Berlin is one of my all-time favorite cities. Having suffered a turbulent history, it has risen from the ashes to become a hip, vibrant, and multicultural metropolis – while still retaining the laid-back feel of a smaller town.
Places that spend time under the boot of suppression develop a bottled-up point to prove. They will explode into a kaleidoscope of life and color when tyranny is lifted, and Berlin is the best possible example of that.
Once all but raised to the ground at the end of World War II, the German capital spent many years divided over a power struggle between East and West during the Cold War era. It wasn’t until its unification and the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall in 1989 that things started to improve.
Today, it’s a global leader when it comes to art, culture, industry, science, dining, events, and entertainment. It boasts the best nightlife in Europe (arguably the world), iconic landmarks at every turn, a buzzing, youthful community, and the finest shopping experience this side of…well…Berlin.
Pretty much everyone is multilingual and friendly to a fault. Beautiful parks and gardens are abundant. You are welcome here no matter your gender or sexuality. And the city comes alive in the summer months when it seems that nobody stays inside.
Writing an article on the best things to do in Berlin has been both a blessing and a curse. There are over 170 museums, for goodness’ sake! But it’s been a joy to revisit, even if it is only in spirit this time. It has brought back a lot of memories of heady summer days jumping around hostels, mingling with locals, and living like there was no tomorrow in the coolest capital in the world.
Be right back, I’m away to book a flight to Berlin.
Visit one of the most notorious concentration camps in Nazi Germany on this guided tour from Berlin. Sachsenhausen was one of the first camps established by the Third Reich and was used as a model for future camps. Hear chilling tales of the atrocities that took place there, as well as stories of prisoner bravery. Explore the camp with an expert historian as your guide, visiting sites such as the punishment cells and gas chambers.
Experience Berlin's rich history on this half-day walking tour through the city's Mitte district. Visit landmarks from the city's Prussian, Imperial, Nazi, and Cold War eras. Learn about Berlin's evolution from a fascinating guided tour. Walk along the Berlin Wall and down Unter den Linden. Witness first-hand the city's modern urbanization at Potsdamer Platz and Friedrichstrasse. This half-day walking tour is the perfect way to discover Berlin's past and present.
See the sights of Berlin at your leisure with this convenient hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour. With live commentary from your guide, you'll learn all about the city's history and culture as you visit famous landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz, and Potsdamer Platz. You'll also get a chance to explore some of Berlin's lesser-known gems, making this an ideal way to see the best of what the city has to offer.
- Most significant landmark – Brandenburg Gate
- Best park – Tiergarten
- Best free activity – East Side Gallery
- Best activity for kids – Berlin Zoo
- Best activity for adults – Museum Island
- Best food – Currywurst
- Best nightlife – Warschauer Strasse
- Best all-around accommodation – Michelberger Hotel
Things to Do in Berlin, Germany
1. Brandenburg Gate & Pariser Platz
Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany
The ultimate icon of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is the most famous of all German landmarks. Built between 1788 and 1791 on the site of a former city gate, it’s a neoclassical monument that was commissioned by Prussian King Frederick William II. It faces Pariser Platz, one of Berlin’s most popular and attractive public squares.
Whenever I visit Berlin, this is my first port of call. Centrally located, the Brandenburg Gate is an ideal starting point for city sightseeing. The Tiergarten lies through the gate to the west.
The Reichstag is a block to the north. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is to the south. And many of the best Berlin tourist attractions are to be found as you explore the east.
If those 12 Doric columns could talk, they’d describe a bloody and tempestuous history. But you can have a knowledgeable guide do it for you instead.
One of the best ways to experience the Brandenburg Gate is by joining a Berlin walking tour. Here you can learn all about the role of the gate as a symbol of both division and unity throughout its centuries-old existence.
For local accommodation, the five-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski is in a truly commanding position for Berlin sightseeing. Located right beside the Brandenburg Gate, they even have a shopping arcade and Michelin-starred restaurant on site. Alternatively, you can check out this article for more of the best areas to stay in Berlin.
2. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Address: Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany,
Situated a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate is one of the most significant monuments in the world. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a stark and sobering reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. I hesitate to use the words “tourist attraction,” but it is one of the most important sites to see in Berlin.
