Let me start by saying that I LOVE BERLIN.
Of the cities I have had the privilege to visit thus far in my life, Berlin is my favourite.
This city is big, cultural, doesn’t sleep; as the capital city of Germany it still has a huge number of affordable places to eat and things to do.
If you are in Germany, visit this city.
I would say Berlin might not be the most beautiful in the typical sense of the word (some might think Paris for that), and while it isn’t viewed as the romantic city in Europe – it’s fantastic.
Berlin is over 775 years old! WOW, right?! This city is FILLED with history, back from the Roman Empire, to WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. It has had Electors, Kings, Emperors, and Dictators. It has lived through wars, bombings, economic and financial growth, and Y2K (haha). The Berlin Wall fell on my birthday in 1989, and since the reunification, the city has not stopped growing and living. News footage of hoards of people swarming Brandenburger Tor on this historic day still fills my eyes with tears, as I think of the love and joy that was felt that day and in that moment.
Berlin is fascinating. Imagine living in a city that’s divided, I can’t even, can you? I could talk about my historical and architectural intrigue of this city all day, but I won’t. I am going to write some of my top things to do and places to see while visiting Berlin for a couple of days. In the last 5 and a half years, I have visited Berlin 8 times – most of them taking place within the last 6-8 months. Each time I do or see something different, so I’ve picked-up a few preferred things over the years.
A must in Berlin…
Go on a Free Walking Tour. I have now been on Sandeman’s tour of Berlin’s main attractions 3 times. Each time, with a different guide, I learn something new. I am amazed with the knowledge shared about the history of Berlin and how this city’s spirit has never died. The most recent guide I had is a Master’s of History graduate, and you could tell from the way he spoke during the tour, he is very passionate about sharing Berlin with guests. It is a great way to learn the importance of a number of Berlin’s famous sites, and maybe make some friends along the way. Although it’s a free tour, please be respectful and tip your guide a reasonable amount. They’re worth it, so don’t be cheap.
Depending on where your interests lie, there’s so much offered in Berlin. For example, if you’re in the real tourist frame of mind, you might want to check out the Reichstag. The Reichstag, like many buildings after WWII, needed a lot of work. After German Reunification, architect Sir Norman Foster created the dome or cupola as a way for the politicians to be reminded that they work for the people (as people can walk around the dome from the inside, looking down on those that represent them). You need to make an appointment time to visit the cupola, and bring personal identification when registering. I have never been inside for this reason of needing to plan well ahead.
Within the Mitte neighbourhood, you will find the majority of these mammoth sites, including:
- Alexanderplatz – worth the note, although the World Clock is underwhelming
- Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas – it’s powerful, even though it’s 2711 concrete rectangle blocks, be respectful and mindful of other visitors
- Museumsinsle – I’ve only been to the Alte Nationalgalerie, and it was lovely; I enjoy impressionist painters
- Berliner Dom
- Humboldt Universitat – impressive that students organize a book sale on Babelplatz essentially daily (often showcasing books and authors that were cast away during the 1933 book burnings)
- Gendarmenmarkt – including the Deutscher Dom and the Französischer Dom, not to mention the Oper. It’s a gorgeous square where you’ll often hear classical music students busking near the fountain throughout the summer
I know, I know, major hyperlink overload! But I’m just so excited by it all!
Berlin has 12 distinct Bezirk, of which each has unique neighbourhood or borough. I’ve explored pieces of just a few of them, including: Pankow, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Mitte, and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Since this post has pretty much just focused on sites to visit that have some historical significance and/or architectural impressiveness, I’m going to stick with it and try my hardest not to bring up all the delicious food and drink places I’ve visited! (Those will come in other posts, for example – poutine!)
If you have the physical mobility for it, I highly recommend picking a neighbourhood and spend a day walking through it, especially if you want to experience some not-so-touristy pieces of Berlin. For example, I accidentally walked my way through Wedding for a day when I was trying to find the abandoned airfield (needless to say, I didn’t make it)! Or check out the East Side Gallery along the Spree River in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Walk across the river, grab a drink, and check-out Admiralsbrücke. You can even take tours in underground tunnels! And, last suggestion, for now anyways, one of my most enjoyed visits: the Berlin Philharmonie Lunchkonzerte, happens Tuesdays at 1pm (although check the link for dates each season). I lied, one more: Flohmarkt in Mauerpark on Sundays in Prenzlauer Berg, good for souvenirs, delicious food trucks, and fun to see what’s there.
Seriously this city has, at least for me, everything and anything!
It is a major city, so there will be large crowds at peak tourist times, like any city, be careful of personal items in packed areas. Really though, just enjoy walking and wandering — I know I do!