Are you planning an epic trip to Germany, looking at a map and realizing it’s actually nowhere near a lot of the places you probably had on your original itinerary, and now are asking yourself, “Is Berlin worth visiting??”
If you are here, then you are probably like me 12 years ago when I first moved to Germany plotting and scheming where all I was going to go. You wouldn’t believe my long list of little villages, half timbered towns, and even sea side villages that I was planning to explore to get “authentic” German experiences!
But Berlin? Nope. Wasn’t on that list!
After all, Berlin is a huge city (I’d always claimed myself to be “Not a big city” kind of person who much preferred quaint little cobblestone villages that oozed German vibes) and it often looked gritty and grungey.
It’s not “quintessentially” charming, like the Bavarian towns I was getting used to from living “down” here. And honestly, it was a bit “out of the way” from a lot of the other routes and places I had high on my list of places to visit in Germany.
But according to the official Berlin Tourism Board, Berlin
- Had 10.4 million visitors in 2022 (upwards of 14 million in pre-pandemic years)
- Is the third visited city in all of Europe (just after London and Paris)
Surely, 10 million people couldn’t be wrong, could they? So almost 4 years into living in Germany, the hubs and I decided if we were going to be expats in Germany, we probably should visit the capital and see if Berlin is worth visiting once and for all.
TL;DR: Yes. Berlin is 100% Worth Visiting
If you read no further, then you can just stop there. I’m a convert. I love Berlin.
I now have been to Berlin several times and each time I almost give the city a quiet little whispered apology of, “I’m so sorry Berlin for overlooking you!”
Even when my mom was planning her most recent visit to see me and asked what we should do during her time in Germany, I asked, “Do you think it’s time you go to Berlin?” I mean, she’s been to Germany 12 times and has NEVER visited Berlin! That just goes to show how hesitant people are to make their way to Berlin!
Berlin is Amazing For ALL Of the Following Types of Travelers! Including:
⌛ History Buffs (especially for the 1700s- present period including Napoleonic Impacts, WWI, WWII, Cold War)
🎨Art Lovers and Museum Enthusiasts
🎒 Quirky Travelers
It’s literally taken hundreds of years of a tumultuous (and often confusing) history to meld, mold, and form the vibrant cultural hub Berlin is today. And to truly enjoy the capital city, you need to deep dive into all its different and unique historical parts to really appreciate it’s open mindedness, the unique culturally diverse makeup and neighborhoods, and even to understand the lively nightscene that Berlin offers!
So, in this article, I’ll cover why I personally think that Berlin is a great place to visit on a trip to Germany as well as the top sights in Berlin that support experiencing these things.
- There is a huge variety of things to do in Berlin for all interests and types of travelers
- You can easily spend anywhere from 2-4 days in Berlin (and still not experience it all)
- Berlin’s history is quite a rollercoaster which has helped shape the uniqueness it has today
- The city has amazing “vibes”
- Don’t overlook Berlin too quickly
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You'll Find In This Article:
Top 10 Things To Do In Berlin (for those who aren’t sure if they should visit)
This list will be a hodgepodge of suggestions. Mostly because any “Top Things to See in Berlin” list is obviously going to either be
- Regurgitated from other lists (#thanksAI)
- Highly dependent on personal interests and likes (aka there is not one ultimate “10 Must Sees in Berlin” that is a one size fits all)
So, instead, I wanted to give a list of what I think are either the best things to do in Berlin OR the best THEMES of things to do (you’ll see what I mean as you read-so just trust me on this process)
Because to me, the reason why you visit Berlin isn’t so much about a one off museum or specific tourist site. It’s about how you feel when you walk away from Berlin as everything you experienced within the city shapes the outcome of your impression.
1) Catch a Cheap Flight Into Berlin (vs other Germany airports)
The reality is that most people visiting Germany want a “quintessential” tour of what they (possibly stereotypically) have envisioned Germany to be. The thing is that their “vision” of what “Germany is” isn’t entirely fabricated, but the reality is that it is much more likely to be seen in Southern Germany and definitely Bavaria. Which is why my 1 week Germany Itinerary for First Timers doesns’t include Berlin.