Otherwise known as the Holocaust Memorial, it was built to commemorate the six million Jews murdered during Europe’s darkest chapter. The monument contains 2,711 concrete slabs (stelae) arranged over an undulating surface. The installation is open to individual interpretation, but it reflects an “otherwise ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”
Although only a block to the north, the laughter and smiles of the Pariser Platz will seem a million miles away. Underneath the memorial, you’ll find a powerful and informative exhibition on the persecution and extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust. The museum and the field of stelae are free to enter, and the latter is open 24 hours.
The Holocaust Memorial is a must-see Berlin landmark and should be visited by everyone at least once. But I highly recommend you visit the Tiergarten afterward, both as a chance to reflect and to clear the air. This is certainly not one of the most fun things to do in Berlin, but it is perhaps the most vital.
3. Großer Tiergarten
Address: Str. des 17. Juni, 10785 Berlin, Germany
The Großer Tiergarten is the largest, oldest, and most popular park in Berlin. This is where locals and tourists come to chill out, take stock, and rejuvenate. There are wide open green spaces, secluded streams and ponds, tree-lined paths to explore on foot or by bike, open-air cafes, nude sunbathing (yes, really), and plenty of points of interest to discover as you roam its 520 acres.
Founded as a hunting area back in 1527, it has experienced a storied history. Expended in the 17th century, damaged in the Second World War, and restored and rebuilt extensively following unification.
The Tiergarten has seen its fair share of trials and tribulations. Today, it’s a haven of relaxation.
The Tiergarten contains several interesting side quests. You’ll find the Bellevue Palace here – the official residence of the German President.
The Victory Column is in the center of one of the most impressive traffic circles you’ll ever see. And there are several other significant monuments scattered throughout, including the Soviet War Memorial, and the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism.
Spread over such as large area, you’re going to be spoiled for choice when looking for accommodation around the Tiergarten. Try the Berlin Marriott Hotel which is located at the southwest corner. But the elegant SO/Berlin Das Stue is arguably the closest to feeling like you’re staying within the park itself.
4. The Reichstag Building
Address: Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin, Germany
As far as historic political buildings go, there aren’t many as iconic as the Reichstag. Constructed in 1894, it was infamously destroyed by fire in 1933, and battered by the Red Army during the Battle of Berlin.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Partially restored in the 1960s, it wasn’t until the unification of East and West Germany that it had a complete renovation.
Located in the city center, right next to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag is the second most visited attraction in Berlin. Since renovations were completed in 1999 it has served the German parliament building. A towering symbol of democracy, it is perhaps the modern glass dome that sits atop which provides the real tourist draw.
Built on the site of the original cupola, the dome offers visitors a 360-degree view of Berlin’s skyline. There’s a dazzling mirrored cone that directs light into the building, while the accompanying roof terrace is also a popular spot. And there’s even a fine-dining restaurant if you’re looking for a unique and memorable place to eat.
Admission to the dome and roof terrace is free, but you do need to book online in advance. But why not book a Reichstag tour instead? That way you can enjoy skip-the-line tickets and learn about the history of the building from a knowledgeable guide.
5. The East Side Gallery
Address: Mühlenstraße 3-100, 10243 Berlin, Germany,
One of the most common questions tourists ask when visiting Berlin is “where is the Berlin Wall?” But since its fall on November 9th, 1989, most of it has been destroyed. Only a few sections remain, and the largest of these has been turned into one of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions.
The East Side Gallery is an open-air art exhibition and memorial. Created by a group of international artists in the months immediately following the wall’s demise, it’s a colorful, entertaining, amusing, and often poignant reminder of a troubled time. Running parallel to the River Spree, the gallery stretches for just shy of a mile and is the longest gallery of its kind in the world.
It’s also one of the best free things to do in Berlin, although you can enjoy a self-guided audio tour if you’d prefer. The Wall Museum is a great place to start your walk, and well worth a visit to learn the stories of triumph and heartbreak associated with this relic of the Cold War.
For a place to stay, MEININGER Hotel Berlin East Side Gallery is located opposite the installation and features a typically industrial vibe. And as Berlin is considered the street art capital of the world, I highly recommend an off-the-grid graffiti tour to see some of the best murals the city has to offer.
