Culture Trip's Guide to Berlin

One way to enjoy the sights of Berlin is to take a boat trip on the River Spree
One way to enjoy the sights of Berlin is to take a boat trip on the River Spree | © Angela Serena Gilmour / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Christina Collins
Junior Production Assistant22 October 2020

Whether you want to absorb Berlin’s fascinating – and, at times, harrowing – history, marvel at stunning architecture or sip quirky cocktails in a fairytale-themed bar, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in the German capital. Here’s our pick of where to stay, what to do and where to eat.

Where to stay

Generator Berlin Mitte

Hostel
Map View
Courtesy of Generator Berlin Mitte / Expedia
Visiting Berlin on a budget? This artsy hostel offers a cosy place to stay without breaking the bank. You can choose from a range of brightly decorated rooms – from dorms to quads to private en-suites – and meet other travellers in the hostel’s bar after a day of sightseeing. Plus, it’s smack bang in the central district of Mitte, so it provides a handy base for exploring Berlin on foot.
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25Hours Bikini

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of 25Hours Bikini / Expedia

Berlin is not exactly tropical, but this Charlottenburg hotel might convince you otherwise. Its “jungle” rooms feature natural colours, hammocks and views of Berlin Zoo. Yes, that’s right – you can see monkeys and elephants outside your window. Meanwhile, the range of “urban” rooms offer sleek interiors and views over the lively Breitscheidplatz. Add to this the scent of freshly baked bread from the in-house bakery, and you have yourself a winner.

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Hotel Zoo

Independent Hotel, Hotel
Map View
22284480
Courtesy of Hotel Zoo / Expedia

If you like your hotels with a touch of glamour, check in at Hotel Zoo. Don’t be fooled by the name, you won’t find any wild animals here; instead, many movie stars and cultural icons have been and gone before – including Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Romy Schneider. It’s this claim to fame that helps the luxury hotel exude an unmistakable feeling of New York elegance, right in the heart of western Berlin. The rooms and suites all have their own unique layout and character – including open-plan bathrooms and exposed-brick walls.

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What to do

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  • Discover Cold War Berlin and the Berlin Wall

    Memorial
    Map View
    © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

    The Berlin Wall Memorial may be one of the most famous attractions in Berlin, but it’s not the only Cold War landmark worth a visit. Key sites such as Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz provide telling insight into the decades of hardship that followed World War II. They are all tied up in a dark and complex history, and a guided walking tour is the best way to ensure the fullest understanding of each location’s significance, and to learn what life was like on both sides of the Berlin Wall before it came down.

    Take a cruise along the River Spree

    Natural Feature
    Map View
    © JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo

    No European city has undergone a transformation quite like Berlin. In the decades since German reunification, many buildings and monuments have been restored or built from scratch, either to remember the past or look boldly to the future. For uninterrupted views, skip the crowds and take it all in from the water – there are daily cruises along the Spree, often with dinner included, and an unforgettable sunset finale, too. Keep your eyes peeled for striking attractions such as Bellevue Palace, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island (a complex comprising Berlin’s top museums) – and have your camera at the ready.

    Walk in the footsteps of kings and emperors in Potsdam

    Historical Landmark
    Map View
    Sanssouci Park. Potsdam, Germany.
    © Matteo Cozzi / Alamy Stock Photo

    An easy half- or full-day trip from Berlin, the old royal city of Potsdam, once home to German kaisers (emperors) and Prussian kings, will dazzle you with its collection of elegant palaces and castles, baroque architecture and rich history. Highlights include Cecilienhof Palace, King Frederick William II’s Marble Palace, the Dutch quarter and the Unesco-listed Sanssouci Palace and Gardens. Guided tours from Berlin are available, taking you to Potsdam by train (a 45-minute journey) and filling you in on the city’s fascinating history.

    Where to eat

    Altstadtcafé Cöpenick

    Cafe, German, Dessert, Tea , $$$
    Map View

    If you’re liable to let your sweet tooth get the better of you, there’s a good chance you’ll come back here for more. Altstadtcafé Cöpenick is found in Köpenick – best known for its magnificent Köpenick Palace – in southeast Berlin. Besides coffee and tea, the cafe offers a sweet treats from rich chocolate cake to freshly baked apple pie and passionfruit cake. If the weather’s nice, you can sit outside, where you’ll get a wonderful view of the Spree and Dahme rivers.

    Restaurant Sphere in the Berlin TV Tower

    Restaurant, German, $$$
    Map View
    © dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo
    How would you like to dine 207m (679ft) above Berlin in a revolving tower? You can at the Sphere restaurant in the Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm), where good food, history and a 360-degree view offer a unique dining experience. The retro-chic restaurant slowly revolves to give you an ever-changing backdrop as you dine on international fare such as Norway-caught salmon and New Zealand-reared beef. In addition to its regular menus, the restaurant offers a breakfast buffet every first Sunday of the month. If you’re hoping for a table, be sure to reserve online in advance.

    Fairytale Bar

    Bar, Pub Grub, German, $$$
    Map View
    If you thought fairytales were just for children, think again. From its decor to its drinks, Fairytale Bar is curiously otherworldly – but think Tim Burton, not Disney. Follow the white rabbit inside and enjoy enchanting cocktails like the Cinderella – a mix of vodka, champagne and elderflower served out of a shoe (yes, a shoe!). The bar’s location is fitting, too: directly opposite the Fountain of Fairytales in the Volkspark Friedrichshain. This is a popular place – so book ahead if you can.
    These recommendations were updated on October 22, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.