Usually when we visit a major European city we stay for four or five nights. We visited Berlin for seven nights in December 2010 and still hadn’t scratched the surface by the time we left. In keeping with the German theme of my last post, here are my personal top 10 things to do in Berlin to help you decide how to spend your time there:
1. Introductory walking tour. This will give you a good overview of all the main sights so you can revisit the ones that particularly interest you or spend the rest of your time seeing things that weren’t covered by the tour. I recommend Sandemans, a professional “free” (tips based) tour company that also offers other cool (paid) tours with themes such as Alternative City.
2. Pergamon Museum. There are a lot of excellent museums and galleries in Berlin but the Pergamon is particularly amazing. It was recommended to us as “a museum that houses ancient buildings – things that were never supposed to be indoors” and it has to be seen to be believed. The Gates of Ishtar (once counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and the Pergamon Altar are incredible.
3. DDR museum. An interactive museum dedicated to depicting what life was like in the German Democratic Republic. You’re welcome and encouraged to take photographs, open and through rifle drawers, even to try to start a Trabi! The exhibits range from the day to day reality of life under socialism to the darker side of informants and political agendas.
4. East Side Gallery. The longest surviving and most visually interesting section of the Berlin wall as well as the largest open air gallery in the world.
5. Sachsenhausen concentration camp. We didn’t go to Sachsenhausen as we’d only just been to Auschwitz and Birkenau the week before we arrived in Berlin but if you haven’t already been to a concentration camp it is a worthwhile albeit extremely sobering experience.
6. The Jewish Museum. A very well designed and curated museum dedicated to all Jewish history. (Not just WWII but it does of course touch on it.) Don’t underestimate its size, it is huge!
7. TV Tower. I do like scaling towers that offer overall views of the city I’m visiting and the iconic TV Tower at Alexandraplatz does exactly that. The wait can be quite long so as soon as you arrive in the area go and buy a ticket and if the estimated wait time is longer than 30 minutes there is an SMS service that can alert you 30 minutes before your ticket is likely to be called so you can go for a wander while you wait. (In winter there is a Christmas market at the base which is a perfect time killer.)
8. Eat some local delicacies. You can’t leave Berlin without eating a a doner kebab (reputedly invented in Berlin) and some currywurst.
9. Eat a really good German meal. Weihenstephaner is the best restaurant we ate at in Berlin. The staff were great, the food hearty and delicious, and the beer superb.
10. Hamburger Bahnhof. A modern art museum housed in what used to be a train station. When we were there they had a particularly bizarre art installation/science experience featuring live reindeer, mushrooms, urine, snowballs, flies and mice! They also have permanent exhibitions featuring Andy Warhol amongst others.
And there’s so much more than that! What are your favourite things to do in Berlin?