Berlin: An exciting capital

Berlin has emerged from the scars of two major wars–one real, the other cold–to become one of Europe’s most exciting capitals.

City profile

Located in the northeast of the country–just one hour from the Polish border and only three from the Baltic Sea–the capital’s claim as a gateway between east and west is reinforced by the many different cultures that make their home here. Though major manufacturing industries have long since departed, the capital has placed its hopes in the young. Media and music companies continue to migrate to Berlin, and the city hopes its wealth of universities will allow it to establish itself as one of Germany’s biotech and research centers. A dizzying array of cultural and nightlife attractions ensures Berlin will never have a tough time attracting people. 

Overview of the universities

Humboldt University

Humboldt is Berlin’s oldest university, and with 32,000 students it’s also one of Germany’s largest. After a checkered history during WWII and the Cold War, it has recovered remarkably since reunification and moved up from 29th to 5th in the German Research Foundation university rankings. Humboldt’s interdisciplinary school, the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, was recently named in the country’s excellence initiative. In partnership with Free University, Humboldt also boasts a respected medicine school at the globally renowned Charité Hospital in Berlin.

Freie Universität Berlin

Founded as the American answer to the Soviet-dominated Berlin University in the early post-war years, the Freie Universität has become one of Germany’s most successful universities as well as Berlin’s biggest. Its Otto Suhr Institute for Political Science is the largest in Europe and among the world’s most respected. The university can also lay claim to a highly regarded earth studies program.

Technical University of Berlin

At the Technical University of Berlin, around 20 percent of the 28,000 students are from abroad, one of the highest rates in Germany. Mathematics and IT have traditionally been TU Berlin’s strong suit.

University of Art

Although the University of Art (UdK) is the smallest of Berlin’s universities, it has one of the best reputations for churning out innovators in design, fashion and art. Contemporary artist George Baselitz, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, even singer Bobby McFerrin, have taught here.

Hertie School of Governance

Known for its two-year Master of Public Policy program the Hertie School of Governance has made a name for itself in political science circles as it boasts some of the most renowned names in the field among its faculty. It is an international state-accredited private university that cooperates with top-level international universities, including the London School of Economics (LSE)

Did you know?

Both Humboldt University and Free University claim Nobel prize winners Albert Einstein and Max Planck as their own. The bizarre fight stems from the pre-war days when both physicists taught at Berlin University. When a group of students and faculty split from BU and formed Free University after the war, they claimed the Nobel Prize winners for their new institution.

Things to check out

First stop: The top ten.  You could spend months in Berlin and still not have managed to see all of the historical sights.  These ten classics from Time Out Berlin should get you started.

Second stop: Art, film, and parties.  The face of Berlin changes quickly.  The best of this week might be forgotten.  If you want to stay on top of the hippest of art, film, fashion, and parties, keep your eye on Berlin blog

Useful links

A one-stop shop (in German) for those who want to study in the capital. 

Campus Germany, sponsored by the DAAD, offers tips on local customs and issues such as health insurance

There are several sites that help new arrivals find apartments to rent and share. WG-Gesucht is a good place to start

Also, check out the Ex-Berliner, Berlin’s largest English-language publication. Their online presence includes real estate and nightlife guides.