Two weeks in and around Germany’s cool capital promises architectural gems, fabulous food, diverse neighbourhoods and cutting-edge culture – not to mention stunning natural wonders and history packed towns. Here’s our ultimate itinerary to Berlin and its surrounding area.
The UNESCO World Heritage wonder Museum Island is a truly outstanding ensemble of five world-renowned museums, housing some of the best artefacts, artworks and collections in Germany. Spending the day exploring this artistic hub is a great way to delve into the breathtaking and important cultural exhibits of Berlin. Visitors can expect to be wowed by the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti, the impressive Ishtar Gate and treasures from the Museum of Byzantine Art. The island houses a number of museums including the Pergamon Museum, the Bode-Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Alte Museum, encompassing rich historic collections. The cheapest way to explore all the museums on offer is to purchase the Museum Pass Berlin – alternatively, you can pick and chose which sights to lose yourself in, depending on your interests. After a day of exploring, visitors are sure to work up an appetite. Thankfully, there are a number of restaurants surrounding Museum Island that range from cheap eats to fancy fine dining.
Berlin’s Mitte is brimming with history, culture and some of the city’s unmissable sights. Spend two days exploring the centre of Berlin, starting out at Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of Germany’s reunification, located in a charming upscale part of Mitte. Next, take a short walk along Tiergarten to the capital’s parliament building, the Reichstag. Here, visitors can explore one of Germany’s most historically significant buildings and visit the large dome on its roof to take in magnificent city views. To skip the line, book your tickets online before your visit. From here it’s just a short walk over to the Holocaust Memorial, also known as the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe. Walk through the grey pillars and explore this important, impactful monument at your own pace, and then head over to the compelling exhibition at the Topography of Terror to delve further into this part of Germany’s history.
Start your second day in Mitte at the famed Cold War site Checkpoint Charlie. Although the former border crossing is a little touristy and kitschy today, it still remains an important relic from the Berlin Wall. While in the area, visitors can also indulge in Berliners’ favourite fast food, currywurst, as there are a number of tasty, casual joint along Friedrichstraße. Those who want to learn more about the history of this culinary delight can head over to Currywurst Museum, just a short walk from Checkpoint Charlie. Afterwards, visitors can spend the day treating themselves to an afternoon shopping along Friedrichstraße, one of Berlin’s fanciest shopping districts. Visitors can end their Mitte exploration at one of its most well-known sights, the iconic TV Tower. In the 368-meter (1,207-foot) tower, guests are treated to all-encompassing 360-degree city views. If you’re feeling fancy you can also dine at the TV Tower’s rotating restaurant, or head over to Alexanderplatz or surrounding areas for a cheaper feast.
The heart of West Berlin is the glamorous fashion-centric neighbourhood, Charlottenburg. Head here to explore the city’s noble roots, gorgeous galleries and stylish bars. Start your exploration of the city’s west at Charlottenburg Palace, one of Berlin’s most romantic and regal sights. Guests can enjoy the palace’s Baroque opulence, exquisite interior and collections by guided tour, or at their own pace. If the weather suits, wander through the sprawling English-style palace gardens where highlights include a tranquil lake, mausoleum, the Belvedere tea house and a small Neoclassical house, the Neuer Pavillon.
After getting your royal fix, head to a more central part of Charlottenburg to the C/O Berlin gallery. C/O Berlin regularly exhibits photography and visual media shows – the charitable foundation is committed to creating a diverse cultural program, making it the perfect spot for your contemporary art fix. Families might also want to head over to the Berlin Zoo, one of Germany’s oldest and species-rich zoos. The park spans over 35 hectares and houses a range of exciting enclosures, designed to resemble the creatures’ natural habitats. Finish your day out West in style, at Monkey Bar, overlooking the zoo monkey enclosure, as well as views of the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Church. This sleek bar serves up some of the city’s best cocktails and views and promises to help you end your day in the West in style.
