Let’s just cut straight to it.
Question: Can you see Berlin in 1 day?
Answer: Sort of.
Let me explain…
I’m just going to be completely honest here and say that while you CAN see “things” in one day in Berlin,
- You can’t see ALL the things (arguably not even all the “Best” things in Berlin)
- You are barely going to scratch the surface of what Berlin has to offer
- You are going to feel rushed
- But we can “Make it Werk!” (Said in your best Tim Gunn voice, of course!)
According to the official Berlin Tourismus & Kongress GmbH, the average stay of tourists in Berlin is only 2.5 days, so the reality is that with even just one, very full and busy day, you can still accomplish a ton!
Whether you have a short layover in Berlin and want to try to fly by a few iconic sites, cram in some intense history lessons, or just want to go grab a burger (I may or may not have chosen a 12 hour layover in Berlin vs a short 4 hour option one time on a trip I was taking just so that I could jet across town to go back to one of my favorite burger joints in Germany at the time!) or if you are trying to do a day trip to Berlin from nearby, I get that sometimes that’s all we’ve got to work with.
Living in Bavaria for over a decade has allowed me to come and enjoy Berlin on numerous occasions. I’ve had anywhere from an extended weekend to dilly dally leisurely around to literally only having just a few hours on my way to somewhere else. While I don’t ever suggest ONLY spending 1 day in Berlin, if that’s what we have to work with, the following step by step plan for the day is EXACTLY how I would do (ok, I how I HAVE personally done!) Berlin in 24 hours!
Key Takeaways: What You’ll Do On Your One Day in Berlin (Personilized Itinerary)
I personally hate 1 day itineraries that aren’t itineraries at all and instead just lists! (How do I put that all together to actually EXECUTE it realistically!?)
This itinerary offers a structured timeframe with specific durations for each activity while still allowing flexibility for personal interests.
You will know exactly how to see all of the following top sites after this Berlin itinerary (1 day only):
✔ See the Berlin Wall
✔ Walk through the Brandenburg Tor
✔ Honor the Murdered Jews of Europe
✔ See Hitler’s bunker site
✔ Eat Classic “Berlin Street Food”
✔ Visit a famous Berlin Museum that interests YOU the most
✔ Possibly more (depending on your stamina!)
Please note that some articles contain links that earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you.
You Might Also Be Interested in Reading:
- Is Berlin Worth Visiting?
- 25+ Free Things To Do In Berlin
- Where to Stay in Berlin: My “Berlin Downtown Apartments” Hotel Review
Before You Arrive
In order to really maximize every minute of your short day in Berlin, I need you to get organized, prepared, and educated. This is going to allow you to not waste time figuring things out on the go and you’ll know exactly what your plan of attack is for the day.
This doesn’t mean you need to have every minute accounted for. Far from it. Leave ample time for getting on the wrong Ubahn (Yup- happens to the best of us) or for allowing for a leisure visit in a museum vs one that feels rushed just for the sake of crossing something off a “Must See” list.
However, have a rough outline of what to expect, how to get around, and what you want to try to accomplish for your day.
1) Be Realistic
Point Blank: You are not going to see all of Berlin in a day. Far from it in fact!
Even the most enthusiastic travelers may be able to knock out 2-3 “Top Berlin Sites” in a day. Instead of looking back and not remembering one moment from the next because you flew through your day so fast, choose just a few things to really focus on and enjoy in Berlin.
2) Know What Berlin Even Has to Offer
I often think that the reason why many people even wonder, “Is Berlin Worth Visiting” isn’t often so much because they truly don’t believe there is anything for them to do there. I actually theorize that it’s because there are SO many things to do in Berlin, that it can be hard to compartmentalize and come up with clear game plans for how to get the most out of Berlin.
Therefore, before even stepping foot in the capital city of Germany, have an idea of what is even on tap so that you know all your options and can truly make it a day that YOU’LL enjoy (and not just one for the sake of saying, “I did Berlin”)
2) Go With YOUR Interests
Berlin is like this magical “Choose Your Own Adventure” chapter book. One of the reasons why Berlin is worth visiting in my opinion is because it’s not a “one size fits all” destination. What is the perfect 1 day in Berlin for ME may actually be the opposite of ideal for someone else.
