Berlin. Truly the most free city I have been to. A city that will leave strong impressions on you. A place that keeps many stories on the surface for you to see: the stories of the East and West Berlin, the stories of the past, the present and the future, stories of former tragedies and modern tolerance.
Today’s Berlin is has a melting pot of serious business, artistic expression, hipsters, incredible parties and a ton of beer!
If you are reading this because you want to visit Berlin soon, I’ll stop with the spoilers and give you a hand:
To help you plan your trip there, I explored Berlin non-stop for one full month with the declared purpose of visiting new places, discovering new things and gathering information to share with all of you.
So, for your convenience, I have built the ultimate list of Berlin things to do: 22 activities that are worth your time! Let me show you what I’m talking about:
The Ultimate Berlin Bucket list in 22 activities
1. The impressive Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate is a neoclassical monument that has witnessed the history of Berlin since the 18th century.
It is a symbol of separation between East and West Berlin, and probably one of the most significant landmarks in the city. Be sure not to miss this historical spot and the photo opportunities it brings!
2. Have an art appreciation session on Museum Island
Located in the middle of River Spree, Museum Island is a complex that made it to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you’re into museums, it’s best to take a 3-day museum pass and dedicated a whole day to fully appreciate the beauty of the place.
Also, take a bottle of water with you. You’ll be thirsty after a couple of hours of roaming around, and the only store in Museum Island sells a bottle of water for 3 EUR each!
Here are the museums I have been to and their respective short descriptions:
- Pergamon museum – One of the most visited museums in Europe! There’s Ishtar Gate, the Processional Way, the Market Gate of Miletus, and Islamic art, among others. I liked it a lot, the most out of the 5 of them!
- Bode museum – sculptures, Byzantine and Antique art
- Neues museum – ancient Egyptian art
- Altes museum – Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art
- Alte Nationalgalerie – a national art gallery with Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork
PRO TIP: An audio guide is included in your ticket in each of the museums, don’t forget to take it!
3. Meet the sunset on the top of the TV tower
The Berlin TV tower, also known as Fernsehturm, gives the best 360-degree view in Berlin. It can hardly stay unnoticed as it is the highest building in the city.
Climb up in this concrete jungle during the sunset hour for a more scenic experience. Have some dinner or cocktails, and get a VIP fast access if it gets jam-packed. It saved me about 15 minutes of waiting in line when I was there.
4. Visit the Reichtag building
Another historical site to visit in Berlin is the Reichtag where the Parliament sits. It has a glass dome, which represents the political transparency of the city.
Entrance is free of charge but be sure to book your visit well in advance! I booked mine (Guided tours
followed by a visit to the dome) 2 weeks in advance and there were not many places left. No need to print your booking form, just show it from your phone. Bring your valid photo ID!
If you didn’t book in advance, try to come there in the morning to see if there are any dropouts.
Another option to get inside the dome would be to have a breakfast there for 22 EUR, notifying just a day in advance.
The tour was extremely interesting, I learned how the German Parliament functions!
5. Admire the Berliner Dom
Beliner Dom, otherwise known as the Berlin Cathedral, is a neo-renaissance architecture finished in 1905 that has a breath-taking view.
It is located on the Museum Island where numerous museums are nested. You should go up to the top of the cathedral for an incredible view of the city! The admission is 7 EUR
NOTE: I usually enjoyed free entrance with my Berlin Pass, but it does not give you a free entrance to the Berliner Dom.
6. Time travel through East Side Gallery’s paintings
East Side Gallery is a 1316-meter long gallery where 105 paintings by artists all over the globe can be found. Ok, so what’s so special about it? Oh, did I mention the paintings are all made on a wall? Yes, I am talking about The Berlin Wall, the one you will learn so much about in your trip. Take a walk around this memorial of freedom and learn their history through it.
There are other pieces of wall that remained untouched, so you can see how it looked before, but this one is a gallery, a places where artists can express themselves on the topic.
You can also fabulously pass by here by Trabi (see below):
7. Drive around the city in a Trabi
Trabant or Trabi is a slow and noisy car, popular in the former “Eastern Block”, that became a symbol of the bygone East Germany back in the days where the city was separated.
