Berlin is a big city. And if you’re like me, you flew over with a few landmarks to see in mind, but without an established plan of action to tackle them all, let alone figuring out which actually merit a visit. Furthermore, if you have a few other cities to visit during your Eurotrip, and only have a day or two in Berlin (because let’s face it, it was one of the cheapest hubs to fly into), then you’re going to want to follow my German-engineered efficient itinerary to see the best Berlin has to offer, wall and all.
Your exact itinerary may vary depending on your choice of accommodation, but assuming you pick one of several mainstream hotels, you will likely be in “Central Berlin” near the Tiergarten and the Berlin Central Train Station (Berlin Potsdamer Platz Bahnhof). This is a great vantage point as most landmarks will be within ~15 minute cab ride (or Uber) or even walkable. Now, onto Berlin! Berlin!
Morning is the best time to go and see the Reichstag Building (Bundestag). This is Germany’s Parliament building, and is a fully functioning government edifice. Think of it as going to Washington DC and seeing the White House. You know you have to see it. *Pro-Tip* Although admission is free, you MUST complete an advanced registration to visit (registration link) and BRING YOUR PASSPORT! The Bundestag itself is majestic to roam around, and atop the parliament building is a grand, glass dome that houses a series of historical exhibits that walks through the lighter and darker past of Germany. An audio guide is provided to you when you sign up for the visit, which helps lay context to your surroundings in addition to the exhibits. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a live Parliament session through the glass ceiling at the center of the dome. I recommend visiting the Bundestag right when it opens (8am) because most group tours will arrive later in the morning (~10am onward), and other visitors generally fill in starting noon. Keep in mind there are some blackout dates, and at the time of this writing, those dates are: Feb 25-Mar 1, Jul 15-19, Sep 16-20, Oct 7-11, Dec 24-31.
After visiting the Reichstag Building, take a leisurely stroll down South, and there are a few landmarks to hit along the way (hope you brought your walking shoes). Would suggest bookmarking these on your Google maps app for your easy navigating purpose, and you’ll find that the landmarks listed below are all within short walking distance (5-10 minutes max):
- Tiergarten – If the weather is pleasant, and you’re in Berlin during any time besides winter, take some time to stroll through the central park! Though we were there during the winter and so the flora and fauna were limited, we hear it’s beautiful any other times!
- Brandenburg Gate – This giant arch is a must-see for all visitors, as it’s an iconic landmark that stands tall amidst the modern buildings of Berlin. There will likely be crowds of people, but if you wait it out enough you may get a selfie without too many in the background.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – As the name implies, this memorial is comprised of a few hundred slabs of grey stone pillars laid out in a graveyard form-factor to remember the millions of Jews persecuted during World War II. The mood at the Memorial is certainly solemn and somber, so do exercise tact while you’re there!
- Topography of Terror – Continuing the somber experience from the Memorial, a couple blocks down south is this museum erected on the former site of a Nazi Gestapo headquarter. Start your walkthrough with a short movie (offered in various languages) to give you some specific context and take your time to read through the detailed account of the horrors of the holocaust.
- Checkpoint Charlie – This checkpoint was the most famous border crossing station between East and West Berlin during the Cold War where East Berliners escaped to the West. Located near the Topography of Terror on Friedrichstrasse, there are a couple of men dressed-up in field uniform in front of the checkpoint station for you to take pictures with (for a small fee).
The Berlin Wall is the last item on my uber-efficient Berlin itinerary, but you’ll need to catch a cab (~10 min) or the subway (~20 min) to get to it. You can google “East Side Gallery” to find it easily on Google Maps. At this landmark, you can see the last few remnants of the original Berlin Wall, but with its stark cement walls and barbed wires replaced with various artists’ murals depicting sentiments of the times and cries for peace. A few are more “instagram-famous” than others, but if you have time and the endurance, would encourage you to walk a bit further along the wall than most tourists to see what unique sight might catch your eye.
Now I know I haven’t covered food yet, but that’s because it deserved a separate post.. Stay tuned for my Best Eats in Berlin post!