6. Berlin Cathedral
Address: Am Lustgarten, 10178 Berlin, Germany
If gigantic churches are your thing, look no further than the Berlin Cathedral. Also known as the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church, it is an enormous construction located on Berlin’s museum island. Built between 1894 and 1905 at the request of German Emperor William II, it is a stunning example of Baroque Revival and Renaissance designs.
Berliner Dom, to give it its local name, is the largest Protestant church in Germany. Its striking green dome is easily identifiable, and visitors who choose to climb it will be rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of the city. Views of the River Spree, the Berlin TV tower, and the rest of Museum Island are particularly impressive.
Inside, the ceiling of the dome is even more remarkable. As is the chancel, altar, and dramatic imperial staircase.
The Hohenzollern Crypt contains the remains of over 90 Prussian royals and is an important dynastic burial site. And there are gilded, decorative accents, art, and frescos at every turn. Even if you’re not religious, it’s worth taking a peek inside the Berlin Cathedral.
Entrance costs seven euros at the time of writing, and guided tours are available. But if you can wait until a church service, you can get inside for free. Note that all services are conducted in German. Also, be aware that renovation work on the cathedral might be effect at any given time, and certain areas may be off limits to visitors as a result.
7. Botanical Garden and Museum
Address: Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Anyone with green fingers and thumbs will want to visit Berlin’s Botanical Garden and Museum. Established in 1889 by Adolf Engler – the garden’s first director – this is a diverse horticultural collection of over 22,000 plant species.
Highlights include several beautiful 19th-century glasshouses, such as the Grand Pavillion, the Victoriahaus, and the Mediterranean House. The gardens also feature a museum dedicated to all things botanical. Note that the museum is closed for full renovation until at least 2025.
In the glasshouses, the temperature and humidity are kept high. Expect to find thousands of tropical plants under their steel and glass roofs.
As such, it is a great place to visit in winter if you are feeling the cold! You will find a fragrance and touch garden, exhibitions on medicinal and useful plants, and an aquatic and marsh section among others. There is even an extensive library on site covering all things plant.
The garden runs a guided tour, and entry tickets are available online. The Berlin Botanical Garden and Museum is a must-visit for plant lovers and is a great way to spend a day even if the weather turns bad. Exploring the whole garden can take upwards of six hours, so try the Hotel Steglitz International if you wish to stay in the area.
See Related: The Best Gardens in Europe to Visit.
8. The Gendarmenmarkt
Address: Gendarmenmarkt, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Translated as the “Men-at-arms market,” the Gendarmenmarkt is a large square right in the heart of the city. It’s known for being the location of several prominent architectural marvels, including the Berlin Concert Hall, the French Cathedral, and the New Church (German Cathedral).
Created in the 17th century and reconstructed in 1773, this stunning square is the most beautiful in Berlin. Named after a Prussian cavalry regiment that formerly had stables here, it was badly damaged during WW2. Each building that faces the square has undergone extensive restoration and this Berlin architecture tour will tell you all about them.
In the summer, the Gendarmenmarkt is alive with open-air concerts, performances, and events. Come December, it is the location of one of Berlin’s most popular annual Christmas markets. And there are many shops close by that serve mouthwatering German sausages and other interesting German foods to try.
You can climb to the top of the French Cathedral, although the view isn’t quite as good as the one from the Berliner Dom. Still, Anyone remotely interested in culture and architecture should not miss the Gendarmenmarkt.
And for accommodation in the area, the Hilton Berlin could not be closer. It sits right on the square and offers great views from its restaurant and rooms.
9. Museum Island
Berlin’s famous Museum Island is exactly what it sounds like. An island in the River Spree containing no less than five of the city’s most impressive museums. The whole island complex is one of Berlin’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the museums are rightly regarded as among the best attractions in Germany.
The Pergamon Museum is the largest and most visited in the city and contains a jaw-dropping collection of ancient antiquities. The Altes Museum sits across from the Berlin Cathedral and houses Greek, Roman, and Etruscan artifacts.
The Neues Museum boasts a famous collection of Egyptian works. The Bode Museum contains the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art. And the National Gallery displays art from the last three centuries.
