Berlin is an absolutely amazing city! Out of all of the places I have lived, this city is one of my favorites; I created memories there that will last a life time. Now, while there are loads of things to do in Berlin for just about everyone, this post is geared toward those who are visiting this amazing city for the first time. I want to ensure you hit all of the most important spots! I will focus on all the must-see attractions you can visit on a short stay, but don’t worry – there will be plenty more posts in the future that will cover Berlin’s most exciting hot-spots and the incredible bar/club scene in full detail. Trust me, you’ll need more than a couple of days to get through the many music venues and bars this city has to offer!
A friendly tip: If you want to explore Berlin in style, grab a Berliner Pilsner to accompany you along the way. Yes, that’s right – drinking on the open streets of Berlin is allowed. In fact, it’s allowed in most parts of Germany. This is widely accepted and I promise you, no one will stare you down thinking you’re an alcoholic. This is the norm in Beer-country!
What To Do in Berlin:
1). Branderburger Gate
The Brandenburger Tor is a neoclassical monument dating back to the 18th century. This is of course a major tourist attraction, but capturing a quick selfie or a nice portrait in front of it is definitely a must. This will act as the ultimate proof you did in fact visit Berlin – no one would believe you’ve visited this bustling city without visiting one of Germany’s most famous landmarks. Oh and, have I mentioned you can actually walk underneath it?
2). The Berlin Wall
The iconic Berlin wall may have fallen in 1989 but there are still original bits erected throughout the city. The most famous and longest stretch can be found at the East Side Gallery. What was once the symbol of a separated nation was turned into a symbol of hope, peace and joy by various artists who painted the grey wall with mesmerizing murals. While some depict the pain felt by the population at the time, and the political environment it found itself in, most of the murals aim to embrace a bright future, rather than Berlin’s bleak past. Parts of the wall are not the only remnants of history in the city: you can still find old guard towers, wires, and other bits of the wall throughout Berlin. It is a special place to visit.
3). Potsdamer Platz
The Potsdamer Platz is a public square in the center of Berlin, and home to the famous Sony Center, a complex with an impressive glass roof that lights up at night. If you’re on the celebrity-hunt or want to experience the real red-carpet-glamour of famous movie premiers, this is where it’s all happening. The cinema here is absolutely amazing, but I advise you to book your ticket and your seat online in advance, seeing as seats are assigned here. There are a lot of modern bars and restaurants around and the fancy shopping center is always worth a visit. If you want to try your luck at the casino in the hopes of being able to splurge on some VIP treatment in Berlin’s famous clubs with your winnings, you can hit the Spiel Bank casino which offers a range of standard table games, a poker room and slots.
4). Museum Island
Located on the Spree River, this island boasts an extraordinary ensemble of five world renowned museums: Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Musum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum. During the spring and summer months, the Museum Island is also home to some of the best flea-markets in the city.
This historical edifice is the seat of the German Parliament. If you’re looking for things to do in Berlin this is a great place to just sit in soak up the sun and take in the city. If you’re planning on strolling around the Reichstag, plan your visit in advance to ensure you get a few solid hours booked for the full experience. And be prepared to walk. A lot! The glass dome at the top is actually a 360 degree observatory with a view over Berlin – absolutely stunning!
Ah, another iconic symbol of Berlin – the TV tower. While it may not look like much from the outside I highly recommend booking a trip or queuing up to visit the top of the tower. Berlin may be a big city but it is generally pretty flat which allows for fascinating views from the top of the tower. There is a nice little bar at the top, it’s nothing fancy but hey, there’s always time for a Pilsner and with this breath-taking view it’ll taste even better!
6). The Jewish Memorial
The Holocaust memorial is marked with over 2,711 concrete structures on a sloping field, and an underground museum. I won’t lie – it is a somber experience but one that everyone should visit at least once in their life time.
7). Olimpic Stadium
This is the original sports stadium built for the 1936 Olympics. These days it is the home field for Hertha BSC Berlin and also acts as a venue for a variety of events.
8). Checkpoint Charlie
I am sure most of you have seen the historic photograph of a solider moving across Checkpoint Charlie, which has now become a popular tourist attraction. A lot of its history remains intact and the feeling you will get freely walking from Berlin East to West is rather unique. This is a great place to take photos!
9). Tiergarten Berlin Zoo
Berlin’s Tiergarten is similar to New York’s Central Park: a vast green space in the middle of the city. You should also visit the zoo here, the oldest zoo in Germany with over 20,500 animals. The way the zoo is set up allows you to get up close and personal with a lot of its attractions.
To me, the Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most beautiful places in Germany. This is where you will find the French cathedral, the German cathedral and the impressive concert house.
11). Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
The Italian Renaissance style, royal court church is on triple duty: it is a place of worship, a museum and a concert hall, all in-one.
12). Charlottenburg Palace
You will find beautiful castles all over Germany, but the royal palace of Charlottenburg is truly one of a kind.
If you have a little extra time or want to do something a bit different during your first visit, here are a few more things to do in Berlin:
• Karaoke at the Mauer Park
Thousands of people visit the Mauer Park every Sunday to enjoy the performances of various artists and musicians. This is a unique way to put your Karaoke skills to the test in front of a bunch of random strangers.
• Gorlitzer Park
During the day, this park will give you great insight into Berlin’s underground scene. However, I wouldn’t advise you to wander around here at night as it is generally overrun with drug dealers, but if you’re with a friend or a group you will be fine.
• Victoria Park
It’s a bit of a hike to get to the top of this park but it’s worth it – the view is fantastic! The park’s waterfall makes this an idyllic place for a picnic or a relaxing afternoon in the city.
• Berlin Unterwelten
No, this is not the underground, but rather a series of tunnels, bunkers, and other WW2 remnants. A tour is highly recommended, that way you’ll learn all there is to know about Berlin’s secret underworld.
• Templehof Airport
I love airports, especially airports where you can have a BBQ on the runway. That’s right! Templehof airport may no longer be in service, but it has been converted in to an open park. The terminal buildings are used for parties and events, and yeah, there is even a night club! Visit the Templehof Airport by bike and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to cruise along the tarmac for a smooth ride.
• Berlin Operating Base
Featured in numerous music videos and movies this is an abandoned military base once used by the CIA. While not all parts are open to the public, you can easily wander around and climb up some of the old buildings. This is a brilliant spot for awesome views and photographs. This is a really cool place that has a particular feel to it and will definitely leave a long lasting impression.
• Graffiti near Warschauer Strasse
Take a walk down to the bridge near Warchauer Strasse and you will find one of the largest remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, which is now decorated by different artists with graffiti paintings.