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’s History For Visitors
Berlin, the capital city of Germany, has a rich and multifaceted history that spans several centuries and encompasses a range of significant events and movements. Scholars have highlighted that understanding Berlin’s history is essential for travelers who seek to grasp the city’s culture, society, and identity. Therefore, this overview aims to provide an academic perspective of Berlin’s history, highlighting key periods and landmarks that visitors can explore during their trip.
One of the most notable periods in Berlin’s history is the Prussian era, when the city served as the capital of Prussia from 1701 to 1918. This period left a significant mark on Berlin’s landscape, with many of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building, dating back to this time. Scholars have also noted that the Prussian era played a crucial role in shaping Berlin’s cultural and intellectual identity, with the city becoming a center for the arts, philosophy, and science.
Another pivotal period in Berlin’s history is World War II and the Holocaust, during which Berlin was the center of Nazi Germany. The city suffered significant damage during the war, and many landmarks were destroyed or damaged. The Holocaust also had a profound impact on Berlin, with numerous memorials and museums dedicated to its victims. Scholars argue that exploring this period is essential to understanding Berlin’s complex relationship with its past, and visitors can visit key landmarks such as the Holocaust Memorial and the Topography of Terror museum.
The Cold War and the Berlin Wall are also significant periods in Berlin’s history, with the city being divided into East and West after World War II. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to separate the two, and it fell in 1989, leading to the reunification of Germany. Visitors can explore key landmarks such as Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery to learn about this period.
Since reunification, Berlin has undergone significant changes, becoming a center for culture, innovation, and creativity. Visitors can explore the city’s vibrant contemporary culture and learn about the key figures and movements that have shaped it.
Berlin’s rich and complex history offers visitors numerous opportunities to explore and engage with key landmarks, periods, and movements that have shaped the city’s culture, society, and identity. From the Prussian era to the present day, Berlin’s history offers a fascinating insight into the city’s past and present, making it a compelling destination for travelers interested in exploring history and culture.
25 Things to Do in Berlin Travel Guide
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.
Berlin Transportation Guide
Berlin is a vibrant and bustling city, filled with numerous attractions and landmarks that beg to be explored. But navigating such a vast metropolis can be daunting for visitors. Fear not! Berlin offers an array of transportation options that will have you zooming around the city like a local in no time.
The public transportation system in Berlin is efficient, reliable, and affordable. Operated by Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), it comprises an extensive network of buses, trams, and subways that connect virtually every corner of the city. With easy-to-use ticket machines and frequent services, you can easily purchase single-trip, day, or multi-day tickets depending on your travel needs.
For a more exhilarating option, hop on a bike! Berlin’s bike-friendly culture is well-known, and there are countless bike rental companies and bike-sharing schemes throughout the city. Cycling is a fantastic way to explore Berlin’s beautiful parks, museums, and landmarks. With numerous bike paths and lanes, you can pedal safely and enjoyably around the city.
If you prefer a more relaxed pace, walking is a great option in Berlin. The city is relatively flat and compact, making it easy to navigate on foot. Take a leisurely stroll through the different neighborhoods, admire the unique architecture, and discover the hidden gems that make Berlin so special.
For a more personalized and flexible transportation option, taxis and ride-sharing services such as Uber are readily available throughout the city. Whether you prefer hailing a cab on the street or booking a ride through your smartphone, you’ll be zipping around Berlin in no time.
In conclusion, Berlin’s transportation options cater to all visitors’ needs, whether you’re looking for an efficient and affordable public transportation system, an exhilarating cycling adventure, a leisurely stroll on foot, or a more personalized ride. With so many options at your disposal, you’ll be able to explore and experience all that Berlin has to offer with ease and intensity!
Berlin Accommodations Guide
Are you ready to experience the vibrant and exciting city of Berlin? As you plan your trip, don’t forget to consider your accommodation options! With so many choices available, you can find the perfect place to stay and immerse yourself in all that Berlin has to offer.
Hotels are a popular choice for visitors to Berlin, and for good reason! Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly option or a luxury five-star experience, Berlin has a wide selection of hotels to choose from. Stay in the central district of Mitte and be within walking distance of many historic landmarks, museums, and attractions. Or, venture to areas like Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, or Neukölln for a taste of Berlin’s vibrant nightlife.
For those on a budget, hostels are an excellent option. With shared or private rooms available, hostels provide affordable accommodation in central locations throughout the city. Areas like Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are popular for their energetic atmosphere and trendy bars and restaurants.
Looking for a more homely atmosphere? Consider renting an apartment or vacation rental. With options available in all neighborhoods, apartments provide more space and privacy than hotels or hostels, making them ideal for families or groups. You’ll also have the freedom to prepare your meals and live like a local.
For a truly unique experience, why not stay in a houseboat, go camping, or even sleep in a treehouse? These options allow you to experience Berlin from a different perspective and create unforgettable memories.
