Berlin is a city of contrasts, the city is both incredibly known around the world and holds many surprises. Some of Berlin’s attractions are must visits, or else you can’t even really say that you have been to the German capital. Examples of these not-to-miss sights are the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building, Victory Tower and Checkpoint Charlie.

But there is so much more to see and do in Berlin, things that are often overlooked but will give you an even better understanding of the city as well as super fun experiences. There are hidden gems to discover in Mitte, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and more. Here are some of our favourite hidden gems of Berlin.

1. Art Nouveau courtyards

When people look for restaurants, bars and shops they will often head to Alexanderplatz, Kreuzberg or even Ku’damm. But one of the prettiest places to visit where you can find all three is Hackesche Höfe nearby Hackescher Markt in Mitte. It is the largest single courtyard complex in all of Germany and the buildings have been listed since 1972.

The eight interconnected courtyards were first opened in 1906 and can be reached through the arched entrance on Rosenthaler Straße. The area is filled with cafés, shops, cultural institutions, a cinema and restaurants. Some courtyards also have apartments, which is why those are closed at night but the others are open all day and night.

Berlin’s hidden gems: look beyond the Brandenburg Gate

2. A north pole expedition

A short walk from Hackesche Höfe will bring you deeper into Mitte and to the door of the Berlin Icebar, a hidden gem that is growing in popularity. When you step inside this bar, you will be transported to a tavern in Bremerhaven in the late 19th-century. From there you will join the crew of the Hansa to explore the Arctic, and enjoy some included drinks as well.

This icy experience in the centre of Berlin includes 3 free drinks, one in the first bar and two in the actual icebar. The captain will call you from the tavern to board the Hansa and get dressed in the provided warm jacket and gloves. From there you will step into the icebar, where it is -10°C and you will be surrounded by ice, including sculptures, seats and the glasses that hold your drinks.

3. The Pergamon Museum’s little brother

In 2018 the famous Pergamon Museum opened a temporary exhibition space, just off Museum Island and therefore a little off the beaten path. The Panorama takes visitors back to the year 129 AD and shows them the ancient city of Pergamon on the west coast of Asia Minor. The main exhibit of The Panorama, is a panoramic painting created by Yadegar Asisi of the ancient city during the Dionysus Festival.

Visitors can walk and sit on a 3D reconstruction of the famous Pergamon altar, created by the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research, and get an up close look at the Telephos Frieze and other parts of the altar. While the Pergamon Museum is closed for renovations, some of the main museum’s pieces are also on display at the Panorama.

4. Interactive illusions and tricks

Just off busy Alexanderplatz behind an inconspicuous façade you can enter a world of illusions and tricks of the mind at Illuseum Berlin. Here you can challenge your senses with a variety of optical illusions. You can walk on the ceiling, shrink and grow, and step inside a kaleidoscope, and all while taking great photos and videos.

But Illuseum Berlin is also a great place to learn about how our brains perceive the world around us. The illusions on display demonstrate how easily our senses can be fooled, and they can help you to better understand how our brains work. At Illuseum Berlin you can learn while playing.

5. A journey through the world of digital art

The most visited sight in Friedrichshain is the East Side Gallery but a twenty minute walk from the world’s longest open-air gallery will bring you to one of Berlin’s hidden gems: the Lighthouse of Digital Art. Inside a former industrial hangar, you’ll find a venue buzzing with creativity and innovation, that offers a unique blend of art, technology and entertainment.

The space is filled with vibrant colours, pulsating rhythms, and mesmerizing projections. A visit to this Berlin Museum is not a passive activity, you will be encouraged to interact and engage, as you can manipulate the projections through gestures and movement. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a 30-meter-long hall filled with mirrors and LED lights that create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of reflections and patterns.

6. The cinematic bridge connecting Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain

Berlin is home to many bridges, more than Venice even, but one of the most beautiful sits outside the city centre and connects the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain: the Oberbaum Bridge. Because of its location, the Oberbaum Bridge is less busy than other places in the city. The busiest time is around sun set, as the bridge provides a beautiful view.

The bridge has two decks, both road traffic and two Berlin U-Bahn lines run over the bridge, while pedestrians walk on the lower level. Decorated with red bricks, the bridge looks like a castle from the Margraviate Brandenburg region of Germany. The bridge has featured in several films and TV series, such as The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Run Lola Run (1998), Unknown (2011) and Berlin Station (2016).

7. A historic market hall from the 19th-century

A fifteen minute walk from the bridge into Kreuzberg will bring you to Markthalle Neun. It is one of the few remaining historic market halls in Berlin. The old railway market hall was fully renovated in 2011, 120 years after its original opening.

This indoor market is open six days a week, with a special Street Food market on Thursdays and an extra big market on Friday and Saturday. There is a selection of rotating food stalls, offering everything from traditional German sausages to Asian fusion dishes. You will also find plenty of fresh produce, delicacies and reginal specialities.

Berlin’s hidden gems: look beyond the Brandenburg Gate

8. The spy capital of the world

During the Cold War Berlin was filled with spies from both East and West, as both the Soviet and NATO powers tried to get the upper hand on each other. The German Spy Museum is the perfect place to explore this history of the city and learn more about the history of spy craft. The museum’s collection includes items such as an Enigma code machine, a lipstick camera and the cryptophone used by German chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Along with historic items, the museum also features interactive exhibits. You can try to make your way through a laser maze, decode messages, find microdots and bugs. The German Spy Museum sits just off Potsdamer Platz on Leipziger Platz.

9. An old listening station with a beautiful view

This hidden gem in Berlin takes you to the edges of the city, where a man-made hill created from debris and rubble once held a U.S. listening station. Teufelsberg, or Devil Mountain, sits on top of an unfinished Nazi military-technical college, as blowing it up proofed more difficult than covering it in rubble.

In 1963, the NSA built one of its largest listening stations on the hill, which remained in service until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, climbing the 120 metre high hill will give you a beautiful view over Berlin. Much of the building has been covered by street art, making the both the view up close and at a distance worth the visit to the outskirts of Berlin.