15 Things to Do in Berlin, Germany

Fernsehturm Berlin Alexanderplatz

  GettyImages / RICOWde

Berlin is a city of experiences. Whether it is standing before the reborn grandeur of the Reichstag, traveling along the dividing force of the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, or partying throughout the night, the city has layers of living history.

It is the most visited city in Germany (and its capital) and the third most visited destination in all of Europe. There are enough things to keep a visitor occupied for a lifetime, so use this guide to find the top attractions, from beautiful parks to historical sights to flourishing markets and world-class museums. 

01 of 15

Cross Through the Brandenburger Tor

Brandenburg Gate at sunset
RICOWde / Getty Images
Address
Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany


One of Berlin's most iconic landmarks is the Brandenburg Gate. In German history, the gate has reflected the country's turbulent story like no other landmark in Germany.

Inspired by the Acropolis in Athens and topped by Quadriga, a four-horsed chariot driven by Victoria, the gate acts as the entrance to the boulevard Unter den Linden on one side and Die Strasse des 17. Juni and the Siegessäule on the other. During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate stood between East and West Berlin and was the sad symbol for the city's division. When the wall fell in 1989 and Germany was reunited, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol for untied Germany.

02 of 15

Gaze Out the Glass Dome of the Reichstag

Berlin, Reichstag building
fhm/Getty Images
Address
Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 22732152


The Reichstag in Berlin is the traditional seat of the German Parliament. A mysterious fire here in 1933 allowed Adolf Hitler to claim emergency powers, leading to his dictatorship. It was also here his empire collapsed as the Russians raised a flag above its ruined dome on May 2, 1945.

When the historic building was remodeled in the 1990s, it was adorned
with a modern glass dome that symbolized glasnost theory. Visitors can book a visit and ride up to the top of the building and look down through the dome to literally watch politics in motion. It also offers a stunning view of the Berlin skyline with a free audioguide to acquaint yourself with the city.

03 of 15

Walk Along the Berlin Wall

Berlin street art - East Side Gallery

GettyImages / Sean Gallup

 

Address
Niederkirchnerstraße 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Berlin's East Side Gallery (ESG) is the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall at nearly a mile long. After the wall fell in 1989, hundreds of artists from around the world, among them Keith Haring and Thierry Noir, came to Berlin to transform the grim and gray wall into a piece of art. The art covers the east side of the former border between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Once untouchable, it now has more than 100 paintings and is the largest open-air gallery globally. On the other side of the water is the Spree River and iconic Oberbaumbrücke.

Another wall-centric location is the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Memorial to the Berlin Wall) in Prenzlauer Berg. There is a preserved section of the double-layered wall—complete with death strip—and a powerful museum documenting the history.

Besides these two locations, there are segments of the wall left throughout the city and souvenir pieces of "the wall" in every tourist shop.

04 of 15

Explore Museum Island and the Cathedral

Bode museum, Museum Island (Museumsinsel), Berlin
Sylvain Sonnet/Getty Images
Address
Museum Island, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is home to more than 170 museums and galleries with some of the finest collections in the world.

Berlin's Museum Island is home to five world-class museums covering everything from the famous bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti to top European paintings from the 19th century. Of the five, the most famous is the Pergamon Museum, renowned for its collection of classical antiquities, including the Museum of the Ancient Near East and the Museum of Islamic Art. Highlights are the full-scale reconstructions of the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, and the Gate of Ishtar. This unique ensemble of museums and traditional buildings on the small island in the river Spree is even a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Unter den Linden runs through Mitte and leads over the island. The Berliner Dom, the impressive Protestant Cathedral, with the Lustgarten before it are the main areas to lounge on the small river-surrounded island.

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05 of 15

Shop, Sing, and Chill at Mauerpark

Berlin Mauerpark bearpit karaoke

GettyImages / hanohiki

 

Address
Gleimstraße 55, 10437 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 60980018

Many people in Berlin find themselves at Mauerpark ("Wall Park") on a Sunday. Its location in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood and its party atmosphere perfectly encapsulate the chaotic spirit of the city. An estimated 40,000 people leisurely filter through the area every Sunday.

