If you saw my Top 10 Awesome Things to do in Dubai post and said, “hey, that’s great and all, but I don’t have all the cash-monies for a five star trip to this desert utopia that you speak of”, then FEAR NOT my friends. My next post in our top 10 series is certainly more attainable on even the most modest of travel budgets. Hooray!
Berlin is an awesome city. It’s packed with history (which was my main interest, if I’m honest), culture and superb nightlife that’ll easily give you endless hours of enjoyment. Without further ado, here is my top ten awesome things to do when in Berlin.
1. Visit Berlin’s Reichstag
Berlin’s Reichstag is the home of Germany’s parliament, known as the Bundestag and is probably one of the most historically-iconic buildings of Germany, given it was the scene of an infamous arson attack in 1933 that led to the formal consolidation Hiter’s power. Nowadays it’s (thankfully) home to Germany’s federal government, although much of the building’s history has been retained internally (including graffiti from Soviet soldiers who stormed the building at the end of the Battle of Berlin), making for a fascinating visit if you are able to plan ahead and book yourself a free tour.
Featuring a striking glass observation dome by Brit Sir Norman Foster, visitors can climb the vast spiral walkways whilst taking in the 360-degree surrounding sights of Berlin via a free audio guide.
If you’re lucky enough, you may also be able to enter the parliament chamber itself as I did on a tour (quite a feat for a politics-geek), which gave a really unique and fascinating insight into the workings modern day politics in Germany.
2. See the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall is an absolute must-do when visiting Berlin. Although much of the wall was demolished following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there are several places you can see this East/West divide preserved in all it’s Cold-war glory.
The Eastside Gallery (not pictured) is the best preserved and largest section of the Berlin Wall at over a kilometer in length, although there are various places across Berlin where you can find sections to explore.
3. Take in the beautiful architecture on Berlin’s Museum Island
Berlin’s Museum Island offers exactly what it says on the tin – a collection of world-class museums, such as the Pergamon Museum (home of Middle-Eastern & Islamic art), Neues Museum (incredible ancient Egyptian collection) and the Altes Museum.
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site in it’s own right, Berlin’s Museum Island is free of charge to roam and home of some absolutely incredible architecture. Whether the museums interest you or not, it’s certainly worth a stroll around.
4. Visit the Berlin Holocaust Memorial
Ok, so this one isn’t ‘awesome’ but is an essential when visiting Berlin.
Built from 2,711 blocks of solid concrete of varying heights, visitors can take a sobering walk through the five-acre memorial, designed as a haunting reminder of the atrocities that was orchestrated from Berlin and took place across Europe under the Nazi reign.
The memorial also features an underground information centre, featuring tributes to the known six million Jews murdered as part of Hitler’s Holocaust. Most staggering and incredibly moving in all honesty.
It’s quite a sobering place to take stock but was definitely a worthwhile visit.
5. Shop in Europe’s largest department store, Berlin’s KaDeWe
If you like shopping and enjoy gastronomic delights, then look no further than KaDeWe, Europe’s largest department store. You’ll find a warren of premium brands spread throughout it’s seven floors such as Burberry, Dior, Montblanc, Louis Vitton, Gucci, Tiffancy & Co, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent to name but a few.
Best of all though (and what I was most interested in) are the sixth and seventh floors, dedicated to food, with a giant food-hall, delicatessen and over 30 gourmet food stations (sweet and savory) which cater for almost every taste under the sun. OMG, right?
The seventh floor features a winter-garden roof restaurant, giving views across Wittenburgplatz, a beautiful neighborhood where KaDeWe is situated. I tucked into some fresh Lobster (would you expect anything less?) which was to DIE FOR but more affordable options are available.
6. See the iconic Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is arguably Berlin’s most famous landmark, partly thanks to the various roles that it has played over the course of Berlin’s history, particularly during the Cold War when it acted as a clear divider of East and West Berlin. It was of course home to Ronald Reagan’s “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech, but has stood in it’s form since 1791, originally as a city gate to Berlin.
The Brandenburg Gate is just a stone’s throw away from the Reichstag and is accessed via the Pariser Platz, a cobbled and pedestrianised area in front of the gate. It’s another freebie thing to do in Berlin too!
7. Tuck into a delicious Currywurst
When I wasn’t tucking into fresh Lobster at KaDeWe, I was seeking out Currywurst. What is there not to love about steamed and fried pork sausage with curry ketchup and curry powder? I promise it is more tasty than it sounds. In fact, I adore Currywurst and find myself salivating as I’m typing…
As an iconic German treat, you’ll find street-vendors selling Currywurst all around Berlin; visit one of these, in my experience of Berlin, they were always the best.
8. Marvel at the sights of Berlin via a walking tour
I always do a walking tour whenever I visit major European cities, whether it’s Barcelona, Budapest or Copenhagen, and have nothing but positive things to say about them; they’re an awesome and great value-for-money way to familiarise yourself with the place you’re staying, see the sights and sounds of the city and learn from local people.
BerlinWalks.de offer a number of walking-tours and have a number of excellent guides who know Berlin inside out; I would personally recommend both ‘Discover Berlin’ and ‘Hiter’s Germany’ tours, they were mind-blowing and a great way to spend an afternoon.
You always learn stuff that you wouldn’t have done if you decide to do it yourself and it’s a great way to immerse yourself with Berlin and work out it’s public transport. Handy!
9. Visit Berlin’s Topography of Terror
Located on the former site of Germany’s former secret police (Gestapo), SS Security Service and the Reich’s state security headquarters, the Tyopography of Terror is a FREE museum which documents the various institution of terrors and horrific crimes which took place in and originated from the immediate vicinity.
It also houses a section of the Berlin Wall and allows visitors to see the cramp terrifying cells where the Gestapo held many prisoners, performing interrogation and torture. The exhibitions are a fascinating (yet chilling) look back into the atrocities of the Nazi regime and how it held onto power with brutal force.
10. Checkout Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was one of the main crossing points between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, following the creation of the Berlin Wall. It’s perhaps a bit gimmicky, with actors dressed as Soviet and allied soldiers and much of the checkpoint restored for tourism-purposes, but for historical significance and the exhibition/museum available at the side of the old sentry gate, the site is worth a visit.
It’s also within walking-distance of the Typography of Terror and The Gendarmenmarkt, the latter quite possibly one of the most beautiful plazas in Europe.
.. so there you have it: Berlin!
I really enjoyed Berlin; it’s historical significance continues to fascinate me, it’s an easy city to navigate via public transport, has excellent nightlight and of course is home of the Currywurst. Having been to various places across Europe such as Budapest and Barcelona, Berlin sits very highly in my list of must-travel places and somewhere I would absolutely recommend you visit.
Alongside Berlin, I also highly recommend a trip to Copenhagen. Like Berlin, it’s packed with history, culture, great food and landmarks to soak in.