Berlin is one of Europe’s most historic cities, and the wall that once divided the city is one of the icons of the Cold War. Berlin completely exceeded the expectations I had before visiting, and it’s surely one of my favorite cities in Europe. The large parks scattered throughout the city are the perfect place to unwind and get a look inside German culture. Combine this with delicious street food and wild nightlife, and there’s nothing not to love about Berlin. To top it off, it’s a very budget-friendly city by Central European standards.
How to Get Around
Berlin is a massive city with a land area 8x the size of Paris, and you’ll need to use the metro to get around. I bought a 1-week pass for €37 and it was well worth it. In 5 days, I used the metro 20+ times.
What to Do
Topography of Terror – The former Gestapo headquarters is now a free museum documenting the atrocities committed by the Nazi party. I thought this was the best museum in Berlin and it’s packed with so much information I had to visit it twice.
For those less interested in learning every detail, there are free 1-hour guided tours at 2 PM everyday. Be sure to check the weather before going because part of the museum is outdoors.
Berlin Cathedral – A 19th-century church that’s well-known for the tiring climb up to the rotunda of the dome. From here, you can see the contrasting architectural styles between East and West Berlin. The cathedral’s interior has royal tombs and an impressive organ with over 7,000 pipes. The entrance to the cathedral is €9.
Mauer Park – The city’s most famous park sits along the former East-West border of Berlin and part of the wall still runs through the park. On a summer night, it’s full of Berliners young and old enjoying the live music and grilling out. On Sundays, the famous Bearpit Karaoke takes place and it certainly lives up to the billing as “the maddest karaoke show on the planet”.
Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt – This free museum tells the story of Otto Weidt, who protected blind and deaf Jews from deportation. It’s hidden from the street and there is a corridor with street art that leads to the entrance. The museum is small and it takes only 30-40 minutes to visit and admire the street art.
Free Walking Tour – I always like to do a free walking tour to learn about a city’s history and get tips on local restaurants and under-the-radar attractions to visit. This awesome walking tour gave an in-depth historical background of Berlin.
East Side Gallery – After the opening of the Berlin Wall, artists turned a section of it into an open-air art gallery. The most famous painting depicts the fraternal kiss of socialism between the former leaders of the German communist party and the Soviet Union.
Treptower Park – If you’re looking for a quiet park to relax in, this is the one. The garden also has a huge Soviet War Memorial honoring the soldiers that died in the Battle of Berlin.
Stasi Museum – A fascinating museum that details the citizen surveillance of East Germany’s secret police. The museum is located at the former Stasi headquarters on the east side of the city. The entrance is €8 and for €4 extra you can join a guided tour at 3 PM.
Reichstag Building – The active federal parliament building offers free tours, and you’ll want to book this one well in advance.
DDR Museum – An interactive museum showing what life was like in East Germany. The entrance is €12.50.
Alte Nationalgalerie – Located on museum island, this art museum houses a 19th-century collection. The entrance is €10 and you can expect to spend about 1 hour here.
Brandenburg Gate – The former city gate is Berlin’s most famous landmark and a symbol of unity across Europe. Now, it’s a gathering point where Berliners celebrate New Year’s Eve or watch Germany play in the World Cup. Be aware of pickpockets here.
Tempelhofer Feld – After its reopening, the former military airport is now the world’s largest urban park. During the summer, locals congregate here to ride their bikes, barbecue, or play recreational sports. The terminal and airstrips are still intact at this historic airport where the Berlin Airlift took place.
Checkpoint Charlie – Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s still worth visiting due to its historical significance. This intersection was the main checkpoint between East and West Berlin. On the street approaching Checkpoint Charlie, the walls that line the sidewalks are full of interesting historical info. This is another place where you need to be aware of pickpockets.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews – This memorial is near the Reichstag building and I recommend you take the time to slowly walk through. But, please don’t be the tourists doing a photoshoot inside the memorial.
Walk the Kurfürstendamm – This part of the city best highlights the contrast between East and West Berlin. The Kurfürstendamm is the city’s main street for high-end shopping.
Olympiastadion – The stadium constructed by Hitler’s Nazi Party for the 1936 Olympics is currently home to one of Berlin’s football teams. The entrance is €11 and nearby there is a bell tower you can go to the top of for €5.
What to Avoid
German Historical Museum – I was excited to visit this free museum, but unfortunately, the permanent exhibits are under restoration until 2025.
Buying anything near Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburg Gate – These are the two areas of the city that everyone visiting Berlin goes to and the prices are very high.
Where to Eat
A meal at a decent sit-down restaurant costs about €17-20, but you can find delicious street food for under €5. Street food culture is alive in Berlin, and seeking out the best food stalls is one of the highlights of visiting.
Rüya Gemüse Kebap – Doner is the king of Berlin street food and this is the best I had. It’s 100% worth the trek to get here, but take note that they are closed on Sundays.
Curry 61 – Currywurst is another popular street food in Berlin, and this is the most famous spot for good reason. Located near museum island, you can get delicious currywurst and fries for €4.50.
Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap – Mustafa’s is probably the most popular doner spot in Berlin and you can expect to wait 30-45 minutes in line. Follow in the footsteps of the Berliners and buy a beer from a mini-market before hopping in line. If the wait time turns you off, there is a second location on the east side of the city with an equally delicious doner and a much shorter line.
Dicke Wirtin – A traditional German restaurant near the Kurfürstendamm serving a variety of meat and beer.
Markthalle Neun – An indoor market selling international food on the east side of the city.
Rausch Schokoladenhaus – A delicious chocolate shop with every kind of chocolate imaginable. Don’t get too carried away here because it’s expensive.
Where to Stay
St. Christopher’s Berlin Mitte – Mitte is the best neighborhood to stay in for visiting the attractions, and this hostel has a perfect location close to the metro station. It has a bar and garden, and it’s a solid choice if you want to relax or have a night out.
Circus Hostel – A modern hostel with an onsite microbrewery and plenty of organized activities to meet other travelers.
BackpackerBerlin – Located in the heart of Berlin’s hippest neighborhood, this cozy hostel offers a more laidback vibe. It’s also very close to the city’s biggest interchange metro station.
How Long to Stay
When visiting Berlin, I recommend at least 5 days. There’s so much to see and Berlin is quite spread out, which makes visiting lots of attractions in one day difficult.