Berlin is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. Drawing in weekend warriors, history buffs and art lovers, the city has a range of attractions and sights for its visitors and locals delight in. These are landmarks that every newcomer should experience, however, in a city as diverse as Berlin there is a lot more to the place than its top 10 listed attractions. So, for something a little different, explore a local’s guide to the 11 underrated things to do in Berlin.
Berlin is home to a rich film scene, offering regular special screenings, Q&A with directors and a month-long world-famous film festival, Berlinale, which kicks off every February. Berlin’s Film Society regularly hosts cinematic events and the city itself has many a quirky and city art house theatres cinephiles can enjoy the latest blockbusters or indie flicks in. During the summer, the city also has a huge range of open-air cinemas.
The British have afternoon tea, and the Germans have ‘kaffee und kuchen’, treated as an afternoon break or Sunday ritual. Spending an afternoon hauled up in one of Berlin’s cosy cafés playing chess, reading a book and catching up with friends is a beloved social ritual. You can explore the city’s culture scene by neighbourhood, as many locals do, or according to your sweet tooth.
Beyond museum island, Berlin has a diverse, historic, and sometimes eclectic range of galleries and museums. From urban art galleries to Museum of Unheard things or the famous Berlin beer, Berliner Kindl Centre for Contemporary Art, the city has a wealth of art, history, and quirky experiences for visitors and locals to enjoy.
Berlin has a thriving music scene – beyond the holy trilogy (house, electronic, and techno) that is equated with the city’s top clubs, there is diverse music scene with rich roots in the city. Ranging from jazz to classical to punk or acoustic rock and many styles in between, there is a music experience for everyone. With venues dotted across the city, favourites include Berlin’s oldest jazz club, Quasimodo, and SO36, which has held concerts from the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, and was an important venue for Berlin’s underground punk scene.
When the urban grind of Berlin gets too much, the city offers a plethora of green spaces to escape to. Visitors don’t have to be an outdoorsy type to appreciate the dense, lush forests around Berlin’s city – they can instead enjoy a relaxed walk and the tranquil atmosphere. While there are a number of forests dotted around Berlin, heading to Grunewald Forest will give you the perfect mixture of water and nature, as well as a mixture of fun activities to enjoy.
When it comes to relaxing like a true German, it’s hard to look past their passion for saunas. With a range of health benefits, a touch a luxury, yet affordability in Berlin, it’s easy to see where this love comes from. Liquidrom is a favourite, where aside from sweating it out in the sauna, visitors can have a truly Berlin experience and listen to underwater techno music as they float in a salt water pool.
Berlin is known for its underground culture and scenes, so it’s no surprise that the city’s gastronomy has adopted this alternative attitude. Underground supper clubs are popping up across Berlin, offering everything from gourmet dining experiences to casual but delicious meals in chefs’ apartments. These unique culinary delights, offer guests fantastic dining, a chance to meet some new friends, and an eclectic experience.
Gardening might seem like a boring errand for homeowners, or a pastime best suited for grandparents, however, it actually has a number of surprising health benefits. So roll up your sleeves and get planting at one of Berlin’s gorgeous green urban gardens or farms.
Berlin is a haven for artists of all kinds, but when it comes to performing, the city’s spoken word poets and comedians reflect the city’s international and underground energy. Housed in cafés after dark and in the basements of small local bars, Berlin’s spoken word and comedy scene is a moving, tickling delight. Many of the nights happen around Neukölln, with regular event updates via Whiskey & Words and We are not Gemüsed.
A throwback to the roaring 20s, Berlin’s cabaret nights are mostly located in the city’s West and range from flashy numbers to risque Burlesque shows. Isherwood fans will adore these old-timely nights, filled with the glitz, glam and performances of the 1920s.
Berlin’s parliament building, the Reichstag is an architectural wonder and historical site. A recognised symbol of democracy, this impressive building is also home to a stunning 360-degree city view. Atop the Reichstag is a large dome observation deck that visitors can experience – signing up is required, but once there locals and tourists can enjoy views of the city.