Berlin is one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. It’s a mixture of old, new, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Prussia history, USSR history, and the modern 21st century. I’ve now visited the city 4 times and every time I visit Berlin, it feels like an entirely new city to me.
I first visited Berlin the summer of 2007 while on my first study abroad in Europe. I was 16 years old and distinctly remember reading the last Harry Potter book while on the train to Berlin (it had come out the night before)! The next time I went was the summer of 2010 on a class trip. This trip was much more informational and touristy compared to my previous trip. I also went the spring of 2012 with my college study abroad group and then again with my family during the summer of 2012. I’m headed there again in May (2014) with my Master’s program and am hoping to complete my PhD there in the future :)
My friend is headed there this week and she asked me to give her a list of my favorite things to do in Berlin. I previously had written a long list and a walking tour for another friend who went there last year! This seemed like the perfect time to share that list with all of you :) Enjoy! And if you have any other suggestions (or see any mistakes), please let me know!
Places to eat:
Currywurst is the food of Berlin. If you go to Berlin and don’t eat currywurst then you haven’t experienced the city. My favorite place to get currywurst is at “Curry 36.” It is located at Mehringdamm 36, Kreuzberg
Places to Shop:
I don’t have any specific places to suggest but have areas of Berlin that I love for shopping!
- Mommsenstrasse is amazing for high-end thrift/consignment shopping. Here’s a great article for consignment shopping in Berlin: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072900933.html
- Friedrichstrasse, Oranienburgerstrasse, and Hackescher Markt are good for art, food, clothing, and boutiques
- the East Side Gallery is really artsy, funky, fashionable, and alternative. Plus, this is a great place to see the most intact piece of the Berlin Wall!
- German Historical Museum on Unter den Linden (the main street of Berlin). It gives an awesome overview of Berlin and German history. Plus, their rotating exhibitions are the best. When I was there, they had a fashion exhibit with 200 articles of clothing from the 1700’s-1900’s. It was amazing! The exhibit is no longer there but I think they now have an exhibit on Martin Luther?! Here is the website for this museum: http://www.dhm.de/ENGLISH/ausstellungen/#current
- Museum Insel (Museum Island) houses the five most popular museums in Berlin. They have cheaper tickets if you want to go to more than 1 of the museums. Also, even if you don’t go into any of the museums, I would recommend just walking around this area because it is so beautiful!
- Topographic des Terrors is the best museum for the Nazi Era and the East/West Era. The outdoor museum documents the history specifically of Berlin from the 1930’s to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The indoor museum documents Germany’s history during the Nazi Era. Plus, this museum is free!
- Potsdam! It was the residence of the Prussian Kings and the German Kaiser until 1918. It is located about 45 minutes outside of Berlin. My two favorite places are Cecilienhof (the palace that was the location of the Potsdam Conference after WWII) and Sanssouci Park, home to many wonderful buildings/palaces including Sanssouci and Neues Palais. Definitely worth a day trip here!
I would recommend giving yourself at least half a day to do this tour!
- Start in Alexanderplatz, the former city center of East Berlin
- Make a left on Karl-Leibknecht-Strasse, this takes you by the famous TV tower of East Berlin
- Continue down this road…you will walk over a bridge (over the Spree River) and the road will change to Schlossplatz. You are now on one end of Museum Insel and will pass by the Berliner Schloss (Berlin Castle) and Berlin Cathedral
- Continue down this road…you will walk over a bridge over the Spree River (the Spree divides and goes around both sides of Museum Insel) and the road will change to Unter den Linden. You are now on the grandest street of Berlin which was made especially famous during the Prussian rule! During the split of Berlin, this was the main street of East Berlin. Many of the buildings you will pass by are old Prussian buildings. Famous sites you will pass are Humboldt University (on your right), the famous university for Prussian generals that is now one of the best universities in Germany/World for Political Science, Law, etc.; many famous memorials (Neue Wache…to the right); Bebelplatz…where the famous Nazi book burning took place (to the left). If you continue down the road, you start passing the Russian/British/Etc Embassies. At the end of this road, you will reach the famous Brandenburg Gate! To the left of the Brandenburg Gate is the USA Embassy.
- At this point, you have two options. Turn left or turn right on Ebertstrasse. By turning right, you head towards the various parliament buildings of Germany including the famous Bundestag building with the glass dome. By turning left, you head towards Potsdamer Platz. Along the way, you will walk pass the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Definitely stop and take an opportunity to explore this memorial…it has been very controversial so form your own opinion :) Potsdamer Platz is an old square of East Berlin that was totally rebuilt/modernized about 10 years ago. It is so fascinating! Once you hit Potsdamer Platz, keep straight and the road will eventually turn into Stresemannstrasse. If inclined, head to the left at Potsdamer Platz onto Leipzigerstrasse to view the Bundesrat building. It is only a few buildings down.
- Walk a few more blocks on Stresenmannstrasse and then turn left onto Niederkirchnerstrasse. Walk another block or two and you will reach Topographie des Terrors (see above for information about this museum)
- After the museum, continue on Niederkirchnerstrasse which turns into Zimmerstrasse. Turn right from Zimmerstrasse onto Friedrichstrasse and you immediately see Checkpoint Charlie! Checkpoint Charlie is really commercialized but still an important part of history.
- Wander and enjoy the rest of the city :)
Planning a trip to Berlin and want more guidance? Feel free to book my travel planning services here!