Notable works include the 3,000-year-old bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum. The Ishtar Gate from Babylon and the Pergamon Alter in the Pergamon Museum. Masterpieces by the French impressionists in the National Gallery.
And the restored James Simon Cabinet in the Bode Museum. And since you won’t be able to do it all in one day, Novotel Berlin is the top hotel on the island.
Accessing Museum Island is free from mainland Berlin, but each building is ticketed, and they are best booked in advance. Try this Neues Museum entry ticket or this skip-the-line Pergamon ticket that offers a Museum Island guided tour. Go here for an Altes Museum brief, and here for a Bode Museum ticket. Finally, this ticket will get you into the Alte Nationalgalerie.
See Related: The Best Museums to Visit in Berlin
10. Boat Tour on the Spree River
By this point, you’re probably exhausted from all the walking around. So why not give your feet a break and enjoy Berlin from the water?
A cruise on the River Spree is a wonderful way to see the city, relax, and let someone else take the reins. Or rudder, I should say.
A tributary of the River Havel, the Spree runs right through the center of the city. Many of Berlin’s best attractions sit on the banks of the river – or close to it. And there are hop-on, hop-off scenic water tours available at several points along the Spree’s winding ways and offshoot canals.
Or spark some romance with a four-course sunset dinner cruise. Take a self-drive boat if you’d like more freedom. And more adventurous (and energetic) travelers can even try a kayak tour if you fancy seeing Berlin from a different perspective.
The world’s best cities all make good use of their waterfront, and Berlin is no exception. There are over 112 miles of waterways to explore, more bridges than Venice, and some of Berlin’s best restaurants lining the river banks. And if you want to sleep on the water, the unique Eastern & Western Berlin GmbH are hostels on boats.
11. Treptower Park
Address: Alt-Treptow, 12435 Berlin, Germany
With the Spree waterfront, floating restaurants, beer gardens, and lined forested promenades; Treptower is one of the best parks in Berlin. You’ll find over 200 acres of attractive, well-kept green space within its borders. And one of the city’s most important historical sites.
The Soviet War Memorial and Cemetery sits in the center of Treptower Park. It commemorates the thousands of Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Berlin, with some 7,000 of them buried here.
16 sarcophagi represent the former Soviet republics. And the towering and imposing Mother Russia monument dominates is the focal point.
Elsewhere, the world’s longest refracting telescope can be found at the Archenhold Observatory. The oldest and largest observatory in Germany, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in stargazing. Back on earth, the abandoned Spreepark makes for an unusual tour if you enjoy exploring derelict amusement parks.
Spend the day sunbathing on the manicured lawns. Splash on the Spree in a pedal boat. Keep fit along the many cycling and jogging paths.
Or simply wander around exploring the many points of interest located among the trees. Treptower Park is the ideal place to spend a hot, sunny afternoon in Berlin.
12. The Topography of Terror
Address: Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin, Germany
Some museums couldn’t be in a more poignant and fitting location. The Topography of Terror is one such example, standing on the former site of the secret state police headquarters. Responsible for the persecution, torture, and murder of millions during the Nazi regime, they were otherwise known as the Gestapo.
An outdoor and indoor state-of-the-art exhibition, the Topography of Terror Museum attracts over two million visitors a year. Exhibits include documents, photographs, audio records, and films, that paint a picture of the most brutal arm of Nazism. Glass panels display site excavations, and there’s a section of the Berlin Wall which is the second longest in the city.
Across five locations, the museum explores how the Nazis terrorized Europe between 1933 and 1945. It examines their use of extermination camps.
Their brutal tactics of persecution. And ultimately their unsuccessful efforts to escape justice. The SS Reich Security Main Office was also located here, ensuring it was a lot of nasty under one roof.
A visit to the Topography of Terror Museum is essential for anyone interested in learning more about the darkest side of German history. This Third Reich and Cold War walking tour includes a stop at the museum, although entrance tickets are not included.
See Related: How is WW2 Taught in Germany?
13. Potsdamer Platz
Leveled by Allied bombers in World War II, Potsdamer Platz has been revitalized into one of Berlin’s most vibrant and bustling public squares. Located just over half a mile south of the Brandenburg Gate, it’s also a busy traffic intersection and a popular shopping, entertainment, and nightlife spot.
