Berlin is a fantastic city with so many interesting sights and so much history to explore. No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something to enjoy here. From the most popular attractions to some hidden gems, here are some of the best things to do in Berlin.
See the views from the TV Tower
The TV Tower is certainly an iconic sight in Berlin. It was built by the Soviets during the Cold War, and they intentionally built it to be tall enough that you could see it from almost anywhere in the city. As you explore Berlin, you’ll see its shiny ball pop into view when you least expect it.
Today the TV Tower is one of the best places to go for views of the city from above. Lines can be long, so it’s worth booking a ticket ahead of time so you’ll have a time slot.
Learn about the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall is a major part of the city’s history, so it is likely already on your Berlin bucket list. The Bernauer Strasse Wall Memorial is the best place to go to learn about the Wall and get a sense of how it affected people’s lives.
Bernauer Strasse is a street along the border between East and West Berlin, and when the Wall went up, people on one side of the road were separated from those across the street. This memorial site shows where the Wall stood, along with markers to show where buildings once were, escape tunnels people built, and more.
In one section there’s a modern church that was built to replace the church that was displaced because of the Wall. Even the cemetery was moved.
About halfway along the street is a tower that allows you to look over a still-standing section of the Wall and into the death strip. It gives you a great perspective of the area.
Near the Nordbahnhof Sbahn station is one end of the Memorial where you’ll find the visitors center. Inside they show two short films, alternating time slots in German and English, that tell about the Berlin Wall and the Wall that divided East and West Germany. These films are well worth watching.
Visit Charlottenburg Palace
Sophie Charlotte’s summer palace, built in 1695, now serves as a museum where you can see how royalty once lived. It’s a Baroque palace with Rococo interiors. Not only is the palace gorgeous, but it’s surrounded by a huge park and elegant gardens.
The palace is definitely an interesting place to visit. But for those of you who are more interested in the outsides of castles than the insides, you can wander through the grounds and admire the gardens for free.
Take the free Reichstag Tour
The Reichstag Building is the seat of the German Parliament, and it’s an impressive building with a unique glass dome on top. Taking the Reichstag tour is one of the most popular free things to do in Berlin. But keep in mind that you must register ahead of time, and it’s often booked up weeks in advance.
The tour is self-guided with an audio guide. As you wander up the path into the glass dome, the audio guide will tell you all kinds of information. You’ll learn about the German government, history, facts about the building and surrounding areas, and more. This is a great activity for all ages.
Admire the largest outdoor art gallery
The most famous section of the Berlin Wall that still stands is also known as the world’s largest outdoor art gallery. Along the Spree River is the East Side Gallery, and it’s well worth including on your Berlin itinerary.
This stretch of the Wall is about 1.3km (0.8 mile) long, and it’s covered in art by artists from around the world. After the Wall fell, artists came here to paint messages of peace and unity, as well as messages that bring awareness to world suffering. Some of the art is the same from decades ago, but some of it has changed over the years.
Since this is such a popular attraction, bring some patience. The most famous pieces often have a line of people waiting to take photos, but remember that there are lots of other lesser-known pieces that are just as impressive.
See the almost hidden monastery ruins
Berlin suffered a lot of damage during World War II, and as a result, there aren’t a lot of truly old buildings or structures remaining. This makes the Franziskaner-Klosterkirche one of the must-visit churches in Europe. The Franciscan monastery was built in the late 1200s and was unfortunately badly damaged during the war.
Today it is in ruins, but it has been repaired enough to be deemed safe. They sometimes host cultural events, but it’s also a quiet place to relax. It’s not far from Alexanderplatz, but it’s tucked away just far enough off the beaten path that many tourists don’t even know these monastery ruins exist.
Stroll down Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden is a wide, tree-lined boulevard in the center of Berlin where you’ll find lots of the city’s main attractions. The road runs between Museum Island and Brandenburg Gate. It’s a gorgeous area for a stroll, but it’s easy to make stops along the way to see the sights.
On Museum Island, you’ll find Berlin’s most famous museums plus the Berlin Cathedral. Nearby is the German History Museum and the Berlin State Opera House. At Bebelplatz, stop to see the book burning memorial.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself at the eastern side of Brandenburg Gate. Tiergarten park, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Reichstag Building are a short walk away on the other side of the gate.
