I’ve recently decided that Berlin is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world. When I was 12 visiting this city with my grandmother, it seemed like just another city with art museums, old architecture, and a rich history. Now I would love to live there at some point.
On this visit I was drawn in by the familiar similarities between Berlin and New York – face-paced atmosphere, young and open-minded people. Anything goes in Berlin; you can be whoever you want to be without judgement.
Berlin also has a vibrant culture, hipster vibe, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous and affordable food, intense nightlife and a tangible history. And that is why I love it!
When it comes to transportation, Berlin surpasses New York by far. The metro is much cleaner and more efficient. My hostel (Jugendgästehaus Lichterfelde) was about 10km outside the city, but it was no problem getting to the city center with the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines. They come every 5-10 minutes during peak hours and are meticulously on time. The generous german breakfast at my hostel made me feel even better about the commute!
One thing that surprised me about the metro system is that you don’t pass through barriers to enter. Because of this, it can be tempting to not buy a ticket. To be honest, I only bought one half the time. But there are very strong penalties if you’re caught without, so maybe don’t risk it.
I completely loved my three days in Berlin, although they were too short. Here are the best things to do in Berlin.
City Center and Major Sites
To get your bearings on your first day, start by taking a stroll of the city center and major landmarks.
Start at the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th-century monument and one of the most well-known landmarks in Germany.
From there, take a left out of the gates and head towards the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial is an opportunity to remember and honor the atrocities that occurred in this country and in Europe not long ago.
After wandering through this site, walk back past the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag. The German Parliament Building is a sight to behold. Take pictures from the outside or visit the roof terrace and dome. This spot offers spectacular views of the government district and Berlin’s sights.
If you’re feeling like lingering a bit longer in the park, stop for a beer at my favorite Biergarten in Berlin, Am Neuen See Cafe. This cafe is the classic image of Germany – a relaxed outdoor restaurant with great food, drink, and a lively atmosphere. Sitting here and relaxing is one of my favorite things to do in Berlin.
In the later hours of the day, take some time to explore Alexanderplatz, the public square in the Mitte district. Known to be one of the most happening places in Berlin, this central location has restaurants, shops, cinemas, and many attractions within walking distance.
Afterwards, take a look inside the Berlin Cathedral, the city’s most important Protestant church. With church’s being a dime a dozen in Europe it can be hard to get excited about another one, but this one is well worth it.
If you’re still feeling energized, walking through one of Berlin’s many markets is a great way to pass the afternoon. Check out the Arkonaplatz Market on Sundays in the Brunnenviertel district. For a market closer to the city, check out the Tiergarten S-Bahn Flea Market on Saturday and Sundays.
The Sunday market at Boxhagener Platz is also full of unique goods like music records, vintage clothing, and street food. The surrounding Friedrichshain neighborhood is a bustling area with plenty of bars, shops, and cafés to explore.
Free Alternative Walking Tour
On your second day in this diverse city, take a free walking tour. Free walking tours are my favorite way to experience a city for the first time. It is a great way to meet other travelers and learn from a local about the best places to visit. I love to ask questions to find off the beaten track places to visit.
I like Berlin’s Alternative Free Walking Tour because you get to explore sites you might not discover yourself. Your tour guide will show you Berlin’s famous street art and graffiti culture, the best coffee shops, and music hangouts for rock, reggae, punk and electronic music.
These 3-hour tours are conducted every day in English at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm.
Afternoon At The Museum
As a budget traveler, I always have my eyes open for free stuff. And free museums are one of my favorites! Many are located on Museum Island, a land mass in the middle of the River Spree which runs through Berlin. Some of the city’s most famous museums are located here such as the Altes Museum, Neues Museum and Old National Gallery. The non-free ones range from 50-10 EUR to enter.
These are a few of my favorite free museums:
- The Anti-War Museum exhibits anti-war authors and artists work such as photographs, objects and documents from the world wars.
- The Deutsch-Russische Museum (German-Russian Museum) houses Soviet propaganda, uniforms and documentaries that showcase German-Soviet relations during the mid-1900s and war periods.
- The Museum der Stille (Museum of Silence) is probably the most unique museum in Berlin. It is not dedicated to war, culture, or art. The windows are darkened and inside the rooms and ceilings are red. The carpets inside absorb noise. The silence in the museum lets you explore the art in a different way.
- Berlin’s Alliierten-Museum will give you low-down on the political history of Allied forces from 1945-1994.
Kreuzberg Self Guided Walking Tour
On your final day in Berlin, a self-guided walking tour at your own pace is a great way to spend a few hours. Free Tours By Foot provides excellent and detailed free walking tour maps. I loved this map because it automatically saves the points to Google Maps and you don’t need Wifi to follow the route.
This guide will take you through one of my favorite neighborhoods in Berlin. East Kreuzberg is more unkempt and houses many immigrant populations, while west Kreuzberg is known to be more trendy and bohemian.
Have a coffee break at one of the many cafés. Let the smell of traditional currywurst, pizza or doner lure you into one of the many mom-and-pop restaurants in this neighborhood.
Be sure to stop by PICKNWEIGHT, a famous second-hand shop that sells unique vintage clothes by the kilo. They have lots of jackets, jeans, t-shirts and hats for very reasonable prices.
After having lunch at one of Kreuzberg’s many popular food spots (Markthalle Neun is one of my favorites!) head to the Berlinische Galerie or the Jewish Museum, whichever sounds more interesting to you.
The Jewish Museum is a vibrant center of Jewish history and culture, designed by one of the world’s leading architects Daniel Libeskind. It is 8 EUR to enter or 3 EUR with concession.
The Berlin Gallery is one of the newest museums in Berlin and is a mecca of modern art, photography, and architecture. The price for a day ticket is 10 EUR or 7 EUR with concession.
A trip to Berlin would not be complete without visiting the iconic East Side Gallery. These murals painted directly on a 1,316 m long remains of the Berlin Wall are an officially protected landmark. It is an ode to artistic expression that cannot be missed. If you didn’t get a chance to see it yet, make sure you check it out.
I hope you enjoyed this 3-day itinerary including all the best things to do in Berlin.
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