And then, after plotting out the other “must see” picture perfect Germany villages they realize just how far off their route and out of their Berlin is, which is why it so often gets slashed.
However, if you are looking for cheap flights to Germany, Berlin time and time again has some of the best prices and direct routes. (Munich Airport is notoriously expensive!) Even on time-crunched trips, if you are a budget traveler in Germany, it could well be worth at least looking into flying into Berlin. It now only takes 4 hours to get from Berlin to Munich on the high speed trains, so even if you didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the capital of Germany, you could jet on over to another region really fast and easily.
Insider Tip: I personally have been using “Scottt’s Cheap Flights/ Going” for years now which alerts me when unbeatable deals pop up and you need to act quick on. If you are willing to fly in/out of Berlin, it’s worth signing up for since I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Berlin have massively cheaper flights than other parts of Germany or even flash sales that I neer would have known of without the Going Alerts.
2) Berlin’s History is Quite the Rollercoaster
When I mentioned to my mom that we should go to Berlin and I mentioned “For the History” as a reason, she immediately said, “I feel like I’ve done enough of German history on all our trips.”
But what she REALLY saying/thinking was, “I’ve seen enough about World War II history.” And she’s not the only one. Most people get stuck there, too and totally forget just how convoluted the decades AFTER WWII was in places like Berlin.
Or they don’t even realize the rich history that took place right in Berlin in other time periods, like during the 1700s!
Most people coming to Germany are going to deep dive into World War II history while they are here for obvious reasons. There is almost no chance that you’ll visit a larger city and NOT learn about a piece of WWII while there.
And for many, solemnly visiting Dachau or Saschenhausen Concentration Camp near Berlin is a tough, but necessary experience. Just remember that WWII isn’t the only historical time period of importance here.
Where I Recommend Going For Berlin WWII History:
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews
- Topography of Terror
- Free Reichstag Tour (Book way ahead online though)
- This barely scratches the surface as there are WWII history everywhere but these are my “Must Sees”
But You Need to Go Beyond (and before) WWII History in Berlin!
But Berlin is sooo much more than WWII. Don’t get me wrong, Berlin’s WWII history is intense, and if it weren’t for what went down in Berlin during that time period, probably much of WWII wouldn’t have evolved the way it did. As the capital of Germany, this is where Hitler had most of his official government buildings, a personal bunker, held rallies, and even was the site of the famous “Nazi Book Burning” on the Babelplatz Square. You’d be remiss if you went to Berlin and tried to skip past learning about that time period and how Berlin shaped the world from WWII.
But we haven’t even touched on more of Berlin’s ancient past (there’s plenty, trust me!) and then there is the whole Cold War/ East Germany part of history that has completely altered the path of so much of not just Germany but Europe!
Berlin is a history buff’s oyster!
Where I Recommend Going to Learn More About Pre-WWII History in Berlin:
- Unter Den Linden: There is a fantastic “Under Den Linden” Walking Tour (DIY) in the Rick Steves Berlin Guidebook where he covers a lot of the following bullet points and goes into great detail about Frederick the Great (1700s) and the impact he had on Berlin, Germany, and arguably even Europe.
- Brandenburg Tor (Brandenburg Gate)
- The areas around Gendarmenmarkt, Bebelplatz, Humboltd University
The Cold War and Communism in Germany
Living in South Germany myself, I rarely see the “effects” of communism. But wow, what a different tune the song is in places that were once “East Germany.” But it makes sense- it was literally an entirely different country!
We’ve all heard of the Berlin Wall. And to be honest, this isn’t one of those “but seeing it is just different” kind of things. Because it’s not.
It’s literally just a (surprisingly small) wall that barely remains in places. In fact, most people say there were underwhelmed by it’s size in the few places that it actually still stands.
But holy cow, the whispers and stories that wall would tell if it could speak. What a confusing, twisting turn of events with sad, painful stories it would tell.