A massive city park that occupies the space that once held the Berlin Wall, it now has the largest flea market in the city with international street food, a dedicated karaoke amphitheater, sports facilities like basketball courts and the inevitable soccer pick-up game, a graffiti wall with swings soaring over the scene, and an unmissable view of the Fernsehturm (TV tower) in the distance.

06 of 15

Get Lost in the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe

Germany , Berlin City The HolocAust Memorial
CALLE MONTES/Getty Images
Address
Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 2639430

The Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) is one of Germany’s most impressive and moving monuments to the Holocaust. Located between Brandenburger Tor and Potsdamer Platz, the massive sculpture park comprises 2,711 geometrically arranged concrete pillars.

Visitors can walk through the uneven, sloping field from all four
sides and wander through the columns, evoking a disorienting feeling of isolation. Like many monuments, its 2003 construction was contentious, but now it is an accepted must-see site.

For a personal story of the Holocaust, enter the free underground museum that exists below. It is here that the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims are recorded, along with many of their stories.

07 of 15

Look Up to the Siegessäule

View of The Victory Column
WIN-Initiative/Getty Images
Address
Großer Stern, 10557 Berlin, Germany

The slender Victory Column in the middle of Strasse des 17. Juni beside the Tiergarten is known as the Siegessäule, or less formally as "Golden Else" or even "chick on a stick." Else played an important supporting role in the German film "Wings of Desire" and is a focal point during Berlin's boisterous Christopher Street Day Parade (which helped lend its name to the city's most popular gay magazine). Berlin's incredibly long boulevards mean you can see her from miles away.

To see the city from her viewpoint, visitors must climb 285 steep stairs to reach the open-air viewing platform with 360-degree views of the park and cityscape in the distance.

08 of 15

Wander the Royal Hunting Grounds of the Tiergarten

Tiergarten park
Ingo Jezierski/Getty Images
Address
Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany

Berlin's Tiergarten was once only accessible to Prussian kings, but now is
one of the most popular public parks in the city. The largest inner-city park covers nearly 550 acres with leafy paths, trickling creeks, gleaming statues, rose gardens, playgrounds, open-air cafes, and biergartens. While there is plenty to do in the park, the best thing is to find a sunny spot in a secluded meadow for a picnic or a bit of clandestine sunning (some of the lawns permit nude sunbathing; look out for the
signs that say "FKK").

If you are in the park on a Sunday, look for the nearby Berliner Trödelmarkt
with a range of second-hand offerings from fancy crystal chandeliers to gold door handles. If you haven't packed a picnic, you can fill up at the Cafe am Nueun See or Schleusenkrug, or step out of the park toward Tiergarten S-Bahn station for a giant platter of German food at Tiergartenquelle.

Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15

Pay Your Respects at the Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Anthony Dezenzio / GettyImages-683784935
Address
Breitscheidplatz, 10789 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 2185023

The Protestant Memorial Church of Berlin is actually easier to say than Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche. No matter what you call it, the half-ruined church is an important stop on any visit.

It is one of the city's most prominent landmarks as one of many
sites heavily damaged by air raids in World War II. Unlike other buildings that were razed to make room for new development, Kaiser Wilhelm was reinforced in its partially demolished state so everyone could observe what most of the city looked like when the war was over. Berliners have taken to calling it "der hohle Zahn," meaning "the hollow tooth."

Walk inside what little remains to examine the church's beauty, history, and legacy. Also not to be missed are the early '60s era church and bell tower and the nearby pop-up mall with international food court, Bikini Berlin.

10 of 15

Look at the Animals and the Skyscrapers at the Zoo

Elephant gate entrance to Zoological Gardens
John Freeman / Getty Images
Address
Hardenbergpl. 8, 10787 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 254010

Berlin's historic city zoo is the oldest in Germany, filled with exotic species of animals and surrounded by skyscrapers.  

Enter through the impressive Elefantentor (elephant gate) and enjoy visiting the many animals. Once home to international star polar bear Knut, visitors today can see the hippopotamus aquarium, panda enclosure which features two panda cubs, and climate-controlled aviaries. For the kids, there is also an elaborate playground that vies for a favorite spot in the zoo.