No matter what accommodation option you choose, be sure to book in advance to secure the best deal and make the most of your time in Berlin. With so many options available, you’ll find the perfect place to stay and experience the vigour of this incredible city!
Berlin Top Tours
Berlin is a metropolis that is steeped in history and culture, making it a coveted destination for those who are fond of exploring and learning about new things. Guided tours are an excellent way to discover the city’s hidden gems and gain insights into its captivating history. Below are some of the most notable tours that one should consider while in Berlin:
- Berlin Walking Tours – These tours offer a comprehensive overview of the city, covering the principal landmarks and attractions in the city center. Some tours are tailored to specific neighborhoods, such as Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, providing a more profound experience.
- Berlin Bike Tours – For those who prefer to explore on two wheels, bike tours are a superb option. These tours cover more ground than walking tours, enabling visitors to cover a wider area of the city in a shorter amount of time.
- Alternative Berlin Tours – These tours are focused on Berlin’s alternative culture and street art scene. Visitors will discover hidden galleries, witness unique street art, and learn about the city’s counterculture.
- Berlin Food Tours – Food tours are an excellent way to uncover Berlin’s diverse culinary scene. Visitors will get to savor local specialties, learn about the city’s history through its food, and meet local chefs and food artisans.
- Berlin Wall Tours – The Berlin Wall is a symbol of the city’s history, and there are numerous tours available that focus on this period. Visitors will visit the Wall’s remaining sections, learn about the stories of those who attempted to escape, and comprehend the events that led to its collapse.
- Third Reich Tours – Berlin played a significant role in the events of World War II, and there are many tours available that focus on this period. Visitors will visit important sites, such as the Reichstag building and the Holocaust Memorial, and learn about the city’s role in the war.
- Museum Tours – Berlin is home to some of the best museums globally, and there are many tours available that focus on specific collections or exhibits. Some popular museums include the Pergamon Museum, the German History Museum, and the Jewish Museum.
Whether one’s interests are in history, culture, food, or art, there are multiple tours in Berlin that cater to their interests. Booking a tour is an excellent way to leverage the expertise of knowledgeable guides and explore the best of Berlin.
Berlin Must-Try Foods
Berlin’s culinary scene is a fusion of traditional German cuisine and international influences, making it a hub for foodies. The city is home to various must-try dishes that visitors should sample while in Berlin. Below are some of the most popular dishes to try:
- Currywurst – This is a quintessential Berlin street food, consisting of a grilled or fried sausage smothered in curry-flavored ketchup and served with fries. It’s a fast and easy snack that is popular with locals and visitors alike.
- Döner Kebab – This Turkish-inspired dish is a staple in Berlin’s food scene. It’s a wrap consisting of shaved meat, usually lamb or chicken, and various toppings such as lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, served in a pita or flatbread.
- Schnitzel – This classic German dish consists of a thin slice of meat, usually pork or veal, that is breaded and fried. It’s typically served with a side of potatoes or salad.
- Berliner Weisse – This is a sour wheat beer that is popular in Berlin. It’s typically served with a fruity syrup, such as raspberry or woodruff, which balances out the tartness of the beer.
- Buletten – These are meatballs made from a mixture of ground pork and beef, onions, bread crumbs, and spices. They’re often served with potato salad or as a sandwich on a bread roll.
- Eisbein – This is a traditional German dish consisting of a boiled or roasted pork knuckle that is typically served with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.
- Kaiserschmarrn – This is a sweet Austrian dish that is popular in Berlin. It’s a shredded pancake that is typically served with fruit compote or caramelized nuts.
- Pfannkuchen – These are Berlin-style doughnuts, filled with jam or custard and coated with powdered sugar.
- Flammkuchen – This is a German-style pizza, topped with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon.
- Leberknödel – These are liver dumplings, often served in a soup or with sauerkraut and potatoes.
- Labskaus – This is a classic sailor’s dish made of corned beef, mashed potatoes, and beetroot, topped with a fried egg and pickles.
- Kartoffelpuffer – These are German-style potato pancakes, often served with applesauce or sour cream.
- Sauerbraten – This is a slow-cooked pot roast made with marinated beef, often served with red cabbage and spaetzle.
- Zwiebelrostbraten – This is a dish of pan-fried beef steak with onions, often served with fried potatoes or spätzle.
- Hackepeter – This is a traditional German dish of raw minced pork, often served on bread or as a topping for potato pancakes.
- Rotkohl – This is a sweet and sour red cabbage dish that is often served as a side dish.
- Senfeier – This is a boiled egg dish with a mustard sauce, often served with potatoes.
- Rote Grütze – This is a sweet dessert made of a mixture of red berries, typically served with cream or vanilla sauce.
- Grüne Soße – This is a sauce made from a mixture of herbs, such as parsley, chives, and dill, served with boiled potatoes and hard-boiled eggs.
