Berlin Travel Guide

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Berlin is a city that is steeped in history. Some of that history is disturbing; some of it is glorious and unifying. Berlin has been at the centre of European action for over a century, making it a fascinating city to spend time in.

While the city may not offer the fashion reputation of Milan or the dizzying romance of Paris, there is plenty to be experienced and enjoyed. Berlin is a great city for lovers of culture and history, and you will never be short of something to do when you visit. If you think you might be tempted by a visit, then read on to discover more…

Things To Do In Berlin

A first stop on any visit to Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It is a standing reminder of Berlin’s divided past, it has now been transformed into a symbol of peace, unity, and the promise of the future.

If you’re still feeling the need to indulge the historian in you, then your next stop should be Check Point Charlie. This unassuming place was one of the best-known points for crossing into East Germany from the West. The site is now a historical landmark, and is surrounded by historical plaques which tell the story of the city prior to unification.

Furthermore, little remains of the original Berlin Wall — the ultimate Cold War relic — but some sections can still be visited. There is a section at Check Point Charlie, and a visit to the Berlin Wall Museum guarantees a glimpse into a troubled past.

If you want to try something more cheerful during your visit to Berlin, then head to Tiergarten, Berlin’s most beautiful park. You can walk through the lush scenery, explore the sculptures and artwork on show, and even try your hand at canoeing if you’re feeling brave.

Visit The Island Of Museums

berlin Island Of Museums

The Island of Museums is one of the most important and impressive areas of Berlin, and occupies the northern half of an island in the heart of the Spree River, which runs through Berlin. The museums here were opened during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and includes some of the most important German artworks in the Old National Gallery, while there are stunning sculptures to be seen in the Bode Museum. In terms of scale, the Pergamom Museum is probably one of the most impressive and is home to some stunning reconstructed buildings from across the world imported into the country.

See The Stars At The Berlin Film Festival

Although it may not be quite as prestigious as the Cannes Film Festival, this is still one of the premier film festivals on the European circuit, and is a great opportunity for visitors to get an early viewing of the biggest films. Held annually in February, the festival attracts some of the biggest names in world film too the city, and also draws thousands of journalists keen to get a look at the biggest blockbusters of the year to come. It is a great event for film buffs, and the stunning setting of Berlin makes it an especially popular event for visitors to the city.

Explore The Berlin Zoo

This is the largest zoo in Germany, and is also set in some of the most attractive woodland in the city, making it a popular place for those looking for peace and quiet in the city. There is a huge collection of animals that can be viewed in the zoo, with over 1,500 species to be seen in the museum in total. One of the most popular and interesting animals in the zoo is the Giant Panda, Bao Bao, who draws many visitors to the zoo.

Knut the Polar Bear was one of the most popular animals that could be seen in the zoo, having been born and raised in captivity, and it is still possible to see a display and statue of Knut in the zoo. When I was there, I stayed in a Go with Oh apartment near the Zoo — highly recommended.

Knut the Polar Bear

Visit The Berlin Wall Memorial

This large wall was originally built in 1961, and separated the east and west areas of Berlin that were officially part of East and West Germany respectively. The wall was finally demolished in 1989, but there is still a memorial of wooden crosses for those who were killed trying to cross the wall, while there is also a stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing near the train station, which now has a gallery of different graffiti exhibits painted on the wall. And perhaps seeing Tempelhof Airport will also show you some history.

Things To Do In Berlin At Night

See Berlin from above, lit up for the night, by ascending the Berliner Fernsehturm Tower. The views are spectacular, offering a panoramic vista that you’ll never forget. You can visit by day, of course, but the night-time experience is all the more enchanting.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Berlin is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, all of which can make for a wonderful day trip.

  • Museum Island is, as the name suggests, an island of museums– five in total. A particular highlight is the Neues Museum, which hosts the famous Queen Nefertiti bust.
  • The Berlin Modernism Housing Estates are an intriguing visit, preserving in time the architectural and cultural trends of the 1920s.
  • The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are a huge group of palaces and associated buildings. There is also a stunning garden to wander around, featuring some of the most celebrated landscape architecture in the world.

Any of the above would make a wonderful addition to your Berlin vacation.

Tourist Tips

So do you think Berlin is calling to you? If you’re thinking of visiting, then it’s worth keeping these special tips in mind…

Tipping Custom

There is no necessity to tip in Berlin– unless, of course, you want to. Servers earn a good wage and do not rely on tips to “top up” their salary, but they are always appreciated. A common practice in Berlin is to “round up”; so if your bill is €28, you would give €30. Hotel porters can be tipped if you feel you have received exceptional service, but this is not obligatory.

Transport To The Airport

Weary travellers will appreciate the fact that Berlin airport transfers are fairly simple. The airport, Berlin Schönefeld Airport, is only 22 kilometres from the city centre. Taxi is by far the quickest option, though there is also an airport rail link if you don’t mind waiting for the next shuttle.

Navigating The City

The Germans are famed for their efficiency, and the public transportation system in Berlin lives up to this reputation. You have the option of an underground station, a reliable bus timetable, and a rail service from the suburbs. You can also hire a bike if you want to explore the city on two wheels. Whichever option you choose, navigating Berlin is incredibly simple, so you shouldn’t run into too much trouble.

In Conclusion

Berlin is a stunning city that is well worth a visit. There’s plenty to see and do, a rich history to explore, and culinary experiences that will delight your palate. Take the time to enjoy the German capital and you won’t regret it; Berlin is a city that delivers time and time again.


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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.