When you have plenty of time in the German capital, stepping outside the city and exploring the wonders housed on Berlin’s fringes doesn’t disappoint. The easiest journey from the city is to nearby town Potsdam, which sits just an hour’s drive from Berlin. The UNESCO World Heritage town is the crown jewel of Brandenburg, and two days wandering its royal sights and natural wonders are sure to delight. Spend your first day in Potsdam at the city’s best-known landmark, Park Sanssouci. Here, visitors can soak in the finest sights of this former Prussian seat, including architectural delights Sanssouci Palace, the New Palace, and the Charlottenhof Palace, as well as the Orangerie and the Chinese Teahouse. Take your time wandering through this sprawling parkland of cultural and historical delights, and if the weather permits, enjoy a picnic in the lush surrounding gardens. Finish your day off with a traditional German feast in the town.
Start your second day in Potsdam at Brandenburg Gate, the smaller cousin of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The triumphal arch was erected in the centre of the town in 1770, after winning the Seven Years War, and today it still stands as a proud monument in Potsdam. From here it’s a short walk up to the city’s Dutch Quarter. The area stretches over four city blocks and is home to the largest number of Dutch-style houses outside of the Netherlands. Comprised of 134 red brick houses and built in the 18th century to welcome the Dutchmen who settled in Potsdam, the quarter is a unique architectural feast. Lined with boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy lunch in Potsdam.
Close by is Nauener Tor, one of the city’s oldest historical gates. A central meeting point, it is considered the earliest example of English neo-Gothic style architecture in Europe. Visitors can marvel at the gate and its large surrounding market square, before settling into one of the many cosy restaurants, or cool cocktail bars to enjoy a final night in Potsdam.
Spend your first Sunday in the German capital enjoying a Berlin tradition and head over to Mauerpark. The flea market, open-air busking spot and informal karaoke session embody the free-spirited energy of the city. Visitors should follow the crowds to rummage through the vintage, hand-made and second-hand knick-knacks. If you’re looking for a souvenir, some vintage apparel or old-school treasures then the Mauerpark market is the place to look. Afterwards, head over to the street food section of the market, indulging in some cheap beer and tasty treats before wandering to the adjacent park. Buskers, drum circles and local Berliners congregate here to hang out, play music and enjoy their Sundays. Sitting in the park promises great vibes, but if you’re feeling daring head over to bearpit karaoke, Berlin’s infamous Sunday karaoke session to serenade the crowds of thousands at the park’s amphitheatre.
After the defeat of World War II, Germany was divided into four zones under the control of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the former Soviet Union. These occupied zones became known as the East and West and Berlin, as a city in the middle, sat at the centre of mounting tension, which at the height, saw the country literally divided by the Berlin Wall.
Start your journey through a divided Germany in Lichtenberg at the Stasi Museum. Located on the former grounds of the headquarters of the GDR Ministry of State Security, this museum is a comprehensive look into East Germany. The exhibition takes visitors through stories and facts about the former secret police, or Stasi, who closely monitored their fellow citizens during the Cold War. Every Monday a guided tour in English is held at the museum, with no extra charge or booking required.
After the tour, catch the U5 train to former East neighbourhood, Friedrichshain to Frankfurter Tor and soak in the impressive and iconic GDR Boulevard at sunset. The expansive socialist boulevard was built by the GDR around 1952 and stretches between the neighbourhoods Friedrichshain and Mitte. Now called Karl-Marx-Allee, it was originally named Stalinallee, and built to house apartments, shops and restaurants, a purpose it still serves today. From here it’s just a short walk to Simon-Dach-Straße, a strip that houses some of Friedrichshain’s best bars and cheap eats, where you can end your day with a nice cold beer and döner kebab.
Start your second day in the former East back at Friedrichshain, where the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall, known as East Side Gallery, is located. Wander the 1,316-meter (4,318-feet) stretch at your own pace, enjoying the colourful and politically charged murals, or by a guided tour. Visitors can also see the infamous Oberbaum Bridge, which was the sight of many daring escapes during the Cold War, while at East Side Gallery. Afterwards, walk away from neighbouring Kreuzberg, back into Friedrichshain to the RAW Gelände. The collection of derelict and industrial buildings might not look like much to passers-by, however this jumbled, graffitied spaces houses an amazing art gallery, Urban Spree and a number of cosy cafes, bars and even a hidden swimming pool that can be enjoyed in the warmer months by in-the-know travellers.