- Eintopf – This is a hearty German stew made with meat, vegetables, and potatoes, often served with bread.
Berlin’s culinary scene offers something for everyone, from classic German dishes to international cuisine. These must-try dishes provide a glimpse into the city’s diverse food culture and are sure to delight any visitor’s taste buds.
Berlin Day Trips
Berlin is a city full of history, art, culture, and entertainment, but it’s also surrounded by numerous destinations that offer unique experiences. Here are some of the best day trips from Berlin:
- Potsdam – Just a short train ride away from Berlin, Potsdam is a charming city known for its beautiful parks, palaces, and gardens. Highlights include the Sanssouci Palace and Park, the New Palace, and the Dutch Quarter.
- Dresden – This city is famous for its stunning architecture, including the Frauenkirche, Zwinger Palace, and the Semper Opera House. A visit to the Dresden Castle is also a must.
- Wittenberg – This is a town of historical importance, as it is the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation. Visitors can tour the Lutherhaus Museum, the Castle Church, and other important sites related to Martin Luther.
- Leipzig – A city with a rich musical heritage, Leipzig is home to the Bach Museum and the Mendelssohn House, both dedicated to famous composers. The city also boasts beautiful parks, such as the Leipzig Botanical Garden and the Leipzig Zoological Garden.
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial – Located just outside Berlin, this is a sobering but important destination for those interested in the history of World War II and the Holocaust. Visitors can tour the former concentration camp and learn about the atrocities committed there.
- Spreewald – This is a beautiful natural reserve known for its network of waterways, where visitors can take boat tours and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
- Rostock – This is a historic coastal city located in the northern part of Germany, known for its charming old town, Gothic architecture, and beautiful beaches.
- Usedom Island – This is a beautiful island located in the Baltic Sea, famous for its sandy beaches and charming seaside towns.
- Berlin Wall Memorial and Museum – This is an open-air museum dedicated to the history of the Berlin Wall and the division of the city during the Cold War.
- Tropical Islands – Located in Brandenburg, this is a huge indoor water park housed in a former aircraft hangar, featuring a tropical rainforest, beach, and waterslides.
These day trips from Berlin offer a diverse range of experiences that are sure to satisfy any traveler’s interests.
Berlin Popular Festivals And Events
Berlin is renowned for its diverse arts and culture scene and hosts numerous festivals throughout the year that showcase this aspect of the city. Some of the most noteworthy festivals in Berlin include the Berlinale, the Karneval der Kulturen, the Fête de la Musique, the Berlin Art Week, the Berlin Marathon, the Berlin Jazz Festival, the Berliner Weihnachtszeit, Berlin Fashion Week, and the Berlinale Summer Special.
The Berlinale, which takes place every February, is a globally recognized film festival featuring a wide range of films from different genres and countries. The Karneval der Kulturen, held every May, is a multicultural street festival that celebrates diversity and showcases various forms of art, music, dance, and cuisine from different cultures. The Fête de la Musique, which takes place on the summer solstice in June, is an annual music festival that offers live performances of all genres of music in public spaces throughout the city.
The Berlin Art Week, held every September, is a week-long festival that celebrates contemporary art from around the world through exhibitions, performances, and other events. The Berlin Marathon, which takes place every September, attracts over 40,000 runners each year and is one of the largest marathons in the world. It offers runners the opportunity to pass by many of Berlin’s iconic landmarks.
The Berlin Jazz Festival, which takes place every November, is one of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe and features a diverse lineup of international and local jazz artists. The Berliner Weihnachtszeit, held every December, is a traditional Christmas market that features holiday lights, traditional food and drinks, and handcrafted gifts.
The Berlinale Summer Special, held every August, is a summer edition of the Berlin International Film Festival, featuring a selection of films that were premiered earlier in the year. Visitors can enjoy outdoor screenings in various locations throughout the city. These festivals in Berlin offer a wide range of experiences, from film and music to fashion and art, and showcase the diversity and creative spirit of the city.
Berlin City Guide: Final Thoughts
Berlin, oh Berlin, a city so bold, Where history and modernity perfectly unfold. From the Brandenburg Gate to the East Side Gallery, The sights and sounds will leave you feeling so happy.
But beware of the weather, oh traveler beware, For the wind and rain may mess up your hair. And don’t be fooled by the currywurst’s charm, It may taste great, but it’ll cause you harm.
The U-Bahn is fast and efficient they say, But don’t expect a smile from anyone on the way. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, Prepare to pay a pretty penny, come what may.
But fear not, for Berlin has so much to offer, From the museums and galleries to the clubs and coffers. Just be ready to walk and explore, And you’ll discover the city’s magic galore.
So pack your bags and hop on a plane, And prepare to fall in love with this city so insane. Berlin, oh Berlin, you’ll leave us in stitches, With your quirks and charms and the occasional glitches.
Have you been to Berlin? I’d love to hear your favorite things about the city in the comments below.