Planning a trip to Berlin? Try out this list of top things to do that mix up the regular ‘must-sees’ with some unusual offerings you may not have stumbled upon yet...
You're looking for the best things to do in Berlin? Great, you have come to the right place. No need to look further. I called Berlin my home for many years. You know how I ended up there? Let's back up a bit...
In 2005, flights were cheaper than ever. I lived in the South of Germany, and one morning I saw an advertising of an airline (that meanwhile doesn't exist anymore) offering flights to Berlin for only €19,99 (US$25). I couldn't believe it until I went online to find out that it was true.
Long story, but the short version is: Two weeks later I packed my bags for my very first trip to Berlin, and guess what happened? I was completely blown away. Berlin was unique, dirty, cheap and oh so different, compared to the rest of Germany.
I returned home, visited my parents and told them that I was moving to Berlin. Just like that. And three months later I had given up my home in Southern Germany and drove to Berlin with my old car, filled with all my belongings. It was one of my best decisions ever. Berlin had widened my mind.
I lived for many years in Berlin, and even once I started traveling full time, I kept returning to Berlin, every year. Over the years I developed a love and hate relationship with Berlin, but down the line I have to admit, I definitely left a piece of my heart in the city. Almost every traveler who visited Berlin, fell in love with it and its endless opportunities.
Top Things to do and places to see in Berlin
Are you ready to visit Berlin? Let me give you some tips and recommendations, including some fun things to do in Berlin, from local favorites to the most popular attractions in Berlin. I hope this travel guide will help you to have some memorable and exciting times in Germany's capital. Enjoy!
Explore the markets
Berliners seem to hold a deep affection for a quality market. On most days of the week you’ll find plenty of food and second-hand flea markets to peruse. Ready yourself to taste both local and international cuisines, or pick up some retro threads, nik naks and antiques.
One of the most famous second-hand markets is the Mauerpark Flohmarkt. The Berlin Wall used to run directly through the park making it a deadzone. As a stance against and in memory of this the markets operate here every Sunday with musical festivities, delicious food stalls, local crafts and mountains of second-hand goods to dig through.
Finding rarities at the Mauerpark Flea market (every Sunday at Prenzlaur Berg, near Eberswalder Str.)
The food markets also hold a firm place in the top things to do in Berlin. Thai Park runs throughout summer on most days of the week, but is best on Saturday and Sunday. It is a cross cultural experience serving up some of the most authentic Thai food you can find outside of Thailand within a laid back Berlin paradigm.
The Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg hosts a party like night food market every Thursday and the Turkish Markets in Neukölln every Tuesday and Friday offer some of the cheapest and freshest produce any famished traveler could desire.
Step back in history
Of course with Berlin being one of the most active areas of history making over the past century there is plenty to understand and educate yourself with when visiting. Learning about Germany's history is one of the most popular things to do in Berlin, but keep in mind that visiting those sites might be a moving experience.
If you’re interested in both WWII and the Berlin Wall then put aside some good time to visit the Topography of Terror where you’ll walk through a detailed timeline of both major marks in history. Just a hop over from here you can also experience Checkpoint Charlie and learn more about life behind the Wall.
Exploring the inside of the Reichstag parliament building is a must do in Berlin
Heading towards the centre of town a mandatory stop at the Brandenburg Gate for a photo op, then onto the Reichstag parliament building where it’s highly recommended you book in to walk in the rooftop globe for great views of the city.
Five minutes walk from here you can also reach the powerful Jewish Memorial, definitely try to enter the underground museum here also (free entry), it is well worth your while.
Looking for free activities? Walking along the East Side Gallery is one of the best things to do in Berlin...
Then for a more bold experience of the Berlin Wall move across the city to the East Side Gallery where the Wall still stands as a colourfully creative canvas for both local and international artists. You’ll also get a view of the beautiful Oberbaum Bridge while here, be sure to walk across for stunning views of the Spree River.
One of the hundreds of art galleries in Berlin
Soak up the art
A creative melting pot of Europe, Berlin is home to many up and coming and well established artists, with the likes of Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei housing studios in the city.
This has nurtured a culture of galleries, exhibitions and experimental art shows that could safely sit Berlin on the podium of artistic cities globally. If you're an art buff, then visiting these places should be on your things to do list for Berlin.
Some museums and galleries that must be visited are the favoured Berlinische Galerie, the contemporary Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Street art is also an icon of Berlin, if this takes your fancy a tour with Alternative Berlin will guide you through some of the city's most prolific artists.
Not forget to mention all the street art. There are so many places to see in Berlin that features more than just ordinary graffiti. Just wander around with open eyes, street art is literally everywhere. A lot can be seen in the neighborhoods Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg.
Teufelsberg Spy Towers - a must-see and one of the most unique things to do in Berlin...
Out of the ordinary
Visit abandoned Berlin
A visit to the Teufelsberg Spy Towers is an experience you’ll likely get nowhere else in the world. After WWII over 26 million cubic meters of rubble from bombed Berlin buildings was piled up just north of the Grunewald forest in West Berlin. In times of the Berlin Wall the Allies decided this was the perfect location to build spy towers for keeping an eye on the East. As the Wall fell, so too did the need for the towers.
