Travel to Germany and experience Berlin. My list of top Berlin things to do and see will help you plan your German Vacation. Berlin is rich in Prussian culture, Communist relics and amazing street art.
Top Berlin Things to do and see to experience History
Berlin is most infamously known for the Berlin Wall. From 1961-1989 the Berlin Wall separated communist East Berlin from the democratic West Berlin. 5,000 successful illegal crossings, there was still over 130 people killed trying to make it across the Berlin Wall.
Simple, clean and sprawling, the Holocaust Memorial is not to be missed. Berlin was the headquarters of the Nazi regim, there are very few WWII guided tours available. There are ample communist tours but not Nazi or WWII tours.
Brandenburg Gate Constructed in 1788, the Brandenburg Gate was built by Prussian King Frederick William II to represent peace. It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin within Mitte, next to the Reichstag Building. The Brandenburg Gate sits on the location of the old city gate, and was used as an entrance to a boulevard lined with trees, leading to the royal city palace. Later it would be used by the Nazi party for rallies, and as part of the Berlin Wall during Communist control.
Berliner Unterwelten or the Berlin Underground Museum
Cost: $13 to $17 depending on the tour. There are age requirements.
Berliner Unterwelten or The Berlin Underground Museum is one of a few places where you can dive into 1940’s Germany, during the Nazi reign of power. Germany does not like to discuss WWII, so finding tours other than the Berlin Underground Museum is pretty impossible. The Berlin Underground Museum takes you on a tour of underground bunkers used by the nazis, air raid shelters to protect civilians, along with the tunnels that many East Germans used to escape to West Germany during the Cold War. The museum also guides you along Hitler’s plan for Germania; his idea to rebuild a utopian Berlin. Tickets for the Berlin Underground tour are NOT available for advanced purchase and must be purchased the day of the tour. Tickets sell out fast so I recommend getting there at least an hour prior to the tour. For further details on tours, pricing, and requirements visit the Berlin Underground website.
Visit the historic Reichstag building to . Built in 19894, the building was initially used to house the German Imperial Diet. It was destroyed in 1933 and was not fully restored until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The iconic dome was rebuilt in 1999 as a glass dome, which is now used by visitors for a 360 view of Berlin. The Reichstag Building, now home to the Bundestag, is the second most visited attraction in Berlin. You can gain access to the dome by registering as a guest of the Reichstag in advanced.
Schloss Charlottenburg & Grosse Orangerie Charlottenburg
One of my most favorite things to do while traveling is visiting castles and palaces. The Schloss Charlottenburg Palace and the gardens that encompass the Grosse Orangerie Charlottenburg is worth a visit. Built by the first queen of Prussia in the late 1600s, the Schloss Charlottenburg was initially used as a summer home for Sophie Charlotte of Hanover. This beautiful summer retreat, later residence of the Prussian royal family, is grand inside and out. Schloss Charlottenburg is trimmed with gold and marble on the inside, and hosts a collection of exotic plants.
Erected in 1873, Victory Column is a monument dedicated to prior German military victories over Denmark, Austria and France. These military victories helped to unify Germany into the state we know today. Victory Column is 220 feet tall, and topped with a 27 foot bronze sculpture of Victoria, the Roman goddess of Victory. For a small fee, visitors can climb the 285 steps to reach the top viewing deck for a 360 degree view of Berlin.
Alexander Platz is a famous square in Berlin. It is the location of where you will see the iconic TV tower of the city. Alexander Platz is the base of the famous Karl-Marx-Alle. (not that thrilling)
Checkpoint C, better known as Checkpoint Charlie, is the most famous crossing point of the Berlin Wall, from East Germany into West Germany, during the Cold War. It was the site of the Berlin Crisis of 1961, in which American and Soviet tanks faced one another. Today, Checkpoint Charlie is seen as a symbol of the Cold War and the separation of East and West Germany.
Berlin Tempelhof Airport
Tempelhof Airport was used as one of Berlin’s city airports from 1927 – 2008. It’s name derived from Knights Templars, who once occupied it’s land, followed by the Royal Prussian family for parades. When Templhof was shut down the land was used as a place for public festivals, concerts, sports events and more.