There is arguably no place better to truly get a feel for the Cold War period of Germany than in Berlin. From small, often overlooked details like the cute little Berlin “Ampelmännchen” street light figures, to the street cars mostly just on the East Berlin side all the way to the glaringly obvious and sometimes still raw and emotional scars of things like the Berlin Wall.
Where I Recommend Going For Berlin Wall History:
- Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) and all of it’s exhibits/ musems
- East Side Gallery
- Various Sections of the remaining wall today
Where I Recommend Going For Communism History in East Germany, DDR, and Cold War History in Berlin:
- Checkpoint Charlie
- DDR Museum
- Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears) Museum
- Berlin’s “Ghost Stations”
3) Berlin is NOT Like the Rest of Germany
I once heard that Berlin is the city that Germans go to if they don’t want to live in Germany and I literally laughed out loud because it’s so true.
Berlin is truly the “melting pot” of not just Germany, but often of much of Europe. For example, during the Cold War, the government saw an exodus of people from the areas along the wall. In an effort to keep people there, extremely low cost housing went up and with that came mostly an influx of hard working immigrants, struggling artists, and other similar people of diverse backgrounds that all melded together.
This really set the stage for the following and recent decades where Berlin has created an extremely diverse city in a country that is (honestly, but sadly) pretty homogenous.
🚫 Don’t come to Berlin if you are looking for Lederhosen, Oompah bands, and pretzels the size of your face.
✔️ Come to Berlin for diversity, open-mindedness, and to feel like you may not know which city you are in because you’ll hear just as much English, Vietnamese, Turkish, Italian, and other languages as you will German!!!
4) The “Vibes” and Culture of the City Are Unparalleled
Look, I’ll totally own up to my “millenial-ness” and talk about the “Vibes” of Berlin. Ok, it’s mostly just because I honestly don’t know how to put into words the “feeling” of Berlin.
Because of the unique diversity that has overtaken Berlin, it’s created this really amazing “Open Minded” culture that can just be “felt” almost everywhere. While these are still general, sweeping statements, I’ll say that it is still more true than in many other parts of both Europe and especially Germany. Gernally speaking, immigrants aren’t as looked down upon and diversity in all colors, genders, and ideas are celebrated. Being yourself is encouraged, speaking your truths is common, activism and challenging the status quo is popular, LGBQT+ is fully accepted….and I could go on.
And it’s all “felt” in Berlin. You “feel” it on the Ubahns (Subways). You “feel” it walking on the streets.
~ You SEE it when you look around and there are countless nationalities around you.
~ You HEAR it when a protest (which happens often) breaks out.
~ You TASTE it when you find out that there is any kind of food in the world available in Berlin.
And since we are covering all senses here apparently and because you know I’m always going to give you the honest truths about traveling in Germany….
~ You SMELL it because Berlin is actually built on top of a swamp (#TrueFacts)
Honestly…..it’s these reasons (well, minus the smells) that I love coming back to Berlin!!!!
Where I Recommend Going For Berlin “Vibes:
- Kreuzberg: This neighborhood is known as as a gritty, eclectic, forward-thinking section of Berlin
- Prenzlauer Berg: Also a popular neighborhood for “Berlin” vibes with cafes, etc
- Anywhere! From public transportation to just walking around!
5) Think “Artsy” “Alternative” and “Quirky”
This alone may put a lot of travelers to Germany off, but even those who have an initial knee jerk reaction to those adjectives and just immediately envision vegan hipsters wearing flannel shouting, “Climate Change Is Real!” (hmmm ok, that actually is kind of spot on for Berlin) you still shouldn’t write off Berlin just yet.
There is amazing street art everywhere giving the whole city just a different “look.” I mean, sure, by “Street Art” I may or may not mean the massive amounts of graffiti, but because there is so much, even the graffiti starts to take on an “Artsy” feel at times!
And then there’s legit, REAL street art, which also feels like it can be seen on every corner.
And of course, don’t forget about one of the most important street art projects the world has ever seen, The East Side Gallery where artists came and created beautiful murals on the Berlin Wall.
