Last Updated: 5/15/22 | May 15th, 2022
Berlin is a gigantic city. I knew it was big, but until I decided to explore it by foot, I never knew just how big. I came here for five days with the idea that I’d see all the major sights, some of the not-so-major sights, and get a feel for the city. I didn’t get a chance to see much of Germany’s capital the first time I was here, and I was hoping this visit would correct that.
But despite my intentions, I barely accomplished anything in five days. Berlin is just too big and spread out. My original purpose was to write a post on what to do in five days in Berlin. But after realizing how hard it was to get around and see the sights, that post was impossible to write. This city is just too overwhelming.
So instead, here’s a list of the best things to do in Berlin so you can plan your trip and make the most of your time in this exciting city:
1. Stroll down the East Side Gallery
When the Berlin Wall came down, a giant section was left standing, and artists were invited to paint a section of it that represented hope and violence. Now, the East Side Gallery is one of the best outdoor art exhibits in Berlin, featuring 105 paintings by artists from all over the world. Most of the pieces are political in nature, and I was really moved by some of the paintings. Learn more about the wall, artwork, and history via the signs posted along the length of the wall.
Muehlenstreet 6, +49 172 3918726, eastsidegallery-berlin.de. Entry is free.
2. Take a Free Walking Tour
One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is take a free walking tour. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land and connect with an expert local guide who can answer my questions. New Europe runs a long and informative walking tour that begins at the Brandenburg Gate and lasts 3.5 hours. It takes you through the center of the city, shows you all the highlights, gives you some history, and will help you orient yourself. Just remember to tip your guide at the end!
3. See the Brandenberg Gate
Built in 1791 by Prussian king Frederick William II, Brandenburg Gate is undoubtedly Berlin’s most famous landmark. During the Cold War, the Brandenburg Gate was in no man’s land behind the Berlin Wall. When the Wall fell, everyone flocked to celebrate here and the gate has remained a symbol of unified Germany ever since. It’s located in the Mitte neighborhood, just one block from the Reichstag building.
4. Explore the Jewish History Museum
Jews have faced a long and hard road in Germany. They represented an important part of the population even though they were highly discriminated against. This museum traces the arrival of Jews and their contributions throughout German history, as well as the hardships they faced. It doesn’t go into much depth on the Holocaust, as there is a wonderful separate museum for that.
Like all museums in Germany, this is huge and will require a few hours to properly explore.
Lindenstreet 9-14, +49 30 25993300, jmberlin.de. Open daily from 10am-7pm. Admission to the main exhibitions is free, while a ticket to the temporary exhibitions is 8 EUR.
5. See the Holocaust Memorial
Located in Mitte near the Reichstag, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is made up of concrete slabs designed to create a feeling of confusion and unease as you wander through them. Below is a museum that chronicles the Nazis’ treatment and extermination of the Jews by following various families throughout the Holocaust. It creates a very personalized and moving way to learn about this awful blight on human history. Note: the museum is temporarily closed.
Located near the Brandenburg Gate, +49 30 2639430, holocaust-mahnmal.de. Entry to the memorial is free.
6. Hang out in Treptower Park
Located in the eastern part of Berlin, this park is near an old abandoned amusement park (which you can also visit). It’s a popular place to bike around, and there are a number of beer gardens and a small island nearby where they have a weekend flea market. Moreover, you can rent boats and canoes and cruise down the Spree River. It’s my favorite park in the city. Don’t miss the Inselgarten beer garden with its giant bar swings and random tango classes.
Alt-Treptow, +49 30 25002333. Open 10am-1am.
7. Relax in Templehof Field
Located in the southern part of the city, this park is actually the site of the old airport used during the Berlin Airlift after World War II, when the Soviets tried to blockade Berlin. The airport finally closed in 2008, but the park has a lot of plaques and information so that you can learn more about the old airport. You can also take guided tours of the building in English to dive even deeper and see the inside for yourself.
The huge park itself is a favorite with Berliners, with lots of people running, working out, cycling, skateboarding, roller-blading, and flying kites here. In the summer, people take over the barbecue pits. The 3 park entrances are open from sunrise to sunset.
Ehemaliger Flufhafen Tempelhof, +49 30 7009060, thf-berlin.de/en. There are official tours in English every day (except Tuesdays) for 16.50 EUR. Entrance to the park is free.
8. Tour the German History Museum
Founded on the 750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987, this museum provides a detailed account of the country’s long history, starting from Roman times. It’s organized by time period and has over 100,000 items in its collection. It’s giant, so if you visit, make sure you can plan to spend at least two hours here. Skip the audio guide, though; I didn’t find it to be that good.
Under the Linden 2, +49 30 203040, dhm.de. Opening hours vary by building. Admission is 8 EUR.
9. Visit the DDR Museum
The Deutsche Demokratische Republic museum focuses on life in East Berlin, with many interactive exhibits, including a simulated drive in an original Trabant P601 car. The museum is separated into the various aspects of daily life: food, clothing, schooling, fun, music, etc. It provides a good window into how the citizens of East Berlin (the Communist side) lived. One thing I found interesting was that to escape the conformity of life under Communism, it was normal for people to go to nude beaches.
