Berlin is an exciting city with something for every kind of traveler, not just for the history buffs, but the art lovers, gardeners, foodies and more. After spending a long weekend exploring the bustling city, I have decided to list my top 7 suggestions of things to do while in this German city. So let us begin!
1) Topography of Terror Documentation Center: There is a reason why over 1.3 million people visited this free museum last year. This indoor and outdoor exhibit is located on a site which was formerly the headquarters for the SS during the Nazi regime. It is also where a part of the Berlin Wall was located from 1961 to 1989, this remaining piece is now the longest existing segment of the outer wall. This museum has a lot of reading; it makes a Ph.D. dissertation look like a postcard. If you want to read it all, be prepared to spend an afternoon. I recommend it. Learn about the history not just of Germany, but Europe, and really the world. Learn from past mistakes. Learn to prevent this from ever happening again. Take a moment to also respect the lives that were lost.
2) Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: Since we are on the topic of WW2, I suggest taking a walking tour with New Europe Tours to visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. This tour is about 5 plus hours (including travel time), and only 16 Euros plus a transit pass. Granted there is more than enough to do within Berlin, take a moment and leave the city to experience something else. If you don’t have 5 hours, they also offer PWYC tours that stay inside the downtown core of Berlin and last only a couple of hours.
3) Get a View: See Berlin from above or at least get the aerial shot for Instagram. Now you do have many options. You can do what everyone else does and go to the Fernsehturm Television Tower’s observation deck and be surprised with the unnecessarily long lineup and a pricey ticket. Want a better view surrounded by buildings instead of on the outskirts? I suggest you skip the line and head over to Kollhoff-Tower in the Potsdamer Platz. There is also a café up top if you want to rest and fuel up with a beverage. For something different, go up in the tethered hot air balloon at WELT Balloon Berlin Service LLC.
4 ) Bebelplatz: This stop is free; it is a square after all. I suggest it not just to check out the gorgeous pink Opera House, which looks amazing at sunset, but for the whole area. There you will also see buildings of Humboldt University, and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the first Catholic Church built in Prussia after the Reformation. This location is also where the infamous Nazi book burning took place on the evening of May 10th 1933. Today you can see a memorial on the ground in the middle of the square by Micha Ullman.
5) Potsdam: If you follow my Instagram account you will have seen my gorgeous photos of this loveable town. Why did I enjoy it so much? I felt like I was in Versailles! No really! There is an endless supply of castles (which you can enter for a small fee) and gardens galore. I suggest taking the train (less than an hour away) and checking out this area for an all day trip. Stroll through the properties and you will find surprises like The Chinese House (it’s covered in gold), and more. Before heading back to Berlin you will find ample food options to stop for dinner (I had the best pumpkin soup ever). I highly recommend adding Potsdam to your itinerary!
6) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, or also known as The Holocaust Memorial: This memorial was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. Building began in April 2003, but it was not completed until December 2004. Sixty years after the end of WW2, it was inaugurated in May 2005 and opened to the public. It is a large site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs. They are assembled in a grid pattern on a hilly concrete field. All the slabs vary in height and are slightly askew so that none is the same as another. At this location, there is also a museum which holds the names of the approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. This art was never fully explained, but I believe when you walk through this maze of stone, you are meant to feel alone, afraid, lost, isolated and claustrophobic, as the victims would have felt. This memorial cost around 25 million to complete.
7) Bunker Tours: Do not leave the city until you have completed a Bunker Tour. It was not only educational but a cool experience. Literally! It was so refreshing to cool down on a hot summer day. Tours are offered throughout the day, in different languages. You cannot purchase a ticket ahead of time, but if you go in a bit before the tour to buy a ticket, you should be fine. Some are offered underground, but we opted for the Flak Tower in Humboldthain Park in Gesundbrunnen. Only a part of it remains as it was destroyed after the war to de-militarize it. You don’t realize it at first but as you walk up the mountain to get to the entrance, it is actually the Flak Tower itself that is buried in rubble and has become a large hill! Here you are shown three of the seven floors of one of the biggest bunkers in the city, but they offer other bunker tours as well!
Bonus: One last thing I would recommend in Berlin is to eat up! You all know by now I am not only a vegetarian, but am gluten free, and to throw in a wrench I’m on a wedding diet! Ahh! This makes travel a bit difficult for suppressing my hunger. Luckily we found options in Berlin (not just options but delicious meals!). At Zur Gerichtslaube they have authentic German food, and are located in a tiny historic building from 1270 which was originally a Medieval Town Hall! If you love pink décor then visit Wilde Matilde Bar. Honestly, even if you just want Shawarma or other foods, the options were all great in Berlin.
Berlin is very spread out, so prepare to walk lots! Berlin offers a lot of museums (even a dedicated one for currywurst), and provides so much to entertain yourself for free (such as checking out the Brandenburg Gate or walking past the recreated Checkpoint Charlie which is super touristy by the way)! If in doubt just walk around and explore, sometimes this is how the best discoveries are made, such as an adorable flea market we randomly found!
Want to know more? Have you been to Berlin? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next travel adventure! Thanks so much to KVDV Photography for the lovely photos.