26 things to do in Berlin, Germany - Berlin for first-timers
Updated: Mar 13
Berlin is the capital of Germany and the second most populous city in Germany. It is a city that is rich in history and culture. Remnants of the city's history is evident in several parts of Berlin: from the Berlin Wall to the Holocaust Memorial. It is definitely a place to visit for first-timers to Germany.
Even though Berlin's airport is not as accessible to international travellers as those in Frankfurt and Munich, it is worth taking a domestic flight or train up to this city. It is a huge and sprawling city that has simply so many attractions!
Mitte means middle and this area is the centre of Berlin. There are a ton of attractions here. Several of the city's most recognizable structures, including the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag Building, are located in the area, which is the historical core of Berlin. Many lodging establishments are available, ranging from inexpensive choices like the Meininger Hotel Berlin Mitte, to upscale establishments like the Ritz-Carlton Berlin and Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
Alexanderplatz is a large square in the centre of Berlin that houses several shopping malls nearby. The noteworthy ones would be a large Primark, Galleria (departmental store), and Alexa! During Christmas, you'll also find a vibrant Christmas market that comes to live at night! It is also very convenient to get to Alexanderplatz as it is directly outside the U-bahn.
2. Berliner Fernsehturm
On the other side, you'll find the Berliner Fernsehturm, a tall tower that is also home to a revolving restaurant. On top of the tower, you'll be able to get a bird's eye view of the garden that the tower sits in. Prices are slightly high and you'll have to pay 19.50 euros to get to the observation deck!
3. DDR Museum
From Alexanderplatz, you could take a short walk to the DDR Museum. The DDR Museum is a fascinating and interactive museum that displays life before the unified Germany. The tickets cost only 5.50 euros and you can spend a good 1 to 2 hours there! Don't want to queue? Grab skip-the-line tickets before your trip.
4. Berlin Cathedral Church
Just right opposite the DDR Museum, you'll be able to see the majestic Berlin Cathedral Church located on Museum Island. The Museum Island is an attraction that you cannot miss. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Before you visit any of the 5 museums on the island, you can head into the cathedral to look at the intricate drawings in the church and even head up to the dome.
The view from the dome is quite stunning, don't you think?
A little bit more about the museum island, you can join the a guided tour or purchase the Museum Island pass for 18 euros! With this pass, you can visit all 5 museums. Even if you are not a museum-lover, it is definitely still worth a visit to just take a peek!
5. Altes Museum
The Altes Museum is the first museum on the island and it holds Roman and Greek exhibits and artefacts. Even without going inside, the outside architecture is grand and is a good picture spot! We really love that the grass is so well-maintained here. It really looks like a palace! Grab your Altes Museum Tickets online before your trip.
6. Neues Museum
The Neues Museum was severely destroyed during the Second World War and it remained as a ruin until 1999 where rebuilding works began. The refurbishment took a total of ten years and it is a spectacular building now. Within the museum, it houses a plethora of exhibits and its famous work is the Ancient Egyptian Queen Nerfertiti bust.
Look at the interior of the Neues Museum! There's a coat room where you can deposit your coats for a fee while you browse through the exhibits. If you're not visiting the rest of the museums, individual tickets for Neues Museum here.
7. Alte Nationalgalerie
The Alte Nationalgalerie is one of the nicest looking museums of the five as it sits on a plinth overlooking the garden on Museum Island. This gallery houses mostly fine art pieces, paintings, and sculptures from the various periods.
Check out this beautiful long passage way on the side of the Alte Nationalgalerie too!
Pergamon Museum is one of the most popular museum in Berlin. The museum is massive and has the remains of many of the Roman Gates. If you only have time for one museum, we would say that this is the museum to visit!
9. Bode Museum
The Bode Museum sits right at the Northern most tip of Museum Island. It houses a huge collection of sculptures from the medieval times to the late eighteenth century. Catch a view of this beautiful museum from the other side of museum island.
10. Neue Wache Memorial
The Neue Wache is a memorial for victims of the war and dictatorship. Inside the building, you'll see the replica statue of a mother and her dad son by Käthe Kollwitz that is illuminated by an opening in the ceiling. The atmosphere is quite eerie yet touching and it is worth a visit after the museum island as it nearby!
The Tränenpalast, also known as the Palace of Tears, is an old border crossing between East and West Berlin. It exhibits the daily life of the Germans when they cross over. The museum is located directly outside the Berlin Friedrichstraße station.
Take one stop down the U-bahn and you'll be in walking distance to Gendarmenmarkt. Head here if you are visiting Berlin during the Christmas season as there'll be a Christmas market that you can feast on good food! Otherwise, it is still worth a visit to marvel at the amazing architecture of the Concert House and the French Cathedral.
