Things To Do In Berlin
With its complex and fascinating recent history, a thriving 21st economy and unabashedly diverse culture scenes, Berlin is a city every traveller can feel at home in. Let CityXplora help you discover a brilliant selection of things to do in the German capital.
Below you'll find a wide selection of popular activity ideas. Why not take a walk along the remains of the Berlin Wall, ascend the Fernsehturm Television Tower, and explore the wonders of Museum Island in the Mitte district. We've sourced some of our recommendations from a wonderful bunch of travel experts and long-time residents.
1) Berlin City Tour:
At CityXplora we believe that however much you want to do during your trip, you can't go wrong with a bit of sightseeing. The best bit about a hop-on hop-off tour is that you have the freedom to tailor your own itinerary from the comfort and convenience of an open-top deck.
The Berlin City Tour is the capital's definitive self-guided sightseeing experience, and it is divided into three parts: the Traditional Tour, the Wall and Lifestyle Tour, and the Westend Tour (April-October only). Each tour offers a different perspective on Berlin as well as a wealth of different things to see and do.
Join the Classic Tour and see all of the city's most iconic highlights. As you pass landmarks such as Brandenburg Gate and the Berliner Dom you'll also have the opportunity to hop-off at the famous Museum Island in the central Mitte district. Here's where you'll find the classic Altes Museum in addition to the astounding Pergamon Museum and Bode Museum.
Close to Checkpoint Charlie (stop 5) we'd highly recommend a visit to the 'Topography of Terror', an exhibition centre that documents Nazi atrocities during WWII. Other interesting places within walking distance of stop 5 are the Jewish Museum and the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition centre for arts and culture.
The Wall and Lifestyle Tour focuses on Berlin's key cultural and recent historical sites. Visit the Berlin Wall Memorial and see the fascinating murals that adorn the East Side Gallery. Hop-off at stop 5 for the Berliner Unterwelten, a museum featuring guided tours which explore the tunnels beneath the city, their history, and especially those that served as bunkers during the defence of Berlin towards the end of WWII. By getting off at stop 5 you can also take a stroll through Mauer Park, which hosts a sprawling flea market on Sundays.
The Westend Tour takes the most scenic and diverse route through Berlin's old Westend. Its highlight location is the Olympic Stadium, with its distinctive Glockenturm (Bell Tower). Stop off at the stadium (stops 4 or 3) and join one of the building's regular guided tours. For the best panoramic views in this area of the city disembark at the old Funkturm Television Tower, whose observation deck rises 126-metres above the cityscape.
2) Berlin Wall Memorial:
The Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstrasse was suggested by travel writer Ali Garland (@AliAdventures7), an American expatriate currently living in Berlin. This homage to the capital's recent history was revamped during 2014's 25th anniversary celebrations, which in case you're unaware marked a quarter century since the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
It's now been arranged into a fascinating open-air exhibition that stretches from the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Visitor Centre along the intersection between Gartenstraße and Bernauerstrasse), to the lower end of Mauerpark. Start yourself off at the Visitor Centre, where you can view a short introductory film on the history of the wall, then continue onto the new Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Centre). Here you'll be able to enjoy a fascinating exhibition entitled: "1961 | 1989. The Berlin Wall". As you stroll between the Visitor and Documentation Centre you'll see on the opposite side of the street a fantastically well preserved portion of the original wall itself. This area of the memorial is termed as the 'Death Strip', a monument intended to serve as a permanent reminder of the harrowing oppression that Berlin faced barely 3 decades ago.
Leading on from the Death Strip the memorial is split into three more sections. Area B, 'The Destruction of the City', relates the social cost of the wall and stories from people who made attempts to escape East Berlin. It's also where you'll find the Kapelle der Versöhnung (Chapel of Reconciliation), a symbolic structure that stood deserted between the no man's land for decades. Area C, 'Building The Wall', delves into two themes. On one hand it charts the wall's physical construction, but then also the ensuing surveillance of citizens in the border area and the people who carried it out. Area D, 'Everyday Life at the Wall', tells individual human stories whilst also providing insights into the politics and propaganda of both East and West Berlin.
Check out this link to the Berlin Wall Memorial site to learn more about everything there is to see at Bernauerstrasse. Once you're satisfied with your exploration of the memorial grounds either take a walk through Mauerpark, or catch the next tour bus and move onto the next location.
3) East Side Gallery:
This iconic landmark was suggested by German travel blogger Clemens Sehi via Twitter (@anekdotique). Think of it as a free-to-access, 1.3 km long art gallery, one that you won't be chastised for bringing the camera along to. If you choose to arrive via the City Tour then note that while stop 10 is the official hop-off point, stop 11 next to Stralauer Platz is a better point from which to walk the full length of the gallery. Keep an eye out for the famous "Fraternal Kiss", and the Trabant Car smashing through from East Berlin.
