Whether you’re a history buff, a lover of art and culture, a raver looking for the next big club, or just looking to sample a taste of Germany, Berlin has something to offer. With numerous museums – there’s even an island named, you guessed it, Museum Island which features five galleries – monuments, canals to boat down, cutting-edge architecture, imposing historic buildings and fantastic restaurants, it’s not a question of what to do in Berlin, but whether you’ll have enough time to do half of what you want.
Travellers must try the famous currywurst, which either instantly converts or repels, or stop off to refresh the palate at one of the city’s excellent restaurants. Afterwards, you can work it all off while taking in Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.
Places to Visit in Berlin
- The Tiergarten
- The Mitte district, including Museum Island
- The East Side Gallery
- Club districts such as Osthafen and Schöneberg
- The Nikolai Quarter
Unique Things to See and Do in Berlin
- Eat a currywurst, reportedly created in Berlin
- Walk through the Brandenburg Gate which has seen Napoleon, the Nazis, and Berlin marathon runners pass through it
- Take a day trip out to Potsdam to see Prussian palaces
- Pay your respects at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and learn more at the Topography of Terror
- Check out Cold War legacies, including Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin’s bristling history
Berlin has been the capital of Germany for some 800 years, and as such was the locus of the Nazi war movement.
The city doesn’t shy away from its history, and there seems to be an emphasis not only on respect but upon ensuring the lessons of history are learned and not repeated. Travellers can visit the site of the old Gestapo headquarters, the Topography of Terror, now an architectural wonder of a museum which is sure to make you cry, as well as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a beautifully laid out memorial to the victims of the Holocaust comprised of 2,711 concrete pillars.
With the Cold War came the division of the city by the Berlin Wall, with the East occupied by the Soviet-backed German Democratic Republic and the West controlled by the US, UK and France-backed Federal Republic of Germany. Built in 1961, the Wall finally came down in 1989, and during its tenure, many East German citizens attempted to cross to the reportedly greater political freedom and better economic conditions in the West. The tales of those who successfully escaped, and those who were shot in the attempt, can be found at the fascinating Checkpoint Charlie museum, situated opposite Checkpoint Charlie itself, one of the better known places where official transit between the two states of Berlin occurred. This is also the site where USSR and USA tanks faced off in 1961 over a perceived breach of Allied rights in Berlin.
An absolute must-do is a walk along the East Side Gallery, which features surviving sections of the Wall decorated with murals advocating peace and freedom, as well as the famous mural of Soviet First Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker kissing.
Getting Around Berlin
Getting around Berlin is a cinch thanks to the comfortable, reliable and affordable U-Bahn and S-Bahn train system. Buses are also available around the city, as are taxis.
Berlin has two airports and regular flights from European cities.
Intercity trains, comfortable and quick, are available, including to and from Munich (about six hours), Hamburg (about two hours) and Frankfurt (about four hours), and intercity, low cost buses are available, including to and from Nuremberg, Hannover, and Cologne.
Travellers can also catch trains to Prague (about five hours) and Amsterdam (about six and a half hours).
Best Time of Year to Travel to Berlin
As a European city, Berlin can get chilly in the winter. Visit Berlin reports that winter temperatures can reach -10 degrees Celsius or lower, so pack warm if travelling between December and March, and stock up on hot chocolate when site seeing.
Summer can see temperatures that can reach over 30 degrees Celsius, with a general range of between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius from May to September, so it would be best to plan outdoor activities during this period.
Did you know…?
President Kennedy was not calling himself a jelly doughnut when he said ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ in 1963 to show his support of West Berlin. The debate started because ‘Berliner’ is also the name for a jelly doughnut and media reported that the President had mistranslated his intended statement. However, this was apparently a mistake, and the President had the phrasing correct.
Did you ALSO know…?
Escape attempts from East Berlin reportedly included people using mini-submarines, homemade motor powered kites (both currently in the Checkpoint Charlie museum) and hiding in loudspeakers.
Ready to plan your visit to Berlin? Check out these popular guides and trips.