Walk along Karl-Marx-Alle for a Communist vibe. This famous boulevard is where one can see all the Communist era architecture and buildings. It is also the place of many communist uprisings.
Berlin’s Museum Island
Cost: $0 for persons 18 years and younger; $21 for regular admission.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Museum Island is located on the Spree River in the district of Mitte in central Berlin. Once the site of the old city of Cölln, today Museum Island is home to five of Berlin’s most famous museums. From art to history, museum island is a great place to explore and gain more knowledge of Prussian heritage.
Top Berlin Things to do and see to experience Art and Music
East Side Gallery
An international memorial for freedom, the East Side Gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall covered in famous paintings from artist all over the world. This 4300 feet plus wall, once part of the Berlin Wall, is the largest and longest running open air museum. The East Side Gallery consists of over 105 paintings which communicate a time of change and hope for the future. The best part, the East Side Gallery is FREE.
If the weather is nice visit many of the outdoor and FREE museums: Topographie des Terrors, Bernauer Strasse, Berlin Wall Memorial, East Side Gallery
Those famous and creepy photos of an abandon amusement park, that is Spree Park in Berlin. Located in East Berlin, along the Spree River, Spree Park was known as Kulturpark Plänterwald from 1969 to 1989 when it was controlled by the GDR. In 1989 the park was part of a public works project and renovated by Spreepark Berlin GmbH company. It was transformed into a western amusement park. In 2001 the park went bankrupt and closed down; left to deteriorate and become what is today.
The Berliner Philharmonie
Listen to the sounds of Germany at the The Berliner Philharmonie. This concert hall is located just west of the Berlin Wall, on the south edge of the Berlin’s Tiergarten district. Acclaimed for its acoustics and architecture, the Berliner Philharmonie is home to the Berlin Philharmonic. The replication of Berlin Philharmonic’s asymmetrical design, and vineyard style seating is seen in concert halls throughout the world. A list of concerts and shows can be found at the The Berliner Philharmonie website.
Berlin’s Deutsche Oper is Germany’s second largest opera house. It is located in the district of Charlottenburg and is home to the Berlin State Ballet.
Top Berlin Things to do and see to experience food, drinking, and shopping
If you are looking to find top Berlin things to do and see to experience food and drinking make sure to find a local Spati. For more information on where to go read my article on top places to eat and drink in Berlin.
Go Späti Drinking
One of the most fun and chill things to do in Berlin is to go Späti drinking. What is a Späti? A Späti is basically a corner store, open 24/7, that sells beer, snacks, smokes and more beer. Many spätis have outdoor seating so you can casually enjoy the beer you just bought. There are well over 1,000 spätis in Berlin, and each neighborhood has their favorites; filled with locals. Here is a list of the best spätis in Berlin.
Visit Neue Heimat and sample Berlin’s most creative culinary dishes
Neue Heimat , a food hall on Revaler Str. 99, is great for late night and casual food and drinking. To get here, walk all the way to the back past Astra and Cassiopaia; the space is located in the raw area. It is open Sundays noon-2am, as the Village Market, and Fridays 6pm-4am for late night food and drinks.
Berlin’s Flohmarkt in Mauerpark
Berlin’s Flohmarkt in Mauerpark translates to Flea Market in Park of the Wall, located in the Mitte quarter of Berlin. The Flohmarkt in Mauerpark, is filled with tiny personalized shops selling hand me downs and hand crafter merchandise. The market is a great place to grab a lunch or drink while you shop your way through all the stands. The Flohmarkt in Mauerpark is open Sundays from 9:00am to 6:00pm.
Hop on/ Hop Off Bus
I don’t always hop on to these buses, but with Berlin being so sprawling the hop on/ hop off bus is a great away to see the whole city and to get to all the famous landmarks.
Kaufhaus des Westens
For anyone who loves shopping what is better then visiting the 2nd largest department store in Europe! The Kaufhaus des Westens, usually shortened to KaDeWe, is where you want to go shopping. Located in West Berlin, in the neighborhood of Schöneberg. This mega shopping store was built in 1907, destroyed during World War II, and finally restored in 1956. The KaDeWe soon became a symbol of economic regrowth in West Berlin.