The story of a city with dozens of places to visit in Berlin which are layered in dark history is far from over. The entire existence of the city is built from tragedy and despair, but it is being rebuilt with openness and inspiration. The city has transformed from its dark ages when Nazis marched the streets and filled some of the city’s most popular squares for rallies. The Berlin Wall no longer divides the city’s people into two. Today, when you visit Berlin, you get a new scene, but its past is still very evidently on display. Almost all of the top ten things to do in Berlin revolve around its dark history. However, now Berlin Germany attractions are on display to educate, not to terrorize.
When it comes to new-age culture and trendy lifestyles, there is no holding back Berlin. It is known as Europe’s capital of innovation which has completely reshaped its dark image from the past century. The city has become a huge experiment when it comes to mixing cultures and people, and it is thriving. The free-spirit of the city encourages new-age thinking and a willingness to be creative. Its alternative, artistic scene is booming and there seems to be plenty of room for new additions and ideas.
Germany is a country geographically placed in the center of Europe. It borders its French neighbors to the west, Austrian neighbors in the south, and shares a bit of its border with seven other European countries including Poland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. It is, truly, very well-located for any American tourist backpacking through Europe routes.
I’ve been traveling and living in Europe for a little under three years which has allowed me to see over half of the entire continent. Berlin is one of the unique cities in Europe – filled with a young, open-minded spirit. There’s so much I could include on this Berlin travel blog, but I’ve condensed it to the things you must know. If I could recommend one thing, it’s that you purchase take the free alternative walking tour while there. More on that later! Berlin is closely located to many other cities that I have written a series of guides for. Each city can be visited using the European Interrail system. Now, all you need to do is prepare for your trip.
Top Ten Things to do in Berlin: Berlin Germany Attractions
You can see all top ten things to do in Berlin while backpacking Berlin in a few days, but you might find yourself desiring to stay longer – that’s part of the reason that Berlin makes an excellent stop on anyone’s ‘Euro Trip’. Take a look at my Berlin travel tips on this to rival any Germany travel blog!
Reichstag Building – The Reichstag is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Imperial Diet, of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933 when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. The Reichstag Building is one of the most entertaining places to visit in Berlin.
Brandenburg Gate – The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after the successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution. The Brandenburg Gate is one of the top Berlin Germany attractions.
Memorial of the Berlin Wall – The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The history behind this wall is what makes it one of the top 10 Berlin attractions.
Berlin Philharmonic – An orchestra based in Berlin, and consistently ranked as one of the best orchestras in the world. And for that, hearing them is one of the top ten things to do in Berlin.
Alexanderplatz – Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin, near the Fernsehturm. Alexanderplatz is certainly one of the places to visit in Berlin that you can’t miss! It certainly earns its spot as one of the top ten things to do in Berlin.
Topography of Terror – An outdoor/indoor history museum on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era. I would consider it one of the top ten things to do in Berlin.
Museum Island – Museum Island is the name of the northern half of an island in the Spree river in the central Mitte district of Berlin, the site of the old city of Cölln. The island is home to many of the top Berlin Germany attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Certainly worthy of a spot on the top ten things to do in Berlin list.
Pergamon Museum – The Pergamon Museum is situated on the Museum Island in Berlin. The building was designed by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann and was constructed over a period of twenty years, from 1910 to 1930. The Pergamon Museum Berlin is rightfully one of the top ten things to do in Berlin.
Anne Frank Zentrum – The Anne Frank Zentrum is a facility is committed to promoting a varied and lively society and to working against anti-Semitism, prejudice and any kind of discrimination against people. For history buffs, this tiny place can keep you entertained for hours. I think it’s one of the most informative places to visit in Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It’s a memorial that embodies the emotion and sadness of the time. It’s one of the places to visit in Berlin that piques everyone’s interest. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the top ten things to do in Berlin.
Best time to travel to Berlin
The excellent Berlin Christmas Market makes Berlin a fun and cultural experience in the winter time. However, I don’t think you can find a better vibe throughout an entire city more than springtime in Berlin.
Just as the flowers are coming to life, so is the city. Every day, you’ll see loads of locals of Berlin in the park, playing sports, sitting outside at cafes enjoying a coffee or beer, or just doing what they can to stay outside, stay active, and stay social.
Where to stay in Berlin?
Berlin is very much a neighborhood-oriented city with hundreds of different twists. In each neighborhood, you’ll find unique cultures, vibes, and people. I highly recommend you stay in multiple areas on multiple sides of the city while you’re in Berlin (if you’re there long enough). There’s an area in the city that will suit everyone’s fancy.
Kreuzberg is by far my favorite neighborhood in Berlin because of its hip, young vibe and eccentric artistic scene. And it can be (and most of the time is) more affordable than the other side of Berlin. It’s a very artsy, young, and vibrant place full of creative minds and innovation.
What to eat in Berlin: Best food in Berlin
If you want a taste of the local cuisine in Berlin, look no further:
Currywurst – The local tale is that a Berliner threw together a mixture of ketchup, Worcester sauce, and curry powder back in 1949 and the currywurst was born – creating the city’s most iconic food!
Doner Kebab – Berlin is infamous for turning the Turkish meat and salad — which were typically served on a plate — into a portable meal by stuffing them inside the fluffy bread. This is my favorite cheap meal in Berlin.
Bockwurst – Created by adding pork to the classic veal bratwurst mix. Today, bockwurst is made using a whole zoo’s-worth of meats, incl. pork, lamb, chicken & turkey, and there’s even a fish-only version. You’ll certainly get your fill of wursts in Berlin.