After all, as uncultured as this makes me sound, I would go nuts in Berlin if all I did was museums. But for someone else, that could be a day in paradise for an art or history lover!
On the other hand, I’ve been gleefully happy to chow down on all the diverse foods Berlin has to offer, but when I took my parents on my most recent trip there, they had very little desire to fill their bellies with authentic Fallafels (their loss! It was DELISH!)
My rambling point here is that Berlin is a smorgasbord of tourist attractions, things to do, and where to eat. ESPECIALLY if you are only there for a day, don’t waste your time on doing something just for the sake of doing it. Do the things that interest YOU the most!
3) Map Out Your Gameplan
It can easily take 30+ minutes to get to where you are going in Berlin. When you have such limited time to start with and are in such a large, expansive city, you might have to cross off a few things on your preferred list not because the site itself is a waste of time, but because the actual TIME it takes to get there could be a waste of your precious time!
Head to Google Maps and just play around with some of your top sites to see in Berlin. Can you easily make a little DIY walking tour from one to the next (for example, you can quickly walk from the Brandenburg Tor to the Reichstag).
If you need to take public transportation somewhere, how long is that going to take and is it worth that amount of time or is there something closer to your other sites that you can swap out for and still feel satisfied in your chosen activites.
4) Get a BVG Tages Ticket for only €9.50
Depending on exactly what you end up planning for your day, you might benefit from using Berlin’s great public transportation infrastructure to zip you around easily. It’s possible that you may only need one or two single journey tickets for the day, but even if you need to ride the Sbahn, Ubahn, trams, or buses 3 times or more, the BVG (Berlin’s public transportation company)”TagesKarte” is then totally worth it.
Consider: With even just 2 days in Berlin, getting the Berlin Welcome Card paid for itself when I’ve gotten it in the past. However, with just 1 day in Berlin, you are probably better off getting a BVG Tages Ticket.
5) Adjust for the Seasons
This last one is actually really important. Afterall, many things have different winter hours than summer and some Berlin attractions, like boat rides don’t even do sunset rides in the winter.
If traveling to Berlin in the Winter, know that it gets dark as early as 4:30pm so you may have to adjust a few things to plan accordingly.
The following 1 day Berlin itinerary is assuming you are traveling in Summer or even possibly Spring or Fall~ adjust as needed for your own trip.
How To Use This 1 Day in Berlin Itinerary
It’s Step by Step (Yet Still Absolutely Adaptable to YOU!)
I personally hate 1 day itineraries where it just basically lists all the things you CAN do but doesn’t describe HOW to do it, how much time is realistic in each place, etc. So, I wanted to give you a balance here by both holding your hand with an easy to follow timeframe including how long to spend at each place, but also give you options to allow for flexibility and personal interests.
Afterall, that is one of the things that makes Berlin so great! With SO many choices of things to do in Berlin, it’s easy to find something that YOU will like, enjoy, and get something out of. With such a short amount of time, it’s essential that we make Berlin perfectly adaptable to your interests while still seeing some of the highlights.
It’s A LOT
Figuring out what to see in Berlin in 1 day is hard because there is just so much. While I personally don’t like recommending these kinds of jam packed schedules while traveling, I also understand WHY some people have to.
That being said, today’s Berlin 1 day tour is not going to be for the faint of heart. You’ll want amazingly sturdy and comfortable walking shoes (get ready to put in some miles, my friend!) and if you are like me and get Hangry easily, keep a few snacks at hand to power you through!
We are going to pack in every minute possible. So let’s go!!!!
7:30am: Start Your Day
There’s no time for sleeping in! You’ve only got 1 day in Berlin?? Let’s make the most of it!!!! So, when I say, “8am” for the first activity what I really mean is, “Try to BE at the first site AT 8am” (aka: Rise and shine!)
Ok, or not….if you’d rather not rush yourself, you can choose to skip this first activity in the morning (although I don’t really recommend that). But again, we are going to revert to my tip #1 above and just be realistic with our time, our personalities, and our day.
