10 things NOT to do in Berlin

Berlin
Rafael Dols / Getty Images

The guidebooks are full of the must-dos. Top museums, favored restaurants and desirable
shopping streets.

But which of these traditional attractions aren't worth the time and energy? This city is full of the wonderfully unusual, there is no to need to bother with the top 10 things NOT to do in Berlin.

  • 01 of 10

    Go up in the Fernsehturm

    Berlin Skyline at dusk with TV tower
    @by Feldman_1 / Getty Images

    The TV Tower at Alexanderplatz is impossible to miss. Even if you don't cross through this all-important square, the tallest structure in Germany can be seen down Allees all over the city.

    But - in my opinion - the best part of the tower is the view of it, not from it. While admiring the tower from afar is easy, going up in it is less so.

    To start with, you have the trouble of admission. Despite my advice, it is not uncommon to have an hour-plus line. (Note that you can reserve a spot online.)

    Once you have gone through metal detectors and are ascending the tower by elevator, you are immersed in 1960s GDR decor and loud-mouthed tourists. The viewing platforms are behind insulated glass which allow for semi-panoramic views of the city, but far from the best conditions for a perfect pic.

    The last downside of going up in Berlin's TV Tower is the price. At €13 (low times / €14 at high times) it is fairly expensive for a Berlin attraction. I was only able to handle the pushy crowds and...MORE mediocre night views for a half hour before heading back down.

    Alternative: Better views of the city (including the beloved disco ball) can be found from several rooftop bar, a hot air balloon and even the glass-domed Reichstag (government building).

  • 02 of 10

    Order street food at a sit-down restaurant

    currywurst
    currywurst at Konnopke Imbiss. Erin Porter

    Sure, the currywurst is the cheapest thing on the menu but this is not the place to order it. Street food is not just convenient with an Imbiss (snack shop) on every corner, it is done best by the people slinging Wurst everyday.

    At a restaurant you should order something ridiculously meaty that requires a knife and fork.

    Alternative: Order Berlin Street food from the street. Try our guide to the best currywurst in Berlin, dive into the tasty world of German sausage and sample your way through the city's ample offerings of Döner Kebob.

    And no matter how inexpensive it is at a restaurant, you can do no cheaper than on the street. A Bratwurst and roll from a walking street vendor goes for €1.50.

  • 03 of 10
    Checkpoint Charlie which was the famous Berlin Wall crossing between East and West Berlin and now a tourist attraction
    Loop Images/Anna Stowe / Getty Images

    The best-known Berlin Wall crossing between East and West still exists today...in a form. Once the point where everyone from diplomats to tourists had to pass to get into Berlin’s Soviet sector, the area is now consistently swarmed with tourists.

    After fighting through the crowd, visitor's find the scene re-staged, but little is authentic. The original guard booth has been moved to a museum, actors playing soldiers are available for peace-signing photo ops and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum is more flashy displays than history.

    Alternative: Visit the Allied Museum. This museum located in to the southwest of the city (near the American embassy), is detailed, free and contains the original guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie.

  • 04 of 10

    City Bus Tours

    Potsdamer Platz
    Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

    For a city this big, you need to invest in transport. Some people choose to do that with a bus tour. But the mechanical, recorded voice, tourists groups blindly clicking away - can't transport be done better?

    Alternative: Yes, it can! The city's public transport system can help you easily move about the city. There are UBahns (subway), S-Bahn and regional trains, trams, boats and a bus system. More than just a way to get around, bus 100 and 200 take you by some of the best sights in the city, all for the low, low cost of a bus ticket. Hop on a double-decker bus at Alexanderplatz and cruise by the dramatic Berliner Dom on Musueminsel. Circle the Siegessäule on your way to West Berlin’s Zoological Garten. And enjoy riding with more of a local crowd.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Shopping center KaDeWe at the blue hour, Berlin, Germany, Europe
    Michael Weber / Getty Images

    I am totally guilty of this one. I've taken visitors to this massive department store that was a symbol of the opulence in West Berlin and is still an attraction in its own right. T-shirts for €300? They got 'em. A floor full of the international foods you can't find in the city? Right here. A cafeteria that features delicacies that wouldn't look out of place in a fine-dining restaurant? Yum-o. 

