What to do in Berlin: The ultimate Berlin city guide
Berlin is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is cosmopolitan, worldly, quirky, exotic, bohemian, evolving, vibrant and so very, very alive — there is something to do or see or experience 24 hours a day if you are so inclined. Little wonder so many tourists, wanderers, artists, authors, musicians, actors and creative minds discover and fall in love with Berlin.
You will fall in love with Berlin too. Marvel at the Brandenburg Gate or immerse yourself in history and art on Museum Island. Enjoy a sunset from the top of the TV Tower. Visit the Reichstag building and wander up into the dome. Climb to the top of the Berliner Dom and walk around looking out at Berlin. Appreciate history and art colliding in the East Side Gallery. And that’s just for starters There’s The Holocaust Memorial – Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Topography of Terror, the Memorial of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Stasi Museum and still more. If you are into street art, you’ll want to visit Urban Nation. No matter what your interests are, there is something here for you.
Whether you are visiting for one day, two days, a week or more, the best way to begin your quest to find what to do in Berlin is here. Our resource guide and links, map, as well as numerous articles highlighting insider traveling tips for you will ensure your visit to this historic city is memorable.
Know what to do in Berlin – Travel Resources
Berlin Travel Weather
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Getting to and from Berlin
- By Train – It is easy to get to Berlin on either the fast train (InterCityExpress) or the other lines (InterCity, EuroCity, and InterRegio). For booking information, go to the Deutsche Bahn website here. Trains will depart or arrive primarily from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin’s central train station and also its newest station), Ostbahnof (the east train station connects with S-Bahns going to Friedrichstraße, Alexanderplatz, or Bahnhof Zoo), and Südkreuz (north-south trains pass through here), Bahnhof Spandau (the ICE train from Hamburg / Hannover stops here).
- By Plane – Most international travelers will arrive at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) as of Oct. 31, 2020, after nearly 10 years of opening delays. The former TEGEL (TXL) airport is now closed while the former Schoenefeld (SXF) airport – formerly used primarily for intra-Europe and domestic flights — is simply “Terminal 5” at BER. BER is Terminals 1 and 2. To travel to and from Berlin’s main train station (“Hauptbahnhof”) and the airport (“Flughafen BER”), you will take either the airport express (FEX) train or regional trains (RE7 or RB14). The “Flughafen BER” station is below Terminal 1. The S-Bahn S9 and S45 also travel the route and also stop at “Terminal 5,” formerly SXF. Use these routes to transfer between Terminals 1/2 and 5. Refer to the links below in “Getting Around in Berlin” or above in “By Train” to check schedules.
Getting Around In Berlin
The official Berlin website offers detailed information regarding transportation, including ticket, fare and route map information. This is also the clearest way to understand the various tariff zones that Berlin is divided into — AB, BC and ABC.
- U-Bahn, Bus, Tram – (operated by BVG — bvg.de) Use the company’s Journey Planner to find the best routes combining all forms of public transportation, including the S-Bahn, between point A and B. Be sure to download the BVG app to use on your Android or iPhone.
- S-Bahn – The local railway and a subsidiary of the Deutsche Bahn (the German railway system), and an often faster and more direct way to get places that are farther apart. It also runs mostly above ground.
The Euro is the currency Germany. Use the calculator from Oanda below to help you manage your money exchanges and know how much something selling in Euro would cost in dollars.
Learning at least a few key phrases of the local language will be helpful and appreciated, even if many Germans (especially the younger generation) do speak English quite well. Be sure to read A German language cheat sheet for travelers and A traveler’s guide to dining and shopping in Germany before you go. Both have downloadable PDF’s you can take with you.
Find more things to do in Berlin
In the last days of World War II, the Battle of the Seelow Heights to the east of Berlin was a bloody massacre. The small Seelow Heights museum and memorial features exhibits, artifacts, and graves documenting the Battle of Berlin and the tens of thousands of lives lost in just three days.