Even if it is one of the most touristic things to do, I found it very entertaining! The guide will drive ahead of you in his own car and he will explain the point of interest by radio when you pass by them. You will not be on your own, no worries!
NOTE: it is not that easy to drive this car. You should not only be able to manage manual cars, but also expect everything to be rusty. It is a lot of fun, but you got to pay attention at all times.
8. Join a free walking tour
The best thing about free walking tours is you only pay tips, and you decide how much you want to give. The tours are highly interesting because the tour guide wants you to like it, duh! Great concept!
If you liked this one and want more, I recommend for you to also try an alternative free walking tour, which is equally fun and informative! It will tell you more about the rich street art of Berlin. Without this tour you cannot fully feel Berlin in my opinion!
9. Holocaust Memorial
The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. A stone’s throw away is the place where Adolf Hitler hid during the end of World War II (WWII), which is a normal parking lot right now. There are many theories about his end, but my guide believed that Hitler could have totally escaped.
Entrance here is free of charge, but please respect the memorial. I saw some people climbing on it and even jumping. Do they even understand how disrespectful it is? Read this article on this topic.
10. Take a photo at Check Point Charlie
It was one (and the most famous) crossing point between West and East Germany back in the day. Now, it is a tourist spot that boasts of a double-tap worthy sightings. The place is even revamped to how it looked back then. Another point of interest worth visiting here is the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.
11. Indulge on some Currywurst
Ok, “wurst” is sausage is German, but how the hell a curry dish became a typical food of Berlin?
The legend says that curry-wurst was originally created by a woman in 1949 who got ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers. She mixed what she had in hands with a grilled pork sausage and voila! It easily became one of the signature fast food dishes to try in Berlin. it is great if you are traveling on budget or just don’t have much time for a proper meal.
Interestingly, there is also a Curry Wurst Museum here! I told you there is a museum for everything in Berlin, didn’t I?
12. Jump from the Park Inn Hotel
No really, I mean it. And I did it. Just don’t take it literally!
Aaand it is by far the most extreme thing I did in 2016!
Park Inn hotel is located right on Alexander Platz, one of the centers of the city. You will jump from over 125 metres!
What you will do is called base flying, it is a bit different from bungee jumping. It is a bit hard to explain, just watch this video and you will see what I am talking about!
Here is the official site where you can check current prices. You can get an official video that will record your face for 19 EUR (you get an SD card with the footage) or you can take your own GoPro and have somebody recording you from the top. As I am a blogger, I opted for both version.
By the way, you can do it in the dark too if you wish!
If you want your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/mom etc. see your jump, they are welcome on the roof too!
PRO TIP: Often tickets are sold right on the door 10 EUR cheaper than on the website. If they have some free spots left, there will be a promoter close to the entrance of Holiday Inn giving out flyers with the discounted price. But you have to decide on the spot if you are going to do this!
13. Bike your way to the corners of Berlin
When in Berlin, do what the Berliners do!
There are plenty of bike rental outlets all over the city that you can rent out for about 8 to 12 EUR a day. it is a great way to get to attractions and also feel yourself a real Berliner!
What’s more, you can get a bike tour that will show you around the best spots with a local guide!
I took The Berlin’s Best Bike Tour which I can highly recommend because in almost 4 hours of biking around with our knowledgeable guide I saw some amazing places that I haven’t seen after 1 month of staying in Berlin – we stopped by in some trendy neighborhoods, historical city center, the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and many more. All stops were accompanied by some stories about the place by the guide.
14. Go night clubbing
Berlin is well known for its crazy night life. It has some of the best clubs in the world that you will surely don’t want to miss if you are a party animal. While I am not a crazy clubber anymore, I still went to some places that were recommended by locals.
I suggest for you to try Berghain, that is the most famous Berlin club (one of the most known in Europe, too). Note that you can never be sure you will be let in; the weirder you will be dressed the better! Even that’s a bet.
Other cool things that you can check out during the day is the Yaam Beach where you can have a taste of the banana beer, dance to the beat of live concerts and DJs, and play on the riverside beach club with both basketball and volleyball courts! So fun!