Where I Recommend Going For Berlin Street Art:
- East Side Gallery
- Street Art Tours
Alternative is the Norm
I mean “Alternative” in pretty much every concept possible here.
You want a milk alternative in your coffee? No problem (I’m only half joking when I say I think 80% of Berliners are Vegan!)
You are a proud LGBQT+ community member? You are welcome and celebrated.
Fancy a weird fetish? Berlin probably has it! I mean, it has more museums than I can count on one hand dedicated to things like the “Erotic Museum” or the “Schwules Museum” (which literally translates to “Gay Museum”).
Want to shave only half of your head and then dye the other half purple? Why not!
Want to really embrace the FKK (ahem…Freedom in Nudity) movement and sit in a city park completely bare-ass naked? Just another Sunday at the Berlin Tiergarten, my friends!!!
Want to walk out of the Sbahn carrying a portable microphone/speaker singing Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares to You?” Have at it (this actually happened to me getting off at the “Wedding” Sbahn station near where we were staying in the Berlin Downtown Apartments! My family only slightly rolled their eyes when I quietly joined in on the serenade event)
6) Berlin’s Nightlife is Bangin’
Or so I’m told.
Also, I’m pretty sure anyone who enjoys nightlife isn’t using the word, “Bangin” but whatever. I’m convinced I’m actually just an old feeble Gramma stuck inside a late 30 year old’s body at times.
Since I go to bed around 8:30pm many nights (I wish that was a joke) I actually know nothing about the nightlife scene in Berlin. But from what my friends who actually do act like people my age should act have told me, Berlin is an amazing place for people who like to go out, party, dance, hit the clubs, and do all the things one would do at any odd hour of the night.
I’ve heard the Berlin Nightlife described as “Free spirited” and even “Addicting.” Again, as someone who is more content with snuggling into my cow print pajama pants, hair up in a bun, sipping my own cheap glass of wine while I go down a doom scroll of Taylor Swift conspiracy theories on Tik Tok vs going clubbing I’ll just trust that words like “Surprising” or even “Addicting” are actually a good thing for night clubs?
FunFact: In many Berlin Nightclubs, phones (cameras) are not allowed. It started with Berghain, which is one of Berlin’s, if not the world’s, top techno night clubs and has spread not only within Berlin but globally as a refreshing way to experience night life.
Where To Go For Berlin Clubs:
- Since I clearly am not a clubber, here is a more official list from BerlinClubs.com
7) Getting Around Is (Mostly) Easy
Remember how I said earlier that I THOUGHT I was not a “Big City” kinda gal? I was wrong. And it was honestly Berlin that changed that opinion for me. Since then, I realized how much I actually LOVE big cities. I’ve since been to (and also now love) Prague, NYC, Bangkok, Istanbul, Hong Kong, and many more (yes, we love to travel beyond Germany as well)
Besides the diversity and amounts of things to do in these locations and being big cities, what all do they have in common?
Great Public Transportation!!!
Taking public transportation in a big city is awesome for so many reasons:
- You really get a feel for local life and people on a packed Ubahn!
- You can get around huge cities so fast
- I don’t have to deal with the stress of driving in a big city (or a foreign country!)
- It’s cheap!!!!
- It’s easy
And yes, Berlin’s great public transportation infrastructure is all those things, too.
For such a huge city, I found I could get myself (pretty much) anywhere within about 30 minutes (give or take) by using a combination of the:
- Sbahns (“Schnellbahn” or “Stadtschnellbahn”)- Can go above and underground and serves a large area and suburbs
- Ubahn (“Untergrundbahn”)- AKA the Subway, “Tube,” Underground, etc
- Trams/Street Cars
What Apps/ Resources To Use for Getting Around Berlin
- Whenever I am visiting Berlin, I get the Welcome Card each time it is well worth it!
- BVG App: This is the official Berlin Public Transportation App where you can get tickets (if you didn’t get the Welcome Card) or look up routes
- Google Maps: I honestly just use Google Maps the whole time I’m in Berlin. It gives time tables in real time and is great for knowing my options for getting around!
