Though many people come to Berlin to satisfy their curiosity for the history of WWII and the Cold War, you will also find many other things to do in Berlin. It’s also a city of cultured refinement that is reflected in the classical buildings and parks.
Berlin has always had the reputation of being an artistic city where the edgy, bohemian, avant garde and alternative is embraced and encouraged influencing popular culture. Berlin has a popular art, music and party scene which is not only confined to pubs and clubs but also takes to the streets.
We have been fortunate enough to visit Berlin twice in recent years, staying in vastly different areas and have discovered a city of many personalities.
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Our favourite things to do in Berlin
During our stay we used the S Bahn, U Bahn, buses, trams and walking to explore the city. The trains are efficient, but it is important that you remember to validate your ticket in the machine before you enter the train.
East Side Gallery is possibly Berlins most famous tourist attraction. A stunning collection of artwork painted on a section of the Berlin Wall, a celebration of the demise of one of the grimmest periods in Berlin’s past.
The Reichstag has been the new seat of German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) since 1999. Badly damaged during WWII, the Reichstag was rebuilt in a style that combines traditional and modern, symbolising a reunified Germany.
The Dome and roof terrace offer spectacular views over Berlin. Admission to the Dome and roof terrace is free, but you will have to register in advance to visit. To register go to the Visitors Service centre near the Reichstag building.
Brandenburg Gate was built in 1791 and one of Berlins most recognisable monuments. A symbol of a divided city during the Cold War it is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is an unusual monument made up of a maze pillars and sloping paths. The pillars vary in size from short to so tall you can’t see anything around you, a very disorientating feeling. The museum below ground tells the stories of victims and survivors that will move you to tears. Well worth a visit.
Museum Island is an Island in the River Spree and a beautiful area for walking. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this collection of elegant buildings contains a treasury of art and artefacts.
My favourite museum on the Island is the Neues Museum which houses the bust of Queen Nefertiti (no photos allowed). If you love all things Egyptian, the Neues Museum is the place for you!
Lustgarten is a peaceful park and a lovely place to sit on a sunny spring day and admire the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) the magnificent protestant cathedral that sits on the banks of the River Spree.
Berlin TV Tower is another of Berlin’s iconic landmarks easily seen from many area. Built to demonstrate East German efficiency, the TV Tower has become a symbol of unification.
Tickets to the Berlin TV Tower observation deck, bar and restaurant can be purchased online.
Where to stay in Berlin
Azimut Hotel Berlin has clean comfortable rooms and is in close to Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten Station, for easy access to tourist attractions, making it one of the best area to stay in Berlin. Though the Hotel is a little tired and showing its age, it is of the standard of many European Hotels. Staff are very friendly and helpful.
Advantages…Centrally located, close to Train Station and public transport, close to tourist attractions and shopping.
Be Aware…There are steps up to the Hotel from the sidewalk, a bit of a struggle with luggage and not suitable for people with mobility issues.
Comfort level…Clean, comfortable beds and friendly Staff.
Our second visit
For our second visit we stayed in the former East Berlin suburb of Friedrichshain. Friedrichshain is a residential suburb with a more alternate feel, and is full of independent stores selling interesting items. Simon-Dach-Straße is the main restaurant and bar area with many different styles of cuisine at reasonable prices, making it one of the best area to stay in Berlin for socialising.
Things to do in Berlin – Friedrichshain – Prenzlauerberg – Neukölln – Tempelhof
Mauer Park is in the suburb of Prenzlauerberg. Mauer Park holds a popular fleamarket every Sunday. The fleamarket features items such as new and vintage clothing, records, antiques and GDR memorabilia. Weather permitting the Park also hosts Karaoke Show on Sunday afternoons, it’s a great place to bring a few drinks sit back and relax.
Closest U Bahn to Mauer Park is Bernauerstraße Station
Sonnenallee is in the suburb of Neukölln. Neukölln is a predominately Arab suburb where you will find many delicious kabab shops. The doner kabab is one of the most popular fast food options in Berlin. Sonnenallee has some of the best (and cheapest) doner kababs and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Kindl Stuben is a popular bar on Sonnenallee. We spent an enjoyable afternoon chatting and relaxing here. The interior is a mix of ragged chic enhanced by interesting wall frescos.
Weserstraße is a popular up and coming bar area and meeting place for Berlin’s alternative crowd.
Closest U Bahn to Sonnenallee and Weserstraße is Rathaus Neukölln Station
Tempelhof is a former airport that has now been turned into a park. With its large expanse of bitumen its popular for cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading and windsurfing. A great place to have a weekend barbeque.
Closest U Bahn to Tempelhof is Herrmannstraße Station
Where to stay in Berlin – Friedrichshain
Hotel Pension Insor is a budget hotel, close to Samariterstraße Station and the bars and restaurants of this trendy area. The Hotel is in a quiet tree lined street. Lots of shopping and a Lidl supermarket close by.
Advantages…close to a lively area, shopping and close to public transport, budget priced.
Comfort Level…Clean, comfortable budget hotel, Staff are very helpful and friendly.
Last words on things to do in Berlin
One memory that will always stay with me is visiting a typical pub in Friedrichshain. We didn’t speak German and the locals spoke little English, but they made us feel welcome, and we ended up playing pool with them. When we left, there were hugs all round, a lovely memory.
As I said in the beginning, Berlin is a city of many personalities. You must come to see its history and culture but while here, don’t forget see its heart and soul.
We have only scratched the surface of this fine city. We have left out many of the things to do in Berlin and only hope that someday we can return to discover more.
Of the many things to do in Berlin, what parts of the city have you discovered and enjoyed while visiting Berlin?