Take a Berlin gasometer tour to experience what could arguably be one of the best views of the Berlin, sunrise to sunset. View a photo gallery and video of our gasometer tour to get a look at the adventure of a lifetime you could have. The 360-degree views of Berlin from the top of the gasometer are stunning, night or day.
Berlin is endlessly fascinating and remains one of our favorite cities in the world to photograph and explore. We’ve included a few of our top Berlin photos in this Best Berlin Photos – Our favorite Berlin Instagram photos post. Scroll through to discover what to see on your Berlin visit.
If you are planning a trip to Berlin, then visiting the Reichstag dome is an absolute must, not only for the Berlin views, but for the amazing history. The Reichstag dome and the Reichstag building along with the celebrated TV tower have become iconic symbols of Germany’s capital, Berlin.
While we can’t promise falling snow, Christmas at the Tierpark in Berlin (also known as Christmas at the Zoo and Weihnachten im Tierpark) comes as close as you can get to a perfectly illuminated Christmas wonderland.
There is something very magical about Christmas lights at the Christmas Garden Berlin. Add in equal parts of Christmas music and servings of hot glühwein (German spiced mulled wine), and you have the recipe for an enchanting evening at the Berlin Botanic Garten.
In 2019, Berlin is commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall with a fall of the Berlin Wall 30th anniversary celebration. We have the best Berlin Wall information links so you are ready.
When it comes to Christmas in Berlin, there are dozens of Christmas markets – so many that it can be difficult to choose the best Christmas markets in Berlin. Here are our top picks to experience among the best Berlin Christmas markets.
The Festival of Lights in Berlin and Berlin Leuchtet (Berlin Illuminated) provide a delightful bright diversion for anyone visiting Berlin in October. The two light festivals illuminate hundreds of Berlin buildings, parks, monuments and facades with dancing lights, often moving to music.
Botanical Nights in the Botanical Garden Berlin make visiting a botanical garden something full of mystery, magic, intrigue, musicians, lightshows and fun. Plants, trees, greenhouses and ponds come alive during Berlin’s Botanical Nights. The cover photo for this story was awarded a Gold Medal by the North American Travel Journalists Association for travel photography.
No visit to Berlin should be without a closer look at history – specifically the horrific history of East Germany’s former secret police, the Stasi. These Stasi sights in Berlin should find a place on your to-do list.
As a part of the developing “Campus for Democracy” at the former headquarters of East Germany’s state security or Stasi in Berlin, an open-air exhibit details the fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful revolution Berlin that helped bring about German unity.
For more than three decades, the dreaded state police (Stasi) in East Germany kept reams of secret files on its citizens. As of 2018, the Stasi archives Berlin are now open for public tours.
After being open just a year, the Urban Nation Berlin street art museum re-opened with a reinvention that truly speaks to its roots. A new street art exhibit, redesigned interior with an authentic street feel, and a number of street artists residences make this museum in Berlin a must to visit for art lovers of all kinds.
Many hundreds died in the Hohenschönhausen Stasi memorial prison in Berlin during its operation, with several hundred thousand spending time there as prisoners over its 40+ years. You can only visit Hohenschönhausen with a guide, many of whom were former prisoners.
The Stasi Museum Berlin brings alive the terror lived by GDR’s residents for 41 years before the Berlin Wall fell. Inside the Stasi museum walls a visitor is reminded why the Stasi secret police force of former East Germany was one of the most feared agencies in Europe.
Teufelsberg Berlin is at once bizarre, haunting, edgy, eerie, beautiful, inspiring, and unnerving. Which makes the ruins of the former National Security Agency listening post a perfect haven for street and urban artists.
Urban Nation museum showcases street art in Berlin is like no other, uniting not only the nation but also the world as it turns the German capital into a giant international open-air street art gallery. Opened in September 2017, Urban Nation is just the beginning of your tour for great street art.
The Prenzlauer Berg Wasserturm, an eye-catching round tower in the middle of Berlin, is for most simply a city park with a couple of nice-looking structures. If your timing is good, travelers can time-travel with area experts to the cisterns underground, plus learn more about Berlin’s water supply history.
