As rich in history as it is in creativity and contemporary culture, Berlin is a multifaceted city where no visit is ever the same. The best tours in Berlin offer the opportunity to scratch beneath the surface and discover more of the German capital.
With options nearly as diverse as the city itself, there is a Berlin tour to suit every kind of traveller. From exploring the darkest hours of German history at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and discovering Berlin’s Communist past to kayaking down the River Spree and sampling currywurst, the best Berlin tours give visitors the chance to view the city from different perspectives.
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There are many options to see Berlin from the water, with boat tours varying in duration and theme. Passing some of Berlin’s most prominent sights – including the Reichstag and Berlin Cathedral – the one-hour city boat tour, starting at Friedrichstraße or Nikolaiviertel, is an excellent place to start. The tour offers personal audio guides with a number of language options, while there is also a bar and café on board, meaning you can combine your exploration with a cold German beer or a classic Berlin currywurst. Tours start every half hour, with the last one leaving the dock at 5.30pm – the perfect option for a sundowner cruise.
Food and street art aficionados will be in heaven on this three-hour walking tour through multicultural, vibrant Kreuzberg – Berlin’s epicentre of cool. On this tour you’ll tantalise your taste buds with local street food, including the unmissable Berlin currywurst, as well as admiring the colourful and poignant street art that adorns every corner of this quirky Kiez (neighbourhood). Experience where locals eat and drink as you meander through the Kreuzbergian streets, all while learning about the neighbourhood’s wild past and present by your experienced guide. The tour starts at the East Side City Hotel. Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes for this tour, along with a healthy appetite.
There’s no denying that Berlin’s past has had some extremely dark chapters, and a visit to a former concentration camp probably tops the list for a solid dose of sombre Second World War history. This guided tour of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp is a face-to-face encounter with the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. As the closest camp to the city, a short 40-minute train ride away, the guided tour comes highly recommended as a day trip from Berlin. Taking visitors through the barracks and the old infirmary, this tour – both fascinating and harrowing – gives you a glimpse of what life was like in the camp, which was open from 1936 until 1950, first as a Nazi concentration camp and later as a “Soviet Special Camp”. This tour meets at the iconic Brandenburg Gate and lasts five-and-a-half hours.
An easy way to see Berlin’s most popular and well-known tourist spots is to simply grab a seat on the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour. Perfect for visitors with only a short amount of time in Berlin, this tour allows you to ride comfortably around the city with live commentary providing information on each of the 22 key landmarks passed on the journey: from the looming TV Tower at Alexanderplatz, to Checkpoint Charlie and the glitzy fashion stores of Kurfürstendamm. Lasting two hours in total, staying onboard for the entire route is an excellent way to get your bearings in Berlin. As the ticket is valid for 24 hours, another option is to meander your way around the city, without having to worry about how to navigate public transport.
Taking in the streets of what was once Communist East Berlin, the 3.5-hour Red Berlin: Secrets of the Communist Capital walking tour brings recent history to life. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guides, most of whom are history scholars, paint a picture of life behind the Iron Curtain before Berlin’s reunification in 1989, pointing out where the Berlin Wall once stood, crossing points and escape routes. Most hauntingly, this tour features visits to some of Berlin’s ‘Ghost Stations’ – the East Berlin stations on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro networks that were closed during the Cold War, which Western trains would simply pass through without stopping.Meeting points vary depending on the options booked, and there is a choice of an English- or Spanish-speaking guide.
To get a taste of the GDR years, spend an afternoon with the Stasi in East Berlin on the Stasi Prison Tour. The first section of the excursion comprises a two-hour tour of the cells and interrogation rooms of Hohenschönhausen – a former Stasi prison, which played a key role in East Germany’s system of political oppression. The guides – many of whom were former inmates – offer first-hand insight into life at Hohenschönhausen. Next, you will be guided through former East Berlin, along the grand and foreboding Karl-Marx- and Frankfurter Allees and past colossal neoclassical buildings that once stood at the epicentre of the GDR. For additional insight into surveillance during this era, you’ll be dropped off at the Stasi Museum, set within the former Stasi HQ.
For a little break from the city, take a memorable day trip to Potsdam, just outside of Berlin. This UNESCO-protected town is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Germany, and was once the home of Prussian kings and the German Kaiser. The tour, which meets at 11am at the Brandenburg Gate and includes the easy train ride from Berlin to Potsdam, explores King Frederick the Great’s rococo-style Schloss Sanssouci and the breathtaking 18th-century park Neuer Garten. Pro tip: because this tour uses public transport, it is necessary for tour attendees to have a metro card for zones A, B and C.
For anyone looking for a more high-energy dose of sightseeing, a kayaking tour along the River Spree and Landwehr Canal may be just the thing. This 2.5-hour scenic kayaking tour begins in artsy Kreuzberg and meanders through elegant Charlottenburg, ending up by the leafy Tiergarten park. During the tour, you’ll pass under and learn about the U1 railway line, the first one built in the city, as well as going past Potsdamer Platz and the Ministry of Defence. The tour operates twice a day: beginning at 11am or 2.30pm. The morning tour meets at the corner of Baerwaldbrücke and Carl-Herz-Ufer, while the afternoon one starts from Einsteinufer 17. Get your paddles ready!
Berlin Nightlife: The Original Pub Crawl is a tour for night owls, and for those curious to experience what Berlin’s renowned nightlife is all about. Weekend-long raves, intense club culture and every type of bar you could dream of: Berlin has it all. On this guided nighttime tour, you’ll enjoy a raft of diverse Berlin bars, starting with drinking and dancing in several trendy bars on Simon-Dach Straße – ranging from pumping electro to relaxed shisha bars – before enjoying VIP entry to one of the city’s legendary clubs. This six-hour tour includes free drinks and cheap shots throughout, along with party games and opportunities to win prizes. Put your dancing shoes on and meet at 9.30pm at ONE80° Hostel Berlin on Otto-Braun-Straße. Top tip: the bars featured in the tour change each night, so join the tour for a second time to experience another side of Berlin’s vibrant nightlife.
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