Berlin has a reputation for being one of Europe’s coolest cities. From culture to nightlife, food to historical sites, Germany’s capital really does have something for everything so here’s ten things you need to do in Berlin.
Learn about the city’s history
Berlin is a city that’s seen much change over the last century and a half, and you can’t visit without taking some time to learn about it. Explore the oldest part of the city (Alt-Berlin) in the Mitte area which is home to the beautiful St Nicholas Church/Nikolaikirch and see the pretty cobbled streets to learn about the past, take a trip to the Brandenburg Gate/Brandenburger Tor (Pariser Platz) and visit the Hohenzollern Crypt in the basement of Berlin Cathedral (Am Lustgarten – berlinerdom.de) to see the final resting place of members of Prussia’s ruling dynasty.
Learning about the city’s more recent history is also something you should do including visiting the the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Cora-Berliner-Straße 1 –stiftung-denkmal.de) and the Topography of Terror (Niederkirchnerstraße 8 – topographie.de), a museum built on the former headquarters of the SS.
See remnants of the Berlin Wall
The most well-known symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, tore Berlin in two for almost 30 years until demolition began in late 1989. Plaques signifying where the wall once stood can be found across the city as a reminder of the structure that dominated the lives of residents – even within my lifetime, which can be a hard concept to fathom.
You can see a section of the wall next to the Topography of Terror, or a larger section can be found at the East Side Gallery (Mühlenstraße – eastsidegallery-berlin.de) which now acts as an outdoor art gallery.
Take in some culture
Culture vultures can find plenty to enjoy in Berlin with its wide range of museums and art galleries. My highlights include Kulturbrauerei (Schönhauser Allee 36 – kulturbrauerei.de), a large complex with theatres, event spaces and a museum about life in East Germany as well as a weekly street food market, and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien (Mariannenplatz 2 – kunstraumkreuzberg.de), which is an exhibition space for contemporary art within a former hospital.
Admire the U-bahn station signs
Forget the bland and generic signs you find on some cities’ public transport systems, Berlin’s underground stations each have their own unique identity.
There’s also a great gallery on The Guardian showcasing more of the stations.
Get your photo taken in one of the photobooths
Throughout Berlin you’ll spot photobooths where, for the bargain price of €2, you can get four black and white passport style photos taken. They take a few minutes to develop but it’s definitely worth the wait.
Eat street food at Markthalle Neun
Markhalle Neun is a great place for foodies to visit – in particular on a Thursday when they have their weekly street food evening. Food from all over the globe is available and almost every stall has a vegetarian or vegan option (although these do seem to sell out faster than the meat alternatives) and there is also a craft beer bar and two wine shops to wash down your grub with.
The market is open during the day throughout the week where there are a smaller number of traders, but Thursday evening is where it truly comes alive.
Plus, if you’ve not managed to spot a photobooth while out and about, you can find one in the markethall.
Eisenbahnstraße 42-43 – markthalleneun.de
Try vegan doughnuts from Brammibal’s
Whether you’re vegan or not, the doughnuts from Brammibal’s are a must when in Berlin. They come in a range of regularly changing flavours and are perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. Doughnuts can be eaten in or taken away and coffee with non-dairy milk is also available.
Maybachufer 8 – brammibalsdonuts.com
Explore the Sunday morning Mauerpark flea market
One of the most popular things to do on a Sunday in Berlin seems to be a visit to the flea market held at Mauerpark. It attracts large numbers of locals and tourists, and also features street food traders and performers alongside plenty of stalls to explore. Some of the stalls at the front of full of cheesy touristy items, but if you keep walking through you’ll find stalls selling all sorts of bric a brac and second hand items.
Bernauer Strasse 63-64
See the city from above
It’s not all about what you can see at ground level; get see much more of the city by heading up high and having a good old gander. See my guide to the best places to see Berlin from up high.
Experience the city’s legendary nightlife
I can’t post about things to do in Berlin without mentioning the nightlife! Berlin truly is a party city with something going on pretty much every night of the week. Weekends are the busiest times (the U-bahn runs 24 hours to accommodate this) and there’s a huge range of drinking spots from traditional bars to smoke-filled dive bars to trendy cocktail bars and bustling nightclubs. My personal bar highlights were Hopfenreich (Sorauer Strasse 31 – hopfenreich.de), Salt n Bone (Schliemannstraße 31 –saltnbone.de) and Stone Berlin (Im Marienpark 23 – stonebrewing.eu).