Berlin is the capital and the largest city of Germany as well as one of its 16 states. With a population of approximately 3.6 million people, Berlin is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany on the banks of Rivers Spree and Havel, it is the centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has about 6 million residents from more than 180 nations. Due to its location in the European Plain, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one-third of the city’s area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.
Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media and science. Its economy is based on high-tech firms and the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, research facilities, media corporations and convention venues. Berlin serves as a continental hub for air and rail traffic and has a highly complex public transportation network. The metropolis is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries also include IT, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, clean tech, biotechnology, construction and electronics.
Modern Berlin is home to world renowned universities, orchestras, museums, entertainment venues and is host to many sporting events. Its urban setting has made it a sought-after location for international film productions. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts and a high quality of living. Over the last decade Berlin has seen the emergence of a cosmopolitan entrepreneurial scene.
Berlin is situated in northeastern Germany, in an area of low-lying marshy woodlands with a mainly flat topography, part of the vast Northern European Plain which stretches all the way from northern France to western Russia. The Berliner Urstromtal (an ice age glacial valley), between the low Barnim Plateau to the north and the Teltow Plateau to the south, was formed by melt water flowing from ice sheets at the end of the last Weichselian glaciation.
Berlin has a Maritime temperate climate (Cfb) according to the Köppen climate classification system. There are significant influences of mild continental climate due to its inland position, with frosts being common in winter and there being larger temperature differences between seasons than typical for many oceanic climates. Furthermore, Berlin is classified as a temperate continental climate (Dc) under the Trewartha climate scheme.
Summers are warm and sometimes humid with average high temperatures of 22–25 °C (72–77 °F) and lows of 12–14 °C (54–57 °F). Winters are cool with average high temperatures of 3 °C (37 °F) and lows of −2 to 0 °C (28 to 32 °F). Spring and autumn are generally chilly to mild. Berlin’s built-up area creates a microclimate, with heat stored by the city’s buildings and pavement. Temperatures can be 4 °C (7 °F) higher in the city than in the surrounding areas.
Berlin is the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. The President of Germany, whose functions are mainly ceremonial under the German constitution, has his official residence in Schloss Bellevue. Berlin is the seat of the German executive, housed in the Chancellery, the Bundeskanzleramt. Facing the Chancellery is the Bundestag, the German Parliament, housed in the renovated Reichstag building since the government moved back to Berlin in 1998. The Bundesrat (“federal council”, performing the function of an upper house) is the representation of the Federal States (Bundesländer) of Germany and has its seat at the former Prussian House of Lords.
Berlin hosts 158 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many think tanks, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations. Due to the influence and international partnerships of the Federal Republic of Germany as a state, the capital city has become a venue for German and European affairs. Frequent official visits, and diplomatic consultations among governmental representatives and national leaders are common in contemporary Berlin.
Many German and international companies have business or service centers in the city. For several years Berlin has been recognized as a major center of business founders. In 2015 Berlin generated the most venture capital for young startup companies in Europe.
Among the 10 largest employers in Berlin are the City-State of Berlin, Deutsche Bahn, the hospital provider Charité and Vivantes, the local public transport provider BVG, and Deutsche Telekom.
Daimler manufactures cars, and BMW builds motorcycles in Berlin. Bayer Health Care and Berlin Chemie are major pharmaceutical companies headquartered in the city. The second largest German airline Air Berlin is based there as well.
Siemens, a Global 500 and DAX-listed company is partly headquartered in Berlin. The national railway operator Deutsche Bahn and the MDAX-listed firms Axel Springer SE and Zalando have their headquarters in the central districts. Berlin has a cluster of rail technology companies and is the German headquarter or site to Bombardier Transportation, Siemens Mobility, Stadler Rail and Thales Transportation.
Tourism and convention
Berlin had 788 hotels with 134,399 beds in 2014. The city recorded 28.7 million overnight hotel stays and 11.9 million hotel guests in 2014. Tourism figures have more than doubled within the last ten years and Berlin has become the third most-visited city destination in Europe. The largest visitor groups are from Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and the United States.
Berlin is among the top three congress cities in the world. The Messe Berlin is the main convention organizing company in the city. Its main exhibition area covers more than 160,000 square metres. Several large-scale trade fairs like the consumer electronics trade fair IFA, the ILA Berlin Air Show, the Berlin Fashion Week (including the Bread and Butter tradeshow and Panorama Berlin), the Green Week, the Fruit Logistica, the transport fair InnoTrans, the tourism fair ITB and the adult entertainment and erotic fair Venus are held annually in the city, attracting a significant number of business visitors.
Berlin’s transport infrastructure is highly complex, providing a diverse range of urban mobility. A total of 979 bridges cross 197 km of inner-city waterways. 5,422 km of roads run through Berlin, of which 77 km are motorways (“Autobahn”). In 2013, 1.344 million motor vehicles were registered in the city. With 377 cars per 1000 residents in 2013 (570/1000 in Germany), Berlin as a Western global city has one of the lowest numbers of cars per capita.
Long-distance rail lines connect Berlin with all of the major cities of Germany and with many cities in neighboring European countries. Regional rail lines provide access to the surrounding regions of Brandenburg and to the Baltic Sea. The Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the largest grade-separated railway station in Europe. Deutsche Bahn runs trains to domestic destinations like Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and others. It also runs an airport express rail service, as well as trains to several international destinations, e.g., Vienna, Prague, Zürich, Warsaw and Amsterdam.
The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe and the Deutsche Bahn manage several dense urban public transport systems.
Stations/ Lines/ Net length
Passengers per year
166 / 15 / 332 km
DB/ Mainly overground rapid transit rail system with suburban stops.
173 / 10 / 151 km
BVG/ Mainly underground rail system. 24h-service on weekends.
398 / 22 / 192 km
BVG/ Operates predominantly in eastern boroughs.
2627 / 149 / 1,626 km
BVG/ Extensive services in all boroughs. 46 Night Lines
BVG/ All modes of transport can be accessed with the same ticket.