Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is famous for its vibrant arts scene, fascinating history, electrifying nightlife, and beautiful urban parks.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or somewhere different and exciting to explore, you’ll find there are plenty of things to do in Berlin to keep any traveler satisfied.
It’s the perfect city for travelers seeking an urban adventure filled with history, culture, and entertainment. The city’s unique blend of old and new, East and West, creates a vibrant atmosphere that captures the heart of everyone who visits here.
But with so many historical and cultural attractions in Berlin, it can be a challenge putting together a to-do list.
In this guide, Yvonne Zagermann, who has been living in Berlin since June 2010, shares with us her top tips for what to do in Berlin for a first time visitor, so you can get a feel for the best of Berlin in one trip.
- Is Berlin Worth Visiting?
- Things to Do in Berlin
- 1. Check out the Brandenburg Gate
- 2. See the Berlin Wall Memorial
- 3. Get A Photo with the Berlin TV Tower
- 4. Explore the Abandoned Airport of Tempelhof
- 5. Visit the East Side Gallery
- 6. Walk Across Checkpoint Charlie
- 7. Try a Currywurst
- 8. Have a Doner Kebab
- 9. Hit the Bars
- 10. Explore the Markets and Shopping in Berlin
- 11. Attend A Festival in Berlin
- 12. Travel Back In Time on Museum Island
- 13. Visit the Soviet War Memorial
- 14. Pay Your Respects At The Holocaust Memorial
- 15. Take the Kids to Berlin Zoo
- 16. Check Out The German Parliament Building (Reichstag)
- 17. Have a Picnic In Tiergarten
- 18. Explore The Trendy Neighborhoods
- 19. Check Out the Topography of Terror Museum
- 20. Cruise Down the Spree River
- 21. Admire the Architecture of the Public Squares
- Getting To and Around Berlin
- Best Time to Visit Berlin
- Where to Stay in Berlin
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Berlin
- Other helpful German travel posts
Is Berlin Worth Visiting?
Berlin is the heart of Europe and is a destination that’s full of history.
It’s vibrant and multicultural and it doesn’t matter if you’re interested in history, food, art, nightlife or culture – you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Berlin.
It’s maybe not the prettiest European city but – as mayor Klaus Wowereit said – it’s poor but sexy. It has it’s very own charm, especially in summer, that is unlike anywhere else in Europe.
For these reasons, it’s absolutely worth visiting.
Top tip: If you want to save money on attractions, check out The Berlin Pass. It gives you free entry to 60+ top Berlin attractions, Hop on and Off sightseeing tours, and an optional travel card for unlimited travel. Get yours here and save money your visit to Berlin.
Things to Do in Berlin
Oh, where should I start? There are so many things to do and places to visit in Berlin that it can be a struggle to know what to add to the itinerary. Below are some of my unmissable highlights and things you mustn’t miss!
1. Check out the Brandenburg Gate
For first-timers, I recommend for sure you check out the Brandenburg Gate. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in Berlin (after the Berlin Wall of course).
It was built in the late 18th century and has played a significant role in shaping German identity.
It’s most famous for its imposing neoclassical architecture and the sheer magnitude of the structure. It’s also a symbol of Germany’s complex past, having served as a key entry point to the city during both the second world war and the Cold War.
In fact, the gate was located in no-man’s-land between East and West Berlin during the latter conflict, making it a poignant symbol of division and unity.
Today, the Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of peace and unity. Be sure to enjoy a stroll through the adjacent park, and learn about its complex history through nearby museums and exhibitions.
2. See the Berlin Wall Memorial
If you’re really into history you should visit the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse.
The Berlin Wall is one of the world’s most famous monuments, built by East Germany to protect their people against the “fascists” of West Germany.
While much of the wall has been destroyed, a memorial stands in its place. The Berlin Wall Memorial is a profound and moving tribute to one of the most defining events of the 20th century.
It serves as both a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Cold War and a reminder of the incredible human cost of division and conflict.
What many people don’t expect to see when they visit the Berlin Wall Memorial is the stark contrast between the modern, vibrant city of Berlin and the wall’s haunting remains.
