From Hackesche Höfe cocktails to dining out on sweet potato pancakes here are our favourite 10 things to do in Berlin inspired from our recent trips..
1. Check out the art in Tacheles
This colourful building has an equally colourful history. It was once a Trade Union HQ, a department store, and a Nazi prison. The run down building was weeks away from demolition when it was taken over by an artists’ collective. Its walls are now covered in the work of hundreds of artists, and its grounds filled with an unbelievable collection of reclaimed objects (including a military helicopter). Aside from art you’ll also find cool bars and regular music and theatre events.
2. Visit the Unter den Linden and the Brandenburg Gate
To get an idea of Berlin’s Prussian past, it’s definitely worth visitng Unter den Linden. This tree-lined avenue is home to many grand buildings including the Staatsoper, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the famous statue of Frederick, and the imposing Neo-Classical pillars of the Humboldt University. At the western end you will also see one of Berlin’s most famous views; the great green expanse of the Tiergarten framed by the iconic Brandenburg Gate (which once separated the East and West).
3. Grab a coffee (or a cocktail) in Hackesche Höfe
These painstakingly restored courtyards are the place to be seen in Berlin. Popular with both tourists and hip locals, the aesthetically pleasing complex of courtyards are the largest of its kind in Germany. The complex was built in the late 18th/early 19th century and now it’s Moorish inspired main courtyard is home to stylish bars and cafes and is a great place to kick off a fun night out. Also try the other courtyards for more great bars and restaurants, boutique shops, a cinema and a theatre.
4. See the Reichstag
Being positioned at the centre of Germany’s tumultuous 20th century naturally gives this highly controversial building a huge historical interest, in addition to its aesthetic appeal. Now fully restored, the entrance is free and you can even peer down from the dome onto the debates below. It is a very popular attraction so get there early if you want to look inside as the queues can get eye wateringly long.
5. Try the food
The food in Berlin is hearty fayre and when here you’ll want to sample some of the local delicacies. For a quick snack try the ever present Currywurst (Geman sausage with curry sauce) or one of the fresh giant pretzels which seem to be sold at every street corner. If you sit down at a restaurant you’ll be treated to lovingly prepared and exceptionally presented meals mostly consisting of meat, potatoes, cold cuts, cheese and fresh fruit and salad. Oh and don’t even think about leaving without trying the German sweet potato pancakes.
6. See the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
In the east of the city you’ll find many older buildings still pock-marked with bullet holes and shrapnel scars. This striking church on the Kurfurstendamm acts as both a fascinating reminder, and a poignant memorial of Berlin’s recent troubled history. Dating from the 1890s the church was severely damaged by allied raids in 1943, and its bombed spire has been left standing as a pacifist monument, while a new, and spectacular, church was built around the ruins.
7. Visit Museum Island
When you find your flights to Berlin you will definitely want to add this place to your list. This internationally renowned museum complex is located on an island in the middle of Berlin’s river, the Spree. There are, incredibly, five museums, each of them worthy of many hours of wandering, covering the entire history of Western art. Absolutely essential is the Altes Nationalgalerie, which has a knockout collection of German Old Masters; Dürer, Cranach and Holbein (the Mattaus, Sammer and Beckenbauer of Medieval painting). All are well represented, and there is no better place to see the highest points of the nation’s art.
8. Visit Checkpoint Charlie and Checkpoint Charlie Museum
An essential stop on the Berlin tourist trail, the former and most infamous city checkpoint is a fascinating and poignant visitor attraction. The check point was the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point which divided East Berlin and West Berlin during the cold war and tragically many people’s lives were lost here trying to cross the barrier. The Checkpoint Charlie museum is also worth a visit and exhibits an extensive collection of real-life stories, propaganda and memorabilia from the time of Berlin’s occupation and division by the Allied Forces.
9. Experience the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the longest preserved stretch of the former Berlin. The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the famous wall located near the centre of Berlin. Artists from all over the world have covered the memorial for freedom in 106 paintings, making it the largest open-air gallery in the world. Although some of the gallery paintings have seen better days it’s still definitely worth a visit.
10. Try the local nightlife
With so many things to do in Berlin, there’s no excuse for staying in at night. The capital is renowned for its nightlife and offers everything from banging techno to traditional live German bands. In fact it’s impossible to walk through Berlin without finding a pub, a bar, a theatre, a cinema or a disco. The trendy Mitte District (which is also home to many great Berlin hotels and also plenty of excellent Berlin Holiday Apartments) is a good place to start but other areas offering lively nightlife include Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, and Kreuzberg.