15. Relax at Tiergarten park
Another thing that I love about Berlin is never runs out of parks to slumber in. Tiergarten is the biggest, which stretches for over 500 acres right in the middle of the city.
You can take nature strolls here, rent a boat, have a picnic, or just enjoy a cold German beer in a traditional beer garden. More so, the Zoo is just a stone’s throw away!
16. Visit the Botanical garden
Did I tell you that I am a huge fan of Botanical Gardens? I try to visit them in every country I go. The insanely huge Botanical Garden in Berlin is somewhere in the TOP5 of my chart, that’s for sure!
It houses over 22,000 species of plant such as giant bamboos, white water lilies, orchids, and cactus. Whether you’re a green thumb or not, walking around those endless greenhouses will surely rejoice you with the vast and refreshing flora and fauna. Not to mention fresh air!
Currently, the price is 6 EUR.
17. Check Charlottenburg Palace
Like any palace in Europe, the 300-year-old Charlottenburg Palace is located a bit outside of the city center, but still reachable by metro for only 25 minutes. Entrance is about 10 to 12 EUR, depending if you go to the New Pavilion or not.
PRO TIP: Take your student ID for a discount if you own one and ask for an audio guide, it is included in your ticket!
The entrance to the Charlottenburg Park is absolutely free and it is open until the sunset.
18. Go inside a WWII Bunker
Story of Berlin Museum was probably my favorite museum out of them all in Berlin! I mean it, pay attention to this one!
I especially liked the rooms of West Berliners and East Berliners. You can walk around the room, touch objects, see what their TV shows were like, etc. Despite the actual museum where you can learn about the 800 years history of the city in an interactive way, you also get to see a real bunker that supposedly people would use in case of nuclear strike.
There is a lot more on floor -1, the continuation is not that obvious, so don’t miss it! The -1 floor of WWII Bunker is interesting enough because it gives some of the history of WWII in details in a very interactive way.
The price is 12 EUR, which I think is well worth it for almost half a day you will spend there. Did I mention you also get to go inside a real bunker?
NOTE: The story of Berlin bunker tour runs for 30 minutes in English every 2 hours starting from 12.
Don’t confuse it with the Berlin Story Museum (the names are almost the same!!) – you will learn everything from the foundation of the city to its recent days in chronological order. I did not manage to visit, but it seemed a bit less interactive.
19. Have a coffee run in Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg is a district for all kinds of hip cafés, artsy restaurants, art galleries, parks, nightlife, bars, and hotels, among others that all walks of life can enjoy!
I also stayed in this area, and it is perhaps one of my favorites in the city!
20. Shop at a flea market
Berlin has endless amount of flea markets. One of the most popular of its kind is at Mauerpark where all sorts of vintage stuff such as clothes, shoes, bags, jewelries, furniture, bikes, vinyl records, and a lot more that both Berliners and tourists alike flock in every Sunday.
This is definitely a shopping haven! Some sort of Saint Ouen market in Paris but with Berlin chic!
21. Visit the Berlin Zoo
I heard that Berlin Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in Europe!
Pay a visit to this amazing zoo if you have time or if you’re traveling with kids; they will surely relish their time here!
Price – 14,5 EUR for adults and 7,5 for kids.
22. Visit an abandoned airport
Well, Tempelhof Feld is more like a non-operational airport in the middle of the city. Now, this area is used for all various activities starting from simple picnics and finishing with kite surfing.
Oh, you can also visit inside the airport with a tour, it still exists! If you want somebody to show you all behind the scenes secret places in the airport AND visit the largest underground bunker system in Berlin, take this tour.
Free museums in Berlin
Berlin obviously houses tons of free and interesting museums, but here are some that I highly recommend for you to visit:
- Topography of Terror – very sobering, a must visit when in Berlin.
- Jewish museum (can’t find the link sorry)– don’t confuse it to the Museum of Jewish History (more about this one below).
- German-Russian museum – I did not manage to visit as it is quite far, but I bet it is interesting, given the history of relationships between the countries.
- Allied Museum – this museum covers everything on the topic of the Cold War.
