It was mid-February by the time my friends and I arrived in Berlin and it was cold. Like, very cold. I was studying in London at the time and a group of girlfriends and I decided to travel around Europe during a two week long break we had. Berlin was our first stop and I was so excited to see what this city had to offer. I had never been to Germany before, but I had had a number of friends that had visited and couldn’t stop raving about the food, people, museums and nightclubs.
Our options were slightly more limited when we went, due to the winter weather. That being said, with so many top things to do in Berlin, we never spent a day, or even a single afternoon, cooped up in our accommodations bored. Sometimes, under circumstances like those, you just have to put on a beanie, zip up your winter coat all the way, and go exploring. I have put together this list of the best places to visit in Berlin to encourage you all to consider it for your next European destination.
Table of Contents
Best Things To Do In Berlin Germany
Walk Through Tiergarten
This was at the top of my list of what to do in Berlin when I got there. Any time I go to a new city I HAVE to visit their parks. And Tiergarten in Berlin definitely did not disappoint, despite the fact that the trees were bare, the grounds were pretty much completely empty, and the biergartens were closed. Yet while it sounds like maybe a good time to turn around and go back when the weather is a little more conducive to an outdoor activity such as this, I loved every minute of it.
The area itself is massive, about 520 acres of green spaces. Inside sits the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium, and in the center of the street that runs through the middle of the park stands the Victory Column. It represents the victory of Germany over France, Denmark and Austria between the years 1864 and 1871. There are also multiple lakes and rivers that can be explored along with their wildlife. On the shore of one such lake is Café aum Neuen, a popular hangout spot for eating, drinking and watching the lake activities.
There is something so special in my opinion about finding little (or not so little) pieces of nature in the midst of a large city. During warmer months, large crowds of people will gather at spots like the Teehaus im Englischen Garten Berlin, or children will be running around playing sports, or families will be having cookouts.
Visit The Berlin Wall
During the Cold War in 1961, a concrete wall and barbed wire fence were built around East Berlin to separate it from West Berlin. This, of course became known as the Berlin Wall and it was constructed by the government of East Berlin to keep the Western part of the city away from their socialist agenda. The wall stood for almost 30 years before it finally came down in 1989.
Today, parts of the wall still stand as a symbol for the extremely difficult time faced by the Berlin citizens. Many of whom were separated from their families and friends because of the divide. When the wall was still up, artists began to paint and graffiti on the side facing West Berlin in an act of defiance towards their oppressors. While on the East Side, the inhabitants weren’t allowed to get close enough to the wall to make their mark on it. After the fall, artists were invited to paint murals on the East Side as a tribute to the dark times faced by its citizens within those 30 years.
Entrance into the East Side Gallery is free, and you need to go check it out if you are around. The images that have been painted on are such a powerful tribute to the perseverance of the people of Berlin. This almost mile long section of the wall that runs along the River Spree is an important reminder of the necessity for liberation.
During the Cold War, this was the most recognized checkpoint in between East and West Berlin. It served as a place for registering members of the Allied forces before they would go into East Berlin. Tourists would also go there to find out information during their trips. In 1961, Soviet and American military tanks had a standoff with their weapons at the ready which only increased the high tensions during this time.
This was also the location of a number of escape attempts. Today, an art installation stands nearby and stands as a symbol for those who reached freedom as well as those who were killed because of it. It’s located on Friedrichstraße. There is also an old check point booth with sandbags and America flags. Visitors from all over the world go to Checkpoint Charlie to remember the conflict between East and West and to remember those whose lives were lost.
This popular destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that consists of five different museums: The Pergamon, The Bode, The Neues, The Alte Nationalgalerie and the Altes Museum. They are all situated within the historic district in the center of Berlin, and are within walking distance of each other.
This incredible museum was one of my favorite stops during our trip. It has a room with an incredible 360º projection screen that shows a scene of an ancient metropolis. The whole thing is truly spectacular. The screen is almost 100 feet high and about 112 feet in diameter. It’s huge. There’s a multi level structure in the center of the room where visitors can stand and admire the artwork from different angles and elevations.
Soft music plays in the background and the screen changes slightly as the scene changes from morning to afternoon to sunset. I came to this room after a long day of walking around and exploring, and it was a highlight of my day. The rest of the museum features historic art pieces and artifacts that are also amazing to behold. Unfortunately, the museum closed last month for renovations and it’s not expected to completely reopen for the next 14 years. I know. It’s quite an extensive project.
