Over the centuries Berlin has been at the epicentre not only of European history, but also its culture, with the city boasting some astonishing collections of art, sculpture and other treasures along with a remarkable variety of architecture. Since reunification a massive reconstruction and restoration programme has secured this cultural legacy, a theme that this fascinating tour examines.
A walking tour of the impressively restored old east includes the Gendarmenamarkt, Bebelplatz and Unter den Linden. We also visit the reconstructed galleries of Museuminsel – the Altes Nationalgalerie, the Pergamonmuseum and the Neues Museum, which house European art and sculpture, and Classical and Middle-Eastern antiquities. We also visit the Gemäldegalerie, with its fine collection of European art. We will see architecture new and old at the Reichstag with its inspired new interior and dome and at Schloss Köpenick, a shining example of Baroque building design, with it collection of decorative arts.
Highlights will be performances of Strauss’s opera Ariadne auf Naxos and the ballet Jewels created for the New York City Ballet by founding choreographer George Balanchine with music by Fauré, Stravinsky and Tschaikovsky, and a special private backstage tour of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, newly reopened after extensive renovation.
London / Berlin
Morning departure from London Heathrow on a British Airways flight to Berlin Tegel Airport. Lunch under own arrangements. Transfer into Berlin for an introductory guided walk starting at the Gendarmenmarkt and continuing to Bebelplatz and along Unter den Linden. Check in at the Regent Berlin Hotel where three nights are spent. Situated in the heart of the former East Berlin, close to the picturesque Gendarmenmarkt and only a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate, the hotel has elegant, comfortable and well-appointed bedrooms. Dinner at Refugium Restaurant, close to the hotel.
Visit the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) the oldest museum complex in Berlin, which was more than 70% destroyed during the Second World War and is still under restoration. Begin with the Alte Nationalgalerie, whose 19th-century collection includes Impressionist paintings by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and sculptures by Auguste Rodin.
Continue to the world-famous Pergamonmuseum which houses the Classical and Near Eastern Antiquities collections and the Museum of Islamic Art. It is here that you can see reconstructed archaeological ensembles such as the Market Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate, including the Processional Way of Babylon and the Mshatta Façade. The Pergamon Altar is currently closed for restoration. Brief visit to the Neues Museum (New Museum) which houses the Egyptian Museum, to see the famous bust of Nefertiti.
Lunch at the Allegretto A Tavola restaurant. Afternoon guided tour of the newly refurbished Staatsoper Unter den Linden (subject to confirmation). The original opera house dates from 1742 designed in the Palladian style by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. After destruction in World War II it was rebuilt according to reconstruction designs by Richard Paulick and it reopened in 1955. The most recent renovation by architect HG Merz aims to remedy structural defects and overhaul ensemble of buildings comprising the Staatsoper while retaining the outer appearance of the opera house. The volume of the auditorium has been enlarged so as to improve the acoustics. To achieve this, the hall has been expanded upwards within the existing building structure by raising the historic ceiling.
Attend an evening performance of the ballet Jewels with choreography by George Ballanchine and music by Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (details to be confirmed). Dinner under own arrangements.
Morning visit to the vast Gemäldegalerie which houses one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the 13th to 18th century, with masterpieces by artists from every age of art history such as van Eyck, Bruegel, Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Vermeer and Rembrandt. Lunch at the Käfer Restaurant on the roof of the Reichstag followed by a visit to architect Sir Norman Foster’s inspired dome.
Afternoon visit to the Baroque palace of Köpenick which houses treasures from the Museum of Decorative Arts, focussing on outstanding masterworks in interior design the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods. The palace is located on a manmade island on the outskirts of the old town centre of Köpenick and was constructed between 1677 and 1690 on the site of an earlier hunting palace of the Brandenburg electors and has preserved the original Baroque plasterwork in almost all of its rooms.
Attend an evening performance of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (details to be confirmed). Dinner under own arrangements.
Berlin / London
Morning at leisure. Lunch under own arrangements.
Transfer to Berlin Tegel Airport for a British Airways flight to London, arriving London Heathrow late afternoon.