The memorial includes preserved sections of the wall, as well as outdoor exhibitions and a museum that explores the history and impact of the wall on both East and West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall Memorial provides a powerful space for reflection and contemplation. It’s a testament to the resilience and courage of the German people and a deeply moving tribute to those who suffered during this tumultuous period of history.
3. Get A Photo with the Berlin TV Tower
Another well-known landmark in Berlin is the TV Tower.
The TV Tower, also known as the Fernsehturm Berlin, has a viewing platform where tourists can get breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
It’s 368 meters high, making it the tallest structure in Germany, and can be seen from anywhere in the city.
As well as offering stunning views, the TV Tower also boasts a revolving restaurant that offers diners a unique culinary experience while enjoying unparalleled vistas of the city.
In my opinion, the best photo op with the TV Tower IN the picture is from top of the Park Inn Hotel at Alexanderplatz.
Ever heard about Base Flying? Because when you’re up there you should think about “flying” down.
4. Explore the Abandoned Airport of Tempelhof
And one of my favorite things to do in Berlin is visit the abandoned airport of Tempelhof, where you can go for a run or watch kite surfers on the old airfield.
This iconic airport, which dates back to the 1920s, has a storied past that includes serving as a hub for Nazi propaganda during World War II and playing a critical role in the Berlin Airlift.
Today, you can wander around the abandoned runways and airfields of Tempelhof. You can also take a guided tour to gain further insight into the airport’s original design, its use during World War II, and its significance in the context of the Cold War.
But it’s not just about history.
The airport has been transformed into a public park, where you can go for a picnic, a bike ride, or stroll through the open green spaces.
There are also different occasions throughout the year like the Berlin Festival in September when you even can go into the old building.
5. Visit the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a number one thing to see for anyone interested in street art, history, or cultural heritage.
It’s a famous open-air gallery that stretches for over a kilometer along the remains of the Berlin Wall, which is the longest remaining stretch of the wall still standing.
The gallery features more than 100 murals created by artists from all over the world, each one exploring themes of freedom, unity, and social justice.
It’s a striking example of how art can be used to convey powerful messages and spark important conversations about society and culture.
6. Walk Across Checkpoint Charlie
Another important historic attraction in Berlin is Checkpoint Charlie, which played a pivotal role during the Cold War.
It was once the only crossing point between East and West Berlin and is now one of the most famous landmarks in the city.
A visit to Checkpoint Charlie is an essential part of any trip to Berlin, offering visitors a chance to connect with the city’s complex past and gain insight into the human toll of division and conflict.
7. Try a Currywurst
When you visit Berlin you have to eat a Currywurst. If you’re not familiar with Currywurst, it’s a traditional and popular street food dish that was invented in Germany.
It’s a pork sausage that has been steamed and then fried, cut into bite-sized chunks, and then served with tomato-based sauce that has been seasoned with curry powder and other spices.
It usually comes with fries or a bread roll.
The locals will recommend another place but I think the best Currywurst is the one from Konnopke’s at Eberswalderstraße.
If you want to learn more about Currywurst I recommend the Currywurst Museum near Checkpoint Charlie.
8. Have a Doner Kebab
Did you know Doner Kebab was invented in Berlin too?
My favourite kebab booth is the one from Mustafa at Mehringdamm, where you also get a tasty vegetable kebab.
9. Hit the Bars
One of the main reasons to visit Berlin is for its nightlife, which is world-famous.
There seems to be a new bar opening in Berlin every day.
Some places I recommend you check out are Becketts Kopf, located in Prenzlauer Berg. This hidden gem serves up expertly crafted cocktails and has a cozy, intimate atmosphere.
Buck and Breck is a speakeasy-style bar in Brunnenstraße that offers an extensive list of creative cocktails and has a sophisticated, upscale vibe.
Then there’s Fairytale Bar, which as its name suggests, is a whimsical bar in Neukölln has a fairytale-inspired interior and serves up creative, Instagram-worthy cocktails.
Klunkerkranich is a rooftop bar in Neukölln that offers stunning views of the city and a relaxed, bohemian atmosphere. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail while taking in the sunset.
One thing you shouldn’t miss is the Open Air Karaoke Sundays in Mauerpark and the abandoned amusement park Spreepark.