Karl-Liebknecht-Street 1, +49 30 847123730, ddr-museum.de. Open daily from 9am-9pm. Admission is 9.80 EUR.
10. Hang out in Tiergarten
Berlin’s central park is an excellent place to relax, walk, bike, and hang out. It’s one of the most beautiful city parks in all of Europe, in my opinion. Founded in 1527 as a private hunting ground for Germany’s ruling class, Tiergarten first opened to the public in 1740. While the park was significantly damaged during World War II, today, the park has been restored, with over 520 acres to explore.
Visitors can see the war memorial for Russian soldiers, the nearby Reichstag (Germany’s Parliament), and continue onwards to the famous Brandenburg Gate. There’s also (naturally) a popular beer garden in the park to kick back and relax for a bit.
11. See Checkpoint Charlie
This is the infamous gateway between former East and West Berlin. There’s a reconstruction of the checkpoint here, complete with fake soldiers (and lots of tourists taking pictures). The nearby museum was created in 1963 by Rainer Hildebrandt. It has a lot of pictures, information, and video about people’s attempts to flee the East.
A word of caution, though: the museum is really tiny, making it hard to maneuver around due to the big crowds. Avoid going mid-day and on the weekend.
Friedrichstraße 43-45, +49 30 2537250. The checkpoint itself is open every day and free to the public, while the museum is open Monday-Sunday from 9am-10pm. Admission to the museum is 14.50 EUR for adults, with discounts available for students and families.
12. Take a boat tour
The Spree River flows through Berlin, and there are lots of canals and waterways on which you can take a boat tour. It’s quite relaxing on a warm day. Tours start at 19 EUR for a one-hour cruise.
13. Hang out on “the beach”
A great summertime activity involves hanging out on “the beach.” Various areas of the riverbank (especially across from the main train station) have “beach bars” where people lounge in beach chairs, drink beer, and soak up the sun. Strandbad Wannsee on the outskirts of the city is especially popular for its sandy beaches and swimming areas.
14. Visit the Topography of Terror
This museum sits on the spot where the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located during World War II. It documents the terror and horror of the Nazi regime with harrowing video interviews with survivors, historical documents, photographs, and more. It also consists of excavated prison cells that were found under a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
Niederkirchnerstraße 8, +49 30 2545090, topographie.de. Open daily from 10am-8pm. Admission is free.
15. See the Reichstag
The seat of the Bundestag (German Parliament) is one of Berlin’s most historic landmarks. Opened in 1894, it has a clear dome to promote “transparency” in the government and is one of the most popular (read: crowded) attractions in Berlin. It fell into disuse and disrepair after World War II and wasn’t actually used again until 1999. From the dome, enjoy panoramic views over the city and learn about the parliament’s history from the interior exhibitions.
Platz der Republik 1, +49 30 22732152, bundestag.de/en. Admission is free (advance reservations required). Bring your passport as it’s required for entry!
16. Admire the Berliner Dom
The biggest and most impressive cathedral in Berlin, The Berliner Dom was built at the turn of the 20th century as an expression of imperial power. It’s located next to the museum island in Mitte and you can climb to the top of the dome for a beautiful view over Berlin’s center. While most visitors just stop by the outside for photos, the ornate interior decked in marble and onyx is worth a visit as well. Marvel at the massive 7,269-pipe organ and royal sarcophagi.
Am Lustgarten, +49 30 20269136, berlinerdom.de. You can visit The Dom daily. Open Monday-Friday from 10am-6pm, Saturdays from 10am-5pm, and Sundays from 12pm-5pm. It is also closed during services and ceremonies. Admission is 9 EUR.
17. Tour the Berliner Unterwelten-Museum
This guided tour takes you into the tunnel systems beneath the city, where you’ll find bunkers, air-raid shelters, and other remnants from the wars that have touched the city. There are four different tours to choose from depending on your area of interest. After the tour, you can view the small exhibition, and then descend into the basement of the BerlinerKindl brewery to sample some of their beers.
Brunnenstraße 105, +49 30 49910517, berliner-unterwelten.de/en. Open Monday-Thursday, 10am-4pm, Friday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Tours cost 15 EUR.
18. Take a Bike Tour
If you’d rather not cycle the city alone, try a bike tour. You’ll be able to cover a lot of ground, see the main sights, and chat with an expert local guide who can tell you all about Berlin’s history, culture, food, and more. Check out Fat Tire Tours if you’re looking for a guided bike tour. They’re the best in the city and are suitable for all ages.
In the end, I’m glad I came back to Berlin. I didn’t see what the fuss was about the first time, but after this visit, I enjoy Berlin more. It’s still ugly, but the art, the music, and the food make it an energetic and happening place to be. Though I may not ever live here, I’d happily go back and visit — over and over again.
Note: The city of Berlin gave me a tourism card that got me discounts at all these attractions as well as free transportation.
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Book Your Trip to Berlin: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here’s a longer list of my favorite hostels in Berlin.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
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- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
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Want a Guide?
Berlin has some interesting great tours. If you want to see all the main sights, book a bike tour with Fat Tire Tours. They use expert local guides so you’ll learn a lot and have fun in the process!
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