If you are planning to visit Berlin then I got you covered. I put together 20 of the most important sights every first-time visitor should try to incorporate in their itinerary. They are meaningful, beautiful and fun.
People often ask me for advice on what to see and do in Germany’s capital Berlin. The classics, the sights they should not miss. Since I like replying to all of your mails, I thought I combine all the Must-Sees in one post so everyone can have a look.
If you feel like exploring the city check out the map we prepared for your ultimate Berlin experience.
The perfect guide for everyone who visits Berlin for the first time.
1. Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is at the Pariser Platz and is with its six pillars the most famous landmark in Berlin.
The neo-classical building was finished in 1791. Two years later the famous Quadriga was added on top. It shows Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, on a carriage drawn by four horses.
Back in the days only the Royal family was allowed to pass the middle of the gate, peasants had to use the outer passages.
Brandenburg Gate marked the border of east and west Berlin during the Cold War.
What else to see: Willy Brandt Museum, Academy of Arts, Unter den Linden
2. Victory Column
If you climb 285 stairs, you get a really nice view on Berlin Tiergarten and the Brandenburg Gate. The view from the Victory Column (Siegessäule) is one of my favourites in Berlin.
The monument was build in the late 19th century as a result of several victories in different wars, German-Danish, German-Austrian and German-French.
On top of the column is a bronze figure of Victoria holding a laurel wreath in the one hand and an iron cross in the other. The goddess of victory is also wearing an eagle helmet which is a symbol for Prussia.
There is a museum on the first floor.
Tiergarten is a big park in the centre of Berlin, right next to Brandenburg Gate.
The park offers a few quiet moments while exploring the city, but also places for sport, boating or eating cake. The best is the view from above, from the Victory Column.
First used as a public park at the end of the 17th century, it quickly turned into a popular spot for the residents.
Today there are different sights and monuments, the home of the German president, an English garden, as well as Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the World’s Cultures).
4. Holocaust Memorial
2711 steles, all in different sizes, remember the Holocaust. Every visitor sees, feels and interprets it in a different way.
19.000 square meters full of grey concrete steles, which look, from above, like waves. The architect is Peter Eisenman.
There is an app called “Virtual Concert” you can download before you are going. It gives a unique musical experience.
What else to see: There is an associated Museum.
5. The Alexanderplatz
The place is super busy and offers a lot for tourists. There are shopping opportunities, you can see the World Time Clock, the TV-Tower, typical German Democratic Republic (GDR) buildings, and there is always a festivity like vegan street food, Oktoberfest or Christmas Market.
It is also the perfect point to start your walking tour through the city.
The name goes back to Tsar Alexander I. when the former king Friedrich Wilhelm III. renamed the place due to his visit to Alexanderplatz in 1805.
What to see: TV-Tower, World Time Clock, Neptune Fountain and the Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus)
6. Berlin Parliament Quarter
There is so much to see since the Regierungsviertel (Parliament Quarter) is the place where German politics is made: Chancellery, Reichstag and different parliamentarian buildings. It is a game of modern architecture and old buildings.
There are several possibilities to visit the Reichstag, like enjoying the view from the top of the building, watching a plenary session or take part in one of the guided tours. Do not forget to reserve in advance!
Behind the Reichstag is a big staircase along the river Spree, where you can sit and talk or wander along the garden of the chancellery.
7. Modern Potsdamer Platz
The Potsdamer Platz is a really modern quarter. It is very structured and well designed.
The place offers much to discover such as the Sony Centre, shopping areas, cinemas, street food stands as well as restaurants, pieces of the Berlin Wall, a cinema museum, a viewing platform and the Stars of Germany.
8. Historical Nicolai Quarter
Nikolaiviertel (Nicolai Quarter) is the oldest neighbourhood in Berlin. You can stroll through medieval alleys, look for original handcrafts and drink tea at one of the small cafés.
Highlights are the romanesque Nicolai Church from the beginning of the 13th century, the baroque Knoblauchhaus, a museum where you can see the former bourgeois lifestyle of Berlin, as well as the Ephraim Palais, which is the town museum.
Do not forget to try a Cupcake at Tigertörtchen.
9. Berlin Cathedral
The Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is located on the Spree-Island and is the biggest church in the German capital. The cathedral was finished in 1905. Emperor Wilhelm II wanted something impressive with typical Italian influences.
The cathedral is open for visitors and there is a museum inside.
What else to see: Lustgarten, museums like German Historical Museum, Unter den Linden, Book Flea Market
10. Shop and Eat at the Courtyards of The Hackesche Höfe
Hackesche Höfe is a vivid place where you can shop, dine and get entertained.
