The Brandenburg Gate and nearby dome of the Reichstag building are iconic symbols of Germany’s capital while the Museum Island is its cultural heart. Multicultural and multifaceted, Berlin is a year-round destination with lakes to cool down during summer’s heat and Christmas markets to browse in winter. The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining section of the infamous wall that formerly divided the city, whose pulsating nightlife encompasses live venues, bars and nightclubs.
Located by the southeast edge of the Tiergarten’s sprawling parkland, Potsdamer Platz is a short stroll from Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic Cold War guard post. Unique things to do nearby include visiting the German Spy Museum, a multimedia experience telling the tale of espionage in Berlin.
From there it's a 15 minute walk to the elegant domed churches and concert hall at the Gendarmenmarkt. In winter the broad square hosts one of Berlin’s popular Christmas markets.
Book in advance to save queuing when you visit the glass dome of the Reichstag Building, the seat of Germany’s parliament, whose rooftop terrace offers citywide views. The surrounding area is dotted with monuments of reflection, including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Berlin’s Museum Island is the city’s cultural heart. Non-European art and artefacts are displayed in The Humboldt Forum. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island houses five long-established institutions – including the Altes Museum where antiquities are displayed – plus a 21st-century addition, the James-Simon-Galerie. For an overview of the island, be prepared to climb the 270 steps leading to the observation platform in the dome of neighbouring Berlin Cathedral.
Head to the River Spree’s opposite bank to learn about daily life in the German Democratic Republic via interactive exhibits in the DDR-Museum. Pass St Mary’s Church during the 15-minute walk to Alexanderplatz, the site of the Berlin Television Tower, whose bar 203 metres up is ideal for a cocktail while the city’s lights switch on. It’s one of Berlin’s most fun things to do.
Continue down towards Muehlenstrasse, alongside the Spree’s north bank, to see the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Open 24 hours, the East Side Gallery stretches for more than a kilometre. Panels of the symbol of the Cold War are decorated by murals painted by international artists.
The nearby Oberbaum Bridge connects the Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg districts. Take your pick from multicultural Kreuzberg’s many cafés before heading to a bar such as the speakeasy-style Schwarze Traube or onto Gretchen, one of Kreuzberg’s nightclubs.
The Westin Grand, Berlin has 400 stylish rooms, some overlooking Unter den Linden, the boulevard running between Museum Island and the Brandenburg Gate. The Courtyard Berlin City Center is a short walk from the island’s southern tip. The Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof hotel offers designer rooms closeby to the East Side Gallery.
A kilometre-and-a-half southwest of Potsdamer Platz, the streets of northern Schoeneberg have a liberal scattering of cafés, bars and restaurants. This area has long been the heart of Berlin’s thriving LGBTQ+ scene. Tom’s Bar, Begine and Café Berio count among the many meeting places centred around Nollendorfplatz, one of the focal points of Berlin Pride celebrations in July. At Nollendorfstrasse 17, a bronze plaque marks Christopher Isherwood’s early 1930s home: his writings inspired the musical Cabaret.
From Nollendorfplatz, take the short walk to Kaufhaus des Westens, Germany’s largest department store and the shopping haven known as KaDeWe. Witty’s on the neighbouring Wittenbergplatz serves an organic version of currywurst, one of the local dishes to try in Berlin.
Alternative things to do include visiting the Natur-Park Schoeneberger Suedgelaende, a nature reserve on an overgrown railway yard in Schoeneberg’s southeast. Dotted with abstract artworks and a steam locomotive, you can explore the park via a footbridge. The nearby Malzfabrik, a brickwork complex that formerly malted barley, is today a sustainable design hub hosting pop-up exhibitions and concerts.
The chic Sheraton Berlin Grand Hotel Esplanade is a 10-minute walk from Nollendorfplatz.
West of Schoeneberg and the Tiergarten, Charlottenburg is named after Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, the queen of Prussia from 1701 to 1705. Interesting things to do in the district include visiting the Baroque-style Charlottenburg Palace, built as a summer residence for Sophia Charlotte and her husband, King Frederick I of Prussia.
The story of Prussia’s royal house is told within the palace, whose vast gardens include a carp pond and a tea house displaying royal porcelain.
The neighbouring Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection art museum displays works spanning three centuries. The collection’s mainstay is Surrealist art, including paintings by René Magritte and Salvador Dali. Nearby places to visit include the Museum Berggruen, whose collection of modern artworks encompass upwards of a hundred Pablo Picasso and seventy Paul Klee creations.
Kurfurstendamm, the grand boulevard Berliners know as Ku’damm, is home to designer shops. Windows in the Bikini Berlin concept shopping mall provide views of Berlin Zoo. On the square opposite, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church’s bomb-damaged structure stands as a reminder of war’s impact on Berlin.
The streets around Savignyplatz are dotted with bars and great places to eat, including Saigon Green, a Vietnamese restaurant whose signature dish is duck in pancake batter. The Butcher is a stylish burger bar on the ground floor of the Sir Savigny Hotel, Berlin, a Member of Design Hotels™.
The rooftop spa of the Hotel am Steinplatz, Autograph Collection is a relaxing place to enjoy panoramic views of Germany’s capital.
Berliners are renowned for remaining largely within their own patches of the city to shop and socialise. Individuals refer to the area of Berlin in which they spend most of their time as their ‘Kiez’. The names of several of the city’s neighbourhoods end with the term, including Guentzelkiez, Kollwitzkiez and Schillerkiez.
Published: July 26, 2022
Last Updated: April 13, 2023
Article Tags: Berlin , Germany
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