Berlin is a city with a lot of history, one that is visible when you walk through the city. But at the same time, there is a new and modern vibe filled with potential and possibility. Whether you’re here for a day or for a longer period, you won’t get bored.
If you want to know where to start or where to go, these 10 things to do in Berlin are a great start. These 10 things will help you understand the history of Berlin and Germany. But don’t be afraid that it’s going to be a depressing trip, the modern side of Berlin will surprise you!
Don’t try to do it all in one day, but take 3 or 4 days to fully explore the city and what it has to offer. And don’t forget to try some of the German classics, like currywurst. Berlin has a little bit for everyone, so add it to your travel itinerary to see for yourself what the fuzz is all about!
TRAVEL TIP : Get a Berlin Welcome Card which includes free public transport and discounts for many sights ant attractions.
1. Checkpoint Charlie
After World War II, Berlin was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin. If you wanted to go from one side to the other you had to go through a checkpoint. Checkpoint Charlie was the only one where diplomats and other foreigners (not West Berliners, for example) were allowed to cross.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the museum across the street. Outside the museum you will find the entire history of the wall and Checkpoint Charlie – 1961 to 1989 – in words and pictures. From the moment the wall was built (with professional equipment) to its tearing down (with the neighbor on his sandals with a chisel).
Personal stories are shared in which people tell about how they saw someone trying to escape to the west. There is also a large section of the wall. If you want to visit the museum you have to pay an entry fee, but with everything, there is to read outside you get a good idea of why this is an important historic monument.
2. Topographie des Terrors
Topographie de Terros is a free museum that gives an impression of a number of important, and horrific, authorities during the Second World War: Sicherheitsdienst (SD), Gestapo, and the Schutzstaffel. A place where the Nazis spent a lot of time and where their most important buildings stood.
Topographie des Terrors was opened in 2010. It is an exhibition of the crimes of the Nazis during the Second World War. From start to finish. The exposition is actually in a large space. If you start on the right side you can read and see with pictures what it must have been like. There are also computers where you can watch fragments between 1933 and 1945.
The museum’s outdoor exhibition includes remnants of the original buildings, including fragments of the basement cells where prisoners were held and tortured.
3. Potsdamer Platz
Potsdamer Platz is known as a cultural piece of Berlin. It is named after the city of Potsdam, which is 25 kilometers away. The road from Berlin to Potsdam ran here in the past. It has been modernized and houses many offices, cinemas, and much more. The Mall of Berlin is situated here and is the perfect place for a quick lunch or dinner because it has a huge food court.
This square has always been one of the most important squares in Berlin. Potsdamer Platz was an important traffic hub. It is no coincidence that this square was a target of the Allies during the bombings of the Second World War. At the end of the war, Potsdamer Platz lay in ruins.
The border created by the division between West and East Berlin ran across Potsdamer Platz. The Berlin Wall was built across the square in 1961. The former course of the Berlin Wall is marked with stones in the road surface in some places.
When visiting Berlin, you cannot miss the Reichstag building. You can visit the dome or attend a session free of charge, but you must request this online. Do this at least two days in advance, so that you are sure that you can go on your desired day and time.
Before you enter you have to show the confirmation and go through security. After this strict check, comparable to the checks at the airport, you can continue toward the entrance. You have to wait before you can enter. With the elevator, you go up to visit the dome.
When you get off the elevator you can get an audio tour in different languages. This will give you information about the Reichstag itself, but also about the sights you can see from the dome.
5. Holocaust Monument
The holocaust monument consists of no less than 2711 concrete blocks, varying in height from 20 cm to 4.5 meters with a mutual space of 95 cm. The monument was designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. The idea behind it is that a feeling of disorientation and isolation occurs, which symbolizes the feeling of the Jews during the Nazi rule. The monument was inaugurated in 2005.
When you walk through it, Berlin completely fades into the background, because the concrete blocks are quite high. Every now and then you meet someone or see a camera sticking out of somewhere. It feels a bit oppressive when you stand in the middle between the 4.5-meter blocks.
Below the monument, you find an information center where the history of the Jewish people is told (entrance is free).
