Guten Morgen fellow travelers! So you’ve decided to give the capital of Germany a visit – the star city of the Cold War, where the east meets the west, the home of the currywurst and Berliner Weisse, originator of the hard-core trance party scene deep into the morning hours – BERLIN!
Stereotypes aside, Berlin is a city full of history, art, and culture, it has been on my bucket list for a while, and I just got a chance to visit last month.
13 Things to Do and See in Berlin
If you’re interested in history, you have things like the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Holocaust Memorial. You have the Museum Island or the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to taste the arts.
And no visit to Berlin would be complete without experiencing its “lit” nightlife. So whether you’re looking for a trendy cocktail bar or a lively nightclub, you’ll find everything in Berlin. But here’s my shortlist of must-do things to do in Berlin!
1. Eat Currywurst
One of the top things to do in Berlin is eaten currywurst. Currywurst is a sausage grilled and then covered in ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder. It’s a delicious and easy snack you can find almost anywhere in the city. Just ensure you get it from a reputable source – some bad currywurst vendors are out there!
2. Drink Berliner Weisse
The gist is this: Berliner Weisse is a super popular northern sour beer of about 5% alcohol content, usually served with a raspberry or other syrups. This is why it looks green or pink or different colors when served. The only thing I can say is that it is refreshing and iconic. I personally think it’s gross, but hey… when in Berlin!
FYI: If sausage and beer are your cups of tea, consider a mini trip to the Czech Republic afterward. It’s a 5-hour train journey from Berlin to Prague, and I can get you started with a few of my favorite hidden gems in the city!
3. Do Berlin by Boat
One of my favorite ways to explore a city is through a guided tour, and a boat adventure down the Spree River checks the box for this. These tours usually take about 1.5 hours and are full of facts and context about history and culture of the city.
DID YOU KNOW: There are unexploded bombs still being discovered today from WWII in the city and the river, so if you see a town block being shut down, this is why. Not even joking!
4. Take a Picture with the Ampelmann
Ok, so the cutest little crosswalk symbol will greet you in Berlin and most of eastern Germany, and his name is Amplemann. When Berlin reunited after 1989, most East Berlin culture and signs of communism were erased, except one! The east Berliners fought for the little traffic light symbol, which now has become a representation of the days of communism.
5. Date Night at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the more cultural things to do in Berlin. The history of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1882 when a group of musicians led by Hans von Bülow decided to form their own orchestra and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most musically accomplished orchestras in Europe.
The orchestra has played an important role in the development of classical music and has premiered works by composers such as Brahms, Wagner, and Mahler. It has also been at the forefront of innovative concert programming, commissioning new works, and presenting cutting-edge productions.
Today, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most respected orchestras in the world, and its concerts are not to be missed. So bring a cute dress and make it a date night. This is definitely a fancy event!
6. Go Up to the TV Tower
The Berlin TV Tower is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. One of the tallest buildings in Germany, it offers stunning views of Berlin and the surrounding area. There is also a revolving restaurant, allowing diners to experience Berlin from above. In addition to its spectacular views, the Berlin TV Tower is also home to several interesting exhibits. These include a history of the tower and a display on the science of television.
FUN FACT: The tower is technically located in East Berlin and used to represent a technological middle finger to west Berlin to the effect of, “Look, we’re advanced in the East too!”
7. Visit Museum Island
I started my adventure in Berlin at Museum Island. This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to five world-class museums, all of which are dedicated to different aspects of art and history.
The Altes Museum houses an extensive collection of Greek and Roman artifacts, while the Neues Museum boasts an impressive Egyptian collection that includes the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti. The Alte Nationalgalerie is a must-see for lovers of 19th-century art, and the Bode Museum is a treasure trove of Byzantine and Renaissance artifacts.
And last but not least, the Pergamon Museum houses one of the most impressive collections of ancient architecture in the world. Whether you’re interested in art, history, or archaeology, Museum Island is a must-visit destination.