The Berlin Wall cut the square in half, and it spent many decades as a derelict no man’s land. In the years that followed unification, the German government began to revitalize Potsdamer Platz and turn it into the modern, cutting-edge city hub it is today. Of the structures that formerly stood here, only the Haus Huth has survived since World War II.
Notable points of interest include the Sony Center, with its brightly lit steel and glass dome. The Playce is a world-class shopping facility with retail outlets, gastropubs, and bars.
Potsdamer Platz is a great place to visit if you’re a movie buff. Every year the Berlin International Film Festival is held in and around the square.
CinemaXX is a huge multiscreen theater, and Deutsche Kinemathek is a state-of-the-art film museum. And don’t miss a ticket to the Panoramapunkt, which boasts the fastest elevator in Europe, and some of the best views in Berlin.
14. The Berlin Television Tower
Address: Panoramastraße 1A, 10178 Berlin, Germany
Pointing skyward and visible from just about anywhere across central Berlin, the TV tower is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Located between the Marx-Engels-Forum and Alexanderplatz, the Fernsehturm (television tower) is the highest structure in Germany, and the third tallest in the European Union.
Built between 1965 and 1969 by the government of East Germany (GDR), it was designed to be a functioning symbol of communist power. But Since Germany’s unification, the Berlin TV Tower has become a globally recognized icon of a country reunited.
The tower reaches a total height of 1207 feet and was once the fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world. The visitor platform is a panoramic floor that sits at 666 feet. And as with most sky towers, there’s a revolving restaurant for people who don’t get vertigo.
The restaurant sits in the middle of the sphere, and you can get a ticket to enjoy a three-course dinner. Skip-the-line tickets are also available for people who don’t want to eat and simply admire the stunning views of Berlin.
15. The Jewish Museum
Address: Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin, Germany
Opened in 2001, the Jewish Museum is the largest of its kind in Europe. It features 38,000 square feet of displays, exhibitions, films, art, and artifacts chronicling the Jewish history in Germany since the middle ages.
The collection is housed across three buildings. One is a former Prussian Court of Justice, and the other two are modern designs by architect Daniel Libeskind.
One of the most interesting and enticing aspects of the museum is that it seeks to use scenography in its displays. The architecture is rich in symbolism, with the Holocaust Tower, the Garden of Exile, and the Stair of Continuity being particular highlights.
The on-site cafeteria sells kosher food, and there’s a regular program of events and temporary exhibitions. And a dedicated children’s discovery center sits right across from the main museum. The Jewish Museum is the ideal place for all ages to explore the beliefs, culture, history, and traditions of the Jewish faith.
It doesn’t cost anything to enter the core exhibition, which ensures it’s one of the best free things to do in Berlin. But since it has attracted over 11 million visitors since its doors opened, I would recommend booking a ticket in advance, especially during peak times.
The Alexanderplatz is Germany’s largest square, a key location in Berlin’s history, and the busiest transport hub in the city. Named after the Russian Tsar Alexander I, it was originally used as a military parade ground, and completely destroyed in World War II. In 1989, Alexanderplatz was the site of peaceful mass protests against the communist regime in East Germany.
Rejuvenated in the 1960s by the GDR, Alexanderplatz has developed into a major Berlin transport hub. Even if you don’t plan on visiting the square, there’s a good chance your train, bus, tram, or metro will pass through here at some point. And although the TV Tower isn’t technically located in the square, Alexanderplatz is the place where most people disembark to visit it.
Other sights in the square include the Weltzeituhr (World Time Clock), which is a strikingly unusual remnant of the GDR’s influence in East Berlin. Completed in 1969 and restored after unification, the clock depicts 146 locations around the world across 24 time zones. It’s a popular meeting point for tourists and visitors alike.
The Fountain of Friendship Between Nations is also located in the square.
Expect Alexanderplatz to change significantly over the coming years, as it has not stopped evolving. Don’t be surprised if more department stores, retail outlets, and skyscrapers take residence here. For a place to stay, the Park Inn offers excellent views of the square and the TV Tower beyond. And pick up a Berlin Welcomecard to save money on public transport in the city.
