Berlin is a city with endless possibilities and a rich history that can keep you entertained for days on end. Since moving to Germany in 2019, I have visited Berlin on a couple of different occasions, always trying to discover new things and explore deep into the city’s neighborhoods. Whether you’re interested in exploring cultural heritage sites, trying out the local cuisine, or partying the night away, Berlin has something for everyone.
You could easily spend a week in Berlin, but I think a long weekend is the perfect length for a first time visitor. Three or four days is ideal to give you a taste of must-see landmarks and cultural attractions as well as the distinct and trendy neighborhoods that make Berlin a popular destination for travelers in Germany. In this blog post, I’ll take you through the best sights, delicious food spots, and exciting activities that you won’t want to miss.
If you’re planning a trip to Berlin, you’ll want to make the most of your time. With only four days to explore, it can be difficult to know where to begin. That’s why I’ve put together the ultimate itinerary, highlighting the best things to see and do in Berlin on a long weekend visit. Designed for first-time visitors, this blog post will help you plan the perfect trip to Berlin. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover Germany’s most dynamic city.
How to Plan the Ultimate Long Weekend in Berlin
Morning: Brandenburg Gate & Holocaust Memorial
Perhaps the most famous landmark in Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate. Nearly every first-time visitor to Berlin will visit this sandstone gate, which was built between 1788 – 1791. In more recent history, the Brandenburg Gate was a symbol of division between east and west Germany. After the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, the gate sat right in the middle of the restricted zone. It could not be visited by East Berliners nor West Berliners. It was essentially left abandoned for 30 years until reunification when it was reappropriated as a symbol of German unity.
Another essential place to visit in Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. You’ll also hear it called the Holocaust Memorial, but that isn’t the official name. Designed by architects Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold in 2005, there are 2,711 concrete columns across 19,000 square meters forming a vast mazelike complex. The columns are all different heights (between 8 inches to 15 feet), and the ground undulates with small hills and slight angles. Walking through the columns creates an uncomfortable, disorienting experience for the visitor.
Beneath the memorial is an information center and museum that I would strongly recommend visiting. The center takes a micro-level approach, following individual people and families who were killed in the Holocaust. The personal histories from different European countries are tragic and heart-breaking. I found the storytelling to be incredibly powerful here, really connecting the overwhelming atrocity to individual stories. There are lots of photos and audio clips, as well as the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.
Early Afternoon: Tiergarten
If you decide to visit the memorial center beneath the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, you are likely going to need some time to decompress. It is a heavy topic, so a walk through the peaceful and beautiful Tiergarten park will help. The park has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the 16th century when it was used as a hunting ground for the Prussian royal family. Located in the heart of Berlin, Tiergarten is one of the city’s most popular green spaces.
With over 200 acres of gardens, lakes, and forests, you can explore the park on foot or by bike. It is no secret that I love biking, so I would recommend that option 100%. It is easy to use one of the app-based bike share programs, such as nextbike, and there are several stations around the perimeter of Tiergarten. Today, it is a beloved recreational area for locals and tourists alike, enjoying leisurely stroll along the park’s winding paths, relaxing by the lake, or enjoying a picnic on the grass. You might even catch some wildlife viewing, including birds, squirrels, and rabbits.
Late Afternoon: Reichstag
Now I know it might sound boring, but hear me out – you should visit the seat of the German federal government at the storied Reichstag. Of all the historic places that I’ve visited in Berlin, this one was probably the most surprising. I loved it! This historic parliamentary building has changed leadership countless times since its construction in 1871. It was also the site of the Nazi’s famous 1933 arson and false flag attack that gave Hitler pretext to suspend civil liberties and begin brutal repression in the name of national security.
You need to book a visit ahead of time (usually at least one week before) and you will also need to go through a security check before entering. Once inside, you will see why the Reichstag is one of the most recognizable buildings in Berli’s skyline – the massive glass dome that sits on top. This stunning structure offers 360-degree views of Germany’s capital city and the opportunities for photography are endless here.
Evening: Charlottenburg Neighborhood
I recommend popping over to the western side of Berlin for dinner on your first night in the city. On the way, take a quick peek in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Acting as the symbolic center of west Berlin, the original church was severely damaged during aerial allied bombing in WWII. While parts of the interior were restored after the war, the main tower was intentionally left as a ruin. The ghastly visual serves as a visual reminder of the importance of European peace and functions as a memorial against war and destruction.
