As the capital of Germany, Berlin served an important role throughout the 20th century, a momentum that it continued to ride into the 21st century. You can just feel the vibes in Berlin. It is vibrant, gritty, cutting-edge and culturally rich–certainly a must-visit destination within Germany! From its street art-filled neighborhoods and gastronomy delights to its architectural gems and WWII history, there are endless possibilities to learn and discover in Berlin.
The sheer diversity of things to do makes Berlin a ‘something for everyone’ sort of place. It holds three UNESCO World Heritage sites, around 175 museums, over 300 galleries, and countless delicious restaurants. If you want to try it, trust me you can find it in Berlin. The sheet amount of things to do will likely overwhelm a casual traveler, and you’ll want to come to the city with a plan. This modern metropolis fills every inch of its surprisingly large territory with interesting things, so organizing your itinerary thoughtfully is essential.
With so many amazing things to do and see, it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a trip to Berlin. That’s why I have put together this list of the 15 best things to do in Berlin. Since moving to Germany, I visited Berlin on several occasions, always trying to discover new things and explore deep into the city’s neighborhoods. I’m sharing all my insider tips and favorite spots with you in this blog post. So, if you’re planning a trip to Germany’s capital city, then, keep reading to discover 15 best things to do in Berlin.
15 Best Things to Do in Berlin
Best Outdoor Activities to Do in Berlin
Wander Through Tiergarten
A walk through the peaceful and beautiful Tiergarten park is one of the most beloved local activities to do in Berlin. Located in the heart of the city, Tiergarten is one of the city’s most popular green spaces. With over 200 acres of gardens, lakes, and forests, it is a bucolic recreational area for locals and tourists alike. You can explore Tiergarten on foot or by bike, and there are maps located throughout so you don’t get lost. 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. You might even catch some wildlife viewing, including birds, squirrels, and rabbits.
Rent a Bicycle
Cycling through Berlin with the wind in your hair is an experience not to be missed. Personally, it is my favorite way to get around in Berlin! Similar to other cities in Germany like Cologne and Munich, it is incredibly easy and fast to explore Berlin by bicycle. The bicycle lanes and paths are flat and clearly marked, running through parks and along canals, in addition to all of the streets. Even novice riders can feel confident!
Bicycle rentals start at 5 EUR per day with the bike-sharing programs like Nextbike. There are stations throughout the city, making it super simple to pick up and drop off the bikes. You can use the app to pick up the bikes, and the system will charge you a surcharge for rides over 30 minutes. Very few locals wear helmets and they are not provided with the bicycle-sharing program.
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. 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.
East Side Gallery
One of the most recognizable historic places to visit in Berlin is the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km long open-air street art gallery painted on a surviving remnant of the Berlin Wall. 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 gallery features over 100 paintings and murals created by artists from all around. In fact, it is considered to be the largest open-air gallery in the world.
The gallery offers a visual representation of the political and social changes that have taken place in Germany and the world over the past few decades. Because it is painted on the ruins of the Berlin wall, it is a salient juxtaposition that is quintessentially Berlin. Street artists and muralists painted powerful political messages and artwork on the ruins of the wall, making it a unique and colorful showcase of three decades of political and social commentary.
The most iconic murals 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; and “The Wall Jumper” which shows a man jumping over the Berlin Wall to leave East Berlin to join the free world. Expect to wait in line with other tourists to get a picture of yourself in front of the most famous murals.
Worthwhile Museums in Berlin
The world famous Jewish Museum is simultaneously one of the best museums in Berlin as well as one of the most distinctive pieces of modern architecture in the city. 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.
Built by acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, the Jewish Museum is an architectural 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.
Topography of Terror
I really believe that a visit to the Topography 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. Visitors can engage with never-before-seen artifacts, photographs, and documents from the period, and some things can be shocking. 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.
I just love visiting them! Located just 8km from the city center, Charlottenburg Palace is an easy half day trip in Berlin. Originally built by (and for) Prussian born Sophie Charlotte, the 17th century palace is a stunning example of baroque architecture. Complete with gilded statues, ornate chandeliers, and wallpaper-clad ballrooms, this palace is pure opulence. On a sunny day, the classical French gardens behind the palace are positively divine. And that is saying something coming from me – I have seen my fair share of castles and palaces in Germany.
A combined ticket and an audio guide are available for purchase at the main entrance. Fair warning, it was a little more expensive than I expected at 22 euros. The interior of Charlottenburg is filled with exhibits explaining the pivotal role Prussian played in German history. You will learn lots about the reign of the Hohenzollerns, one of the most influential family lines in Germany. There are also a few surprising things inside the palace, including the famous Jacques-Louis David painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps.
Best Things to Eat & Drink in Berlin
Eat Street Food
One of my goals on my first trip to Berlin was to try as many street food spots as I could. Street food is one of those unique Berlin activities that makes you feel like a local. The city offers a diverse array of street food options, from traditional German specialties to international cuisines. When it comes to what to eat, the options are endless.