17. Berlin Zoological Gardens
Address: Hardenbergpl. 8, 10787 Berlin, Germany
Berlin Zoological Gardens (Berlin Zoo) is a must-see for any animal lover visiting Berlin. One of the largest zoos in Germany, it is home to over 220,000 species of animals, from Arctic wolves to zebras. Opened in 1844, it is the oldest and most popular zoo in the country.
Located in the Tiergarten, close to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the zoo covers over 86 acres of green space. Committed to safeguarding animals and endangered species, the zoo is particularly well-known for successful breeding programs and the provision of authentic animal habitats.
There are also many famous resident animals, including two giant pandas, two giraffes, and a group of African penguins. This, of course, is subject to change; because that’s the law of the jungle, man. Knut, the world-famous polar bear was born here, and his passing in 2011 resulted in an unprecedented level of grief on a global scale.
If you’re visiting with children, this of the best things to do in Berlin with kids. The zoo has its own train station (Zoologischer Garten), so it’s easy to get to. And if you’re looking to mix things up, the impressive Museum of Photography is close by on the opposite side of the tracks.
18. DDR Museum (GDR)
Address: Vera Britain Ufer, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, 10178 Berlin, Germany
One of the most fascinating things to do in Berlin is to visit the DDR Museum. This is a real hands-on experience of how East Germans lived during the communist era. Documenting the period from 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the museum is an immersive, tangible attraction that’s perfect for families.
You’ll visit three themed areas in the museum – “Public Life”; “State and Ideology” and “Life in a Tower Block.” Each section incorporates interactive exhibits and displays so you can learn more about life and times living under communist rule. All from an objective standpoint.
Try on the clothes and fashions of the time. Explore reconstructions of DDR apartments.
And learn about Stasi surveillance techniques. How would you feel if you were being watched all the time? Go behind the Iron Curtain as you explore the sources, artifacts, and evidence provided by over 300 former GDR citizens.
Grab a skip-the-line ticket and visit one of the most unique attractions in Berlin. And if you’re interested in learning about this dark era further, the Berlin Stasi Museum focuses on the clandestine operations of the Ministry for State Security.
See Related: Is Germany Socialist? The Debate Ends Here
19. The Berlin Wall Memorial
Address: Bernauer Str. 111, 13355 Berlin, Germany
Although you can experience remnants of the Berlin Wall across several locations around the city, the Berlin Wall Memorial is perhaps the most poignant. Located north of the city center, it consists of a public park, an art installation, and a remaining section of the wall with its “death strip.”
In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided between the Allies. West Germany was controlled by the British and US, while the East fell into the hands of the Soviets.
In 1961, Berlin was split in two with the erection of the most infamous wall in history. Families were instantly divided. Friends could no longer spend time together.
Spanning both sides of the Bernauer Strasse, the Berlin Wall Memorial commemorates the people who lost their lives trying to flee from East to West. In and around the park, you’ll find the Berlin Wall Visitor Center, the Chapel of Reconciliation, and the Window of Remembrance. A section of the wall is preserved, as is the notorious “death strip,” which is a chilling open space that served as a kill zone for anyone attempting to cross.
There’s a viewing platform at the visitor center, so you can get a bird’s eye view of how this section of the Berlin Wall would have looked in the 1980s. This Berlin Wall walking tour includes a stop at the memorial, where you can learn all about the impact of the Cold War as you explore the wall’s former route.
20. Potsdam Palace Hunting
Address: Various, Potsdam, Germany
One of the best day trips from Berlin is to go palace hunting in the Potsdam neighborhood. Located to the South West of the city center, there’s an abundance of former royal residences to explore, set among some of the most impressive gardens in Europe.
Sanssoucci Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built as a summer residence for King Fredrick the Great. Designed as a place to escape the pressures of court life, the name is taken from the French phrase sans souci which means “without concerns.” Guided tours are available departing from Berlin.
Charlottenburg Palace and Park was once the main summer residence of the Prussian monarchy. Originally built in 1695, it was named after Sophie Charlotte, the first Queen consort in Prussia. One of the most romantic things to do in Berlin is to enjoy a three-course meal and a classical concert on the palace grounds.
