Berlin, Germany is one of the coolest cities I’ve visited in Europe. I spent a long weekend here and had such a good time learning about the unique history of this city and exploring all it has to offer. Here are my recommendations on what to do in Berlin.
Day 1: Historic Berlin
Berlin Wall Memorial
Visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial is a must for anyone traveling to this city. I was surprised by how much of the wall is still standing today, whether it’s the foundational pieces like the photo above, or the entirety of the wall remaining, covered in graffiti.
If you didn’t know, the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961, separating the city into two parts: East Berlin and West Berlin. The East side was occupied by the Soviet Union whereas the West side was aided by the US, Canada, Australia, and many other countries.
One thing I didn’t know about the wall was that it was actually rebuilt four times. The first three times the wall had barbed wire at the top, and people would grab on to it and hoist themselves over the wall. Even if they were injured, once they were on the West side they could receive medical help. The fourth time the wall was build, a concrete round topping was added to prevent citizens in East Berlin from having anything to grab ahold of.
Take the time to walk along the wall and see the graffiti, and notice just how long the wall is. When it was built, the wall inside Berlin was 27 miles long.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Berlin is full of great museums, but if there’s one you should visit it’s the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Checkpoint Charlie was a gate in the Berlin Wall through which people could cross from one side to the other. On the West side it was in the American-occupied sector, and it was the only point allied forces were allowed to cross through.
This museum highlights the Cold War, but it specifically shows different ways East Berlin citizens tried crossing the wall to get to the West side. Hundreds of people died trying to escape from East Berlin, and this is a good educational museum to explain the history of this city.
Soviet War Memorial
This memorial is interesting because it was built by the Soviets to remember the thousands of lives lost in the Battle of Berlin, just after World War II. It became the central memorial of East Berlin.
There are actually three memorials, the others are located in Tiergarten and Pankow. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to make a stop here and read more about it.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This memorial is another item you shouldn’t miss in Berlin. Taking a few solemn moments to remember all of the lives that were lost during the Holocaust is important. Berlin, and Germany in general, has such an interesting history in the 20th Century and there are many memorials to remember those who were hurt during times of unrest.
This memorial is covered with concrete slabs of all different heights, and the pathways between the slabs slope up and down. This is meant to create a sense of uneasiness, and it’s a representation of a system that has lost touch with human reason. It also resembles a cemetery, which is fitting for the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust.
The last stop of the day is at the Brandenburg Gate. This historic gate was built in the 18th century as a victory monument, but after being part of so many iconic historical events, it has become a symbol of European unity.
Travel Tip: At many of these history sites there are people walking around with clipboards wanting to talk to you about hearing-impaired children or other charities. Be careful as they are looking for monetary donations or pick-pocket you while you’re distracted. Always be mindful of your belongings and don’t feel badly about telling them “no.”
Day 2: Berlin Zoo
The entire second day should be dedicated to the zoo in Berlin. It is huge – comparable to the San Diego zoo and it can take all day to get through the exhibits!
Berlin is known for having the only zoo in Germany with panda bears! They have a great habitat for them, and if you’re lucky like I was you can see them out and about eating bamboo! Otherwise they might be napping in their enclosure – they do tend to spend most of their days eating and sleeping!
Tickets are 15,50 € for adults and 8,00 € for children. There is a pass that includes the aquarium for 21,00 € for adults and 10,50 € for kids. They do have a student discount if you ask when you pay and show your university ID!
After you finish up at the zoo, the best way to end the evening is by visiting the Monkey Bar. Located at the top of the 25Hours Hotel is one of the best bars in Berlin – and it overlooks the zoo!
At the Monkey bar you can order fun drinks that are jungle themed. I tried a few different, but one of my favorites was the ‘Rafiki’: Gin, Rhubarb Juice, Fresh Rosemary, Fresh Lemon Juice, Lemon Balm, Sugar Syrup.
Despite the amazing drinks, this bar has unique seating and modern decorations, but it has the best view in the city. You can look out in three directions and in the warmer weather you can enjoy your drinks out on the balcony! There’s no better way to end the night.
Day 3: Sites & Shopping
Start off your morning by heading over to the Tiergarten district of Berlin. It’s one of the largest city parks in Germany, spanning 520 acres. It’s a lovely park to stroll through and get your morning started. There are shops lining the edge of it, and then inside the park there are ponds and walking/biking paths.
Grab Breakfast in the Park
Schleusenkrug is a great little restaurant in Tiergarten Park. Whether you’re into cappuccinos, hot chocolate or tea you can warm up with a drink and enjoy a bit of an American breakfast. It was one of the few places in Germany where I saw eggs and bacon on the menu!
They have outdoor seating right in the park. It was one of my favorite experiences in Berlin.
There are so many gorgeous churches in Berlin (just like most European cities). You can hop around the city and see all of the historic churches. The Berlin Cathedral is the most famous, and you’ll definitely want to walk all the way around it! It’s gorgeous from all angles. You can also grab some gelato right next door!
Shop at Bikini Berlin Mall
Bikini Berlin is a really cool mall! It’s modern and edgy and called a “concept mall” with boutiques and pop-up kiosks like the one pictured above. There are great clothing stores as well as cool restaurants (including the Monkey Bar). Basically everything inside this mall is Instagram-worthy, and it symbolizes the future of modern architecture and how we think about shopping spaces.
The last thing to do in Berlin requires making reservations in advance. The TV Tower, known as Fernsehturm, is €15.50 (20% discount for students!). This observation deck gives you a 360 degree view of Berlin and is the tallest bar in Berlin. You can sit and drink or eat and look out over the entire city, although table tickets cost more (€23.50). Look on the website before you head to Berlin so you can book your ticket in advance and skip the line!
That’s a wrap! Berlin was one of my favorite cities in Europe – from the history to the good food and modern night life, there is something for everyone! If you’ve been, what did I miss? Where can I go next time I visit?