10. Explore the Markets and Shopping in Berlin
The most famous shopping district is the Kurfürstendamm, called Ku’damm.
On this avenue, you can shop till you drop. Here you also find the famous KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens).
It’s Europe’s biggest mall with a gourmet section as large as 7,000 square meters. But don’t ever go there on a Saturday.
On Sundays, stop by Mauerpark where you’ll find Berlin’s most famous flea market with vintage clothes, art, food and more.
One thing I really love about visiting Berlin are the Late Night Shops, you’ll find them at every corner and most of them are open 24 hours.
Here you can not only buy a late night beer but also everything you need for a party or stuff you’ll need when you’ve forgot to go to the supermarket.
11. Attend A Festival in Berlin
If you love music festivals you should come to Berlin in September when you can go to the Berlin Festival at the abandoned airport Tempelhof.
In October at the Festival of Lights an illumination artists light up historical buildings and other important landmarks in a spectacular show of lights. A cool photo opportunity!
If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to explore the many Christmas Markets that pop up around the city.
12. Travel Back In Time on Museum Island
Museum Island is, as you would expect, an island in the heart of the city. It’s home to some of the world’s most renowned museums and art collections.
You can explore five distinct museums, each with its own unique focus and collection. These include the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum, and the Pergamon Museum.
The museums on Museum Island house a vast array of artworks and artifacts from different cultures and historical periods, ranging from ancient Egyptian statues to contemporary art installations.
Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Berlin’s most prominent cultural attractions.
It’s a must-visit destination for anyone interested in immersing themselves in the rich history and artistic legacy of Germany and beyond.
13. Visit the Soviet War Memorial
The Soviet War Memorial is located in Treptower Park, and was built in 1949 to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who died during World War II.
The memorial features a striking statue of a Soviet soldier standing over a broken swastika, surrounded by intricate reliefs that depict the heroic struggles of the Soviet army during the war.
You can also explore the adjoining cemetery, which contains the resting place of thousands of Soviet soldiers.
14. Pay Your Respects At The Holocaust Memorial
The Holocaust Memorial is another powerful and moving memorial that serves as a reminder of the atrocities committed during World War II.
It was built in 2005, the memorial consists of over 2,700 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern, symbolizing the overwhelming scale of the Holocaust.
You can walk among the slabs and contemplate the enormity of the tragedy that occurred and remember the millions of murdered jews of Europe who lost their lives at the hands of Hitler.
The underground museum located nearby offers exhibits and information about the Holocaust, including personal stories of victims and survivors.
15. Take the Kids to Berlin Zoo
The Berlin Zoo is one of the oldest and most renowned zoos in the world, with a history that dates back to 1844.
Today, the zoo is home to over 18,600 animals from more than 1,400 different species, making it one of the most diverse collections of wildlife in the world.
The zoo is also home to a large aquarium that features an impressive collection of aquatic life.
16. Check Out The German Parliament Building (Reichstag)
The German Parliament Building, also known as the Reichstag, is somewhere you might want to add to your to do list if you’re interested in history, architecture, and politics.
The building dates back to 1894 and has played a significant role in German history, serving as the seat of parliament during different periods of the country’s history.
Be sure to explore the building’s unique mix of historical and modern architecture, including its famous glass dome that offers panoramic views of the city.
The dome is accessible to the public, and visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of Berlin’s skyline while learning about the building’s history and significance.
17. Have a Picnic In Tiergarten
Tiergarten is a vast inner-city park that offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
With more than 520 acres of forest, gardens, and meadows, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic.
Picnicking in Tiergarten is a great way to unwind and connect with nature.
The park offers plenty of shady spots to set up a picnic blanket, and there are many food stalls and vendors nearby where you can purchase snacks and refreshments.
18. Explore The Trendy Neighborhoods
Wandering around the trendy neighborhoods of Berlin such as the Mitte district and Kreuzberg is a great way to experience the city’s unique culture and atmosphere.
Both neighborhoods are known for their eclectic mix of art, music, food, and fashion, making them popular destinations for locals and tourists alike.
Mitte, located in the heart of Berlin, is home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate and Museum Island. It’s also known for its vibrant nightlife, with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from.