The New Palace is found on the western side of Sanssouci Park and was built by King Fredrick. With over 200 rooms and completed in 1769, it is regarded as the last great Prussian palace. Try this Kings, Gardens, and Palaces tour to experience the best that Royal Potsdam has to offer.
See Related: The Best European Palaces to Visit
21. Checkpoint Charlie & Museum
The most well-known crossing between East and West Berlin through the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint C was the poster boy for the Cold War division in Germany. Located in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood of the city, right in the middle of Friedrichstraße, it was named by the Allies based on the phonetic alphabet. And from 1961 to 1989, only foreigners were allowed through.
When I was growing up in the 80s, I heard so many stories about Checkpoint Charlie. We had a family friend in the British military stationed there.
And like many boys at the time, I was into spy and espionage thrillers. I even remember visiting a replica of the checkpoint at a TV studio in Manchester, England. Such was its integration into the public psyche and the zeitgeist of the time.
Checkpoint Charlie is a shadow of its former imposing self. A replica of the booth stands on the site today, the original having been torn down in 1990. It has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Berlin, attracting millions of visitors every year.
The accompanying museum details its history and impact, as well tales of the daring and often tragic escape attempts from East to West Berlin. A skip-the-line ticket will ensure you get in on busy days.
The open-air museum is free, and there’s a gallery with a timeline of events. The last time I was there, I remember becoming quite emotional at the stories it contained. Bring a handkerchief.
22. Tempelhofer Feld
Address: Tempelhofer Damm, 12101 Berlin, Germany
Big is better at Tempelhofer. Located south of central Berlin, Tempelhofer Feld is an enormous expanse of green space with disused runways. Site of the 1948 Berlin airlift, the former airport and military parade ground closed as late as 2008, and Berliners claimed themselves a huge park instead.
While the Tiergarten is more popular with visitors and tourists, it’s at Tempelhofer that you’ll rub shoulders with genuine Berlin residents and locals. There are miles upon miles of track used for cycling, jogging, and rollerskating.
Four-legged friends will love the 10-acre dog-walking field. And that’s not to mention what is probably the largest barbecue and picnic area in the world.
Fittingly, the airport building is also gigantic and has been granted listed status. It now plays host to concerts, trade shows, and other events. And although there have been attempts to develop its eye-wateringly lucrative real estate potential, the power of the people has pushed back.
For the tourist, there’s not a great deal here. But it is a wonderful way to experience Berliners at play, with traffic and troubles a distant memory. Hike a bike and join them.
And for a truly unusual place to stay, that’s not too far, I highly recommend Hüttenpalast Berlin. It’s a series of retro-style indoor caravans that takes glamping to the next level.
23. Little BIG City Berlin
Address: Panoramastraße 1a, 10178 Berlin, Germany
Now, this would have thrilled me as a kid. Heck, I’m 100% going the next time I visit Berlin.
There’s just something awesome about shrinking things down to a miniature scale and making an exhibition out of it. The Little BIG City Berlin does exactly that with Germany’s capital, and you and the family can explore 750 years of history in a huge, tiny model.
Undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Berlin with children, Little Big City features audio and special effects to bring the model to life. There are over 100 buildings faithfully recreated in miniature, and more than 6,000 figures complement the environment.
Aside from the novelty aspect of a scale model city, the museum provides an educational experience. Delve into the past and witness famous historical periods and events, from medieval Germany through to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Located opposite St. Mary’s Church near Alexanderplatz and at the base of the TV Tower, Little BIG City is a must-visit Berlin attraction for families. Book a ticket online so you don’t miss this unique and fun experience.
24. Berlin Shopping
Berlin is a shopping Mecca, and the city is to the shopaholic what catnip is to a cat. There’s an abundance of world-class shopping malls, streets, and plazas.
There are designer boutiques and flagships. Huge malls and department stores sell everything under the sun. And all the tiny independent shops in between.
Kurfürstendamm is the most famous shopping street and Berlin’s answer to the Champs-Élysées. And just like the Champs-Élysées, it’s filled with all the usual designer suspects selling the latest trends at eyewatering prices.