8. The Pergamon Museum
If I was to pick one museum to go to, it would be the Pergamon Museum. Located in the historic Museum Island, the museum houses an extensive collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the Pergamon Altar, a massive temple complex that was initially built in the 2nd century BC. However, the museum also features several other impressive exhibits, including the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market Gate of Miletus.
Did you know? There is huge controversy around this museum and how the artifacts were stolen by the Nazis during WWII and never returned.
9. The Brandenberg Gate
The Brandenberg Gate is one of the most iconic landmarks in Berlin, the oldest surviving gate into the city, and a symbol of the division of east vs. west Berlin. The gate is located in the heart of Berlin, it’s easy to get to by public transportation, and you can’t miss it.
Once there, you can take a walk through the gate and get a great view of the surrounding area. There are also plenty of things to do, including visiting the nearby Holocaust Memorial. Just be sure to visit during the day to get the best views.
Did you know? The hotel across the Brandenberg Gate was where Michael Jackson iconically hung his baby out of the balcony!
10. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial)
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, consists of a grid of 2,711 concrete slabs, each slightly different in height. The memorial is located in the heart of the city, near things like the Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island.
As you can imagine, it’s a very somber place, and you can’t help but feel the weight of history when you’re there. But it’s also an important reminder of the horrors of the past and a powerful tribute to those who lost their lives.
Did you know? When it debuted, there was not a lot of explanation or definition behind the various aspects of its construction. In doing this, the Germans are not telling the world how to think about the Holocaust. Instead, you get to decide and discuss what it means for yourself.
11. The East Side Gallery
Put the East Side Gallery high on your list of things to do in Berlin. The gallery is a 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been transformed into an open-air art gallery. It features 101 murals from artists all over the world, making it one of the most extensive outdoor galleries.
The gallery is free to visit and is a great way to see some incredible art while learning about Berlin’s history. Plus, it’s right next to the Spree river, so you can make a day of it and walk along the water after you’re exploring the gallery.
12. Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. It was named after the letter “C” in the NATO phonetic alphabet. Checkpoint Charlie became yet another symbol of the Cold War, a place where WW3 almost started.
Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin. Visitors can view the original guardhouse, which has been turned into a museum, and learn about the history of the Berlin Wall and the people who tried to escape from East to West.
13. Take a Day Trip to Sanssouci
There are tons of things to do in Berlin, but one of the best day trips from the city is to the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, only a 30 min train ride south of Berlin. Sanssouci is an 18th-century palace that was the summer residence of Frederick the Great.
The palace is set in a large park, and it’s easy to spend a whole day exploring the grounds. There are gardens, fountains, and sculptures, as well as a cafe and museum. Sanssouci is a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of Berlin.
FYI: The further south you go from Berlin, the more French and Italian influences you’ll see in the architecture. And if this inspires your travel bug, perhaps a little comparison between the Amalfi Coast or Sicily is the next best thing to look into!? Alora!
Things to Do in Berlin: Tips on What to Avoid
When visiting, you should avoid a few things to have the best possible experience while making your way through these things to do in Berlin.
1. Try to avoid staying in the city center
While it may be more convenient, the prices for hotels and restaurants are significantly higher than in other parts of the city. I booked a private room in a hostel and made a week wandering around the city!
3. Don’t spend all your time in museums
There is so much more to see and do in Berlin! Take some time to explore the city, walk along the river, or just people-watch in one of the many parks.
4. Choose Your Nightlife Neighborhoods Wisely
Berlin is known for its nightlife, but tourists should be aware that many of the city’s bars and clubs are located in areas that could be unsafe after dark. Keep your wits about you, avoid overdoing it on the beer, and you should be fine!
Where to Next?
Berlin has a solid international airport, and since we’re already north, my two recommendations would be:
- Scotland: There are 2-hour direct flights from Berlin to Edinburgh for about $60 every day, and I have got a 3-Day Itinerary for you – full of highlands, history, Harry Potter, and Scottish cows!
- Norway: A different 2-hour direct flight from Berlin, this time to Bergen, for about $50, will take you into the land of fjords and Vikings. This would be a road trip adventure, and after the city life of the famous German capitol, a 7-Day Adventure through fjords and beautiful nature will be most welcome!