With the incredible amount of culture that Berlin has to offer, it is not hard to see why it is a hotspot for explorers from around the world. The German capital is famous for its massive party scenes, exquisite artwork and delicious food. Since its creation in the 13th century, Berlin has experienced one of the most fascinating histories we have ever heard. Spanning 900km2 and home to 4million residents, Berlin is the largest city in Germany in both population and size.
During our European Adventure, we spent three days exploring this backpacker paradise. Taking in all of the best attractions, we managed to stick to our shoestring budget. From free walking tours to relaxing spa days, here are some of the best activities in Berlin.
For your visit to this city, the best piece of advice we can give you is to research the Berlin Welcome Card, as well as its alternatives. This card will give you free transport around the city, as well as discounted entry to the best activities in Berlin. Before buying this card, check out all of the activities included on the website here.
Being one of Europe’s largest city, getting around Berlin can seem quite a daunting task. Fear not, however, as we are here to help! Have a look at our Basic Guide to Getting Around Berlin, and make sure you know exactly what you’re doing before you arrive!
Save this image to your Germany Pinterest board for later!
Berlin’s Best Attractions – Top Nine Activities in Berlin
Germany’s capital city of Berlin is chock full of fascinating history, beautiful sights, delicious food and drink, and hidden places to relax and soak up to the atmosphere. We could easily have spent a fortnight exploring this amazing city, and that would not have even included the many day trips you can take out of Berlin to cities such as Potsdam and Hamburg.
Original Alternative Walking Tour
The best way to start a trip to any city is with a free walking tour. This helps you get an idea of the layout of the city. You can then find out where things are and ask your tour guide for insider tips and tricks. With plenty of walking tours available, we decided upon the Original Alternative Walking Tour. This walking tour takes you around some of the best artwork in Berlin, both mural and graffiti.
Starting at 180 Hostel (next to Alexander Platz), you will walk to the station and get an S-Bahn to S+U WarschauerStraße, where the tour properly begins. Make sure you have some cash to buy a short trip ticket if you haven’t already got a day ticket. You will then spend the next two-three hours exploring Berlin’s Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Neukölln districts.
You can view all of the Original Berlin tours available for your next visit right here.
Walking tours are an especially helpful tool for any newcomer as they give you the opportunity to learn about the city from a local’s point of view. They are also the perfect way to meet fellow travellers and hear the inspirational stories they have to tell. Another excellent website for walking tours throughout the world is HiHiGuide. This offers affordable walking tours that are paid per hour, not per person.
Save money on your next group trip and book your tour here.
The Fernsehturm Television Tower
The Fernsehtrum is another one of the best activities in Berlin, especially at the beginning of your visit. Sitting at a whopping 207 metres, the observation deck gives you a bird’s eye view of the city, perfect for getting your bearings of the metropolis. This tower is the second tallest structure in the European Union, with the antenna stretching to 368m tall.
When it comes to visiting the tower, it is best done in the morning before the queues get too big and the viewing platform turns into a sauna. There are information plaques all around the viewing deck, telling stories of all of the top spots across the city. Make sure you pack plenty of water to stay hydrated in the heat.
Oh, and also your camera to capture the breathtaking views!
Located close to the vibrant hub of Alexander Platz sits Berlin’s only Bier Halle, the Hofbrau House. Serving a variety of beers and food this is an ideal stop for an evening meal and drink. For beer, expect to pay €4.90 for a bottle or for 0.5l. The food is also rather pricey, with meals starting from €10.
If it is the authentic German atmosphere you are looking for, then a Bier Halle is the way to go! With long, wooden benches, beer served from wooden kegs and waiting staff dressed in traditional attire, the Hofbrauhaus is the perfect place to lose yourself in German culture. PLUS, the Germans definitely know how to brew a beer!
Visit the Berlin wall
Perhaps our favourite thing about the vibrant city of Berlin is the fascinating amount of history that has taken place here in Germany. From the famous sights like the Berlin Wall, the Hofbrauhaus, and the Holocaust Memorial, to the lesser-known historical gems such as the region of Karlshorst, this city is a historian’s daydream.
Upon the end of World War II in Europe, what was once Germany was divided into four parts. It was the shared amongst the occupying Allied powers; France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. Not long after this, France, the US and the UK all decided to combine their zones of the country, to form what would be known as West Germany. It so happened that this East and West divide ran through Berlin.
