How Long Should I Spend in Berlin? (and what to see)
A city which introduces itself as “Poor but Sexy” (“Arm aber Sexy” in German) intrigues visitors, challenging them to unravel its secrets. Five years ago, I landed at Berlin Tegel Airport. Several hours later, I was under the spell of the dazzling metropolis.
How long should I spend in Berlin?
One or two days is great to get a taste of the city, but you will need three to four days to see most of the famous landmarks in Berlin. For a complete experience, which includes food tours, bike tours, and maybe some clubbing in the Kreuzberg neighborhood, seven days should suffice.
Maybe, you will find the blend of history, art, and technology irresistible, as I did. In this case, you have 3 possibilities:
prolong your stay up to several weeks
return to Berlin whenever you have the chance
make it your new home
I chose the second option.
8 Hot Spots that No Tourist Should Miss
My first “must-see in Berlin list” included renowned places such as:
The Brandenburg Gate
A symbol of peace, victory, and unification, the Gate is the most popular meeting spot for both tourist and locals.
Which features stand out?
The imposing temple-like pillars, the Quadriga Statue ensemble overseeing the neighboring areas, and the melting pot of nations around it.
Tip: visit it at dusk when light and darkness merge, giving the surroundings a magical aura.
The Berlin Wall
The infamous construction was erected in 1961 to separate the totalitarian ruled eastern Berlin from the democratic western part. It stretched over 150 km until 1989 when the inhabitants pulled it down.
Why is it so striking to the eye?
Most of the wall is gone now. But 1.3 km of what has left, form the most impressive outdoor art gallery in the world.
Over 100 artists from 21 different countries conveyed their hope for universal freedom by decorating the bricks with out-of-the-box graffiti.
Tip: although enclosed, there is no entrance fee
This used to be the most circulated border crossing point between Eastern and Western Berlin. Common citizens could not pass it. The checkpoint was for journalists, government officials or foreign visitors.
What makes it special?
The panel with the American and the Russian soldier, the barrier made of sandbags, and the friendly guards.
Tip: go early in the morning to avoid the crowd
The Holocaust Memorial
Its inauguration occurred in 2005. Dedicated to the Jewish people who fell victim to the Nazi persecution, it reminds us of the inhuman character of oppressive regimes.
Why will you leave impressed?
The Holocaust and its horrors, which brought to the limelight mass murder, needed more than a traditional monument.
The Memorial designers projected it on a corrugated field covered with concrete blocks, ranging from several centimeters to 4 meters tall.
There is neither an entrance nor an exit. It is a labyrinth built for those who were denied a resting place.
Tip: do not overlook The Information Centre in the south-eastern corner. The guides will answer the question you may have about the bleakest events in human history.
Naturkundemuseum or The Natural History Museum
The Museum belongs to the Humboldt University, and it has over 30 million exhibits. Out of these, the most imposing are the dinosaur skeletons.
How to spend a half day here?
It is an easy task to do in one of the coolest places in Berlin.
Tourists of all ages lose track of time admiring herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs, watching their digital reconstruction, and wandering through the Hominids Hall.
Tip: the gift shop is packed with books and other souvenirs.
The Television Tower
The Berliners call it “Fernsehturm” and you will find it in Alexanderplatz. You may spot it from different parts of the city due to its 365-meter height.
How to have fun here?
The recipe is simple: take the elevator, tour the observation deck, enjoy the panorama below, and sip a cocktail in Bar 203.
If you are not traveling on a shoestring budget, consider dining at The Sphere, the Tower’s revolving restaurant.
Tip: book the tickets online to skip the entrance queue.
Charlottenburg Palace and its Breathtaking Gardens
The magnificent construction is in the western part of the city. The furniture, the rooms, and the halls are a replica of the original ones, which burnt to ashes during WWII.
What hidden gems should you look for?
Baroque architecture, galleries filled with exquisite paintings, and secluded nooks.
While strolling along the back park alleys, you will understand why the members of the Brandenburg-Prussia royal house adored this residence.
Tip: ask the guides about the “Amber Room”; its story is worthy of best-selling novels.
Grosser Tiergarten—The Greenest Part of Berlin
This is where most Berliners love spending sunny afternoons and carefree weekend days. The park covers a surface of 210 ha, being an enchanted forest amidst a buzzing metropolis.
What can you do to unwind?
A picnic and two or three hours sprawled on fresh grass are a welcoming respite after striding from one tourist attraction to another.
