The German city of Berlin has become one of the world’s most dynamic cities after the fall of the Berlin Wall over thirty years ago. Where else can someone lose themself in one of Europe’s most famou tecno destinations, view the longest outdoor art gallery in the world, journey into World War II-era bunkers, and explore Prussian palaces? It’s one of those cities that’s cool…and knows it. So bring as much stamina as you can and an open mind to explore everything the capital city has to offer. Keep reading to find out the best things to do in Berlin.
Berlin Wall Memorial
Both a memorial and museum, the Berlin Wall Memorial is a place to learn how the wall came up, what life was like in former East Germany, and the attempts people made to reunite with loved ones on the other side of the wall. This one-mile stretch along Bernauer Strasse features an open-air exhibit of signs and photographs, as well as a piece of the original border wall and a visitor center with exhibits about historical and political events associated with the Berlin Wall.
Charlottenburg Palace was built in 1699 to be used as a summer residence for King Friedrich I’s wife, Sophie Charlotte and the largest palace in the city. The multi-winged, massive palace sustained heavy damage during World War II, but was restored over the following decades. Charlottenburg Palace is home to several priceless collections, such as important paintings, royal silver and porcelain, and crown jewels. The gardens are the highlight of the palace, featuring both English and French style gardens.
The Brandenburg Gate is a grand 18th-century arch and perhaps the most famous landmark in Berlin. This is the only remaining gate built by King Frederick William II from when the city was a Prussian metropolis. After Berliners came to the site to topple the nearby Berlin Wall in 1989, the Brandenburg Gate has become a symbol of German Reunification.
Berlin’s “Museum Island” is a collection of five world-class museums: Pergamonmuseum, Neues Museum, The Altes Museum, Bode Museum, and Alte Nationalgalerie. Spanning around 6,000 years of history and art, Museum Island is a must for any museum lovers visiting the city. If visiting museums is one of your favorite things to do, get the 3-day museum pass (find link). The pass covers over thirty museums around Berlin, including the five on Museum Island, the German Technology Museum, and the Jewish Museum.
Another iconic landmark in Berlin, the Reichstag was destroyed by an infamous fire in the 1930’s and was rebuilt decades later. Since 1999, this stately building has been the home of the Bundestag, the parliament of Germany. A glass dome sits on top of the Reichstag today and if you book a visit in advance (at least a couple weeks out), you can get great views of the city. There’s no cost for admission for the self-guided tour, you just need to book your time well in advance and make sure to bring a valid photo ID for when you show your ticket. Guided tours are also available.
East Side Gallery
The largest and longest open-air art gallery in the world, the East Side Gallery is a 0.8-mile stretch of the Berlin Wall and features over 100 paintings. While the rest of the Wall came down in 1989, this particular stretch of the Wall remained and was transformed into a canvas for international artists who covered it in murals in 1990.
Drink German Beer in a Beer Garden
Germany has some of the best (if not the best) beer in the world and there’s nowhere better to drink some German beer in Berlin than in one of the many beer gardens in the city. Here are some of the best beer gardens in Berlin:
- Prater Garten in Prenzlauerberg (Berlin’s oldest beer garden)
- Golgatha Biergarten in Kreuzberg
- Cafe am neuen See in Tiergarten
Eat Some Currywurst
According to legend, the famous currywurst was originally created in 1949 by a woman in East Berlin who got some curry powder and ketchup from British soldiers. She mixed what she had, added some sausage, and created the currywurst sauce. Currywurst has now become one of Berlin’s signature fast food dishes and is a great option if you’re short on time or money.
Explore Berlin’s Tiergarten
Berlin’s Tiergarten (“Animal Garden”) is an expansive park with a beer garden, willow trees, lakes, and the Berlin Zoo, which houses the most species of any zoo in the world. After visiting with all the different animals in the zoo, head over to the Monkey Bar where you can enjoy a drink while taking in views of the zoo’s monkey enclosure.
Join a free walking tour
One of the best things to do in any new city you’re visiting is to join a free walking tour. While the tour itself is free, it’s typically customary to give your guide a tip for however much you think the tour was worth. You can give the guide as little (nothing) or as much as you want. I personally recommend Sandemans New Europe Tours. I’ve used their free walking tours in several cities and have always enjoyed them. They also offer a variety of other paid tours.
Pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial
The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to those the murdered Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. It’s an open space memorial that you can simply walk around. Please be respectful when visiting the Holocaust Memorial. Don’t be one of those tourists who climbs on the structure or takes an Instagram photo shoot sitting on the memorial.
Go Night Clubbing
Berlin is famous for its nightlife and is home to some of the world’s best night clubs. I’m not really the night clubbing type, but here are some clubs often recommended by locals:
- Berghain: one of the most well known clubs in Berlin (and possibly Europe)
- Tresor: an iconic techno underground club with a 30m long vault tunnel
- Sisyphos: like an open-air festival of a night club with its indoor and outdoor areas
- Klunkerkranich: a cool bar with great views of the city
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