Eight courts are connected and every one looks different. The designer used various styles, turned them, and created something unique.
11. The Gendarmenmarkt with a great View over Mitte
Gendarmenmarkt is a place in Mitte where you find the German Cathedral, the French Cathedral, as well as the Concert House. In the centre is a Schiller monument. Schiller was one of Germany’s most influential authors. The Gendarmenmarkt was named after him until it was later changed.
The French Cathedral offers a great view on the centre of Berlin. You get to see all the important buildings, which is great for orientation.
Over the course of the years, the place was used for a lot of political events. The day before Germany united, the GDR held their last act of state and played Beethoven’s Symphony Number 9.
12. Relicts of Berlin Wall
Built in 1961 the Berlin Wall separated east and west, Federal Republic and German Democratic Republic. It separated states, politics, ideas and lives. Only in November 1989 the wall were teared down.
Tourists can visit the relicts for example at the East Side Gallery. The wall is covered in various murals.
Another great place to discover the Wall is at Bernauer Straße. You can walk through the wall and visit the museum.
Learn more about the history.
13. The Kurfürstendamm with Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church
Kurfürstendamm is a few kilometres long shopping street with a variety of shops and restaurants.
It is a chic boulevard where you can also travel in time. The street was already very popular in the 1920th and a cultural centre for the “Golden Twenties”.
If you need a little extra dose of luxury and food visit the Kaufhaus des Westens (Kadewe).
One of the highlights of Kurfürstendamm is the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Memorial Church. The neo-romanesque church was destroyed during World War II but kept and was partly rebuilt. It shows how tragedy, modernity and history can be combined.
14. Visit the former German-German Border at Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie is a massive tourism attraction. It used to be one of the most important border crossings during the Cold War.
Plenty of movies take place here.
There is also a museum to learn more about this particular topic.
Do not forget to take a picture with one of the border controller.
If you ever wondered about the name, Charlie is the third letter of the international spelling alphabet and this was the third border.
15. Learn more about Germany at the German Historical Museum
The Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) is one of my favourite museums in Berlin. There is just so much to see and learn about German history. It is not plain boring “and than happened that…” history is exhibited multi medial. Even topics like philosophy and literature find their places in this beautiful building.
Take a look around, the rooms are stunning.
There are several changing exhibitions with focus on Germany.
16. Eat Lunch at Thai Park
In Preussenpark in the Wilmersdorf neighbourhood is a big meadow where you get authentic and super yummy Asian food.
It is organised by women from Thailand and Vietnam. They sit under sunshades with cooling bags, deep friers and gas cookers. They chop fresh vegetables, chat with their friends, fry, laugh with their families and sell their national dishes. You get spring rolls, dumplings, salads, tofu, sweets and more. My tip: go with your friends, get as much dishes as possible, sit on a big blanket and share. Why decide if you can have everything, right?
Be careful with the cocktails though, they can be a bit strong.
17. Stroll through Prenzlauer Berg
Many people think Prenzlauer Berg is the most beautiful neighbourhood in Berlin. There are pretty alleys, countless little stores, cafés and restaurants with a lot of love for details. There is always something going on. No matter if you like drinking beer, strolling through markets or do something cultural.
Check out my favourite places and go book shopping at The School of Life and Saint George’s English Bookshop or eat vegan ice cream at Kontor Eismanufaktur.
18. Eat at Kulturbrauerei
Every Sunday there is a street food festival with a culinary variety at Kulturbrauerei (Culture Brewery). The place used to be a brewery and now functions as a cultural melting pot.
There is a free museum about the ordinary life of GDR and I can confirm, it is authentic. My grandma had similar interior and I found some of my favourite books in their shelves.
Over the year you find several festivities like New Year’s Eve, Halloween, Christmas Market and more.
19. Topography of Terror
This ares combines a museum, a long timetable and parts of the Berlin Wall. It deals with the facts of World War II and gives an insight of the rise of nationalism and its later impacts. You see why people elected the NSDAP and how voter fraud made them take over Germany. You learn about the system and how they manipulated people to join the Nazis. It is totally fact-oriented and not emotional as a lot of the other museums that deal with those years. And that is why I think it is so important.
The museum is for free.
20. Old Airport Tempelhof Field
Tempelhofer Feld (Airport Tempelhof Field) used to be an active airport in Berlin. Today it is a recreation area. There are places for barbecue, sport and pick-nick. Visitors use the old airfield to skate or to jog.
The centre is partly protected for wildlife.
What do you want to see in Berlin? Is there anything you would add? Let me and other readers know in the comments.
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