Berlin is the cultural and intellectual hub of Germany, which, combined with its tumultuous past, gives it a character like no other. One day in Berlin can’t possibly be sufficient to fully experience the many wonders of the city. However, if you wish to make the most of a layover or are crunched for time for whatever reason, a day in Germany’s capital city is just about enough to give you a flavor of the city and make you determined to return soon.
If your day in Berlin starts in the morning, fuel up with a big breakfast. You have a busy day ahead of you exploring the city. As far as breakfast or brunch goes, we have plenty of awesome recommendations for you.
It’s a good idea to start at the Reichstag, Germany’s majestic parliament building. It offers a free ride to the terrace, from where you can enjoy sweeping views over the city and get a free audio guide to educate you about the history of the city. However, tickets for this ride are sold out weeks (sometimes months) in advance.
Next, walk into Tiergarten, Berlin’s green lungs and a treasure trove of historically-important monuments. Pay your respects at the flower-adorned Soviet War Memorial, which is the resting place of 2,000 Soviet soldiers martyred during the Second World War. The Golden Victory Column (Siegessäule) in the middle of the park commemorates Prussia’s victory over France and Austria in the 1860s and the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Don’t miss the stunning neo-Classical Bellevue Palace at the north edge of the park, which serves as the residence of Germany’s President.
A short walk through the park will take you to the most famous sight of Berlin – Brandenburg Gate. This monument has been witness to much devastation and proudly stands as the symbol of peace and unification of East and West Germany.
Around 600 meters (1,968 feet) from Brandenburg Gate is one of the most solemn sights you will see in Berlin, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, honoring the victims of the horrors of the Holocaust. It consists of a maze of 2,711 concrete slabs of varied sizes and is almost always a deeply emotional experience for travelers.
Make your way (less than 2 km, or 1.24 miles) to Berliner Dom next. This is the biggest church in Berlin and a superb example of Renaissance and Baroque style of architecture.
This might be a good time to break for lunch. There are plenty of gastronomic choices near the Dom, and a cafe in the Dom itself.
Rested and refueled, now is a perfect time to hit the famous Museum Island in the River Spree, only a few hundred meters from the Dom. As UNESCO describes this immensely-popular site: “The museum as a social phenomenon owes its origins to the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. The five museums on the Museumsinsel in Berlin, built between 1824 and 1930, are the realization of a visionary project and show the evolution of approaches to museum design over the course of the 20th century.”
Each globally-reputed museum in this island is worth a visit in its own right. But as you are on a time budget, take your pick as per your interest from Altes Museum (antiquities), Neues Museum (Egyptian, prehistoric and early historic artifacts), Alte Nationalgalerie (19th century art), Bode Museum (sculpture and late Antique and Byzantine art) and Pergamon Museum (historic architecture). Also, take some time to stroll the Lustgarten, the public park that has witnessed many historic parades and rallies.
A 20-25 minute walk from Museum Island would bring you to Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall crossing that connected East and West Germany during the Cold War. Other than being the most important crossing point for Allied Armed Forces, it has also witnessed several escape attempts from civilians, plus a confrontation between the American and Soviet tanks. It has been featured in several movies and books (like Octopussy and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold). Make a stop at The Wall Museum next to Checkpoint Charlie, which walks almost a million visitors each year through the tumultuous history of Berlin, with the help of documents, photos and more.
Find your way to Berlin Wall Museum (around 3.5 km, or 2 mile, from Checkpoint Charlie), located in the middle of Berlin, signifying the infamous divide between East and West Germany. Here you have the chance to view remnants of the Berlin Wall and learn all about its dark history at the Documentation Center and Open-Air Exhibition and Memorial Grounds.
Head to Berlin’s iconic Alexanderplatz, the famous bustling public square in former East Berlin, through which an estimated half a million people pass everyday. The history of this square goes back to the 13th century.
Berlin Fernsehturm (TV Tower) towers over the square. If you wish to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city, tale the high-speed lift to the observation deck of the tower. Tickets can be bought on the spot. If you are serious about saving time, you can purchase Fast Tickets online before you visit, which would entitle you to skip the queues. Another significant landmark of the Alexanderplatz is the massive clock, Weltzeituhr, that displays the time in 148 cities around the world.
After such a long, hectic day, you deserve a great dinner. Alexanderplatz spoils you for choice as long as restaurants are concerned. Here are some suggestions. This square is also home to some of the liveliest bars in the city where you can unwind and even mingle with the locals if you so wish.
If you are not ready for the night to end, no need to go anywhere else. Alexanderplatz boasts superb nightclubs where you can dance the night away.