8AM: Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Straße
The Berlin Wall Memorial is an extremely in tact and well preserved section of what barely remains of the Berlin Wall today. The outdoor gallery, which can be accessed starting at 8am, is an emotional experience as you walk along, touch, and see the wall up close and personal.
There are plenty of placards that help gain insight into the dramatic events surrounding the wall’s construction, time being up, and the effects it had on Berlin. You’ll learn about the many escape attempts- both those that were successful and those that ended in devastating death for merely challenging the oppression the East Berliners were facing.
Unfortunately, the (also very well done) indoor exhibits and museums that are supplemental to the outdoor gallery only open at 10am, so we sadly have to skip those today. But, that’s the trade off we have to pay for trying to get as much done as possible with only a day in Berlin!
Getting To the Berlin Wall Memorial:
By Sbahn: Take the S1, S2, S25 or S26 to the Nordbahnhof station
Tram (Street Cars): Take the M10 tram to the Nordbahnhof stop
Bus: Grab the Bus 247 and get off at the Nordbahnhof/Gartenstrasse stop
Pro Tip: When you go into the Nordbahnhof Sbahn station, leave even just a few minutes to stop and read about the “Berlin Ghost stations” on the walls of this underground station. When the Berlin Wall went up, many of the Sbahns along the border were completely boarded up and closed to prevent access from East to West. East Berlin Border patrols would set up elaborate (and deathly) blockades, alarm systems, and deadly dangers to prevent or catch anyone trying to escape through the tunnels to the West.
🗺️ Leave the Berlin Wall Memorial by 9:30am For the Next Site Site
> Go to the Nordbahnhof Sbahn Station (across from the memorial)
> Take the S1 (direction: Wannsee), the S2 (direction: Priesterweg), or the S25 (direction: Teltow Stadt)
> Ride about 5 minutes and get off at the “Brandenburg Tor” Sbahn stop
10 AM-12pm: Berlin Highlights Walking Tour
One of the best ways to see as many Berlin sites as possible, but in a really well done, balanced pace is to do a guided walking tour.
In fact, this is one of my favorite ways to get a quick “Blitz” and “Overview” of Berlin which is why I’ve actually personally done the Sandeman’s Free Berlin Walking tour not once but twice! (I’ve also used Sandeman’s in countless cities around Europe as well and always found theirs to be some of the best walking tours).
There are many different companies and tour guides that do Berlin Walking Tours, but I like this one because it’s “Free” (well, you tip what you felt the tour was worth at the end) and very very well done typically either by locals or even historians.
But also, you hit up SOOO many of the most popular things to see in Berlin all while not having to worry about getting yourself around. You also are going to learn so much history, insider information, and great local tips….all in just 2 hours! Here are several of the places you’ll walk to and learn about on most any Berlin Walking Tour:
- Brandenburg Gate
- See the Reichstag from across the street (and learn about it)
- Streets that still show today where the Berlin Wall was
- The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Above ground location of what used to be Hitler’s underground bunker
- Depending on the guide, you may also stop by Checkpoint Charlie, the Topography of Terror, and more
- Learn about Berlin’s tumultuous past
- Discover life during the Berlin Wall and East Germany’s communism
- Take a Bike Tour: Same concept as a paid walking tour where you get to learn about a lot of the major Berlin sites but from the speed and fun of a bicycle with a knowledgeable tour guide
- Do an E-Scooter Tour: Same as the bikes but even easier with an E-Scooter!
- Have an Individual/ Personalized Rickshaw Tour: Zip around and see the city easily with an extremely knowledgeable and fun rickshaw driver
- DIY Walking Tour: If you want to get an earlier head start on your day, grab the Rick Steves Berlin Guidebook and do one of his DIY walking tours
While you can easily do all of these things on your own, I have found these tours to be a phenomenal way to really pack in a punch on limited time. It’s also a perfect way to deep dive more than just if you were to quickly walk past the locations on your own without much context or history to the site.