    But this mall is no longer the most exciting place to shop in Berlin. The city's independent, young, one-of-a-kind vibe has allowed for loads of new shops to open in former East and West.

    Alternative: The city's array of new shops are complimented by its many markets. Shop for brass door handles and chandeliers at Berliner Trödelmarkt, fight the crowds for cheap jewellery at Mauerpark or find the fresh produce and fabrics at the Turkish Market on Maybachufer.

  • 06 of 10
    Colourful artwork from an old piece of the Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany
    David Clapp / Getty Images

    Just a track of mud during the time of the Berlin Wall, Potsdamer Platz has grown into a half-failed business center à la Times Square. Neon lights, a megaplex, wild architecture, and - yes - pieces of the wall. Dragged here for the tourists, you will always see groups making peace signs and taking pictures against these concrete slabs of history.

    However, this is not the place to observe authentic Berlin Wall history. Right after the fall of the wall there was a push to remove this symbol of division. The wall was being ripped down by individuals before a realization that an example of the wall should be kept for posterity. A few large sections are preserved, with little bits showing up around the city. You really can't appreciate the scale and history of the wall with these stand-alone pieces.

    Alternative: Two sites offer a far better idea of the reality of the wall than these scattered pieces.

    • Bernauer Strasse Wall Memorial is an expanding open-air museum that shows a full-scale...MORE replica of the guard towers, two walls and various defenses employed with the wall, as well as an excellent walking tour and museum.
    • East Side Gallery is the longest remaining section of the wall which was reinvented shortly after reunification to be a gallery for peace.

    Let me add another "not to do" here. While you may see people scrawling their name on East Side Gallery or even chipping off pieces, this behavior is not acceptable. Don't be that guy - please.

     

  • 07 of 10
    DJ in Berlin, spinning the records
    Jacob Boetter

    People scour the streets around Gertrud-Kolmar-Strasse - guide book in hand - looking for signs of the infamous Führer. His death in a bunker beneath the city only scored an information board in an attempt to prevent it becoming a pilgrimage point for neo-nazis. It is almost always a disappointment, perhaps rightfully so.

    Alternative: Spend less time thinking about Hitler and more time considering his 6 million victims. The nearby Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is the best place to start, with the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism and Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe within walking distance.

     

  • 08 of 10
    Place Of Hitler's Bunker
    I, Zvucini [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    People scour the streets around Gertrud-Kolmar-Strasse - guide book in hand - looking for signs of the infamous Führer. His death in a bunker beneath the city only scored an information board in an attempt to prevent it becoming a pilgrimage point for neo-nazis. It is almost always a disappointment, perhaps rightfully so.

    Alternative: Spend less time thinking about Hitler and more time considering his 6 million victims. The nearby Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is the best place to start, with the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism and Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe within walking distance.

     

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Spend all your time in the West & Mitte

    Kreuzberg, Pubs in Schlesische Strasse (street)
    Maremagnum / Getty Images

    After getting to know the city, I was dismayed to read guidebooks that centered completely on Mitte (central neighborhood) with a few forays into the former West. Berlin is a huge city and each Kiez (neighborhood) has a personalty all of its own.

    Alternative: Try neighborhoods like Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg for a totally different feel.

     

  • 10 of 10

    Think you can Conquer the city in a weekend

    Brandenburg Gate at sunset
    RICOWde / Getty Images

    As I mentioned, the city is enormous. And amazing. It is astounding how many people you talk to that visited for a weekend and never went home. There is simply too much to explore, too many experiences to have.

    Alternative: While there isn't a wrong amount of time you can visit the city, know the longer you stay the deeper you can dive into Berlin.