6. Brandenburger Tor
Brandenburger Tor is the most important gate in Berlin and the oldest. It has been there since 1788 and it used to be the gateway to the city. The gate is 26 meters high, 65.5 meters wide, and 11 meters deep. The gate was seriously damaged in World War II but has been renovated since.
In 1961, construction of the wall began, placing the Brandenburger Tor in a kind of no man’s land. Since the fall of the wall in 1989, the Brandenburger Tor has been a symbol of Deutsche Einheit (German unification).
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Gendarmenmarkt are the two almost identical churches. The Französischer Dom (on the right side of the concert hall) was built between 1701 and 1705 for the Huguenots who had fled France. The church was modeled on the Huguenot church in Charenton, France, which was destroyed in 1688.
In 1785, the towers and porches, designed by Carl von Gontard, were added to the building. This adjustment made the building almost identical to the Deutscher Dom. The Französischer Dom contains a Huguenot museum, as well as a restaurant on the top floor, and an observation platform.
The Deutscher Dom was built in 1708 for the Protestants. The Teutonic Cathedral has a pentagonal structure designed by Martin Grünberg that was built in 1708 by Giovanni Simonetti. The German Cathedral was completely destroyed during World War II by a fire in 1945. After German reunification, the cathedral was completely rebuilt and reopened in 1996 as a museum of German history.
In the center of Gendarmenmarkt is the concert hall and in front of it is a monument to the poet Friedrich Schiller. The Konzerthaus Berlin was built between 1818 and 1821 by the Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel as Königliches Schauspielhaus and is one of the most successful buildings that this architect built.
Bebelplatz is best known for the book burning in 1933 by the Nazis. Some 25,000 books, including books by Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Thomas Mann, and Erich Maria Remarque, were burned because they were deemed objectionable. In the middle of the square, you will find a glass plate in the ground through which you can see rows of empty bookshelves, a monument that commemorates the book burning.
Around the square, you will find the State Opera, the St. Hedwig Cathedral, and the Alte Bibliothek, which is now part of the Humboldt University. They are beautiful buildings with many details.
Completed in 1743, the Staatsoper is home to the Staatskapelle Berlin, an orchestra with a long, successful history. The St. Hedwig Cathedral was built from 1747 to 1773 to a design by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, which also involved the Dutch architect Jan Bouman. The Alte Bibliothek was built from 1775 to 1780 in the Baroque style, commissioned by King Frederick the Great of Prussia. He wanted to achieve that all people would have access to literature.
9. Berliner Dom
The Berliner Dom is the largest, the most imposing, and most important church in Berlin. You can see it from afar, but it is most impressive when you stand on the square in front of it. Only then do you really see how big the church is, how symmetrical, and the level of detail was added to this church.
The Berliner Dom is an imposing building with many decorations, so you hardly know where to look. There are several digital screens in the cathedral where you can get more background information and of course, you can also rent an audio tour. The view from the dome is quite impressive. In the catacombs, you’ll find tombs of various kings and queens.
The entrance fee is € 9.00 per person. This gives you access to the Berliner Dom, the catacombs, and the view from the dome.
10. Enjoy Street Art
Berlin is a very creative and artistic city. It is home to a thriving arts and cultural scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and music venues. The city is also known for its street art, which is among the best in the world. This has given Berlin a reputation as a hub for creativity and innovation.
The best place to start your street art adventure is by visiting various parts of the Berlin Wall. But throughout the city, you’ll find beautiful and colorful pieces. For the best experience, you might want to join a Street Art tour that takes you to the best places.
Share your favorite things to do in Berlin
That concludes our 10 things to do in Berlin. There is so much more to do in this city, so please share your favorite things to do in the comments below. Stay at least a day or 3-4 in this city to get a good feel of what’s happening and don’t rush yourself.
Berlin is a city you can visit all year round and your experience will be different each time. When it gets warmer it gets more crowded. We visited Berlin in winter which made a lot of places easily accessible. Just dress to deal with the weather.
Please share your favorite things to do in Berlin because we’d love to visit this city again. There is something about the vibe in the city that attracts us. We’ll be back and hopefully, you will too!
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