There are several fun dinner options in the Charlottenburg neighborhood of Berlin. Dishing up some simple and delicious Taiwanese food, Lon-Men’s Noodle house is a casual hole-in-the-wall spot offering an assortment of traditional Taiwanese dishes, including noodle soups, bao buns and fried dumplings. For something a little bit fancier, 893 Ryotei is an excellent choice. You’ll need to make a reservation several weeks in advance, but this Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant pushes the boundaries in all the best ways. You won’t be disappointed by anything on the menu here.
This may sound random, but a final dinner suggestion is Kaufhaus des Westens. Also known as KaDeWe, this is one of Berlin’s most luxurious department stores. Known for its wide range of high-end fashion, beauty and household items, KaDeWe also boasts an impressive food hall with a wide selection of luxury gourmet food. Think an oyster bar, a champagne counter, and even a caviar stand. There is also a full service restaurant on the rooftop with a gorgeous glass dome ceiling. This is a fun place to bounce around and sample different cuisine.
Morning: Jewish Museum
Start your second day in Berlin at the world famous Jewish Museum. The building is one of the most distinctive pieces of modern architecture in the city. Built by acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, the Jewish Museum is a masterpiece. Spread across three structures, the building plays with light and scale to elicit emotional reactions for the visitor, mirroring the emotions they will already be feeling as they dive deep into the history of Jewish people in Germany.
The thought-provoking room of darkness, the slits of light in the stairwell, and the disorienting subterranean hallways are intentional choices that force the visitor to engage with the space and the content of the museum. The exhibition chronicles stories of Jewish culture, migration, diversity, and persecution. Extensively researched and thoughtfully presented, the collection is very impressive. While the experience is heavy, I found it to be important and impactful.
Early Afternoon: East Side Gallery
One of the most recognizable historic places to visit in Berlin is the East Side Gallery. You have most likely seen imagery of the murals on Instagram before. Located just off Warschauer Strasse on the border of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, the East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall which has been converted into an open-air art gallery. Street artists and muralists painted powerful political messages and artwork on the ruins of the wall, a juxtaposition that is quintessentially Berlin. Expect to wait in line with other tourists to get a picture of yourself in front of the most famous murals.
The most iconic murals in the East Side Gallery include:
- “the kiss between Brezhnev and Honecker” which shows the leaders of Germany and the USSR kissing
- “It Happened in November” a painting by Kani Alvai which depicts Checkpoint Charlie on the day the Berlin Wall fell
- “The Wall Jumper” which shows a man jumping over the Berlin Wall to leave East Berlin to join the free world.
Late Afternoon: Markthalle Neun
When you’re done looking at the East Side Gallery, cross over the Spree River on the Oberbaum Bridge. This double decker bridge has a unique look with castle-like turrets and arched barrel vaults. It opened in 1896 and has been featured in a number of movies, such as Run Lola Run.
Like many other foodie cities around the world, Berlin has embraced the food hall trend and Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg is the undisputed best. The beautiful interior of this revitalized building will strike you immediately, but the real stars are all the culinary vendors inside. Wander around and see which of the stalls appeal to you. I loved the grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with kimchi from AltMilche, while my husband liked the U.S.-style barbecue at Big Stuff. Wash down your food with a craft beer from Heidenpeters or a mate-influenced gin & tonic from Soul & Spice.
Evening: Bar Hopping in Neukölln
Known for its vibrant nightlife and diverse culinary scene, Neukölln is a popular destination for foodies and bar-hoppers alike. I recommend ending your second day exploring Berlin in Neukölln, because it will give you a sense of the hip and alternative scene that Berlin is so well-known for. For dinner, grab some street food, especially Turkish cuisine. Follow your nose or look for the spots with a line, because locals always know best.
If you happen to be in Berlin during nice weather, start your Neukölln bar crawl at Klunkerkranich. This makeshift bar is on the top floor of a parking garage, making it a quintessentially Berlin experience. It is built out of reclaimed materials, recycled pallets, community gardens, and artist installations. It is quirky, but it offers one of the best rooftop views in the city. This is a great place to come around sunset, although there are legendary parties and live music events here late into the night.
