August 04, 2023
The first time you visit a city like Berlin can be intimidating. There is so much to see and do, it can be hard to decide where to go, what to see and do. We’re here to help with some tips and our top 10 of things to do in Berlin on your first visit.
It is important to know that Berlin is a big, sprawling city. Yes, you can walk around the city but that will leave you with little time to actually see the sights and discover famous and fun activities. That is why we recommend booking tickets to the City Sightseeing Berlin bus. You can use your bus ticket to hop on and off the bus at a multitude of stops around the city to fit your city trip.
1. Take in the views from the Berlin TV Tower
The Berlin TV Tower is the tallest structure in Germany, and it offers panoramic views of the city. On a clear day, you can see for up to 70 kilometres. The views from the top are simply breathtaking, and you can see all the major landmarks of Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the Berlin Wall.
There are two observation decks on the TV Tower, one at 203 meters (666 feet) and the other at 234 meters (768 feet). The higher observation deck is enclosed, while the lower one is open-air. You can also visit the Sphere restaurant, which rotates 360 degrees, giving you a different view of the city every 30 minutes.
At the foot of the tower on Alexanderplatz, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes as well as some other fun attractions to visit. Such as Körperwelten – BODY WORLDS Berlin, where you can see unique plastinates of real human bodies. Another fun attraction is Berlin’s Odyssey, a virtual reality journey through 800 years of Berlin history.
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2. See the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag
These two iconic Berlin landmarks are only a five minute walk from each other. The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin's most famous landmarks and holds deep historical significance. It once stood as a symbol of the division between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, and its image became synonymous with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in 1989.
The Reichstag is the home of Germany’s parliament and has had a tumultuous history. From its role in the German Empire to the Weimar Republic and through the challenges of World War II and the Cold War. Its reconstruction and transformation after the fall of the Berlin Wall symbolize Germany's reunification and democratic renewal.
The dome on top of the Reichstag Building offers panoramic views of the city. Visiting the dome is free, but you do have to pre-register because it can be very busy and for safety reasons. The Gate and the Reichstag are both must-visit locations in Berlin.
3. Visit the extraordinary institutions on Museum Island
Museum Island in Berlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a cluster of five world-renowned museums. Each offering a unique glimpse into art, culture, and history. The Pergamon Museum showcases impressive archaeological treasures, including the famous Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar.
The Neues Museum houses an array of Egyptian artifacts, including the iconic bust of Nefertiti. The Altes Museum boasts a diverse collection of classical antiquities, from sculptures to coins. The Bode Museum is a treasure trove of sculptures, Byzantine art, and coins.
Finally, the Alte Nationalgalerie features 19th-century European paintings and sculptures, highlighting the Romantic and Impressionist periods. Together, these museums will take you on a journey through human history and artistic achievement, making Museum Island a must-visit destination for both culture lovers and history buffs.
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4. Walk along the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the world's longest open-air gallery and the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall. It is located on the northern side of the Spree River in Berlin-Friedrichshain. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, 118 artists from 21 countries painted 1,316 meters (4,314 feet) of the wall with colourful and thought-provoking murals.
The most famous mural is Dmitri Vrubel's "Brotherly Kiss," which depicts Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker locked in a passionate embrace. The East Side Gallery is a reminder of the oppressiveness of the GDR government, but it is also a symbol of hope and freedom. Today, the East Side Gallery is a popular tourist destination, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a reminder of the power of art to express hope, joy, and sorrow.
5. Take a cruise on the Spree
A cruise on the Spree River in Berlin offers a unique and picturesque perspective of the city's iconic landmarks and stunning architecture. As you glide along the water, you'll be treated to views of key attractions like the Reichstag, Berlin Cathedral, Museum Island, and the Berlin TV Tower. You can easily combine your ticket for the cruise with your ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus.
The tranquil waters of the river Spree provide a peaceful escape from the bustling city streets, allowing you to relax while absorbing the beauty of Berlin's urban landscape. This experience offers a refreshing way to connect with Berlin's history and modernity, all while enjoying a leisurely and informative trip through the heart of the German capital.
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6. Stroll through Tiergarten and climb the Victory Column
Tiergarten is one of the most popular parks in the city, and it is a great place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It is known for its landscaped gardens, large open spaces, boating lakes, cafes and beer gardens. The park is also home to a variety of attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and the Siegessäule.
The Victory Tower (Siegessäule) is a 67-meter tall column, which was built in the late 19th century to commemorate the Prussian victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War. You can go to the top of the tower, either by 285 stairs or a 30 second lift ride. From the top, you will have great views over the park, the Spree river, and can see all the way to the TV Tower.
7. Explore Berlin’s nightlife
Berlin's nightlife is legendary. And there is something for everyone, whether you're into techno, house, hip hop, or something else entirely. The city has a wide variety of clubs, bars, and other venues, and the party scene goes on well into the early hours of the morning.
One of the most popular clubs in Berlin is Berghain, which is known for its hard techno music and its strict door policy. Other popular clubs to experience include Tresor, Watergate, and Kater Blau. If you prefer bars to clubs, you might want to visit the Monkey Bar, Brlo Brwhouse or Prater Garten.
If you're looking for something a little different, you could check out the Berlin Icebar. This bar is made entirely of ice, and the temperature inside is kept at a chilly -10 degrees Celsius. The Icebar takes you on a voyage to the Arctic, where you get stranded on the ice.
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8. Go shopping in Kurfürstendamm
Kurfürstendamm, often referred to simply as Ku'damm, is one of Berlin's most famous avenues, known for its high-end shopping, dining, and cultural attractions. The best shopping you can do will be at KaDeWe (Kaufhaus der Westens), the largest department store of continental Europe. It has a wide range of luxury goods, fashion, food, and more.
Other places to visit on Kurfürstendamm are the Hard Rock Cafe, with its music memorabilia and classic American burgers, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche). This iconic church was partially destroyed during World War II and now stands as a memorial to peace and reconciliation. The new church and the preserved ruins are a powerful reminder of the city's history.
9. Dive into the city’s modern history
Exploring Berlin's modern history takes you to poignant landmarks and insightful but fun museums. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of varying heights arranged in a grid pattern. It serves as a powerful and sombre tribute to the millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust during World War II.
The DDR Museum offers an interactive glimpse into life in East Germany, showcasing everyday objects and stories from the era. It gives visitors insights into the realities of the divided city that can be hard to imagine today.
At Checkpoint Charlie, the former border crossing point, exhibits and displays recount daring escapes and the tense Cold War atmosphere. These sites collectively tell part of Berlin's tumultuous past, from the horrors of World War II and the Cold War division to the resilience and unification of the city, offering visitors a profound understanding of its evolution and the human stories that shaped it.
10. Try favourite local snacks
In Berlin, you'll find locals savouring a few beloved snacks that showcase the city's culinary character. And as a first-time visitor, trying these local favourites is a must-do. The Currywurst is the number 1 favourite, it is a delightfully simple dish of sliced sausage smothered in curry-infused ketchup.
Another snack to try is the Döner Kebab, this culinary gift from Berlin's Turkish community consists of meat wrapped in flatbread with fresh veggies and sauces. Finally, you don't want to miss the Berliner Pfannkuchen, this round, jelly-filled doughnut is sprinkled with powdered sugar. These three snacks capture Berlin's diverse influences and fast-paced lifestyle, offering a taste of history, international fusion, and local comfort all in one.
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