Today the spy towers are an example of the many abandoned buildings of Berlin, cloaked in incredible street art and curious visitors. Personally, this is my favorite place in the city, it's very unique and unlike many other attractions in Berlin.
Tired of sightseeing in Berlin? How about a relaxed picnic at the lake Schlachtensee?
Jump in the lakes
Are you up for some fun things to do in Berlin? Head to the beautiful lakes of the city! It might not be the most well known aspect of Berlin, but this expansive city plays home to many pristine lakes that sit within the wooded fringe area of the city. On a hot day they’re all you could wish for.
With such well connected transport system you can reach the lakes with ease. My top recommendations are Schlachtensee, which is just 30 minutes by train. Explore Liepnitzsee, which is a little further out of town, but worth the trip with its crystal clear waters, island and boats for hire. Or head to Müggelsee, which again is reached easily by train, and is so huge, you can even try your hand at sailing across it.
Explore Berlin through the canals...
Cruise the canals
A matrix of canals connects Berlin’s twelve districts or ‘kiez’. Taking a Berlin river cruise or tour you’ll get to experience the unique culture and architecture of them all.
The canals are also one of the most social areas of Berlin. On sunny days you’ll be privy to many happy sun lovers enjoying music, picnics and parties on the canal banks. On board the boats you’ll also enjoy the comforts of cool drinks, great food and a comfy seat to sit back and view all of Berlin.
Berlin is a foodie paradise with many different cuisines. Eating all the amazing foods is one of my favorite things to do in Berlin...
Food & Drink
Eat and drink your way through Berlin
Berlin is the place where I became a vegetarian. Not for the animals, not because veggies are cheaper, no, it was because of the incredible amount of delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Berlin. Now you know.
If you want to cut your meat intake, there is no better place than Berlin. You want to experience wonderful and healthy vegan meals? Head over the The Bowl for nutritious vegan food. For yummy vegetarian dumplings, Nepalese-style, try Momos.
Super delicious vegetarian dumplings at Momos in Berlin-Mitte
But Berlin is not only about veggie food. Generally, the city is well known for its international cuisine and cheap eats. Try a kebab from the infamous Mustafas, or at least eat one kebab while in Berlin - hands down they're better than in Turkey (I also lived 2 years in Istanbul, before I became a vegetarian).
If you love Asian food, there is a massive variety of Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Sri Lankan, and many other Asian cuisines. If you can't make it to Asia, Berlin is the next best option to try authentic Asian food.
A great and cheap option is the Sudanese food. Think halloumi, falafel and veg layered in delicious peanut sauce for only 3EUR a pop. Live like a local and wash it all down with a beer from the späti (convenient store that's open until late) while you walk the streets, too. And of course you can end a big night with a world class burger at Burgermeister.
The great metropolis of Berlin of course provides also a few more refined food options. There are plenty of Michelin Star restaurants in Berlin, or for something in between sit down at the likes of Industry Standard, Nobelhart & Schmutzig or Papilles. For a drink to match, head to Monkey Bar’s rooftop terrace for a cocktail or a few.
Berlin's nightlife starts on Wednesday and ends on Monday morning...
Dip your toes in the nightlife
The colourful clubbing scene of Berlin is not for everyone. But for those that are interested, Berlin provides a nightlife culture like no other. Famous for techno, gay super clubs and long queues of hopeful dancers, many happy punters make pilgrimages to Berlin to experience its nightlife offering.
Badeschiff Berlin: a swimming pool inside the river
The 25 Hours Hotel in Berlin | Photo © Stephan Lemke for 25hours Hotels
Accommodation - Where to stay in Berlin?
Sleep in Berlin’s unique hotels
Looking for the best place to stay in Berlin? Look no further. Berlin is a vibrant, quirky, experimental city and this is reflected in many of its hotels.
The 25 Hours Hotel is incredibly stylish in design and located directly across from the Berlin Zoo, with many rooms looking into the likes of the monkey enclosure. Staying here you’ll be living in the height of modern style and smack in the centre of the ritzy West Berlin district too.
For something even more ultra hip a stay at the contemporary Michelberger Hotel is your calling. From the moment you visit their website, you know you’ll be experiencing the fruits of Berlin’s creativity in your stay.
A further boutique style hotel to try is Casa Camper. Unique in architectural style, Casa Camper is located in the center of town and has you spoiled for amenities.
If you want to live like a local in Berlin, check out Airbnb! You haven't tried it yet? Here are $30 travel credits for your first booking!
Transport & Travel
Getting there and getting around in Berlin
Being a central hub of Europe it’s easy to reach the German capital. To make sense of all the different transport hubs in the city, check out GoEuro's Berlin page which has a lot of useful station info and help you research the best way to get there.
The local public transport system is the BVG and their website can help you decide what transport pass is suitable for your time in the city. Berlin has 24/7 public transportation. One of the things I love in Berlin, by the way.
Ready to visit Berlin?
So this was my perspective on Berlin. Obviously, there are a lot more things to do in Berlin, and one blog post can hardly cover all the places to see in Berlin. If you have something to add, please write them in the comment section below.
What's on your list of best things to do in Berlin?
I wish you an awesome time, enjoy the city that I called home for many many years... And if you find this travel guide helpful, please share it. Happy travels.
Thank you for reading.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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