Try the Mall of Berlin for variety. Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus for books. And ALEXA Berlin for affordable favorites. There’s even a mall tour that offers discounts on big names.
But it’s not just all about famous brands, labels, and supermalls. Berlin has a thriving thrift scene, with bookshops, record stores, and fleamarkets aplenty. For starters, try the vendors at Arkonaplatz, Marheinekeplatz, Nowkölln, and Rathaus Schöneberg to pick up a bargain or a unique German gift.
Still, you shouldn’t miss a visit to Europe’s largest department store. Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) is a Berlin institution where you can shop until you drop.
Expect a wallet-bursting 60,000 square meters of retail to keep you hooked or send you mad. We would never have been able to get my mother out of it.
See Related: The Cheapest Shopping Destinations in the World
25. Berlin Beer Gardens
Germany is one of the world’s great beer capitals, and German beer is up there with the best brews around. While Munich might be the ancestral home of the culture, one of the most fun things to do in Berlin is to drink beer in a beer garden. The problem is there are so many to choose from it can be difficult to know where to start.
Prater Garten is Berlin’s oldest and dates back to 1837. Try Zenner for an idyllic setting on the river. Klunkerkranich features a stunning roof terrace with city views. And Café am Neuen See in the Tiergarten is arguably the most popular of all.
I spent a lot of time at an awesome beer garden and gallery by the water, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it. I wonder why that is?
A few things to note before you embark on your Berlin beer-drinking adventure. Tables aren’t waited on in most gardens – you’ll need to put an order in to get served. Unlike some US taprooms, don’t expect a huge menu.
Quality over quantity – what they do here they do well. And if the weather is even remotely good, get there early, or don’t bother going at all.
And if you want to pre-game before the nightlife really gets rocking, party beer bikes are hugely popular with a young crowd. Basically, if you like beer, Berlin has you covered.
See Related: The Best Breweries in Germany
26. Berlin Nightlife
Let’s not beat around the bush here. Berlin has a legendary clubbing and nightlife scene.
Thanks to the ups and downs of Germany’s past, this city is one of the most hedonistic destinations on the planet. When the sun goes down, Berliners come out to play. And boy, do they know how to party. So, why don’t you join them?
From the iconic techno churches of Berghain and Tresor to lesser-known gems like Anomalie Art Club and Sisyphos, Berlin is the nightlife capital of the world. There’s something for every palate, but EDM is king.
Expect house, techno, and trance beats to be pumping all night long. And there ain’t no tame two AM finishes here! That’s when it’s just starting to kick off, and it’s possible to keep dancing for days.
Bar and club decor is as eclectic as the music, and venues range from former dog biscuit factories to boats, abandoned power stations to riverside gardens. There’s even a club in a phone booth.
The LGBTQ+ scene is well-represented, and there are plenty of options to get your kink on if you’re that way inclined. If you’re traveling solo, a pub crawl is a great way to meet people while experiencing Berlin’s pulsating bar culture.
A word of caution, however. Berlin’s clubs have notoriously strict door policies, and you should do your research before you set off.
I’ve yet to get into Berghain, despite playing by all the unofficial rules. Your best chance? Drink responsibly, dress down, and make friends with a local. Then again, maybe I’m just not cool enough.
Full Berlin Travel Guide [Video]
What are the must-see attractions in Berlin?
Must-visit Berlin attractions include the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the East Side Gallery, the Berlin Cathedral, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island, Berlin Zoo, the TV Tower, and the Tiergarten.
What is the best time of year to visit Berlin?
Summer. Hands down. I spent about three months in Berlin from June to August because I was having so much fun and didn’t want to leave.
This city is intoxicating, and it will reel you in if you’re not careful. My advice? Plan to visit with more time than you think you’ll need.
How do I use public transportation in Berlin?
Berlin has an impressive and extensive public transport system, which includes buses, trains, trams, and an underground. One of the best ways to explore Berlin is by using a Berlin Welcomecard, which includes transport in ABC zones around the city (including to the Brandenburg Airport).
Valid from two to six days, the card features a guidebook with a map, insider tips, and discounts on other Berlin tourist attractions. If you’re staying in Berlin for more than a day, pick up a Welcomecard and save money during your visit.