Soak up some culture on Museum Island
Museum Island is a small island in the Spree River, and it’s where you’ll find – you guessed it – lots of museums. Typically the name Museum Island is meant to include five big ones: Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Pergamon Museum, Alte National Gallery, and Bode Museum.
This impressive collection of museums is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re interested in visiting several of them on your trip, you can buy a Museum Island pass to save money on entrance fees.
The Berliner Dom, also located on Museum Island, is the protestant Berlin Cathedral and one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. It’s still an active church, so you are welcome to enjoy services there. But if you’re interested in touring the cathedral, visit outside of services.
The newest addition to Museum Island is the Humboldt Forum, a museum of world culture and art. It was open in July 2021 in the rebuilt Berlin Palace.
Take a day trip to Potsdam
If you’re spending several days in Berlin, it might be worth adding a day trip to your trip. Potsdam is one of the most popular day trips from Berlin with good reasons. The city of Potsdam is located southwest of Berlin, and it’s home to a large collection of fantastic palaces and parks. People often compare it with Versailles.
Some of the most popular palaces here include Sanssouci Palace, New Palace, Charlottenhof Palace, and Babelsberg Palace, just to name a few. Be sure to explore the grounds as well. The palaces are located in large lush parks and have ornate gardens and fountains.
Dozens of palaces, parks, and other important buildings are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin. As the name suggests, there are a few on the edge of Berlin, including the palace on Peacock Island.
Visit a park that was once an airport
Berlin is definitely a city for quirky sights, and Tempelhof Park is one of them. This park was an airport for decades, but in 2010, it was turned into a park that is now a local favorite.
For history buffs, this airport-turned-park is interesting because it was the central point for the Berlin Airlift. This is when the Soviets blocked all land routes into West Berlin, and supplies were flown in at an impressive rate.
Today it is a huge park where people walk, run, cycle, and skate on the runway. There are bird protection areas, gardening sections, several fenced areas for off-leash dogs, and it’s a great place for picnics.
The airport building still stands and has been used for various purposes, such as refugee temporary housing, a vaccination center, and a special event showing movies. You can even sign up for a tour of the building.
See the animals at one of the zoos
Whether you’re traveling with kids or you’re a kid at heart, zoos can be a fun place to visit. Berlin has two zoos, one in the west and one in the east. This stems from the Cold War, when the city was divided into two sections.
The Zoologischer Garten is the zoo in the west and is more well known. It’s also the oldest zoo in Germany. Tierpark (not to be confused with the park called Tiergarten) is the zoo on the east and is a little less flashy but no less enjoyable. It’s also the largest animal park in Europe.
Climb the Victory Column
While the TV Tower is certainly the most popular place to go for views of Berlin, sometimes it’s nice to check out a less popular attraction. The Victory Column is one of the most well-known sights in the city, but many people don’t realize you can climb this tower.
It’s located in the center of Tiergarten Park, in the middle of a major intersection of roads that intersect the park, and it provides a great view of the park itself. From the top, you can also see the TV Tower and lots of other sights in the city.
This is also a great choice for those of you who prefer to work for stunning views. There’s no elevator, so instead you’ll need to climb 270 stairs to reach the top. That’s 10 more steps than climbing up the Schlossbergtreppe in Graz.
Be impressed by chocolate
Not far from Gendarmenmarkt (a gorgeous square that’s also worth seeing) is the Rausch Schokoladenhaus. This impressive chocolate shop is a must for those of you with a sweet tooth. The ground level has a wide variety of chocolates to purchase, everything from simple to elaborate. They make great gifts, but don’t forget to buy something tasty for yourself.
But this isn’t just a chocolate shop. They also have large, detailed chocolate sculptures of famous Berlin landmarks. You’ll see a chocolate Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag Building, and more. And if you want to stop for a delicious treat in Berlin, the upstairs level is a cafe with cakes, hot chocolate, and lots of other delicious options.
BIO: Ali of Berlin Travel Tips
Ali Garland is a full-time blogger who visited all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She is originally from the US, but she and her husband have been living in Berlin since 2015. They recently added an adorable Yorkie to their family. Ali loves Berlin and is dedicated to sharing the best advice for visiting this fascinating city on her site Berlin Travel Tips. You can also follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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