Berlin is a hip and trendy destination for lots of great reasons. Germany’s capital is situated right in the heart of Europe and is well-known for its diversity of art, culture, architecture, food and, of course, the nightlife.
I know that not everyone likes the city at first since it has a bit of a rough charm. But once you get to know this city that never sleeps, I’ll promise you will like it.
In every corner, on every street, there is something new and exciting to discover.
Here are my top tips on what to see, things to do and where to eat in one of my all-time favorite metropolis, Berlin.
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The Best Time To Travel
The best time to explore Berlin is from April until the end of October. The weather is more stable in early Autumn, around September and October. The month of July and August are the busiest with the school holidays.
If you don’t mind cold and rainy days with a chance of snow then December is a great time to explore the Christmas markets with their unique smell of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and grilled Bratwurst.
What To Pack
- Comfortable Walking shoes
- Rain jacket and umbrella (be prepared for any weather)
- Sunscreen and sunhat; it can get very hot in Summertime
- warm clothes including scarves and gloves for late Autumn, Winter, and Spring
- A travel adapter for Europe
How To Get Around
Berlin has a fantastic public transport system including subways, buses, and trains.
It is easy to navigate, and with the affordable Berlin Welcome Card, you’ll get not only unlimited access to the public transport but also discounted admission to over 200 attractions.
Some areas of the city are best to explore by foot because tourist attractions are close together especially in Berlin’s center. As an example, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag are only a mere 5 minutes walking distance apart.
Walking around the city is an excellent way to experience this vibrant and exciting city. You’ll discover little things like independent art galleries, maybe a cafe with amazing food or clothes shops with new and upcoming designers.
Where To Stay
My best advice is to stay close to the city center or in a hotel situated close to public transport. Top districts to find a hotel are Berlin-Mitte, Berlin-Wilmersdorf, Berlin- Schöneberg and Prenzlauer Berg.
Our Recommended Hotels
If you want to treat yourself to an exclusive and luxurious stay, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski is my number one recommendation. It is situated next to the Brandenburg Gate.
Top Things To Do In Berlin
Visit The Reichstag (Building) And Dome
The Reichstag is one of the most historically significant buildings in Berlin and one of the main attractions for tourists and locals alike.
It opened its doors first in 1894 and is now the meeting place of the German parliament.
The dome and rooftop terrace is open to visitors and offers an incredible 360-degree view of Berlin. The glass domes architecture is amazing. From there you can even see the debating chamber of the Bundestag.
Due to security reason, you’ll need to register in advance which can be done online. Here is the link to register. All you need is your first name, last name, and date of birth.
Please note, the dome will be closed from 9 until 13 October 2017.
Opening Times: Daily; from 8 am til midnight; last admission at 10 pm
The Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas Quarter)
Discover Berlin’s reconstructed historical heart only a 10 minutes walk from the Alexander Platz. Escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city life, stroll through narrow streets along small shops and cafes.
Step back in time and visit Berlin’s oldest church St. Nicholas which was built between 1220 and 1230.
Another famous sight not to be missed is the Ephraim Palais, featuring a beautiful Rococo facade. And don’t forget to visit the Knoblauchhaus which brings the era of Biedermeier back to life. Admission is free, but donations would be appreciated.
The Nikolaiviertel is also home to more than 20 restaurants, cafes, and pubs.
Our tip: for original Alt- Berlin dishes the’ Zille Stube’ is a perfect place for lunch or dinner. The interior features Heinrich Zille’s famous drawings which create a rustic atmosphere. You can sit outside with a view of the river ‘Spree’ and watch the world go by.
Typical dishes include ‘Knuckle of Pork’, Fried Herrings, Rostbratwurst (grilled sausage) and my favorite ‘Beef Roulade with braised red cabbage and potato dumplings.’ Delicious!
The Museum Island (Museumsinsel)
Not far away from the Nicholas quarter (a 15-minute walk) right in Berlin’s central district Mitte, is the Museum Island. It’s a complex of five world-renowned museums including the Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Old Museum, Old National Gallery, and the New Museum.
The most famous museum is the Pergamon Museum with over a million visitors a year. Unfortunately, due to major renovations which will take around seven more years (the reopening is planned for 2023), the famous Pergamon Altar is not accessible to the public.