Closest U-bahn: Französische Straße
13. Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt Berlin
Close to Gendarmenmarkt, you'll find the Ritter Sport store. Besides purchasing rittersport for a much cheaper price than what you can get from other nations, you'll also see the gigantic stacked rittersport that is a great photo spot!
On the second floor, you'll also find a cafe where you can try some desserts and rittersport hot chocolate!
14. Checkpoint Charlie
If you walk down Friedrichstraßbe towards Kochstraße station, you'll be able to see Checkpoint Charlie! If your legs can't bring you there, take the U-bahn to Kochstraße station and its a short 3 minutes walk to Checkpoint Charlie.
Checkpoint Charlie used to be a crossing point in the Berlin Wall located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Mauerstraße and Zimmerstraße. This guardhouse that you'll see at the site is actually a replica. The original is actually in the Allied Museum in Berlin. What's interesting also is that you'll still see guards at the guardhouse.
If you wish to learn more about the history of Checkpoint Charlie, you can also head to one of the museums near the area.
15. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is one of the most famous landmark in Berlin. Its iconic broken church remains along with a modern church building is a sight to behold. In 1943, the air raids damaged the church's top spire and caused the roof to collapse.
Yet this isn't the only devastating impact that it received. The Christmas Market around the Memorial Church was also the site of a deadly truck attack in 2016. Just last year, authorities have confirmed that a memorial will be erected for the victims of the truck attack.
16. The LEGO Store
Germany is the Land of Lego and Berlin's Lego store is amazing! Even if you are not looking to purchase a set of lego, it is still worth a look! You can play with the bricks in the store, or take pictures with all the sculptures made of the legos.
For an even better experience, head to the Lego Discovery Centre!
17. Kaufhaus des Westens
Kaufaus des Westens is the second largest departmental store in Europe (trailing behind Harrods in London). It is located on Tauentzienstraße, a popular shopping street.
18. Reichstag Building
You may have heard of the Reichstag fire in history books that marks the end of the Weimar Republic. The Reichstag is the parliament house of Germany. It is identified by its iconic dome and travellers are able to enter into the dome. Initially, the dome did not seem to be part of Hitler's plan but it has now become a great tourist attraction because of its unique interior and the ability to have a good view of the parliamentary debates and view of Berlin. However, advanced registration is required for entrance. Do ensure that you head to the website to register before going to Berlin.
Nearest subway: Berlin Hauptbahnhof
19. Brandenburg Gate
A short walk away from the Reichstag building is the Brandenburg Gate. During the cold war, the Brandenburg Gate was a symbol of the division between Berlin and the rest of Europe but it has now become a symbol of unity and peace.
20. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This is a very sad place. You can choose to walk around the memorial for free, or pay a fee to also enter the museum. This attraction is a must as you will learn about the history and experiences of the Jews in Germany during the Nazi regime.
21. Topography of Terror
You can't leave Berlin without visiting the Berlin Wall. Here, you can find the remaining 200 metres of the Berlin Wall at Niederkirchnerstraße. This area marks the border between East and West Berlin and have been preserved as it is - with all the destruction seen. The Topography of Terror is a museum that documents Nazi atrocities.
Topography of Terror
Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin, Germany
22. East Side Gallery
This is the better-looking portion of the Berlin Wall and is now the longest open-air gallery in the world. 1.3 kilometres long, you can walk along the wall and marvel at the artwork. Many people also bring along marker pens and spray pen to leave a piece of themselves on the wall.
The Oberbaum Bridge is a two levels bridge that connects both sides of River Bree, as well as East and West Berlin. If not for the gloomy day that we had, this bridge would have been a good photo spot or photo backdrop!
24. Shop at Alexanderplatz
You will find a range of shopping malls, departmental stores, and my favourite PRIMARK!
25. Charlottenburg Palace
Charlottenburg Palace is Berlin's largest palace. It is so expansive that we couldn't even capture it with our wide-angle lens. Aside from the size of the exterior, the interior also boosts intricate decorations and is worth a visit!
Charlottenburg is a fantastic choice for people who want to reside in a more affluent area. The area, which is in the west of the city, is where some of Berlin's most opulent avenues and luxury shopping areas can be found. The Waldorf Astoria Berlin and the Hotel Palace Berlin are two of the area's upscale lodging options.
26. Berlin Zoological Gardens
The Berlin Zoo is the oldest zoo in Germany and boasts having an extensive variety of animals.
What's really interesting is how the feeding of some of the animals is like. For the hyenas, real live running rabbits are thrown into the enclosure and the hyenas will chase their preys down before eating them. Yes, it was quite a horrifying sight but it was interesting as how often do you get zoos that will feed their animals like this?
So there, there's just so much to do in Berlin and you have got to put it into your list on your next European trip! We were there for 4 days and stayed at easyHotel Berlin Hackescher Markt. It was a really fuss free hotel and it centrally located to many of the attractions.