Important Note: While these walking tours will leave you with a ton of new facts, history, and information, you won’t have time to actually go into anything that you go by. For example, it doesn’t include going inside the Reichstag building or even going into the Holocaust Museum at the memorial site. But with only a day in Berlin, it’s a great compromise on how to spend your time efficiently. (And I also include some time later in the day to circle back to something if you want)
Noon: Grab a Currywurst or Doner
After walking most of the morning, you are going to be hungry! While Berlin doesn’t win many awards for “Amazing authentic German restaurants” it is home of two of the most iconic (and DELISH!) Germany street foods!!! Either way, these are both great “fast food” options and you won’t be disappointed in flavor!
Depending on where your Walking Tour ends, see if there is a Curry Wurst stand nearby. The Berlin tour I took last time ended right at the “Typisch Berlin” cafe restaurant where we had some classic currywurst before rushing off to the next sites for the day.
Alternatively, a Döner Kebab shop (Imbiss) is also never too far and remains one of my favorite “German” foods ever (it’s actually Turkish but Germany’s Döner scene is iconic). You can even “grab and go”a Döner if you want to keep moving.
Insider Tip: While a classic Döner is never bad, I LOVE the Durum Doner (which is more like a flat bread than a pita style) YUUUM!!!
1 PM-4 PM: Choose One of the Following:
- Option A: Topography of Terror and Check Point Charlie
- Option B: Museum Island + Stroll Nearby Unter Den Linden
- Option C: Choose 1 of Berlin’s Other Famous Museums
This is where the first “Choose Your Own Adventure” part comes in for our day. After all, if it was me, I’m not a huge “museum” person, so I’d much rather spend extra time learning more about Berlin from other attractions in the city. However, Berlin is home to the world Unesco Heritage Site of Museum Island, which houses 5 impressive museums of various interests from art to history to archeology and more which is a huge draw for many people.
Therefore, choose whichever topic or attraction fits your interests most.
Option A: Topography of Terror and Checkpoint Charlie
No matter what you know (or don’t) of Germany and WWII, the Berlin Topography of Terror is a deep dive into the hows, whats, whys, and what nows of everything from the lead up to WWII, to the atrocities of the Holocaust and even the individuals involved all the way to the aftermath of it all.
However, the Topography of Terror not only casts a wide net on this dark period of Germany as a whole country, but also zeros in on how Berlin specifically shaped this time period and follows the events of what was happening locally. From the rise of Nazis in Berlin, to the devasting impact on civilians living in the city at the time, to local victims who were brutally murdered- it’s a glimpse into Berlin’s impact on history.
I personally feel that the Berlin Topography if Terror is a must while in town.
Time Needed: I spent almost 3 full hours here between the indoor exhibit which focuses more on Germany as a whole during the time period and the outdoor section which is more Berlin focused. If needed, you could rush through this faster, but still allow minimally for 1.5-2 hours at even a rushed pace.
* If you know you are going to other WWII historical locations in Germany, you might even be able to skip the indoor portion and instead just focus on the outdoor exhibit quickly.
Check Point Charlie
From the Topography of Terror, it takes no more than about 3 minutes to walk to Check Point Charlie. Honestly, you don’t need a ton of time here. After all, everything you see on this square isn’t even original. It’s all been a reconstruction mostly for us tourists who are interested in the tension that was created right here in Berlin during the Cold War between America and the USSR.
However, if you are going to be minutes away anyway, why not stroll over even if it’s just for a few quick photos before moving on for the day.
Option B: Museum Island
Most museum enthusiasts will go to one of the famous museums on the Museum Island while in Berlin. You could literally spend multiple DAYS going from museum to museum here, so to just narrow it down to a few hours may be difficult for some. The 5 Museums here are:
- Altes Museum (Old Museum): Originally designed to house the royal art and antiquities collection. Head here for neoclassical architecture as well as ancient artifacts
- Neues Museum (New Museum): There is nothing “New” about what is in the Neues Museum. If you like prehistoric and protohistoric cultures like Egyptian artifacts and prehistoric objects, then this is a good museum to visit.
- Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery): 19th-century European art and sculptures that focus on the Romantic, Impressionist, and early Modernist periods.
- Bode-Museum: Considered one of the world’s best museums for Sculptures as well as for Byzantine Art
- Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum): Arguably one of the most famous on Museum Island. You can see the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, and the Market Gate of Miletus.