- Museum Flat WBS 70 – if you want to walk around a real 3-room apartment of an East Berliner and see how it looked like back in 1987, then this is the place to be. The apartment was left untouched during the renovation of the building to make it a museum.
For the complete list of museums, view the full list here.
Other random things to know about Berlin
- Did you know you can easily say which part of the city you are in – East or West Berlin? Just look for a traffic light around you – if it represents a funny man, you are in the East side! Check out this website to see more about it.
- You can get some of your money back for your plastic/glass bottles in any kiosk or supermarket. It is generally about 25 cents per bottle. Just ask at the cash register. There are special machines in big supermarkets that automatically take your bottles.
- Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz is pretty cool too if you are looking for unusual architecture.
Things to do a bit outside of Berlin
- Sanssouci Palace – Schloss Sansoucci, also known as Sansoucci Palace, was built back in the dates of German kings and queens. With its fountains and nicely arranged gardens, it might remind you of Versailles a bit (and Peterhof in Saint Petersburg). It is located in Potsdam and can worth a day trip if you have some time left!
- Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial – one of the first Nazi concentration camps in Germany to see all the horrors of the regime. I have been to Auschwitz, and I will never forget it. You can also take a guided tour which includes a transfer from Berlin.
If you have more time
- Museum of Jewish history – pretty cool museum if you are interested to know more about Jewsish history in the area
- Climb up the Victory Column for an epic view of the city, price – 3 EUR
- River cruise – enjoy a relaxing boat cruise on rivers Spree and Havel admiring the attraction from a different angle
- AquaDom – the largest fish tank in the world – one million liters of water, hosts more than 2500 fish of over 50 different species. You can take an elevator inside the water tank. Recommended especially if you are traveling with kids
- Kayaking in the Spree river – explore Berlin and get some great exercise along the way
PRO TIP: Take a look at Berlin Welcome Card – for the price of 19,90 EUR it gives you 2 days of using public transport for free (airport included) and discounts of up to 50% to over 200 attractions.
It’s best if you get the visitor’s card, it will give you transportation and tons of discounted museums.
When to visit?
I have been in Berlin twice. The first one was in the beginning of October; it was cold. And the second one was in the beginning of September; the weather was fabulous! There’s a drastic difference, so you better check both the weather and the temperature before packing your stuff. Pro tip: get warm clothes, it is windy!
I have also heard it is amazing to visit during the cherry blossom season around April to early May when all the gardens wear all shades of pink.
Where to stay in Berlin
Here are some hand-picked accommodations all located in the center, close to the metro and with fabulous reviews. Check them out and see which one is perfect for you!
Luxury (US$ 240 and up): Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is a great 5-star hotel situated right in the city center, half a kilometer from Sony Center. This hotel has all the facilities you may ever need, including a TV with satellite channels, DVD player, bathrobes etc. Berlin Marriott Hotel is another great choice for you luxury stay in Berlin. This hotel is a 10-minute walk from Brandenburg Gate and it offers awesome room, fitness center, mahogany furnishings and more!
Middle (US$ 120 to US$ 240): Meliá Berlin is one of the greatest middle-priced hotels out there. Every room includes a flat-screen TV and some of them even have an awesome view of the river or city! Steigenberger Hotel am Kanzleramt is located only half a kilometer away from the Brandenburg Gate. You should also know that Berlin Main Station is right next to the hotel – how convenient!
Budget (US$ 62 to US$ 120): If you’re looking for a great budget hotel, then The Circus Hostel is a great choice. Located right in the city center, this hostel is very friendly and it also offers bike rental facilities! Another good choice is Select Hotel Berlin The Wall. Situated half a kilometer from Sony Center , Select Hotel offers great facilities and even a 24-hour front desk!
Any German will tell you that Berlin is not Germany and vice versa. Above all, Berlin feels sometimes poor compared to other parts of Germany, but sexy. It keeps a tale of two cities, the East and West Berlin. It has a strong avangardist vibe. It is full of free spirited people. There is a lot of respect in Berlin for people. There is also a lot of beer.
The city is constantly changing and evolving, it doesn’t let anything keep it back. I will for sure return, and I wish you have to have a great visit. Of course you can ask me anything, in the comment section below!
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