Between the splitting of the country in 1945 and 1961, movement between the East and the West became increasingly stringent. Border controls were introduced and became more and more difficult to get past. Finally, in 1961 the border was closed and the Berlin Wall was constructed. In just two days, East German troops created 156km of impassable roadblocks around the three western sectors, and over a 43km through Berlin.
This stretch of land through the capital city was modified and expanded over the next few years until the wall you see today was established. For the next 28 years, the residents of Berlin would be unable to cross the border between East and West, separating them from friends, family and even lovers.
This piece of history has always been one of fascination for me, as I simply could not begin to understand the scale of this structure, and the consequences it had. It is a definite highlight of our visit to Berlin. Between hearing the stories of the locals from this period of time and seeing the wall itself, it was one of the most eye-opening experiences of our trip.
Checkpoint C, also known as Checkpoint “Charlie”, is the most famous of border crossings in Berlin during the Cold War. Upon construction of the Berlin Wall, this checkpoint was one of the only methods of crossing from West to East (and vice versa) legally. It is particularly famous for being the spot where, during the Berlin Crisis of 1961, Soviet and American tanks faced each other across the border in a standoff.
Take a walk past this unique part of history and learn the stories of the area from the artwork on nearby buildings. There is also a pretty cool bar across the road from this tourist attraction, perfect for a refreshing pint (another one of the must-do activities in Berlin).
Built in the late 19th century, the Reichstag building played a major part in German politics for the first half of the 20th century. After World War II finished, the building fell into disuse, with neither side of Berlin using it as a government building. Upon the reunification of Berlin in 1990, this building underwent a full reconstruction, and eventually became the meeting point of the German parliament.
The dome of the Reichstag building is open to visitors (via preregistration here), and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding city. The engineering of the dome itself is particularly fascinating. In order to prevent the sun from dazzling any persons inside the building, a dynamic “sunshield” blocks sunlight from entering. This is done by electronically tracking the suns movement and moving the “sunshield” automatically.
During the horrors of WWII, it is estimated that approximately 3million Jewish Europeans were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a place of reflection and remembrance of these people. Designed by the architect Peter Eisenman, this 19,000 square metre memorial site consists of 2711 concrete slabs, arranged in lines forming a maze-like plane.
This is one of the most unique sights we saw on our European trip, largely due to the size of the memorial. A must-see part of Berlin.
This impressive landmark dates back to the 18th-century. Built on the site of the former Berlin city gate, the Brandenburg Gate marks the start of the route from Berlin to the nearby town of Brandenberg an der Havel. It was also commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia to represent peace. Upon the demolition of the Berlin Wall, this gate also signified freedom and reunification of Berlin.
This attraction is a hugely popular tourist spot, with easy access to the nearby park named Grober Tiergarten. It is also just minutes away from the Reichstag Building and the Komische Oper Berlin, the cities opera house.
Liquidrom Thermal Baths
The Liquidrom thermal baths offer the perfect way to end a day of lots of walking. This is definitely one of the crazy things to do in Berlin. Dip into the freezing plunge pool, soak your feet in a hot bath and zen out in the silent, dark and sensory pool area. There are also saunas and a steam room, but be prepared to leave your swimsuits outside as they aren’t allowed in! An indoor and outdoor seating and bed area is the ideal end to a chilled couple of hours. If you’re feeling peckish then you can enjoy a relaxing lunch with an onsite bar serving food and drink.
At €19.95 for 2 hours, this is an experience you don’t want to miss, even when it is 35 degrees outside!
How to Prepare for Your Trip to Berlin
Before you set off on your trip to Berlin, there are a few things you will need to get sorted to ensure a smooth and unforgettable adventure. Here is everything you need to know before you set off on your journey to Berlin.
What to Pack for Berlin
What you pack for your trip to Germany’s capital city will depend on what time of year you visit. Berlin experiences all four seasons (sometimes in one day), so it is good to always be prepared. In the winter, temperatures can reach well below freezing, so it is a good idea to pack warm and waterproof clothing. In the summer, it can reach sweltering temperatures, so light and breezy clothing is best.
Overall, during your trip to Berlin you are going to be doing a LOT of walking, so comfy shoes are the most important item to pack. Also bring swimwear and a towel for your visit to the famous thermal baths.
Given how photogenic, fascinating and downright bizarre some of this city is, you will be wanting to pack a camera for your two day visit to Berlin. You can check out all of out travel tech over here for an idea of what we pack to make sure every adventure runs smoothly.
