David Bowie said that ‘Berlin, (is) the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine,’ and we would have to agree with him!
Are you planning a trip and wondering which places to visit in Berlin?
Here’s the good news: Germany’s dynamic capital has plenty to offer visitors, whether it’s world-class museums, harrowing historical sights, or an impressive food & nightlife scene that makes it one of the most incredible destinations in Europe.
The bad news? Berlin is massive, and narrowing down the best places to go is a tough task.
Not to worry though, in this list of amazing places to visit in Berlin, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite destinations in Germany’s fascinating capital.
We hope you enjoy our recommendations, and be sure to let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any of your Berlin must-sees!
1. Brandenburg Gate
One of the most iconic things to see in Berlin, and the first stop for many visitors, is the Brandenburg Gate.
The symbolism of the Brandenburg Gate has changed multiple times in the years since it was first built as a symbol of peace over what was once a guardhouse in the Berlin Customs Wall. Inspired by the gate to the Acropolis in Athens, the wall was built in the Greek Revival style, with rows of Doric columns. In fact, it was originally called the Peace Gate upon its completion in 1791.
This theme of peace would be echoed again centuries later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Berlin. When the Wall fell, 100,000 people gathered at the location for its official reopening, and ever since, the Gate has stood as a symbol of a unified Berlin.
Nowadays the Gate is never closed, so pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike can pass beneath it, or stop for a closer look at the chariot of Victoria, the Roman goddess of Victory.
And, on a more upbeat note, the Brandenburg Gate is also now the location of one of the most epic New Year’s Eve parties in Berlin each year!
2. Museum Island (and Berlin Cathedral)
Museum Island is one of the top Berlin tourist attractions, which is not surprising since it’s literally an island housing five different museums as well as the Berlin Cathedral!
The five museums located on the island (which are all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site) include:
- The Altes Museum (Old Museum) – houses classical antiquities (mostly Greek and Roman)
- The Neues Museum (New Museum) – houses mostly ancient Egyptian antiquities, including the famous bust of Nefertiti
- The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) – houses paintings and sculptures from Classicism, Romanticism, Biedermeier, Impressionism and the early Modern Age
- The Bode Museum – houses sculptures as well as late Antique and Byzantine art
- The Pergamon Museum – houses classical antiquities as well as the Museum of Islamic Art including the famous Babylonian Ishtar Gate
Even if you don’t have time to explore the museums, all the buildings on Museum Island are worth a look from the outside, as is the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral, pictured below) which was once the castle chapel for the Berlin Palace.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: You can get a combined day ticket for all five museums for €19, and all the museums are open Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Mondays) from 10am until 6pm.
3. East Side Gallery
Another of the most popular Berlin attractions is the very cool East Side Gallery, where a surviving section of the Berlin wall has been covered with eye-catching and thought-provoking street art.
The East Side Gallery is the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall, located next to the River Spree in the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and in 1990. 118 artists from 21 countries painted a series of murals along this section to document the changes of the time.
These murals are now known as perhaps the largest open-air gallery in the world, although many of the artworks have since been damaged by the weather and vandalism. A non-profit is in the process of restoring as many as possible, and the East Side Gallery remains one of the most interesting things to see in Berlin.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: You can visit the East Side Gallery independently of a tour by catching a train or metro to the Warschauer Straße station and then walking about ten minutes down to the river. There’s also a Wall Museum if you want to learn more about the historical context of the art.
4. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
While it’s sobering and sad, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of the unmissable Berlin places to visit to learn about the darkest parts of the country’s history.
Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, this site features 2,711 concrete slabs of different heights arranged in grids across a 19,000-square-metre (200,000 sq ft) space, located a block away from the Brandenburg Gate. The space was designed as a memorial to honour the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
The memorial evokes an uneasy feeling, particularly since it resembles a graveyard although there are no names of victims on the concrete slabs. There is an information centre attached to the memorial which should not be missed, as it goes into details about the timeline of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people and has details on specific Jewish families.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: The memorial is always open, while the information centre is open between 10am – 8pm from April to September and between 10am – 7pm from October to March (and closed December 24th-26th). Both sites are free to visit.
The historical market square of Gendarmenmarkt is one of the best places to see in Berlin, if only to marvel at the architecture of the Berlin concert hall as well as the French and German Cathedrals.
In the centre of Gendarmenmarkt stands a statue of the German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, surrounded by the building trio of the Konzerthaus, Deutscher Dom and Französischer Dom. The Französischer Dom (French Cathedral) is the oldest, built between 1701 and 1705 by the Berlin Huguenots.
The Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) was built in 1708 but modified over the years before being completely destroyed during WWII. It has since been restored and is now a museum of German History. Finally, the Berlin Konzerthaus was built in 1821 on top of the ruins of the National Theatre and was turned into a concert hall after its reconstruction following the war, when it was also damaged.
These three buildings make the Gendarmenmarkt a popular sight at any time of year, but during Christmas it’s even more magical as it hosts one of the most popular and beautiful Christmas markets in Berlin!