Berlin is brimming with abandoned sights filled with an eerie beauty and plenty of history. Perhaps the most famous, and safest to access (if you don’t mind a hike) is Teufelsberg or Devil Mountain. The former US spy station, built on a hill of rubble, boasts Instagram-worthy views, some seriously quirky art and if you’re lucky, you might also stumble upon a party. The space has been reclaimed by a crew of squatters, so there is an entrance fee, but it’s a small price pay in order to explore the former spy tower, with all its hidden nooks and crannies. Visitors can access the mountain by public transport and then a slight trek through Grunewald forest, up the rubble hill and into the abandoned spot.
Few neighbourhoods demonstrate Berlin’s edge and transformative nature quite like Kreuzberg. The area has drawn in many of the city’s creatives, and this vibrant, colourful energy can be seen on buildings walls and felt through the neighbourhood. Street art, great cafes and tasty tours make up much of what’s on offer in Kreuzberg. Art-lovers can enjoy the urban art galleries, street art sights, or journey to the Berlinische Galerie to enjoy expansive exhibitions on modern art, photography and architecture in Berlin. If the weather permits, pick up some cheap beers from a Späti and wander to Görlitzer Park and enjoy the locals’ favourite summer pastime of soaking in the sun in one of the city’s green spaces.
End your day in Kreuzberg at Markthalle Neun’s Street Food Thursday, which, as the name suggests, hosts an amazing street food market every Thursday evening. The first major street food event in Berlin, the weekly market remains one of the best spots to try diverse culinary treats in the city. Stalls range from Italian to Japanese, to fast-food fusion and more, offering a mix of well-priced, artisan dishes to suit every palate. It’s a popular event with locals and tourists alike – getting a seat can be difficult, so head over early if you want to steal a table, but when the food is this tasty, it doesn’t really matter if you aren’t able to. From the market, there also are a number of quaint Kreuzberg bars nearby to finish your night at.
Neukölln is the latest Berlin neighbourhood to be dubbed an epicentre of cool. Start your morning here at one of the amazing third-wave coffee haunts that line Hermanstraße, treating yourself to delicious coffee and tasty brunch. This will also put you just a short walk from the former airport, Tempelhof Feld. Once a busy transport hub, the airport officially closed in 2008 and now it acts as recreation park and refugee centre, stretching between Neukölln and Tempelhof. To get to the field from the Neukölln side, visitors can walk through the tree-lined and cobblestoned streets of Schillerkiez. This entrance will place you close to the community gardens at Tempelhof Feld, a great place to mosey around and enjoy the community energy of this area. After hanging out at Neukölln’s little oasis, Tempelhof Feld, you can wander through Schillerkiez, exploring the mix of boutique vinyl stores, vintage shops and pseudo-art galleries, before heading down the hill.
Spend your evening in Neukölln, at the not-so-secret, hidden bar, Klunkerkranich. Located atop the Neukölln Arcade Shopping Center, this bar promises amazing city views, great cocktails and quirky interior. On certain Friday nights you’ll also be treated to DJs spinning techno, deep-house and electronic music, serenading you sky-high as you watch the sunset over Berlin.
Berlin is a mecca of multiculturalism, welcoming people from across the globe who call the city home. For some of the city’s resident,s relocating is a matter of life and death, and their unique experiences and perspective is an important narrative in Berlin. A truly unique and eye-opening experience, the Refugee Voices Tour was started by a Berlin city-tour guide who wanted to give a platform for refugees, who are often talked about, not listened to. Born in 2016, the platform has grown to include tours in Copenhagen as well. Every Saturday the two-hour walking tour entitled ‘Why We are Here,’ takes guests through Berlin, exploring the city’s tumultuous past and the current situation of many refugees who have relocated here. The tour asks for a €5-10 (USD$9.80-11.95) donation from participants, and ends at Gendarmenmarkt, where guests are invited to enjoy a traditional Syrian feast at Mandi Restaurant.
In Berlin, spending Sunday at the underground nightclub institution, Berghain, is a rite of passage that everyone should experience once. So end your last day in the German capital in black-clad style, by heading over to the haven of hedonism in the morning for a full day of wild, techno-fuelled partying.