I visited Berlin for the first time a couple of years ago. I was there for a trade show and, unfortunately, didn’t get to see nearly as much as I would have liked. But I did stay in an AirBnB room (giving me a flavor of what it might be like to live there) and walked to the trade show each day so I got to discover the city by foot. In my off time, I visited with friends and explored some restaurants and shops.
If you find yourself with some time for this metropolis, here are some things to do in Berlin.
Also check out: Driving Tips for Germany | German Food | Castles in Germany
No doubt the most famous landmark of Berlin, the Wall is located in the center of the city, dividing the east from the west, and is a standing monument of Berlin’s turbulent past.
For a lesson on the wall’s history, visit Checkpoint Charlie, the east-west border control during the Cold War and now a tourist center. The Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse in the north offers free film showings of the construction of the wall and provides a glimpse of the “death strip” at the back of a view tower. Also very interesting to see is the 1.3 kilometer long section of the original wall on the eastern side, known as the East Side Gallery, which is now the longest open air gallery in the world, featuring more than 100 paintings.
Known as Brandenburger Tor in German, this 300-year old Berlin icon next to the Berlin wall is one of the city’s most important landmarks. And rightly so, as it has been a symbol of war and peace during different periods in the country’s political history. It is best to see it at night when it is illuminated and there are fewer people.
Originally built as an art school in the early 1900s, it is now a documentation center with exhibition spaces. It houses an interesting permanent exhibition of original artifacts such as furniture, sculpture, ceramics and photographs from the Bauhaus Workshop of the 1920s. Have a quick snack at the cafeteria and view the Villa von der Heydt while eating. The restored neo-Renaissance villa, now the residence of the President of the Foundation for Prussian Culture, is a remarkable example of the West Berlin town villas of the 19th century.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Museum Island lies in the middle of the Spree and, as the name implies, has museums (five in fact), which are among Berlin’s best. Most of the displays are significant historical artifacts or recreations of them, such as ancient Babylon’s Ishtar gate at the Pergamon Museum, Egyptian queen Nefertiti’s bust at the Neues Museum and a mounted dinosaur skeleton considered the largest in the world at Berlin’s Museum of Natural History.
This is the best place to go if you’re up for a relaxing, romantic stroll under the German sun. See and feel how the Prussian royals lived at this charming palace and baroque garden, named after Queen Sophie-Charlotte, for whom the place was built.
The imposing glass dome of the Reichstag Building is open for the public to view the German Parliament in action. It also offers a great vantage point for breathtaking views of the city. Admission is free but it is advisable to make an advance reservation when visiting, or, better yet, book a table at the restaurant at the roof garden to avoid the long lines.
The historic Markthalle in Kreuzberg is a great way to taste the cuisine and experience the local culture. Visit on Thursday evenings during the Street Food market and on Sundays when there are usually special markets featuring local crafts or sweets.
Fernsehturm (TV tower)
The Fernsehturm, or Berlin’s TV tower, is the tallest structure in Germany and the fourth tallest free-standing structure in Europe. It provides awesome views of Berlin from its observation deck. You can also have a 360 panorama experience of Berlin at its revolving restaurant. This is a very popular tourist destination so make sure to book your ticket in advance.
Enjoy a beer
When in Germany…you’ve got to have beer! There are many interesting small places offering home-brewed beers.
October, during the Festival of Lights (and of course when the beer festival is), is a great time to visit as Berlin’s main landmarks are all decorated with colorful lights, adding a magical feel to the grandiose buildings.
Photo credits: East Side Gallery: Rae Allen via Flickr
Berlin Wall East Side Gallery: Paul VanDerWerf via Flickr
Brandenburg Gate: Stacey Cavanagh via Flickr
Museum Island: Ted and Jen via Flickr
Reichstag Dome: Oh-Berlin.com via Flickr
Fernsehturm: Filip Maljkovi via Flickr