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City Break in Berlin, Germany
For so many people, Berlin is and always will be, the symbolic city of the cold war. Of course, there’s so much more to find within the city whose rich history goes back hundreds of years. Berlin has been the capital of Prussia, the Brandenburg state, the German Empire, the Third Reich and now modern day Germany. It has also become a capital of design, fashion, culture and counterculture, music, and the arts. It is an energetic city that is sure to please even the most jaded of travelers. Living in Germany, we’ve visited many times, spent many weekends in Berlin, and each time we find more and more to do as you might only two days in Berlin just isn’t enough, but for this Berlin city guide we’ve compiled a list of the best sights and activities the city has to offer to get you started.
Berlin Best Things to Do – Itinerary Day 1
Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin
The Reichstag building visit is surprisingly informative. Walking up the spiral ramp in the cupola you’ll gain a new understanding of recent German history. And the architecture and views are astounding. You really should book in advance but don’t despair, “Visitors who have not booked in advance can, if free places are still available, register to visit with just two hours’ advance notice by going to the service centre on the south side of Scheidemannstraße, next to the Berlin Pavilion.”
S-Bahn – Brandeburger Tor (S1,S2, S25); U-Bahn – Bundestag or Brandenburger Tor (U55)
Bus – Bundestag (100), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin
From the Reichstag building head south and east on foot and you’ll walk right through the Brandenburg Gate. This is the most famous Berlin landmark and was the sight of Ronald Reagan’s famous speech imploring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
S-Bahn – Brandeburger Tor (S1,S2, S25)
U-Bahn – Bundestag or Brandenburger Tor (U55)
Bus – Bundestag (100), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin
Continuing south on foot from the Brandenburg Gate, about a block down Ebertstrasse, you’ll find the somber and mystical holocaust memorial. The 2,711 columns offer a stark reminder of the lives lost and the visitor’s center under the field of stella offers a number of rooms dedicated to keeping the memories of those lost lives from being forgotten.
S-Bahn – Brandeburger Tor (S1,S2, S25)
U-Bahn – Brandenburger Tor (U55)
Bus – Behrenstr./Wilhelmstr. (200), Brandenburger Tor (100, 147, 200, TXL)
The fate of this island on the river Spree was sealed when King Frederick Wilhelm IV dedicated it to “art and science.” On this UNESCO World Heritage Listed island you’ll find enough museum coverage to keep you busy for a week, let alone a weekend. I recommend a targeted approach and focus on where your interest lies. For me, the number one museum is the Pergammon with it’s incredible collection and complete reconstructions of major architecture from the ancient world. As usual, check the websites for the museums you are interested in for opening times, closures, and renovations that could affect your vist.
Tram – Am Kupfergraben (12, M1)
Bus – Lustgarten (100, 200, N2)
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, 10178 Berlin
Just across the river Spree from the Museum Island, in the shadow of the Berliner Dom, you’ll find the DDR Museum carved into the banks of the river. This tiny museum is packed full of exhibits showing what life was like in East Berlin under the watchful eye of the German Democratic Republic. This is one of the most interactive museums I’ve ever been to and it’s one of my all time favorites. You can even pose for a picture driving a Trabi!
S-Bahn – Alexanderplatz or Hackescher Markt (S5, S7, S75)
U-Bahn – Alexanderplatz (U8)
Tram – Spandauer Straße (M5, M4, M6)
Bus – Spandauer Straße(100, 200, 248, M48, TXL)
Itinerary Day 2 for Berlin – Top Sights
The Berlin Wall Memorial
Bernauer Straße 111, 13355 Berlin
This is the last remaining intact section of the wall; here you’ll find the wall as it was during the height of the cold war (minus the land mines and ferocious dogs). This site brings the oppression and fear back to life. It is a hard place to visit but should be at the top of every list. Allow two hours for a visit that includes the visitor center. The open-air exhibition is open 24 hours a day all year round, but check the website for visitor centers hours and closures.
S-Bahn – Nordbahnhof (S1/S2, Bus 245/247)
Tram – Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (M10)
U-Bahn – Bernauer Strasse (U8).
East Side Gallery Berlin
Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin
This is another of the few remaining stretches of the wall still standing. Here the wall stretches for over a kilometer as the longest open air gallery in the world. Here the 101 street art images are a dedicated monument to the fall of the Berlin wall and to peaceful resolutions and reunifications everywhere.
S-Bahn – Ostbahnhof (S5, S7, S75)
U-Bahn – U Schlesisches Tor (U1)
Bus – Eastside Gallery (248)
Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin
Continue your exploration of Cold War Berlin at the famous Checkpoint Charlie. This unassuming, small white shack was one of only two crossing points between East and West Berlin. There are a number of attractions here focused on informing visitors of life in Berlin during the Cold War and various aspects of the wall. You’ll also find the Curry Wurst museum just around the corner, and Trabi World one block down the street.
U-Bahn – Kochstraße (U6)
Bus – Kochstraße (M29, N6)
Spandauer Damm 20-24, 14059 Berlin
A trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Charlottenburg Palace, the seat of power for generations of Prussian Kings and German Emperors. You can visit several areas of this beautiful Baroque castle, see the crown jewels, silver and gold dinnerware, and of course, Frederick the Great’s snuff box collection. Even better, the parks and gardens around the palace are free to explore from dawn till dusk. If you’re here in the winter you can sip gluhwein while finishing your Christmas shopping in one of Berlin’s best Christmas markets.
