Berlin is the capital city of Germany as well as the largest and most visited city in the country. As you may already know, it has a pretty turbulent history, specially in most recent times with Hitler and Nazi Germany, and later, the Cold War, where the city was divided and the Berlin Wall was erected. Although years have passed since those events, the scars still show in the city and that’s part of what it makes it so interesting.
Compared with other European cities, including local Munich, Berlin looks very different. Perhaps due to the influence of soviet times, the city looks a lot more industrial and is not the standard of “pretty” in a city. That’s what makes it so unique, mysterious and desired. I think we all have that friend who is obsessed with Berlin!
Not only is Berlin very rich in history, but it has now become a hub for artists and creatives. The city is full of art and young people, which makes it extremely entertaining, specially at night. Its history, art, its industrial laid back vibe and nightlife together with its diverse crowd make it a very special place.
Where to stay
I strongly recommend Arte Luise Kunsthotel. I stumbled upon this place and I’m so happy I did! It is cheap and it represents the city just perfectly. It is basically an art gallery where you can spend a night as each room is intervened by an artist. Additionally, the rooms are big and comfy.
If it’s not your cup of tea, you can search for more hotels here.
Public transport is the best value option. You can buy single trips, a daily or weekly pass. A day pass is worth it if you’ll be doing more than 3 trips per day.
To be honest, whenever I visited I just walked everywhere. Next time I’ll rent a bike. This is what locals do! It also allows you to see the city while commuting. Bike rentals are around 15 EUR p/day.
What to eat
We’ll keep it simple here. Wiener Schnitzel at Scheers and currywurst at Curry36 (you’ll queue, sorry). Those are the unmissable. You can then follow with burgers at The Bird and Döner kebap at Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap. That is all.
Things to do
1. Brandenburg Gate
This is and was a site for major historical events in the city and in Germany. It is a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany, but also of European unity and peace. During the Cold War, this gate was actually part of the Wall. It is now located at Pariser Platz and is quite a sight.
2. Visit the Holocaust Memorial
This monument, which consists in 2711 concrete slabs, is meant to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere. The sculpture as a whole aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
3. Take a walking tour of the city
New Europe does a free walking tour which goes through the city’s history. Best to do it as soon as you arrive.
4. Checkpoint Charlie
This is the most well-known crossing that used to divide East and West Berlin. And the original border post remains. The Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie has exhibits on the history of the Berlin Wall including displays about people who attempted to escape to the West. Very recommended.
5. Climb the famous Reichstag
Among Berlin’s top landmarks, the German Parliament is open for visitors and has a spectacular glass dome where you can enjoy amazing views from the city. It’s free, but you need to secure a spot in advance. And don’t forget to bring your passport!
6. See the East Side Gallery
This gallery and memorial of freedom is a 1316 m long section of the Berlin Wall which is painted by 105 artists allover the world. Additionally, it’s possibly the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world. It’s beautiful, colorful, unique and free.
7. Visit Museum Island
Paradise for museum lovers, this island in Spree river houses no less than five Museums. These are the Altes Museum (Old Museum), Neues Museum (New Museum), Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), the Pergamom Museum and the Bode Museum. Admission needs to be purchased. The ticket to visit all of them is 18 EUR. You can easily spend a whole day here.
8. See the Berlin Cathedral
It is a beautiful sight from outside and you can sit in the grass while you admire it. Admission is not free. I personally wouldn’t recommend going in unless religious buildings are your thing.
9. Go street art hunting in Friedrichshain
Friedrichshain = street art wonderland. It was one of the things I personally enjoyed the most from the city. Head to Urban Spree and the RAW area. Just walk around and enjoy the street art gems Berlin has to offer.
10. Have a picnic in Tiergarten
The most popular park in Berlin and among the largest in Germany, a must for park lovers. This activity is most likely limited to summer as Berlin’s winters are a bit harsh.
11. Party like a Berliner
Curfew is an extremely rare thing in Berlin. The party is only over when the last dancer leaves, and it’s not uncommon for clubs to be open for three days straight. Berghain will be your first choice of club, if you manage to get in. If you don’t, fear not. There are multiple other options which are almost as good.
12. Explore Kreuzberg
Once one of the most downtrodden areas of the city, now, one of the hippest neighborhoods in Berlin. Heavy in street art, also has good restaurants and bars and is just a great place to explore. Walk around, and maybe drop by the Turkish Market for some food – they say it’s a little piece of Istambul.
13. Relax in the Britzer Garten
A bit outside from the city center, but a beautiful park indeed. Located in South Berlin, it features lakes, hills, and impressive garden architecture – a rose garden, rhododendron woods and coloured flower patches. It also houses the largest sundial in Europe, among other things.
14. Spot a Photoautomat
If you are lucky, you’ll find one of these old photo booths when walking around the city. They still take photo strips in black and white! Carry some cash and take home a nice memento. Locations and how they look like here.
15. Stroll through Treptower Park
A great park to hang out in. It is specially nice because it lies beside the river Spree. However it is probably most famous because it houses an abandoned amusement park called Spreepark which is considered “ruin porn”. Many have dodged guards and dogs in order to get some shots of the decaying attractions. Would you do it?