25 Things to do in Berlin Travel Guide
Arriving in Berlin, Germany from Bangkok, Thailand was admittedly a shock to the system. Going from the steamy and chaotic urban jungle of Bangkok to the relatively spread out, orderly and laid back artsy city of Berlin was a welcome change. Basing ourselves in a rental apartment for 2.5 weeks just a stone throw away from Mauerpark allowed us to explore the city slowly at our leisure. The conveniences of having our own kitchen and being able to buy groceries is a luxury we haven’t had for most of our whirlwind adventures over the past year. Slowing things down and not moving around for nearly a month was good for both our physical and mental health. We left feeling that this is a city that is not only exciting to visit but somewhere we could eventually see ourselves using as a base.
Overall, Berlin was a city bursting with art, music and exceptional street food. Here is our list of the 25 best things to do in Berlin.
Berlin Travel Video
Berlin Photo Essay
1) Berlin Wall – East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining strip of the of the former dividing wall between East and West Berlin. Today the 1.3 kilometer long wall stands as a memorial to freedom and it is covered in art and graffiti. As the largest and longest serving open air gallery in the world, you’ll be treated to over 105 paintings by artists from all over the world It is recommend you come early in the morning or on a weekday because it can sure get crowded on the weekend.
2) Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate gate dates back to the 18th Century as it used to be one of the old gates leading in to the city. Now after the wall came down in 1989 this became a symbol of unity between East and West Germany. This neoclassical triumphal arch is one of the most important sites to visit in Berlin given its significance as symbol for historical events in Europe and Germany. It was badly damaged during World War II only fully restored just over ten years ago. For the travel photographer or video enthusiast, you can use the crowds as a backdrop for a great time-lapse sequence.
Tiergarten (German for Animal Garden) is one of the largest urban parks in the city located within the borough of Mitte. Serving as a nice quiet green escape from the city center, it is conveniently located nearby the Reichstag Building and Brandenburg Gate. Centuries ago, the park actually used to be the King’s hunting grounds because it was full of wild deer and other animals. These days, Berliners, expats and tourists alike use the park for a recreational stroll or bike ride.
MauerPark is a hipster hangout. Every Sunday people flock to this park and spend the day barbecuing, listening to music, enjoying a few beers, and simply having a good time. There’s a popular flea market where you can pick up old vinyls and clothes, and if you head over to the Bear Pit you can catch some karaoke and musical performances. Our favorite activity, aside from people watching, was lying on the grass and listening to various musical performances.
If you want to spot some cool street art, then head over to Friedrichshain. This neighborhood is home to a lot of old warehouses turned cafes and art galleries, and they exude a very cool vibe. As one of the more trendy neighborhoods in Berlin, you’ll also find a plethora of popular bars, clubs and pubs at your disposal. Following reunification, Friedrichshain was especially popular with University students and artists; however, it is recently experiencing gentrification and becoming more upscale.
6) Eat Currywurst
It didn’t take us long to realize German street food is delicious and surprisingly affordable. You simply can’t come to Berlin and not eat a Currywurst! This is the city’s most popular fast food snack and can be found at street stall carts and greasy spoons throughout the city. The sausage, first steamed and then fried, is served with a ketchup and curry powder concoction laced with various seasonings. It’s seriously delicious!
As one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Germany, the Reichstag building and dome are well worth a visit. Opened in 1894, it housed the Imperial Diet until 1933 when it was severely damaged by fire. The recently constructed glass dome on top of the building symbolizes the reunification of Germany. Open to visitors and it offers 360 degree views of the city but the only thing is that you need to sign up well in advance.
8) Tempelhof Airport
Tempelhof Airport, one of the earliest commercial airports in the world, was one of my favorite places to visit in the city. As a re-purposed structure it is now a recreational park where you can notice people enjoying all kinds of leisure and sports activities. It is not everyday that you get to go rollerblading or skateboarding down a runaway. Aside from just those working out, you’ll also notice plenty of others enjoying a picnic and dedicated dog park. As one of Berlin’s many free activities, it’s my preferred spot in the city for exercise.
9) Berlin’s Museum Island
If you enjoy museums and art galleries you’ll want to visit Berlin’s UNESCO heritage Museum Island. They actually have five different museums here and if you get a daily pass for 18 Euros you get access to all five including Altes Museum (Old Museum), Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. It is an ideal way to spend a rainy day in the city center.
10) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial)
Nearby Tiergaten and the Reichstag Building is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial. The artist’s idea when he was creating this was to create a sense of confusion and uneasiness when we walk through the memorial, yet it is very orderly at the same time and that is supposed to mimic the Nazi regime. Inaugarated 60 years after the end of World War II, it is not without controversy as some leaders in the Jewish community have described it as unnecessary.