***IMPORTANT: The Pergamon Museum is closed for restoration and won’t reopen (in parts) until 2027 but it’s not expected to open in its entirety until 2037!!! (No, that’s not a typo!)
Bonus: See the Berlin Cathedral
If you decide to go to Museum Island, you won’t be able to miss the absolutely iconic Berlin Cathedral next to the Altes Museum. Whether you choose to pay to go inside real quick, or just admire it from the outside, it is quite the sight to see in Berlin.
Unter Den Linden:
From Museum Island, it’s only about a 10 minute walk to get to some of the other Berlin sights along the famous Unter Den Linden street. Again, when I’m so short on time in a location, I like to really get the most out of what I’m doing. Instead of just quickly strolling past these locations, to “check them off a list” I found the “Unter Den Linden” Rick Steves walk in his Berlin Guidebook extremely insightful and definitely worth the time it took to read the short excerpts as you walk past the following Berlin sights:
- Neue Wache: Originally an impressive guardhouse for King Frederick William III, it is now a simple yet touching memorial for all victims of wars and dictatorships
- Bebelplatz (site of the Berlin Nazi Book Burnings)
- Humbolt University: Where impactful people such as Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, and a total of 57 Nobel Prize winners have studied!
- Gendarmenmarkt: Beautiful Platz (square) with the Berlin Concert Hall as well as the French and German Church
Option C: Choose One of Berlin’s 200+ Museums That Interest You
If you didn’t want art or ancient history on the Museum Island, Berlin is still absolutely no stranger to other impressive museums. A few that I’ve been to/recommend are:
DDR Museum: I went to this museum on my last trip to Berlin with my parents and all three of us thought it was a really enlightening glimpse into life in East Berlin (East Germany), life during communism in Germany, and the impact of the Berlin Wall on Berliners. We easily spent 2 hours here.
Berlin Spy Museum: I’m not going to lie, I was hoping that this museum was going to be more about the spy espionage specifically between East and West Berlin. However, it actually was more about the long history of spies throughout time, various real life spy gadgets, and techniques of spies. And while it is not a kids museum per se (recommended for people at least 10+) my son still claims this was his absolute favorite part of visiting Berlin! (The “Laser Maze” really sold him on it!)
Tränenpalast: Located at a former border crossing between East/West Berlin, this museum focuses on the lives that were torn apart by the wall and the following struggles and victories that came as Germany reunified after the Wall fell.
German History Museum (main exhibition) is also closed until 2025. Next door “Pei-Bau” will have a temporary exhibition, including one focusing on German history.
Others: You have an interest? Berlin’s probably got a museum for you! From LGBQT+ history in Berlin at the Schwules Museum to an actual entire museum dedicated to Curry Wurst, Berlin is your oyster!
5pm: Museum at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Even though you probably stopped at this memorial site during your morning walking tour, it’s well worth your time to circle back and take the time to go to the actual museum here. If you want to learn more about the Holocaust, this is a very well done memorial and museum. It is located underground, below the memorial.
I spent about 1.5 hours when I visited the museum, but you can probably get through it in 60 minutes if absolutely need be.
I also purposefully chose this separate to the above “Museum” category because this is one of the few Berlin Museums that are open later.
Opening Times: Monday 10am – 10pm, Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 8pm
Address:: Cora-Berliner-Straße 1
6pm: Choose From One Of the Following
- Option A: Evening Sunset Spree River Cruise
- Option B: Visit the East Side Gallery
- Option C: Go to another Museum that is open later
Option A: Evening Sunset Spree River Cruise
If you are looking for a unique vantage point of seeing the city (and your feet need a break from all that walking!) then a relaxing evening river cruise down the Spree River is a popular choice. I do personally think that the walking tour from the morning is much more insightful and in depth as far as history/Berlin information goes, but floating down the river past places like the Berlin Cathedral is still a great way to spend an hour or so!
If you want to do a sunset cruise in the summer, those usually begin around 6:20 in the evening.
Note: The departing location, cost and duration of the boat ride will all depend on the exact cruise and the exact company you choose. They are all more or less the same as far as what you end up seeing and quality wise. Therefore, have a look through the different ones and I would honestly just choose one that left closest to where I ended my last activity.