In case you are the sporty type, then cycle along the winding paths or row a boat on the lake. Dace is also possible during one of the numerous concerts held here.
The area is home to the Berlin Zoological Garden, which hosts around 20,300 animals.
Tip: buy the “combiticket” which grants you cheaper access to both the zoo and the aquarium.
Have you got more time on your hands? Trust me, it would be an awesome idea to:
Take the flight of stairs up to the Reichstag Dome
Start a scavenger hunt in the open-air markets
Drive around in a Trabi
Go shopping at KaDeWe, the most spacious commercial center on continental Europe
Boredom is not an option!
There is always something hip taking place in Kreuzberg or Neukolln, the city’s posh and rebellious neighborhoods.
Traveling in Berlin—Transport and Fares
The capital occupies a vast territory. You needn’t worry about the long distances between the points of interest because the infrastructure is phenomenal. Everything is organized according to the proverbial German precision and effectiveness.
Most foreign visitors land on Tegel. So, there are high chances you do that too. Two bus stops and a U-Bahn station (subway) will take you to the heart of Berlin in half an hour.
Good to know: you can use the same ticket to travel by bus, urban train (S-bahn), subway (U-Bahn), and certain regional trains.
Berlin has three tariff areas:
AB comprises the urban area
ABC includes Postdam and the region around Schönefeld airport
You can purchase:
one-way tickets which expire after two hours and cost 2.8 Euros for AB and 3.4 Euros for ABC
short distance tickets valid for three stops; you have to pay 1.7 Euros for these
one-day tickets; put aside 7 Euros for the AB area and 7,7 Euros for the ABC zone; the perk is that you can jump on and off any bus or train
one week cards are at the price of 30 Euros
Children under the age of five travel for free while those aged 6 to 14 get the discounted 1.7 Euros tickets.
Any advantages for the tourists?
The Berlin Welcome Card which grants you access to all public means of transport and up to 50% entrance fee reduction to over 2000 attractions.
The price varies between 19 Euros and 46 Euros depending on the time window validity.
Tip: You can get it online or from the tourist information centers.
Accommodation with a Twist
With visitors flocking in regardless the season, Berlin has an abundant and varied accommodation offer.
There is something to fit any budget: luxurious hotels, boutique guest houses, bohemian hostels, and stylish apartments to rent.
Tip: if you schedule your adventure during crowd gathering events like “The Berlin Fashion Week”, make sure you book in advance; take our word for it: finding a room in such circumstances is a tough endeavor.
The artistic community is one of the most creative, diverse, and largest in Europe. It is no wonder it has left its mark on the accommodation facilities.
To feel the cool vibe that makes the city such a unique destination, have a look at:
Michel Berger Hotel which resembles a bachelor’s studio; piles of books appear in the most unexpected corners, magazine cut-outs decorate de walls, and TVs are hidden in boxes.
nHow Hotel and its music theme; the cutting edge technology, the minimalist design, and the gigs on the roof give it a trendy atmosphere.
Whether you like a classic, romantic or funky décor, you will find something that fits your taste and budget.
Glorious Berliner Cuisine
The German capital is the foodie destination to top them all. Dishes, flavors, species, and recipes from around the world have found their meeting point here.
Burgermeister serves the most delicious burgers in Europe, according to Andrew Zimmern (the guy from Bizzare Foods).
To give your taste buds a real treat, head for Friedrichshain. Even the pickiest client can find a forget-about-your-diet dish. Russian Stroganoff Beef, Mexican brunches, and vegan treats are just a few of the palatable experiences that the neighborhood has in store for you.
What about traditional German Food?
Lots of the local recipes have meat as their main ingredient. It would be a pity to leave the city without having taken a bite from a:
Bratwurst–a spiced pork sausage
Wiener–a smoked sausage made of a beef and pork mixture
Schwartzwurst – rare sausages
Rollmops–rolled pickled herrings
They go best with vegetable sides and Schwarzbrot. This is a whole rye type of bread with a sweet touch.
The list of decadent desserts is long and varied. Do not pass over Mr. Minsch’s confectionery. The staff has specialized in making enormous and mouthwatering cinnamon rolls.
Tip: pretzels and Berliners (a sweet doughnut filled with jam and sprinkled with sugar) are tasty in-between-meals snacks.
No matter how long you stay in Berlin, its eccentric, authentic and vivacious spirit will seduce you. The city upon the Spree River has its own kind of magic.
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