What Travel Insurance is Best for Berlin
No matter where we go in the world, the most important thing we do to prepare for our trip is make sure we are covered. If something were to happen to us on an adventure, not being insured is simply not worth thinking about. Make your trip stress free and make sure you get the best travel insurance.
For all of our trips, we get our insurance from World Nomads Travel Insurance. These guys deliver travel insurance designed with backpackers, adventurers and nomads lifestyles in mind. Their excellent customer service, wide range of cover and very reasonable prices are perfect for any backpacker.
Where to Stay in Berlin
No matter what your style, budget or location may be for your trip to Berlin, those is a huge range of accommodation available. Here are our top picks for your Berlin itinerary for all budgets.
Luxury – Sitting right in the city centre, across the road from Berlin zoo, is the extravagant and luxurious Hotel Palace Berlin. With its own swimming pool, wellness suite, as well as onsite bar and restaurant, this hotel has everything you need.
Mid-Range – Just a 5 minute walk from Berlin’s fashion district, the four star Hotel Berlin Mitte is also ideally located. Reasonably priced and very comfortable, this accommodation is perfect for mid-tier budgeteers. It even has free wifi and air-conditioning for your visit to the city.
Budget – Trying to go cheap in the heart of this city is a difficult task, however the Ootel.co hotel is only just outside the city centre and has excellent transport links. In under 20 minutes you will be exploring the city centre square of Alexenderplatz.
For all other hotel choices, browse the biggest and best selection right here.
If hostels are more your social scene, there are a huge range of hostels to choose from in and around Berlin. Book your stay for Berlin right here.
Getting to Berlin from the Airport
The most popular airport for charter flights and budget airlines is Schoenefeld airport, located south-east of Berlin city centre. Flights from Easyjet and Ryanair will almost always touch down here. The most popular ways of getting from the airport to the city centre are by the airport express train, the Berlin metro or the night bus.
Other than these options, a taxi will cost you up to €60 from the airport into the city centre. If you simply must do this, then we recommend using Uber to hail your cab.
Airport Express Train
This is by far the quickest way to reach Berlin from the airport. Just a ten minute walk from the terminal sits Flughaten Berlin-Schoenefeld station, which is where you can catch the train. This train runs daily between 4am and 11pm, and there is also a night train at 1:44am at the weekends. The train will cost you €3.30 for a single, however if you purchase a Berlin Welcome Card for zones AB and C then it is included.
The Berlin metro is locally referred to as the Bahn. It includes the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn, with the U-Bahn mainly going around the city centre and the S-Bahn transporting you to the suburbs. Again, all travel on these lines are included if you purchase the Berlin Welcome Card. The metro runs non-stop at weekends, so is the best option if you have missed the express train.
Buses are really a last resort for getting from the airport to the city. Lines X7, 171 and the night bus N7 will take you from Schoenefeld airport to Rudow U-Bahn station, where you can then catch the metro to the city centre.
How to Get Around Berlin
Arriving into Berlin with no knowledge of how the transport system works is quite an intimidating experience. Luckily, the public transport around Berlin is very simple and not overly expensive (if you do it right).
Our number one recommendation for getting around during your trip to Berlin is to purchase the Berlin Welcome Card. Not only does this card give you unlimited access to the public transport around Berlin, you will also get a whole swathe of discounted and free entries to sights and attractions around the city. For this itinerary, the savings you will make on the activities are well worth the price of the card.
So there you have it, the best sights in Berlin, Germany’s largest and arguably most interesting city. If you enjoyed this tour then let us know your favourite sights, smells and sounds in the comments section below. What was your favourite food? Did you see any street art? Where was your favourite dinner spot? Tell us in the comments below so your fellow travellers can enjoy this amazing city.
If you found this article helpful, make sure you check out our other Germany content over here. Get planning your European escape and lose yourself in the beautiful culture there is to behold.
Also remember that sharing is caring, and your family and friends will all love to know about your plans for Berlin. Make sure to share this with them and don’t forget to tag us in your holiday snaps on our social media channels. Show us your pictures of you enjoying Berlin’s amazing sights and we will share it with our community of backpackers and explorers.
- Berlin’s Best Attractions: Top Nine Activities in Berlin
- A Basic Guide to Getting Around Berlin
- Best Bank for Travelers – Starling vs Monzo Card Review
This article may contain affiliate links that provide us with a small income. For more information read our Affiliate page.