U-Bahn – Richard Wagner Platz (U7)
Bus – Schloss Charlottenburg (309, M45)
Where to Eat on Your Weekend in Berlin
Berlin is a city of food. You will find everything from lowly wurst stands to Michelin star restaurants, fantastic vegan restaurants, and everything in between. Berlin is perhaps best known for it’s curry wurst. Post war Berlin was, by all accounts, a miserable place with craters and piles of brick and stone, where once grand buildings once stood. There were food shortages and almost everything was hard to come by. Of course, wurst was the meat to be had but how to spice it up a little? Enter allied soldiers, ketchup and curry powder. Soon a food revolution swept the city and today you can order currywurst from stands and stalls all around the city. You should definitely give it a try. For a more substantial meal, however, you might dine in the oldest restaurant in Berlin, Zur Letzten Instanz. This eatery has been serving delicious local fare since 1651 with notable diners including Napoleon and Charlie Chaplin; try the grilled pork knuckle and a cold, draft pilsner-delicious! One of the best Italian restaurants we’ve found outside of Italy can be found in Berlin near the Potsdamer Platz. Osteria Caruso is our go-to restaurant in Berlin. We make a point of making a reservation there on every visit to the city. It’s that good!
Power Tip: If you are taking kids with you, or you are a big kid at heart, don’t miss the Ritter Sport Store where you can design your own chocolate bar!
Ebertstraße, 10117 Berlin, Germany
11:00A.M. – 8:30 P.M. (M-Su)
Wurst am Brandenburg Tor has been slicing up perfectly grilled, spicy currywurst for years right at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin’s most iconic sight.
Zur Letzten Instanz
Waisenstraße 14-16, 10179 Berlin, Germany
Lunch and Dinner every day except Monday (dinner only)
Köthener Strasse 38, 10936 Berlin, Germany
11:00 A.M. to Midnight (M-F); 5:00 P.M. to Midnight (Sat.)
Where to Stay in Berlin
Berlin hotels cover every imaginable taste, comfort level, and budget. We tend to go with a midrange hotel; Berlin has so many good ones to choose from. Regardless of what type of hotel you prefer, you should pick one that is conveniently close to public transportation. Another good tip for booking city hotels is to check the hotel’s website. Look for special weekend offers that not only have reduced rates, but usually will include some other incentives like free meals, welcome drinks, or free passes to popular tourist sights. We’ve listed some of our choices to help you find the best hotel Berlin has to offer.
Hotel Indigo Berlin
Bernhard-Weiß-Straße 5, 10178 Berlin
Budget hotel with outstanding value and a superior location near the Alexanderplatz.
Boutique Hotel i31 Berlin Mitte
Invalidenstraße 31, 10115 Berlin
Boutique hotel with midrange prices, comfort and location combined!
Pullman Berlin Schweizerhof Hotel
Budapester Str. 25, 10787 Berlin
Five star comfort can be had at near midrange prices. This is our top pick Berlin hotel. Swimming pool, spa, great location, and exceptional service.
Getting to Berlin
As a capital city, Berlin is easily accessed by all major airlines and the high speed rail network. It is also serviced by a host of low cost airlines that make travel to and from many other major European cities affordable. Some of our favorite cheap flight carriers flying in and out of Berlin include: Air Berlin, Easy Jet, Ryanair, and Eurowings.
Getting around Using Berlin Public Transport
Berlin is one of the easier cities to navigate, with a comprehensive, clean and efficient network of buses, trams, subways and trains; but the first time visitor may find all of the ticket options very confusing. Unfortunately there isn’t a smart card option as in many other capital cities, instead you’ll need to purchase tickets and there are so many options to choose from. There are short ride tickets, single tickets, single ticket multi-trip, day tickets, group tickets, and tourist tickets all with their own pros and cons. To add to the confusion, you need to specify which zones you are traveling within, A, B, or C. The good news is that everything you’ll want to do in Berlin on a weekend trip is within the A and B zones.
So what should you do? For a weekend trip to Berlin for sightseeing and visiting attractions we recommend purchasing the 48 hour Berlin Welcome Card. You’ll need one for each rider over 14 years of age, but the two cards will cover travel for the two adult riders plus a total of six children for forty eight hours from the time of first use. That’s enough unlimited travel to get you from the airport on Friday evening and back to the airport on Sunday evening. Plus, with these cards you’ll also get discounted entry to most of the major attractions Berlin has to offer.
A weekend in Berlin will be filled with history and fun, but make sure you spend some time walking and shopping along Berlin’s premiere shopping street, the Kurfurstendamm; a visit to Berlin’s World Class Zoo and Aquarium; take in another museum or three; or just wander and explore the architecture and green spaces of this magnificent city. While you’re here be sure and have a taste of the city’s famous currywurst (there’s even a museum dedicated to this culinary treat) and why not visit the Ritter Sport Shop and make your own chocolate bar?
Don’t take it just from us, check out this article: What to Do, See, and Eat in Berlin.
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