Whoever thought we would stay up all night to go to museums? When the Long Night of Museums in Berlin rolled around this year, however, we were there – along with many thousands of our best friends for the night. This year, the 20th birthday of the museum night drew more than 30,000 visitors all across Germany’s capital city.
As the burgeoning and bustling capital of Germany, Berlin offers an addicting restaurant scene with any international or trendy cuisine you may desire. But in keeping with its gritty, artistic ways, Berlin has a superior street food market scene. We show you 5 great Berlin street food markets you won’t want to miss.
Germany’s capital of Berlin offers every international food imaginable, in restaurants, street markets or, in the case of the most authentic Thai food in the city, spread across a park. Thai Wiese (Thai Park) comes alive every weekend with arguably the best Thai food in Berlin.
Earlier in 2016, HI Travel Tales wrote about a new kind of banking experience by Deutsche Bank called “Q110 Bank” or “Bank of the Future.” We were quite enthralled by the casual and friendly, yet efficient and hard-working experience. The concept we wrote about had been active for several years without much change (the branch itself originally opened in 2005), so Deutsche Bank decided it was time to re-think its original “concept bank” and try out something different. The update was unveiled on Nov. 18, 2016, on a rainy day near the outlet not far from Checkpoint Charlie in central Berlin (Mitte).
Underground city tours always seemed to be a tourist come-on to me, but then I discovered Berlin Underground tours. Not a for-profit business, not a tour that drops you off in a gift shop, not a tour that starts in a bar and highlights raucous partying, this is the real deal in Berlin’s Underground.
One of our favorite areas in Berlin is the artsy cool Prenzlauer Berg. Our Prenzlauer Berg travel guide will point you to the top things to do in this Berlin hot spot. Kollwitzplatz and Kastanienallee are particularly beautiful Prenzlauer Berg streets. Farmers markets, street festivals and more are regular occurrences.
As we sat at dinner at Café Anne Blume sipping wine on the patio on a warm summer evening, I became entranced by the colors of a small market across the street. I just had to “paint and draw” the scene using my iPad for this watercolor view from Café Anna Blume.
The memorial on the Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz (Bethlehem Church Square) is actually the work of Spanish artist Juan Garaizabel to commemorate the Bohemian Bethlehem Church. This small church was built for Bohemian evangelical refugees in about 1735 and was a center of the community. It was destroyed by bombing in 1943.
A concierge? A gift and trinket store? A bar and coffeehouse? Waiters and fine décor? This is a bank? Yes, this is Germany’s “Deutsche Bank” — the so-called “Bank of the Future” in central Berlin, the company’s one-and-only concept bank where it tests ideas for the world.
I visited the Berlin Turkish Market for the first time when you bumped into the graffiti-covered Berlin Wall after walking its length, and the Kreuzberg area of town was one of the few where Turkish guest workers were allowed to live.
Berlin is one of our favorite cities in the world. And we want to lead you on a walking tour of its top sites. Follow along as we send you on a self-guided walk of some of the top sights in Berlin.
It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down … suddenly, surprisingly, peacefully. Memories of the wall’s horrors seem like yesterday to those of us old enough to remember it and to have personally seen the wall and its “death zone.” The Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary remembrance reminds us to never forget.
More than two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, walking the wall and its remains are a haunting reminder of an era that is as frightening as it is unbelievable.
When visiting Berlin, live like a local … with an apartment in the trendy “Mitte” area on the edge of the rather cool, somewhat gritty, but fascinating “Prenzlauer Berg” area (former East).
Where to stay in Berlin
We recommend the following very different though equally wonderful hotels: Hotel Oderberger, Hotel am Steinplatz, and Hotel Tiergarten. You can search for other hotels and accommodations using our Booking.com map, below, showing best deals on top hotels in Berlin. By booking your stay using Booking.com, we receive a small commission and you pay no more than if you would have booked directly … which helps us keep the lights on here in our offices, so thank you in advance for your support.
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