The area is also known for its lively bar scene, with a number of trendy and unique watering holes to choose from. Being a cocktail girl myself, I recommend sampling drinks at some of Neukölln’s legendary cocktail bars. Geist im Glas, Tier, and Velvet are all great options. If you prefer to discover on your own, stroll down Weserstraße between Wildenbruchstraße and Kottbusser Damm. You’re bound to find lots of wine caves, dive bars and cocktail joints on your way.
Morning: Brunch in Reuterkeiz
On my first visit to Berlin, I stayed at a stylish AirBnb in the Reuterkiez neighborhood. I really fell in love with this neighborhood, because it has a charming yet gritty vibe in the heart of the city. I especially like a morning walk along the canal with a coffee from Kaffeebar in hand. Reuterkiez has a lot of great options that will satisfy any AM cravings, whether you’re looking for a quick coffee or a leisurely brunch. There are some great brunch places in this neighborhood so I recommend a leisurely start on your third morning in Berlin.
If you want something quick or to-go, it is hard to beat the amazing baked goods at Albatross Bakery. This down-to-earth and minimalist spot has incredible croissants along with crusty sourdough loaves. For a boozier take on brunch, head to Le Bon. Their literal motto is brunch, lunch and booze! This sophisticated restaurant offers an international brunch fare in a classic Berlin industrial space.
A final suggestion is Geist im Glas. You might not expect the bar you stumbled out of would be able to whip out one of tastiest brunches just a few hours later, but this is Berlin – anything is possible. Specializing in cuisine from the American south, the buttermilk pancakes are iconic and the biscuits and gravy induce some serious nostalgia. This brunch draws a crowd every week, so don’t be surprised if you find a wait.
Early Afternoon: Checkpoint Charlie & Typography of Terror Museum
I think a visit to the Typography of Terror museum is essential for any first-time visitor to Berlin. The museum sits on the remains of the Nazi’s central operations office, where a majority of the Third Reich’s most heinous crimes were planned and managed. From 1933 to 1945, this building housed the primary offices of Nazi terror institutions, including the Gestapo Secret State Police Office, Reich SS Leadership offices, and the Reich Security Main Office.
Today, the museum chronicles how the Nazis rose to power and spread the message of their ideology. It is full of photos, journals, and artifacts that engage with Germany’s darkest chapters in honest and meaningful ways. I found this museum to be the most educational that we visited in Berlin, and I think it does a really good job of covering an intense topic with direct and straightforward messaging. You’ll need a few hours to go through the museum, as well as some time to decompress after.
After you’re finished, head just two blocks east to Checkpoint Charlie. Located on the corner of Friedrichstraße and Zimmerstraße, Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. You might recognize it from famous movies like James Bond or Bridge of Spies. Today, it has been rebuilt as a tourist attraction, complete with the barrier, guard booth and flags. There isn’t much to do here, besides snap a few photos, although there are lots of souvenir shops if you need to pick up something.
Late Afternoon: Biking in Templehof Park
Once again, I am going to encourage you to explore Berlin by bicycle, especially after a visit to the Typography of Terror museum. You’ll need a way to clear your head a bit. Biking is simply my favorite way to see a new city, and Tempelhof Park is a perfect (and safe) place to go for a bike ride. Tempelhof Park was once the site of Tempelhof Airport, which played a significant role in Berlin’s history. The airport was used during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s, and later served as a hub for East German refugees during the Cold War.
Long since closed, the former Tempelhof airport grounds were converted into a public park. Characterized by wide open spaces and beautiful green areas, Tempelhof Park is an incredibly popular recreational area for locals looking to relax with a picnic, frisbee or jogging. Maybe you’ve even seen it featured in viral rollerblading TikToks – that seems to be a favorite activity in the park these days! It is also home to a number of cultural attractions, including the German Museum of Technology and the Berlin City Museum. With its beautiful green spaces and rich history, Tempelhof Park is a truly special place to explore.
Evening: Fancy Dinner in Reuterkeiz
Since you’re already in the area, you might as well enjoy dinner in Reuterkeiz. There are so many nice restaurants in this neighborhood – it would be a shame to miss them! Splurge on a Michelin-star night at two unique places in the area. Tulus Lotrek is an unpretentious fine dining experience that will feel warm and welcoming from the moment you arrive. You’ll have the choice of tasting menus between meat or vegetarian as well as the option to choose the number of courses between 6-8. The food is modern, sophisticated and creative with punchy flavors and unique combinations.
