les Solistes, by Pierre Gagnaire, at the Waldorf Astoria (lessolistes.de).
For a late-night snack, try Currywurst; a sausage-in-tangy-ketchup that's a Berlin favourite. Get yours to go from Wursterei at Hardenbergstrasse 29d (until midnight Monday-Thursday, to 3am Friday-Saturday).
Go to church
With its "broken tooth" spire, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Breitscheidplatz is City-West's definitive landmark. It was badly damaged in an Allied air raid but its remnant, arched vestibule (free; 10am-6pm, Monday-Saturday, noon-5.30pm Sundays) has glorious mosaics, while the honeycomb carapace and stained-glass blocks of the 1960s replacement create a disco-ball interior (9am-7pm, daily).
Out to brunch
The eclectic Breakfast Market, at Markthalle Neun, Eisenbahnstrasse 42 (markthalleneun .de) is held every third Sunday. More at Motzstrasse 28 (more-berlin.de) in Schöneberg, also does great-value breakfasts.
At the Helmut Newton Foundation, Jebensstrasse 2 (helmut newton.com; 10am-6pm, Tues-Sun; €10), exhibitions include his iconic, black-and-white portraits. See more photography at C/O Berlin, which moves this autumn to the revamped Amerika House, Hardenbergstrasse 22 (co-berlin.org).
Or catch a blockbuster at renovated Zoo Palast, Hardenbergstrasse 29A (zoopalast-berlin.de) — a 1950s cinema restored to full retro glory.
A walk in the park
Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) was once a pleasure garden for Prussian royalty; its woods and wildflower meadows are dotted with World Heritage-listed pavilions and palaces. The ferry crossing costs €3pp.
Icing on the cake
The Berlin Wall's entire course has been marked out as a recreational route: the 155km Mauerweg. Discover it by bike (€11 per day) from Potsdam per Pedales (potsdam- per-pedales.de). Pause on the Mauerweg and visit lakeside Schloss Cecilienhof, where Allied leaders met for the Potsdam Conference in 1945.