Kreuzberg, on the other hand, is a diverse and multicultural neighborhood that’s famous for its street art, vintage shops, and alternative music scene.
It’s home to some of the city’s best food markets and food trucks, offering visitors a chance to sample a wide variety of cuisines from around the world.
19. Check Out the Topography of Terror Museum
The Topography of Terror Museum is another important museum that aims to educate visitors about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during World War II.
The museum is located on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters and chronicles the rise of Hitler’s regime, the persecution of Jews and other minorities, and the events leading up to the Holocaust.
The museum’s exhibits include photographs, documents, and artifacts that provide a chilling insight into the horrors of the Nazi regime.
20. Cruise Down the Spree River
Cruising down the Spree River is one of the most relaxing things to do in Berlin. It’s a chance to see Berlin from a different perspective and take in some of the city’s most iconic landmarks from the water.
The Spree River runs through the heart of Berlin, passing by famous sights such as the Reichstag, Museum Island, and the Berliner Dom.
In addition to its scenic beauty, a Spree River cruise is a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or evening in Berlin.
Many cruises offer food and drink options, including traditional German fare and local beers and wines.
21. Admire the Architecture of the Public Squares
The city of Berlin is renowned for its stunning architecture, and there are few better examples of this than the public squares of Gendarmenmarkt and Potsdamer Platz.
Both of these squares are famous for their grandiose architectural designs, which make them must-visit destinations for anyone interested in history, art, and culture.
Gendarmenmarkt is a square that is known for its harmonious architectural ensemble, which includes the German and French cathedrals and the Konzerthaus (concert hall).
Potsdamer Platz, on the other hand, is a modern public square that features some of the most impressive contemporary architecture in the world.
It’s home to several towering skyscrapers, including the Sony Center, which features an eye-catching glass dome that has become one of Berlin’s most recognizable landmarks.
Getting To and Around Berlin
If still planning how to get to Berlin, you should check out this German budget airline, Eurowings. You can also easily get to Berlin by train although it can be more expensive.
The best and cheapest way to get to Berlin (when you’re already in Germany or Europe) is a ride-share app called Bla Bla Car. It’s a cross between Uber and hitch-hiking, though it can be a bit hit and miss as you have to wait until someone is driving in the direction you’re going.
When it comes to getting around Berlin, you should know that although Berlin itself is a very cheap city, public transport isn’t.
The best deal is to buy a Welcome Card, there are 8 options, from 48hrs up to 5 days, and you can use unlimited public transport but also get a discount on more than 200 tourist and cultural highlights.
Besides this public transport often is late, or not running or you have to use buses as a replacement service.
Although Berlin is huge it’s also a city you can explore by foot or by bike. I recommend you take a walking tour or bike tour.
Best Time to Visit Berlin
The best time to visit Berlin is definitely the summer as Winter can be VERY cold.
But in summer the city shows its pretty side and you can even go for a swim in one of the many lakes in and around Berlin, or simply sit back int he beer gardens and watch the world go by.
It’s also the time when there are summer concerts in the park, and lots of entertainment happening throughout the city.
I always tell people to visit Berlin for the first time in summer, as you’ll probably fall in love with the city and if you then come back in winter it won’t be that hard for you to still love the city.
Where to Stay in Berlin
There are so many hotels and hostels in Berlin it’s hard to choose where to stay in Berlin.
I recommend the Meininger Hotels, as they offer good quality and a good price. There are six of them all over the city, so you just have to choose the neighbourhood you want to stay in.
If you want to splurge on yourself, I recommend the Ritz Carlton, not only because Robbie Williams and Brangelina used to stay here when they are in Berlin but also because of the great staff who will remember your name.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Berlin
I love Berlin because the city doesn’t expect anything from you but to be yourself. And Berlin has more bridges than Venice. Period.
Berlin has so much history, which is evident in the many museums, monuments, and landmarks scattered throughout the city.
And the nightlife is something you won’t find in any other European city.
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or nightlife, Berlin has something to offer every traveler.
Other helpful German travel posts
- Unmissable Things To Do In Munich, Germany
- What to do in Freiburg, Germany
- 16 Ideas For What to Do in Cologne, Germany
Do you have any tips on what to do in Berlin? Share your ideas in the comments.