Also on site is a small aquarium. Visitors can buy combination
tickets, or even combination tickets with these two attractions and the
former East Berlin Zoo, the Tierpark.

11 of 15

Browse at Hackescher Markt

Busy restaurants in courtyard or Hof at Hackesche Hofe at Hackescher Markt in Mitte Berlin Germany
Iain Masterton/Getty Images
Address
Hackescher Markt, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Berlin building’s straight-laced facades often hide the vibrant mini-centers of the city. Sometimes surrounding a quiet residential courtyard with bikes, dumpsters, and children's play gear, other hofs (courtyards) are a window into Berliner's busy social lives.

Lively Hackescher Markt is an area brimming with cafes, chic shops, and art galleries. Start at Hackesche Hoefe, an ensemble of historic courtyards, the largest enclosed courtyard area in Germany. Colorful tile work stretches upwards, while below there are one-off shops, bio (organic) ice cream stands, and theaters. The surrounding streets of Weinmeisterstrasse, Alte Schoenhauser Strasse and Rosenthaler Strasse provide further retail therapy.

The area is becoming increasingly commercial, and tour groups frequently
make their way through the narrow alleyways, but it remains a charming
and unique site. Look for lesser-known attractions like the tiny Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt, which waged secret opposition to the Nazi party, or the art shop above the independent cinema, Kino Central.

12 of 15

Relive the Olympics

Olympic Stadium in Berlin

GettyImages / Siegfried Layda

 

Address
Olympischer Platz 3, 14053 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 30688100

Massive and imposing, Olympiastadion was originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games. It was here that Jesse Owen's dominated that year's track and field competition in defiance of Hitler.

Today, visitors can admire the visually arresting architecture at the many sporting events that still occur here or while attending one of Germany's top festivals. Visitors can't miss the high-spirited Ostkurve (east curve) when hometown Fussball (soccer) team, Hertha Berlin, plays here. Outside the stadium, the Glockenturm (Bell Tower) can offer a bird's eye view of the area. The stadium is periodically open for tours, and there is even a public pool on site. Even on non-event days, an estimated 300,000 visitors come to Olympiastadion.

Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15

Enjoy Berlin's Neverending Nightlife

Colourful Scene At Open Air Nightclub With People Sitting Down, Drinking And Chatting
Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Berlin nightlife is legendary. In this city that never sleeps, clubs don't really come to life until around 2 a.m., but all the other hours can be spent in biergartens, beach bars, light night hangouts, breweries, or open-air clubs. The party just doesn't stop.

The city has an unpretentious nightlife scene with some of the top nightlife performers globally, making it a destination along with its affordable rates and in-the-know vibes. The Berlin districts best known for their nightlife include Mitte, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain with world-renowned clubs like The House of Weekend, Sisyphos, Tresor, and Berghain.

14 of 15

Boat Through the City Center

view from Berlin boat.jpg
Erin Porter

Boat tours are common throughout Berlin's historic city center. After a long day of walking giant city blocks, a boat ride on the Spree past famed landmarks can be a relaxing break.

Glorious when the sun is shining, tours run rain or shine within the comfortable confines of the glass-topped boats. Hop on a boat at Museums Island, where many different tours are offered in increments of 45 minutes or longer with special dinner cruises as well as themed events around Christmas take place.

15 of 15

Visit the Iconic Potsdamer Platz

Berlin Potsdamer Platz Sony Center

GettyImages / LuisPinaPhotogrpahy

Address
Potsdamer Platz, 10785 Berlin, Germany


One of the busiest squares in Berlin—and thus in all of Germany, Potsdamer Platz is Berlin's attempt at a commercial center. The neon dome of Sony Center is a showstopper, towering over this high-traffic space of restaurants, museums, offices, and a modern fountain. Potsdamer Platz has up to 100,000 visitors who pass through it every day.

Nearby, Europe's first stoplight and a piece of the Berlin Wall hint at the area's uneven history. Below ground, it is a major transport hub with activity in the form of trains, S-Bahns, U-Bahns, and moving walkways.

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15 Things to Do in Berlin, Germany