6. Charlottenburg Palace and Park
The epic Charlottenburg Palace (and Park) is one of the most beautiful places in Berlin, and well worth the short trip out of the city centre.
First constructed at the end of the 17th-century and expanded during the 18th, Schloss Charlottenburg is a lavish example of baroque and rococo styles, surrounded by impressive formal gardens. Like many Berlin attractions, it was damaged during WWII, but has since been restored and remains one of the most visited places in Berlin.
Charlottenburg was commissioned by Sophia Charlotte, who was the first Queen Consort of Prussia and died at just 36 years old. Her husband, Friedrich I, renamed the palace in her honour. It is the largest and most magnificent palace in Berlin, heavily influenced by Versailles in Paris, both the interior and exterior gardens.
Many incredible events are held at Charlottenburg, which are worth timing your visit to experience if you can! Sometimes there are gala dinners in the Orangery, with musicians in traditional baroque costumes. During the festive season, there’s also a Palace Christmas market to enjoy.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: The Charlottenburg Palace Gardens are free to enter but it does cost money to enter the main Palace buildings. Also make sure to check the opening times before you go, as they change throughout the year.
The Mauerpark is an interesting green space in Berlin, located on what used to be part of the Berlin Wall and the “death strip” section leading to the hinter wall in East Berlin.
While the Berlin Wall was simply a concrete barrier between East and West Berlin, on the Eastern side there was also a wide empty space overlooked by guard towers to prevent people from crossing into West Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this section of the “death strip” was designated a public space and is now one of the most popular parts of Berlin, especially among young people.
Mauerpark still contains a small section of the wall as a monument, which often features graffiti art.
Most famously, there’s a “Bearpit Karaoke Show” in the park’s amphitheatre on Sunday afternoons during summer, as well as a Sunday flea market. So, if you’re looking for places to go in Berlin on a Sunday, be sure to put this one on your list!
8. Treptower Park
If you want to escape the bustle of the city then Treptower Park is one of the best places to visit in Berlin for some outdoor fun.
It’s located right next to the Spree River and features an impressive memorial dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who fought during the Battle of Berlin. Along with the monument, which is huge, the park is made up of meadows, gardens and even a small lake.
Visitors can enjoy food from a variety of stalls by the river, visit an observatory (with the world’s longest moving refracting telescope), go boating on the river spree, jog through the park or sunbathe in warm weather. There’s also a beer garden and restaurant right by the river for enjoying a brew with a view!
9. Tempelhofer Feld
Tempelhofer Feld is another fantastic outdoor space in Berlin; a massive public park in the space that used to be an airport!
Between 1928 and 2008 (with some short closures) Tempelhof Airport was located in the main part of Tempelhofer Feld, but was closed due to the construction of the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. The area was recreated as a park, which opened in 2010 and is now the largest inner-city open space in the world.
As Berlin’s largest park, Tempelhofer Feld offers many things to see and enjoy. There are ten different entrances, the park is open between sunrise and sunset every day. Within the park, visitors can enjoy picnics and sunbathe, along with attractions such as the Tempelhof Airport Museum.
The park also contains a six-kilometre cycling, skating or jogging trail, a 2.5-hectare BBQ area, and three fenced-in dog runs. Since there are many remaining runways, it’s also a popular spot for skateboarding and inline skating, while local residents maintain an urban vegetable garden.
The main public square in Berlin’s central Mitte district is called Alexanderplatz, after the Russian Tsar Alexander I, and contains many of the city’s star attractions.
Most visitors to Berlin will start their journey in Alexanderplatz, particularly by going up the Berliner Fernsehturm (Berlin Tower) for spectacular views over the city. The Berlin TV Tower, as it’s also known, is one of the tallest towers in Europe and was originally used for broadcasting. Now it houses an observation deck, bar and revolving restaurant, which is one of the best spots for a romantic sunset date in Berlin!
Alexanderplatz is also home to the World Time Clock (pictured below, with the TV Tower behind), the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), and many shopping malls. There’s also a lovely Fountain of Friendship where water cascades over 17 different sized shells to the basin.
Looking for additional Berlin must-sees nearby? Keep your eyes open for the Haus des Lehrers, a building across the road with an impressive wrap-around mural by German artist Walter Womacka.
11. Topography of Terror
Unfortunately, one of the most famous aspects of German history is the Nazi regime orchestrated by Adolf Hitler. The Topography of Terror is an indoor and outdoor museum which documents the terrors of Nazism, and despite its somber theme, is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Berlin.
This museum is located on the site where the SS Reich Security Main Office and Gestapo were once located, although the original buildings were demolished after the Second World War. While it might not be the most fun thing to do in Berlin, a visit here is a must to ensure future generations learn the realities of the past in order to never repeat them.
The permanent exhibition documents the rise of the Nazi party and the different institutions that were involved. There’s also an outdoor exhibit which is open between spring to autumn, displaying information about Berlin in the Weimar Republic, under the Nazis and during the war, along with glass panels to see excavations happening on the site.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: The Topography of Terror is free to visit and is open every day (except the 1st January, 24th December and 31st December) from 10am until 8pm.
Did we miss any of your favorite places to visit in Berlin?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more to our list!