Leave room to enjoy a fine-dining dessert experience at CODA. One part high-end patisserie and one part experimental cocktail bar, this swanky spot feels deeply luxurious. Their menu is anything but ordinary, with “dessert” dishes featuring ingredients such as black garlic or miso paste paired with fruits or cacao. A drink pairing comes with the menu, and it is equally as unusual featuring cocktails like beer mixed with sherry or madeira infused with Chinese black tea. You are in for a truly special experience when dining at CODA!
Morning: Breakfast & Shopping in Friedrichshain
On your final day in Berlin, we’ll focus on experiencing some highlights in eastern Berlin as well as some time to explore dynamic neighborhoods. Starting in Friedrichshain, grab a bagel at Fine Bagels. Germany isn’t exactly known for its bagels, but these ones are legit. Part bagel-shop, part bookstore, this is the perfect low key place to start your day.
A wander around any of Berlin’s trendy neighborhoods will reveal a seemingly endless abundance of specialty coffee shops. Ranging from Vienna-inspired coffee to American industrial-chic espresso purveyors, experiencing coffee culture is one of the best things to do while traveling in Berlin! There are a number of nice ones around Friedrichshain, which I summarize in my Berlin coffee shop guide.
Berlin has by far the largest assortment of thrift stores and vintage stores in Germany. A great second hand store lies around basically every street corner in Berlin, and you’ll find a number of cool second-hand boutiques in Friedrichshain. For cheaper thrifted finds, the massive Humana on Petersburger is a worthy option. Find more curated pieces at Haha You’re Ugly, a tongue and cheek shop that offers an eccentric and off-beat selection of vintage treasures. I wrote a whole guide about my favorite second-hand shops in Berlin if you are looking for more suggestions.
Early Afternoon: Berlin Wall Memorial
To see what the Berlin Wall actually looked, head to Berlin Wall Memorial park. This historic and poignant memorial commemorates the city’s division during the Cold War, and serves as a reminder of the struggles and sacrifices of those who lived through this tumultuous period in history. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961, separating East and West Berlin. It was a symbol of the ideological divide between the communist East and the democratic West, and its construction had a profound impact on the city and its people. The Berlin Wall was finally torn down in 1989, following the collapse of the communist regime in East Germany.
A one-mile stretch of the wall has been preserved in its original condition along Bernauer Strasse. This street was one of the most critical dividing lines between east and west Berlin. You will see the thick and towering walls of concrete, rebar, a watchtower, as well as “no-man’s land” in between. This open air exhibit features photographs, signs, and audio histories of people’s experience living in divided Berlin. There is also a memorial wall, which commemorates the heroic and heartbreaking attempts that people made to escape the DDR and reunite with loved ones.
Late Afternoon: Wandering Oranienburger & Prenzlauerberg
Known for its well-preserved 19th century architecture and picturesque streets, the Oranienburger neighborhood has a rich history and culture in the heart of the city. This is a picturesque place to get a little bit lost on your last day in Berlin. You’ll discover beautiful street art murals, ivy covered buildings and quiet city streets. Keep your camera handy! Oranienburgerstraße is a popular street for shopping and dining, offering a wide range of options from high-end boutiques to vintage shops and trendy cafes.
This area once had a vibrant Jewish community, and you can see some cultural institutions dedicated to that legacy, such as the New Synagogue. It is the largest synagogue in Berlin. For somewhat obvious and tragic reasons, finding a Jewish deli in Germany is difficult. Tucked inside a former Jewish girls school, Mogg pays homage to the neighborhood’s history with amazing food. Served on seeded rye bread with a juicy swipe of homemade thousand island dressing, the pastrami reuben is absolute perfection.
Evening: Dinner in Prenzlauerberg
Prenzlauer Berg is a vibrant neighborhood located in the heart of Berlin. Known for its bohemian atmosphere and lively arts scene, this neighborhood is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. It is also a nice area to stay in! With its tree-lined streets, charming cafes, and independent boutiques, Prenzlauer Berg offers a unique blend of history and modernity.
Prenzlauer Berg is also home to a number of excellent restaurants, bars, and cafes, offering a wide variety of cuisines and flavors. It is the perfect place to end your first full day in Berlin. Whether you’re looking for a cozy neighborhood joint or a trendy bar, you’ll find something to suit your taste in this diverse neighborhood. My favorite place to recommend is Katz Orange. The whole restaurant is built inside a 19th-century brewery, and the seasonal eclectic cuisine offers a delicious but approachable fine dining experience.