Some popular street food dishes in Berlin include Currywurst, a sausage served with a spicy tomato sauce. Konnopke’s Imbiss is one of the best known currywurst stands in the city, and for good reason! The curry sauce at Konnopke’s is memorable because it has the right balance of sweet and spicy while also offering a nice peppery finish.
Another staple you have to try while traveling in Berlin is Döner Kebab, a Turkish dish made with marinated meat, vegetables, and sauces wrapped in a pita bread. This is a great thing to eat after a long night out partying in Berlin’s epic club scene. Imren Grill takes each component of the kebab seriously, from the fresh baked flatbreads to the house-made sauces. What I found particularly interesting about the döner kebab here is the spice seasoning. It is a unique flavor full of clove, cinnamon and cumin.
Located in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg neighborhood not far from the East Side Gallery, Markthalle Neun is a historic indoor market hall that has been serving the city since 1891. The building has undergone several transformations over the years, and local residents saved the market from closure in 2009 when it went through a revitalization campaign. The beautiful interior of this revitalized building will strike you immediately.
Today Markthalle Neun is a buzzy hub for local food vendors, chefs and farmers. Visitors can expect to find a lively and vibrant atmosphere, filled with the sounds and scents of sizzling street food. The hugely popular Street Food Thursdays will bring big crowds, but it is worth it. 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.
Bar Hopping in Neukölln
Known for its vibrant nightlife and diverse culinary scene, Neukölln is a popular destination for foodies and bar-hoppers alike. Perfect for a night out, the area is home to a lively bar scene with a number of trendy and unique watering holes to choose from. Being a cocktail aficionado 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.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Berlin
Of all the historic places that I’ve visited in Berlin, I was most surprising by how much I loved the Reichstag. It is the seat of the German federal government, so I expected this to be fairly boring and bureaucratic. But lots of people recommended it, so I decided it might be worth it.
You need to book a visit to the Reichstag 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 on Berlin’s skyline – the massive glass dome that sits on top. It is held up by a mirrored funnel shaped structure, and the entire thing is super impressive. This stunning structure offers 360-degree views of Germany’s capital city and the opportunities for photography are endless here.
Berlin Wall Memorial
To see what Berlin actually looked like during the Cold War under Soviet and American occupation, head to Berlin Wall Memorial park. The Memorial consists of the last original preserved section of the Berlin Wall, running approximately one-mile along Bernauer Strasse. Just across the street, there is a visitor center that provides a comprehensive understanding of the history of the Wall and its significance.
This open air exhibit features photographs, signs, and audio histories of people’s experience living in divided Berlin. It is really dedicated to remembering and commemorating how the division of the city impacted real people, and the toll it took on generations of Berlin residents. You will see the thick and towering walls of concrete, rebar, a watchtower, as well as “no-man’s land” in between. 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.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Steps away from the Reichstag and the Bradenburg gate, 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. I interpret this uneasy, confusing atmosphere to symbolize the feeling of dehumanization. I think it also kind of evokes a nameless, soulless graveyard, almost like an unconsecrated space memorializing those who were unburied, burned or thrown into unmarked pits.
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.
Off-Beat Activities to Try in Berlin
If you happen to be in Berlin during nice weather, you should definitely check out 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.
Berlin has by far the best assortment of thrift stores and vintage stores in Germany. A great second hand store lies around basically every street corner in Berlin – it’s staggering how many you’ll come across. It is no secret that I love thrift shopping, so it should not come as a surprise that it is one of my recommendations for the best things to do in Berlin. The vintage selection is abundant, offering everything from luxury boutiques with designer duds to unique thrift stores specializing in capsule styles and collections.
One of the coolest parts of Berlin is the dynamic neighborhoods. Each corner of the city has a slightly different vibe, and it feels like a patchwork of fascinating places. Dive into the neighborhoods to discover some of the quirky characteristics that locals love about Berlin. A few neighborhoods that I think would be worthwhile as a first time visitor are highlighted below.
Reuterkiez has a charming yet gritty vibe in the heart of the city. 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. I especially like a morning walk along the canal with a coffee from Kaffeebar in hand. You might also want to explore this area at night, because Reuterkiez has so many nice restaurants.
Friedrichshain has an alternative feel to it with lots of street art, hidden gems, and unique shops. There are a number of nice coffee shops around Friedrichshain, which I summarize in my Berlin coffee shop guide.
Prenzlauer Berg is a vibrant neighborhood known for its bohemian atmosphere and lively arts scene. This neighborhood is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. With its tree-lined streets, charming cafes, and independent boutiques, there is a unique blend of history and modernity in this neighborhood. Prenzlauer Berg is also home to a number of excellent restaurants, bars, and cafes, offering a wide variety of cuisines and flavors.