Cost: Spree River Cruises will cost between €16 (1 day, daytime)- €30 (1.5 hours sunset)
Option B: Visit the East Side Gallery Berlin Wall
If you’d rather keep checking off Berlin Bucketlist items than relaxing on an hour long Spree River cruise, then I suggest considering heading to the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall.
The East Side Gallery is one of the most famous and well intact sections of what remains of the Berlin Wall. It’s a 1.3-kilometer-long section that no longer stands for division, but instead unity and a hopeful tomorrow. It has been transformed into an open-air gallery that has over 100 beautiful murals created by artists from around the world.
Important Note: While the East Side Gallery is an icon of Berlin, I will admit that in a rushed 1 day in Berlin with limited time, it may be hard to justify the time that it can take to get to that part of town, especially when there isn’t a ton else to do nearby. Depending on where you are starting from, it can easily take 30-40 minutes even with good public transportation. So, just weigh that against what else you want to accomplish in your day.
Option C: Berlin Museums Open Late
A vast majority of museums in Berlin close around 6pm. However, there are a few that stay open well into the evening. There are also days of the week, like Thursdays and Mondays, where a few more popular Berlin museums also extend their hours into the night.
Therefore, if you are not exhibitioned or museumed out, here are several that are still open in the evening.
Take a Reichstag Tour: I recently did the free Reichstag Dome tour and it was really interesting. While the audio tour itself in the glass dome is only about 30 minutes, I spent about an hour total at the capital building. This would also be a great place to be during sunset (not possible in the summer due to long daylight hours) as you’ve got amazing views out over the city. There are also more in depth 90 minute tours that are occasionally held depending on current Parliament functions.
Important: While the tour is free, you MUST book and register in advance (I suggest booking at least a month in advance- I made the mistake of waiting on my first trip to Berlin thinking I could play it by ear but it was booked several days out).
Last Reichstag Tour Runs at 8pm
Museum at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: If for some reason you didn’t do this earlier as suggested, you can still do it now. It is open until 8pm daily. 10pm on Mondays
DDR Museum: As described above. Open until at least 9pm
German Spy Museum: As described above. Open until at least 8pm
7pm: Dinner Time
At this point you are probably exhausted. You need to kick back for a bit and enjoy a great meal.
While normally in my itineraries, I like to suggest specific restaurants that I can vouch for, the thing about Berlin’s Restaraunt scene is that it is as diverse as it’s residents! (I also don’t know what option you ended up with for your last activity so suggesting specific places would be fruitless if you are nowhere near where I am recommending) So, just consider this another part of your “Choose your own Berlin Adventure”outcome!
Personally, I would skip the German food hunt though. I know, I know, you are in Germany and you feel like you should be Schnitzeling it up, but Berlin is much more well known for it’s countless options of other delicious ethnic foods. With so many immigrants in Berlin, we can all benefit from the pretty authentic cuisine offerings from all around the world!
9pm: Club or Crash
Berlin Nightclubs: Berlin is known for it’s amazing nightclub scene (Or so I’ve been told- even without insanely packed days like this, I am usually in bed by 9pm regardless- don’t judge!!!) If you are ready to keep the party going though, then choose one of Berlin’s famous nightclubs, which are often considered some of the best in the world!
Pass Out in Bed: Alternatively, you probably walked no less than multiple miles today (I clocked over 7 miles), barely had more than a few minutes at a time to even sit down, and have been the Energizer Bunny every second of today! When I did my own 1 day in Berlin, I’m not embarrassed to say that I was passed out in my Berlin Apartment Hotel bed by 8:30!!! But hey, we deserve it with all that we did!!!!
You probably couldn’t have squeezed in another famous thing to do in Berlin today even if you tried! If you noticed, despite never having a moment to spare we didn’t even touch other popular places like the Alexanderplatz, the famous Berlin TV tower, the Tiergarten (which is even bigger than NYC’s Central Park), and SO much more!!!
If you felt like you got an itch to see more of what the city has to offer after this whirlwind 1 day Berlin itinerary, rest assured that you could easily come back and still have more to explore, experience and enjoy in Germany’s capital city!
And since we started with Tim Gunn, let’s end with him as well! Good work!