8) Cultural and UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Museums Galore
If you like “culture” and museums then Berlin is the place for you. According to Museum Portal Berlin, there are 209 museums in Berlin alone!!!!!
So unlike my false claim of “I’m not a big city girl,” I will actually stand behind my “I’m not a museum kind of person” statement.
Don’t get me wrong, there are museums in the world that I have enjoyed (and even sometimes recommend!) but overall, I’d rather be outside than inside a museum.
Maybe this also makes me uncultured, but things like art museums (yes, I’ve been to some of the most famous ones in the world) just aren’t my jam. And (again, not to sound like a millennial) but I actually kind of have this weird “moral” icky feeling when I go into museums that have ancient artifacts and relics that were basically stolen from those lands.
But, here on WIG I really do try to balance my own opinions with the reality that you all aren’t just like me (which is too bad because sometimes I feel like “LeAnnaville” is a pretty fun place to be). Therefore, I would be completely off target if I wrote an entire article on why you should visit Berlin and DIDN’T mention its ginormous list of museums and exhibits to see.
And to be honest, there are a few that I actually didn’t hate (ok ok, almost enjoyed, if not at least “got something out of”) in Berlin. For example, the DDR Museum wasn’t the best museum I’ve been to in my life, but was definitely a topic I needed to learn more about (and in a quirky interactive style didn’t hurt). The Topography of Terrors really helped me put Berlin in perspective to the WWII timeline and flow of events that happened. And the Berlin Wall Memorial is just simply a must because, well #BerlinWall
Where I Recommend Going For the Best Berlin Museums:
This is actually going to be HIGHLY variable on you, your interests, etc. There are SOOO many museums in Berlin, so make sure you look through them all to get an idea of what all your possibilities are. Here are some that either I have personally been to or ones that are always on the “top lists”:
- Anything on Museum Island (Pergamon, Alte Nationalgalerie, etc)
- My 7.5 year old LOVED the Spy Museum
- Other previously mentioned museums above (Topography of Terror, DDR museum, etc)
- Charlottenburg Palace
- 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!)
- 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.
9) It’s Affordable (Comparably)
Germany as a whole isn’t exactly a “Budget Destination” but it also isn’t insanely expensive like its next door neighbors Switzerland or Denmark either.
And when it comes to capital cities, Berlin is actually extremely affordable compared to other European capital cities like London, Paris, and Rome.
I’m not saying it’s going to be “cheap” at all (and prices have gone up substantially in recent years), but it is at still least within the range of reasonable prices! Especially when you compare it with what is needed to budget a day in London or Paris, Berlin is a winner in this category!
A dinner (with a drink) will probably cost around 12-20 Euro (depending on what/where), you can get a day pass for public transportation for roughly €10/day, and museum entrances will vary but still not feel like highway robbery.
10) It’s Great as a “Home Base” for Day Trips from Berlin
If you’ve been around WIG at all, you know I LOVE me a good “Home Base” for traveling. I prefer to find a town that I can semi unpack my bags in, even if it is just for a few days at a time. I spend the first few days really exploring the town I’m staying in and then spend the next few days taking easy and close by day trips to avoid too much “Hotel Hopping.”
And Berlin is ideal for this!!!
Some of the Best Day Trips From Berlin:
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial
- “Tropical Islands” Waterpark
- And so many more! (For those really adventurous even Leipzig and Hamburg can potentially even be Berlin Day Trip options!)
~ One of my favorite local travel blogs for Berlin, “BerlinTravelTips” has a great list of almost 30 Day Trips from Berlin.
What is Holding You Back from Visiting Berlin?
If you’ve gotten to the end of this article, then I’m assuming you were just like me originally and wondering what’s so great about Berlin, anyway? I hope that by reading my reasoning why I’ve personally enjoyed visiting Berlin each time I’ve gone up there helps you decide if Berlin should be on your next Germany itinerary.
But I’d still love to hear from you! Why are you on the fence about going to Berlin? Alternatively, have you been to the capital of Germany and feel that Berlin is totally overrated? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!