Thankfully, the Pergamonmuseum. Das Panorama will remain open and tickets can be purchased here. The rest of the museum will open in waves, with the north wing expecting to be reopened in 2027. You can find out more information about the renovation plan here.
This large entertainment center in the center of Berlin is the perfect place to go to shop, eat, drink and catch cool events. In a city so rich in historic significance, Potsdamer Platz is an unexpected splash of modernity that still pays homage to its old roots. Its ability to breathe new life into a space that was completely abandoned for years during the Cold War makes this one of the things to do in Berlin that is worth your while.
Many exciting events happen here throughout the year. This area of the capital is home to the Berlinale, also known as the Berlin Film Festival that is going to run from February 15- February 25 in 2024. Next to Venice and Cannes, this is considered to be the third largest film festival in the world, and has been occurring for almost 74 years.
This monument is a focal point of this wondrous city and one of the first things that visitors see when they arrive. It was ordered to be built by King Frederick William Ⅱ of Prussia in 1788. Atop the gate sits a statue of a Quadriga that was stolen by Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in 1806. Once Napoleon fell in 1814, the Quadriga was returned and it is a large symbol of German pride.
When the Berlin Wall was erected, the gate was kept just beyond the wall in East Berlin. For this reason, no one was able to go near it for years. When the walls came down, Berlin celebrated their first joint New Years Eve here. During my trip here, I was in awe of not only the construction of the landmark, but what it means for the city and its people. Walking through the large columns and thinking about the importance it holds was incredible.
Other Spots To Hit In Berlin
The extensive history within this city is remarkable, and the significance behind numerous buildings and spots throughout is astounding. That being said, there are many places in Berlin that are great to hit simply because they are fun. Therefore, I have written down a couple of the most memorable parts of this city from my trip.
House of Small Wonder
As a lover of plants, food, and aesthetic spaces, this was one of my favorite things to do in Berlin. House of Small Wonder is a japanese-influenced brunch spot with delicious plates served within an atmosphere of pure bliss. The entrance to the cafe features a rustic looking spiral staircase alongside a large wooden paneled wall. Flower boxes are positioned meticulously (in a sporadic looking way) on the wall and underneath the stairs lies pots and pots of greenery that make the place look like an enchanted garden.
This was one of the coolest nightclubs I had ever been to. If you weren’t aware, Berlin is notorious for having clubs that are super hard to get into. Even for locals it can be difficult, and if you’re a tourist, forget it. I came to this club with a friend of mine who was living in Berlin at the time. This club isn’t known for being very hard to get into but still I was nervous and he told me to not let them hear my American accent.
I did as I was told and I was let in. Inside was like nothing I had ever seen. There were multiple rooms, a random old bus, multiple dance floors with different kinds of music, and a pizza place! I couldn’t believe it. They had PIZZA. Just for that reason alone, this was one of my favorite things to do in Berlin.
It doesn’t matter if you are coming to Berlin for the history, the art, the biergartens, the clubs, or the parks. It seems as though everywhere you look here there is something else to explore, and something new to learn. I could spend forever wandering around this great city, and I encourage you to go so that you can create your own list of the best things to do in Berlin.
As I said at the beginning of the article, the only time I visited Berlin was in February. Now, I don’t want to say I necessarily recommend this time because essentially anything there is to do outdoors is not available. What I will say, however, is that it was significantly cheaper to visit here during that time and it was much less crowded than it is at different times of the year. I have had friends visit and live in Berlin in the spring/ summertime and they say that that is a phenomenal time. At that time of the year, the flowers bloom, the trees are full, and the weather is enjoyable. I have also heard that early fall is splendid.
The topography of Berlin is flat and therefore very conducive to riding a bike. I think this is a great way to see the city without completely destroying your bank account or your feet. When I was there I rode the train into the city center and then would walk a lot. If you choose to take the train, remember to buy a ticket! They don’t have check points but police officers will randomly hop on the train and target tourists asking for their passes. My friends didn’t have any, and they were each fined $50 (way more than it would’ve been to just buy a ticket. obviously.)
For a one-way standard class ticket, it is about $21 to get from Berlin to Munich.