It is still worth a visit with the colorful Ishtar Gate and other fascinating artifacts.
The New Museum is the home of the legendary bust of Queen Nefertiti.
Since 1999 the Museum Island is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Admission: from €10; discount with the Berlin Welcome Card or Museum Pass
Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm; Thursday until 8 pm
Getting There: U-Bahn 6 or S-Train S1, S2, S25 U and S-Bahn Friedrichstrasse; from there a 10 minutes walk
A River Cruise
Did you know that Berlin has more canals than any other city in the world and more bridges than Venice? So one of the best things to do is to explore the city by boat.
It is relaxing and gives your feet a rest after all the walking. 🙂 River cruises and tours vary in length and duration, from one hour up to eight hours.
Each company has their piers located in different areas. Refreshments and snacks are available on board. Some cruises offer lunch or dinner which is usually not included in the price.
My tip: the Berlin Welcome Card offers discounts for cruises.
A Self-Guided Walking Tour
This tour will take you from the former West to the Eastern part of Berlin to the famous Brandenburg Gate.
Start your walk at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the best-known border crossing points between East and West Berlin. From there walk along Friedrichstrasse, turn right into Taubenstrasse to get to the most beautiful square Berlin has to offer, the Gendarmenmarkt.
Have a break here in one of many cafes and enjoy the magnificent ensemble of the Konzerthaus (concert hall), the French and German Church.
Afterward, go for a short stroll to the Galleries Lafayette with its French charm, beautiful architecture and French delicacies.
From here walk down the Friedrichstrasse (follow the signs) until you reach Berlins renowned Boulevard ‘Strasse Unter den Linden.’ Turn left and follow the Boulevard which will lead you to the Pariser Platz and one of Berlins most significant monuments – the Brandenburg Gate.
It is exceptional to walk through the gate that nowadays symbolizes Germany’s Unity.
From here you can either walk to the Potsdamer Platz or the Reichstag.
Duration: without stops, around 25 minutes
Distance: 2 km
Flea Market ‘Strasse des 17. Juni’
One of the favorite past time activities of the locals is going to flea markets to find some unique antique things, books, and collectibles.
The oldest, most popular (and biggest) flea market can be found at the ‘Strasse des 17. Juni’. Every Saturday and Sunday, locals and visitors alike go on a ‘treasure hunt’ for antique items, catching up with friends and enjoy the friendly atmosphere.
Adjoining the flea market is the Arts & Crafts market which is well worth a visit. This market offers handmade clothes and designer items.
Opening Times: Saturday/Sunday, 10 am -5 pm
Getting There: S-Bahn Tiergarten S5
My favorite Farmers Market is located at Winterfeldtplatz in Berlin-Schöneberg. I used to live here for many years and every Saturday morning I went there to get fresh eggs, organic meat, fruit, freshly baked bread, olives, and vegetables.
The stall holders know their regular customers by name, so there is a lot of chatting going on. You can try some of the fresh produce and take some ‘goodies’ home for a hearty lunch.
The vibes are so friendly, and you won’t see too many tourists. You can also indulge in delicious street food like Rostbratwurst, blinis, zucchini fritters combined with freshly pressed orange juice and an aromatic cappuccino.
The area around the Winterfeldtplatz has many cafes, restaurants, artisan shops and, for the bargain hunter, plenty of second-hand stores.
It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning!
Opening Times: Wednesday 8 am – 2 pm; Saturday 8 am – 4 pm
Getting There: U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz; U1, U2, U3, U4
Shop til you drop is easy in Berlin. From designer boutiques, artisan shops, big shopping malls to second-hand clothing stores. There is something to suit any budget.
The most renowned is the iconic department store KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), a fantastic place to start your shopping spree. Over 380 000 articles can be found on 60 000 square meters. Since 1907 the KaDeWe is a magnet for tourists from around the world. Many locals are regular customers as well.
One of the main attractions is the gourmet department on the 6th floor. The bread, cakes, and patisseries are freshly made in store every day. Here you can indulge in oysters with a glass of Champagne for a decadent lunch.
Just up on the last level is the glass roof restaurant with gorgeous views of the surrounding cityscape.