Wiener-schnitzel – the Mecca of German cuisine. It’s a large, battered, flattened, breaded and fried slab of veal. However, be careful when telling a German that wiener-schnitzel comes straight from Austria – they might have a rebuttal.
Top ten things to do in Berlin: Tour the Berlin Alternative Scene
One of the free walking tour Berlin has to offer is an alternative tour through parts of the east of Berlin. It was one of the most fantastic walking tours I’ve ever been on in Europe. The tour lasts three hours seeing some of many Berlin Germany attractions. However, I could have been on that tour for the entire day and never lost interest.
As it is an alternative tour, it doesn’t focus only on the top ten things to do in Berlin like every other tour in the city does. During this tour, you’ll see a lot of the unseen Berlin Germany attractions and gems.
A guide will lead you through an old World War II Nazi train station that has been converted into a district of alternative clubs and bars – each with a different taste. The tour will also take you through current squatter communities and show and educate you on the underground culture of street art and street tagging.
I had my “long way from home” moment while we were walking through Thai Park in Wilmersdorfer Preußenpark. I had never seen anything like it – weird artisan crafts and food I’ve never seen in my life – but at the same time, I wanted to buy and try it all!
The Tale of the Tape on Berlin, Germany
Berlin is the largest city in the country of Germany with around 3.5 million residents within its city limits in the north-central part of Germany. Berlin is known worldwide for multiple things. It’s dark history which includes the mass murder of nearly 6 million Jews and later the physical and ideological separation of classes when the Berlin Wall divided the city. But that’s not all Berlin has to it. The best part of Berlin is the insight into these dark times that you don’t get in other countries with dark pasts; Yes, not even in America.
Berliners don’t hide from their dark history and for that, backpacking Berlin is completely worth it and necessary to more well-verse yourself with the rest of the world. Make sure you know what to see in Berlin as soon as you arrive as you don’t want to miss any of the history!
How to get there/get around: Berlin Public Transport
With a valid ticket, ticket holders have access to all public transport in Berlin: S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries. The fare depends on the tariff zone and the ticket’s period of validity.
American Survival Guide
Traditional Berliner Meal
A traditional meal and some of the best food in Berlin Old Town can be found at Prater. In the summertime, there’s an excellent vibe on the outside patio.
A Night Out
One of my favorite parts about Berlin is the nightlife. It’s never too expensive and always something new. Expect to pay around $3.25 for a pint.
A Bratwurst stand in the middle of Berlin Old Town will cost you about $5.50 for a nice budget lunch. The price is even a little lower as you get further out from Berlin Old Town. Some spicy, cheap currywurst is quite possibly the best food in Berlin!
Berlin Public Transport
Bus or Train
Berlin public transport is fairly inexpensive when compared to other cities on a backpacking itinerary. It costs about $3 for a single ticket valid for two hours. For a longer ride, it’ll cost about $3.70.
Alternatively, you can pay $7.40 and get a pass that will give you unlimited rides on Berlin public transport for 24 hours or $35 for all-week access. The pass is not a bad idea for day trips from Berlin public transport.
Berlin Museum Pass
A Berlin Museum Pass is valid for three days for admission to over 30 museums throughout Berlin including Museum Island which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. For a museum-enthusiast or someone interested in the ages of this historic city, it is certainly worth the investment. You can purchase the ticket online or at tourist information locations throughout the city.
Berlin AirBnB doesn’t have the widest selection. Generally speaking, you can usually find a budget hostel or hotel as a cheaper option. For an entire apartment in Berlin Old Town, expect to pay anywhere from $80-$100 on a nightly basis.
For an individual room, one person can normally find a bed for less than $65 per night.
However, if you journey outside of the heart of the city just a bit, prices drop dramatically and you can find a bed for as cheap as $25. There are certainly more budget-friendly options than Berlin AirBnB
Being in a German country, Berliners speak German. Check out this basic German language guide before you go! However, overall, everyone can speak pretty clear English in this region of Europe.
If you want cell service, it’s important to check with your provider about international charges. In addition, it’s always a good idea to alert your provider (and your bank) that you’ll be traveling internationally.
Credit Card Transaction Fees
It’s important to check your credit company’s policy on international transactions before using it abroad. There are plenty of credit cards available that advertise “No International Transaction Fees”. If you want to get a new card before leaving, find one like this.
Things to have before you arrive
It’s not imperative; however, I’ve always found travel much more relaxing when you arrive without a dire need of any essentials. Here are a few of them before you start checking off places to visit in Berlin:
- Electrical Adaptors
- Power Bank
- Offline Map (app)
- Directions to your accommodation
Berlin – or Germany, in general – is a country a part of the European Union – which means Americans are granted 90-days in a 180-day period to travel freely throughout the E.U. This means if you plan to be in Europe for longer than three months, you should take a look at this.
There are a lot of stereotypes that Americans have adopted over time. There are, also, a lot of stereotypes we have made about Europeans that just aren’t true.
With that being said, there are some cultural differences in everywhere you go. Embrace those – they’re the best part about traveling because those differences educate you.
In Germany, tipping is common. A 5-10% tip is an acceptable amount as waiters tend to make a higher salary in Austria. Be careful that gratuity isn’t already included on your bill!
Discover the top ten things to do in Berlin
Berlin left a very inspiring impression on me and I have already been back several times. If you want to find out more about how to travel Europe on a budget, and all that it has to offer, click on over to our Europe travel blog page dedicated to tips for backpacking Europe! You will find these to be informative, giving you excellent insight into planning a trip through this multi-cultural continent.