4) Café-Bar Datscha:
Complying with the theme of the East Side Gallery, I'd recommend pitching up for a spot of lunch at Café-Bar Datscha (Gabriel-Max-Straße 1, 10245 Berlin). This eatery specialises in traditional Russian cuisine and its lunch menu integrates a huge selection of seasonal ingredients. In a way, Datscha's flavours offer the perfect cultural contrast between what was once the East/West German border, and its interior décor sports all the quirkiness you'd expect from such an establishment. Check out their own site and take a look for yourself.
Berlin's famous Museum Island in the middle of the River Spree is a place that you could easily spend two days or more exploring. You've got the Altes Museum (centred around the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome), the Neues Museum (focused on Ancient Egyptian art and prehistoric cultures), the Bode-Museum (Byzantine Art), the Alte Nationalgalerie, and my personal favourite, the Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon houses one of the world's largest collections of ancient Middle Eastern and Islamic Art. You'll see a gigantic recreation of Babylon's Ishtar Gate, the equally large Pergamon Altar, and thousands of original works by various Islamic cultures.
6) Hotel Adlon Kempinski:
For a sophisticated dining experience take a leaf from the book of travel blogger Sophie (@SophieR). She got in touch via Twitter and suggested one of the restaurants at the 5-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski. Situated next to the Brandenburg Gate and with a lavish, classical interior it looks the perfect place to spend an indulgent evening right in the heart of the capital. Excluding the Lobby Lounge Bar there's three restaurants in total: the Sra Bua by Tim Raue, the Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer and the Restaurant Quarré. If you're up for spending a fair bit on fine dining then have a look through their menus.
7) Club Watergate:
It's difficult to provide post-dinner/nightlife recommendations, but various locals on Twitter did suggest checking out one of Berlin's popular techno clubs. I was told about a specific venue, Club Watergate, by travel blogger Drew (@Drewbinsky7). Having read the reviews myself it seems a good one to try, if slightly difficult to get into due to a rather arbitrary set of admission rules. They don't seem to like formal ware, so if that's your thing I'd seek out somewhere else or change into something more casual. Here's a list of recommendations from a local travel professional that I'd trust - Travels of Adam.
8) Café Einstein Stammhaus:
Rising early to see the sites? Start your day by digging into a traditional German breakfast at the Café Einstein Stammhaus (Kurfürstenstraße 58, 10785 Berlin). I chose this place for two reasons. The first and most obvious one has to do with the café itself. The building is delightfully rustic, choked full of history (supposedly once linked to Joseph Goebbels and the SS), and has great reviews as well as fair prices. Learn more about the venue and its intriguing story. The second reason I chose Café Einstein was its proximity to recommendation 9.
9) Third Reich Tour:
A Third Reich Tour with 'Insider Tour Berlin' was suggested to me by travel writer and all-round adventure seeker Amanda Williams via Twitter (@DangerousBiz). There's a few things I love about this one: first is the price, the tour lasts four hours and adult admission is only 12.00 Euros; second is its professionalism, their guides have advised National Geographic; and third is its booking policy, there is none!
Once you leave Café Einstein walk west down Kurfürstenstrasse and Budapester Strasse until you reach the McDonalds opposite the main entrance to the Zoologischer Garten Train Station. At 10:00 on Sundays you simply have to show up with a handful of cash and an awaiting guide will take you on a journey back to the final years of World War 2. Visit the bombed-out ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, see T-34 Tanks and artillery pieces at the Soviet Memorial, and stand at the spot outside the Führer Bunker were Hitler's remains were burned. Find out more over at their own site.
10) Balkçi Ergun:
Berlin has a very well established Turkish diaspora, so I'd be tempted to try out this place that was featured on Spotted By Locals: Balkçi Ergun (Lüneburger Straße 382, 10557 Berlin). It's a well reviewed Turkish fish restaurant tucked away beneath an S-Bahn bridge. If you happen to be sightseeing anywhere near the Victory Column then reaching it is a simple matter of crossing the Luther Bridge.
11) Kaufhaus des Westens:
For souvenir shopping I'd save myself wrangling over prices and quality in small trinket shops and just head to the Kaufhaus des Westens, Europe's largest department store. Not only will you find a larger variety of goods on offer but your shopping trip will also double up as a fun sightseeing venture. For souvenirs you'll want to browse KaDeWe's 5th floor, and if you have enough cash and feel like treating yourself then you can find high-class accessories on the ground floor's 'Luxury Boulevard'.
12) Deutsches Technikmuseum:
From pharmaceuticals and aerospace to transport and filmmaking, experience the full scope of German engineering with a trip to the Deutsches Technikmuseum. It's open most days of the year from 10:00 to 18:00. See the museum's permanent exhibitions here.
Wind down after a long days sightseeing with a visit to one of Berlin's atmospheric beer gardens. The one I'd recommend would be Schleusenkrug, a green and relaxing place located on the western end of Tiergarten Park. Here you can enjoy a fine Bavarian brew next to the Landwehr Canal and its surround canopy of trees. Another thing I like about this place is that during the Spring and Summer months there's no rush to drink up after sunset, with the bar being open until 23:00.