11) Charlottenburg Palace and Gardens
Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only surviving royal residence in the city. It was home to Queen Sophia Charlotte and the interior is quite grand. Once you’ve browsed through the many halls and ballrooms, you should head out the beautiful gardens out back. This is one of the many green areas in the city and you’ll be able to spot birds as well as couples getting married.
12) Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie, also known as Checkpoint C, was one of the crossing points between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. As a symbol of the Cold War, representing the division of East versus West, it is now a major tourist attraction located in the Allied Museum in Dahlem neighborhood. For a small fee you can get your passport stamped with the stamps of the former sectors.
13) Alexanderplatz – TV Tower
Located nearby centrally situated Alexanderplatz, The Berlin TV Tower (also known as Alex Tower) offers a great lookout over the city. Completed in 1969, its original function was to be a symbol of Berlin, which it remains today. At an imposing 368 meters it is the tallest building in all of Germany.
14) Ritter Sport German Chocolate
Chocolate! Ritter Sport is a chocolate brand that is sold all over Germany, and while in Berlin we couldn’t resist sampling a few of the different varieties. With over 40 different varieties, we must have sampled at least a quarter of them in just a few weeks; our favorite being coconut, a relatively new product. I blame Ritter Sport as to why I wasn’t able to shed my blogger belly even though I was jogging everyday in Mauerpark 😉
15) Berlin Cathedral
Berlin Cathedral is located on Museum Island and it’s one of the most stunningly beautiful churches in the city. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it today, but the dome was severely damaged during the Second World War. One fascinating tidbit of information is that the Cathedral has never actually been used a Cathedral in the actual sense.
16) Currywurst Museum
If Currywurst is to your liking, you’ll want to check out this quirky museum devoted to Berlin’s favorite sausage. One of the coolest things about this museum is that they have a giant sofa shaped like a Currywurst. Given that an estimated 800 million currywursts are eaten every year in Germany, it’s not entirely shocking that such a quirky museum with ‘Elf’ in a mobile actually exists. The best part of visiting the museum is that you get to eat currywurst at the end of the tour 😉
17) Bicycling around the City
Renting a bike is a great way to get around the city and most places, especially guesthouses and hotels, will rent out bikes at 10 Euros per day. Given that the city is very bicycle friendly (and pedestrian friendly for that matter) you’ll have a dedicated lane to enjoy peddling from neighborhood to neighborhood.
18) Boat Tour down the River Spree
For a leisurely afternoon, you can consider hopping on a boat and enjoy a tour down the River Spree. Although geared more towards tourists, it is still a unique way to see the city.
19) Eat a German Sausage: Wurst
Of course, you cannot come to Berlin and not eat a Wurst (German for sausage). Order it from the street and chow down with locals. With a plethora of stands on offer, you should haven’t to pay more than two Euros for a wurst. Eat it like a local by squirting a little mustard on top.
20) Friedrichshain Flea Market
The Friedrichshain flea market takes place every Sunday and it’s a great spot for people watching, shopping, eating and a little browsing. You’ll find all sorts of items for sale, ranging from old musical instruments to antique dishware. This market draws big crowds and is a big part of the hipster flea market scene that is ever popular in Berlin these days.
21) German Breakfast
The Germans sure know how to enjoy a hearty breakfast, and we recommend you try it too. Breakfast usually offers a wide sampling of loafs and bread rolls, accompanied with various deli cuts and cheese. Coming from Asia, it was nice to have access to such high quality meats and cheeses – items we often craved.
22) Cat Cafe – Pee Pees Katzen Cafe
We couldn’t resist visiting yet another cat cafe while we were in Berlin. Unlike the cafes we have previously visited in Asia, this one was quite small and only had 2 cats, but if you’re a cat lover you might just enjoy Pee Pees Katzen Cafe.
23) Eat Schnitzel and Spaetzle
While in Berlin we enjoyed a hearty meal of Schnitzel. This thin strip of meat is coated in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, before being deep-fried. You can order it with a side of mashed potatoes or German noodles known as Spaetzle.
24) Take the U-Bahn and S-Bahn
It’s quite easy to get around Berlin using the U-bahn and S-bahn transportation system. You can get almost anywhere, plus it’s really affordable. We ended up going with the monthly pass, which helped us save quite a bit of coin.
25) Eat Turkish Street Food
In Berlin, there is a big Turkish population and that means there is awesome Turkish street food. My favorite is the donair, which is typically 3.50 Euro and is often massive. When I’m not eating currywurst this is my second favorite form of street food in Berlin.
And that’s Berlin for you! A city that has risen from the ashes of the war, which is now bursting with art, music, and life.
Have you been to Berlin? I’d love to hear your favorite things about the city in the comments below.