Berlin is Germany’s capital and the largest city in the country. It has one of the most turbulent histories of any European capital but has emerged as one of Europe’s most popular destinations in recent years. There is a lot of history and art here, and Berlin has become very popular with students and young artists, writers, and creatives who have become the city’s new immigrants. While I dislike the “industrial” look of the city (I like pretty, old buildings!), the art, history, and nightlife cannot be beat. Berlin is an old city with a young heart and one of the most fun, coolest, most diverse and eclectic cities in Europe. There’s a constant sense of motion here. I love it and I strongly urge you to spend extra time here!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Berlin
1. Visit the Holocaust Memorial
2. Brandenburg Gate
3. GDR Museum
4. Visit the East Side Gallery
5. Treptower Park
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Hang out in Potsdamer Platz
In the 1920s, Potsdamer Platz was the busiest square in Europe, but it was destroyed in World War II and divided by the Berlin Wall. After German reunification, it became the largest building site in Europe as it has been transformed into a showpiece of the new Berlin with modern architecture including offices, hotels, cinemas, shopping centers and the massive Sony Center.
2. See the famous Reichstag
The seat of the German Parliament is one of Berlin’s most historic landmarks. It now has a new dome and draws some of the biggest crowds in Berlin. It has a rich history that reflects the stories of Germany since the 19th century. Make reservations ahead of time (it’s free!) to climb the famous glass dome and see a view of the city — remember to bring your passport!
3. Alexanderplatz and Fernsehturm TV tower
Germany’s most famous city square contains the 368-meter high Fernsehturm TV tower. You can visit the tower’s observation deck for brilliant views of the city. (You can also see the tower from everywhere in the city.)
4. Deutsches Historisches Museum
The German historical museum covers everything from prehistory right up to the present day. There are a lot of exhibits and the signs provide a wealth of information and good background. This museum takes about three hours to see (if you see it all). It’s one of my favorite history museums in the world! Admission is 8 EUR for adults and free for anyone under 18.
5. Head to Grunewald
If you are looking to escape from the city atmosphere, the grand expanse of Berlin’s largest forest is the perfect destination. You’ll want to check the weather first, but there is plenty to do. Consider hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, or biking. There are even guided tours available.
6. Zoologischer Garten and Aquarium
First opened in 1841, this is now Germany’s oldest and Europe’s most popular zoo. Along with the classic animals, there are several rare and endangered species to see. In total, the zoo houses over 14,000 species. The landscaping here is exceptional, and the aquarium is equally impressive. A combination ticket for the zoo and aquarium is 20 EUR for adults, and discounts are available for children and families.
7. Visit the Deutsche Kinemathek
More commonly referred to as the Film Museum, this is one of the most interesting museums in Berlin. Every June, the Berlin Jewish Film Festival is held here. During the rest of the year, there are exhibits which showcase the history of German movies—as well as, German actors and actresses. There is even a section on Nazi propaganda films. Adult admission is 7 EUR, with discounts available for families and students.
8. Relax in the Britzer Garten
It’s always nice to know of a fresh, green area amidst the construction landscape of most cities. No matter what time of the year, this is a beautiful garden. The Rose Garden is particularly stunning. There is also a water playground, a petting zoo, and even a miniature train here. Admission is 2 EUR for adults and 1 EUR for children.
9. Relax in Tempelhof Park
Located in the southern part of the city, this park is actually the site of the old airport that was used during the Berlin Airlift (when the Soviets tried to blockade the city). Now, it’s a big park with a lot of plaques and information about the old airport. It’s not the best park in Berlin, but it’s cool to be able to walk around a piece of history. You’ll see lots of people running and working out here.
10. Enjoy the music
Berlin is one of the musical centers of Europe and features some of the best DJs, musicians, singers, and bands on the continent. No matter your musical tastes, you’ll find something here. Don’t miss out.
11. See the Berliner Dom
The Berlin Cathedral was built in 1905 and is a picturesque staple of the city. While most visitors just stop by for photos and to relax on the grass, history and architecture buffs may want to visit inside. Admission is 7 EUR, with discounts available. An audio guide is 3 EUR.
12. Checkpoint Charlie
Dividing Berlin’s most well-known border crossing was Checkpoint Charlie. The original border post on Friedrichstraße between former East and West Berlin remains, complete with a soldier’s post and border crossing sign. The Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie has exhibits on the history of the Berlin Wall along with displays about people who attempted to escape to the West. Adult admission to the museum is 12.50 EUR, with discounts available for students. This is a definite must in the city.
13. Take a bike tour
Berlin is a great city to explore by bicycle. There are plenty of themed tours run by operators like Fat Tire Tours that will show you the city while highlighting its history, food, and culture. Prices will vary depending on the tour, but you can expect to pay between 25-50 EUR per person.
14. Visit an air raid shelter
These air raid shelters were designed to protect German citizens from nuclear fallout during the Cold War, should World War III have broken out. Tours are available to show you just what it was like to take shelter underground, with prices starting around 11 EUR per person.