After your visit to the KaDeWe walk down the Tauentzienstrasse which leads to the Kurfüstendamm. Over 100 more shops, department stores, restaurants, and cafes can be found in this area. You can combine the shopping with a visit to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial church.
Getting There: U-Bahn Wittenbergplatz, U1, U2, U3
Other areas for a great shopping experience is Friedrichstrasse, with lots of designer boutiques, the Hackescher Markt (in Mitte) with unique shops and cozy little cafes and restaurants as well as the area around Alexanderplatz with the Galeria Kaufhof (a department store) and the Alexa shopping mall.
A visit to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the Nightlife. Start the evening with a visit to one of my favorite bars in Berlins district Kreuzberg the Madonna Bar.
Enjoy a beer or whiskey in a relaxed cool atmosphere. It’s a great place to hang out with the locals and to get started for a big night ahead.
Every Wednesday there is a live band playing. The staff is super friendly and speaks English.
Only a few doors down the road is the ‘Wild At Heart’ for lovers of punk and rock music.
Both places have been around for it seems forever. They haven’t changed in years which in my opinion is a good thing.
If you get hungry, the Tiki Heart Cafe next door serves super delicious burgers in a tacky, 50s inspired, rockabilly ambiance; options for vegans and vegetarians are available as well.
Getting There: Wiener Strasse; U-Bahn Görlitzer Bahnhof, U1, U3
Opening Times: Madonna: every day 3 pm – 3 am; Wild At Heart: every day 8 pm – open end
Bar Jeder Vernunft
One of the must things to do in Berlin is a visit to the cabaret/theatre Bar Jeder Vernunft in Berlin Wilmersdorf.
Once you enter this unique historical Mirror Tent, you feel taken back to the era of the golden 20s. The creative, classic and cozy ambiance is perfect for an evening of chansons, comedy or musicals.
The Bar Jeder Vernunft mainly features smaller scale performing local artists who have become famous over time thanks to their incredible performances in this enchanting venue. You may have heard of Otto Sander, Tim Fisher. Mereth Becker, Desiree Nick or Maren Kroyman – some of the regular guests at the Bar Jeder Vernunft.
Getting There: Schaperstrasse 24; U-Bahn Spichernstrasse, U1, U2, U3, U9
What And Where To Eat
There are three things that you’ll need to try when you are visiting Berlin.
- The Currywurst
- Pfannkuchen also called Berliner
- Berliner Weisse
The Currywurst is a traditional fast food snack and is available literally everywhere. It’s served either with a bun or Pommes Frites (French Fries) with Tomato sauce and Mayonnaise.
One of the best places is Witty’s at Wittenbergplatz just in opposite from the KaDeWe. They offer tasty organic sausages, sauces, and buns. Just yum! Opening times are Monday to Saturday from 10 am-midnight; Sunday 11 am – 1midnight.
The Berliner/ Pfannkuchen is a deep-fried doughnut filled with jam and a dust of icing sugar or a thick glazing. If done well the sweet yeast dough ball is light and fluffy. Even though you can get a Pfannkuchen in every bakehouse, try one (or two) from the family-owned bakery Bäckerei & Konditorei W. Balzer, Sophienstrasse 31 in Mitte.
Berliner Weisse is a sour tasting white beer that is so refreshing especially on a hot Summers day. The waiter will ask if you want a ‘red’ or ‘green’ one. Red Berliner Weisse is flavored with Raspberry syrup, and the green one is flavored with woodruff syrup.
As for a traditionally hearty Berlin dish, you can’t beat Pork Knuckle with Sauerkraut, Berliner Bulette (pan-fried meatballs), Königsberger Klopse (meatballs cooked in a broth and served with a creamy white sauce with capers) and, everyone’s favorite; a Schnitzel served with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes).
For a rustic atmosphere and dinner, the restaurant ‘Dicke Wirtin’ in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Carmerstrasse 9 is a great place to start. Another restaurant I highly recommend for authentic Berlin (and German dishes) is the Wirtshaus ‘Max und Moritz’ in Berlin Kreuzberg, Oranienstrasse 162. Options for vegetarians are available as well.
I do hope this post will inspire you to visit Berlin one day. For more things to do in this cosmopolitan city please read here.