Most, if not all major cities in the world have, for better or worse, gone through many periods of change throughout their histories. Berlin is a prime example of this. As a result, there is an amazing mix of historic and modern attractions for you to visit here. Trip planning can be hard, so I’ve created this ultimate guide to the city to ensure that you don’t miss a thing on your Berlin Holiday!
In this guide, I’m going to cover:
- Travel/Getting Around
- Things to Do
- Best times to visit
- Where to stay
- Where to next
As you’d probably expect from a European city, Berlin’s public transport is usually the best way to get around.
The train network in particular is what I have found to be the best way to travel. Many of the attractions are spread out across the city, so I advise getting a day pass for 7 Euros. This will allow you take as many trips as you like within the day. Check out the official website for Berlin for more information on public transport.
Things to do on your Berlin Holiday
Standing since 1791, the Brandenburg gate is now perhaps the most well recognised symbol of modern Germany, standing for peace and unity. There is a lot of history surrounding the gate that makes it a must on your list.
Throughout the highs and lows of Germany’s recent history, the Brandenburg gate has been a constant. There is so much history surrounding the gate that you simply have to go and see it. It also happens to be in a really nice part of the city, within walking distance of other notable attractions.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is another must see in Berlin. Completed in 2004, the Holocaust Memorial is a 19,000 sqm area with 2,711 concrete cubes. There’s also a museum underground here which gives you more information of the atrocities that took place is WW2.
Whether you’re a history lover or not, this place is an absolute must-see in Berlin. It’s extremely educating and also very emotive. While I was there, a few people were even brought to tears in the museum, which speaks volumes to how impactful it is.
It is also a beautifully designed monument. Even if you don’t fancy the museum itself you can still wander through the columns and take it in.
East side gallery
The East Side Gallery in Berlin is essentially a section of the Berlin wall that is still standing. It’s over 1km long, making it one of the largest open air galleries in the world.
In 1990, artists from all over the world were invited to come and decorate the wall with art. The idea was to create a memorial to the fall of the Berlin wall, and to promote peace within the country.
105 murals from world famous artists all in a one place would be enough of a reason to add in onto this list, but it’s the history of the place that really strikes me.
I found it really educational walking along there. It’s one of those places that you get much more out of by going in the flesh than just reading up online. You see the wall and how it literally split the city in two. See the little gates that people would try to escape through or pass messages through. You can look up at it and imagine what it was like when this was a militarised border.
Moving briefly away from history and into the present, Alexanderplatz is the modern day tourist hub of the city. Hundreds of shops and restaurants can be found here, and it is also very well positioned in the middle of the city.
If you’re wanting to do any shopping while in Berlin, then this is where you want to be. It’s the lively centre of the city, and as such it wouldn’t be right to miss it out on your Berlin holiday.
Even if you’re not into your shopping, it’s a nice place to walk around, plus there’s also a lot of history to Alexanderplatz, too.
The meeting point for the German parliament, the Reichstag building is an impressive sight, and again it’s somewhere full of history. It wasn’t even in use between WW2 and 1999, when it was finally restored by world renowned architect Norman Foster.
It’s the German parliament building, and not far from the Brandenburg gate, so it’s definitely worth having a look around.
The most famous border crossing between East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie is another historical landmark. It was run by the American army during the Cold War, and became the only official border crossing point for the allies between East and West Berlin.
When it was in use, Checkpoint Charlie withstood some tense situations between the two sides. Today, it is a very popular tourist attraction where you can get your picture taken with men dressed as US soldiers. There is also a museum next door with lots of interesting information inside.
As you’d expect, you can get any food you want in Berlin. That said, I personally like to try and eat food from the country I’m visiting when I travel, and for me there’s one thing that stands out in Berlin – the bakeries.
German bakeries are perhaps my favourite places in Berlin as I am a huge sucker for a baked good. German bakeries do some of the nicest breads, sandwiches and pretzels you’ll find anywhere in the world, so make sure that’s where you’re getting your lunch!
As for dinner, there’s plenty of resturants where you’ll be able to get German classics such as Schnitzel, German sausages, Maultaschen and Spätzle, so just have a wonder and you’ll find something for all budgets.
Best Time of Year to Visit
This is largely down to personal preference, and there are pro’s and con’s to a Berlin holiday at any time of year. That said, my personal favourite time to visit Berlin is at Christmas time.
German Christmas markets are famous worldwide, and for good reason. I visited last December and absolutely loved spending the evenings wandering through the different markets.
Great food, great drink and great people make the Berlin Christmas markets thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of a visit to the city in their own right. The only negative of this time of year is that it’s pretty cold, sometimes really cold.
If you’re wanting to sit outside in cafes or relax in one of the parks, then your best bet would be between May to September, when the weather is warm.
For a more detailed idea on what weather to expect throughout the year in Berlin, check out this article.
Where to stay?
Of course this is all down to your budget, but me, being a backpacker trying to save money, I recommend the Sunflower hostel.
It’s pretty cheap and nicely located in a cool, young part of the city. Yet with easy rail access to the main attractions.
The place itself is clean, warm and friendly. It’s got everything you want from a hostel that you’re only really going to use for sleeping.
It’s got dorms for lone travellers, and private rooms for couples, plus a bar to sit and socialise in! So, something for everyone.
Where to go next?
Berlin is so well connected to other parts of Europe that it makes travelling to somewhere else after your Berlin holiday very easy.
If you want to stick to Germany, you could head down to Bavaria, where you’ll find beautiful mountain scenery and sweet German villages.
You can also easily get to neighbouring countries such Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and the Netherlands.
I really wanted to go to Amsterdam next, so I took a bus from Berlin that took about 8 hours and cost around 15 Euros.
Amsterdam is another fantastic European city, and if you’ve got more travelling in you after Berlin, I’d recommend getting either bus or train to Amsterdam.
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