Got a quick layover in Germany’s capital? Even if you’re jammed for time, there’s plenty to experience with only 24 hours in Berlin. From its WWII and Cold War history to its cultural attractions, Berlin is stacked with plenty of fun and interesting places—many easily accessible on foot or via the efficient U-bahn—to fill a busy day of sightseeing. Whether you’re after cool architecture, museums, or street art, explore one of the most fascinating cities in Europe with this complete 1-day Berlin itinerary!
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What to do in Berlin in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Etch your first impressions at Alexanderplatz
There’s no better place to start your first day in Berlin than Alexanderplatz. A major public space in the former East Berlin, Alexanderplatz is home to one of the city’s most defining landmarks, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower).
When you visit the Fersehturm, a massive 360-degree panorama awaits. To zip up the speedy lift, you’ll need to be willing to cough up a somewhat steep entrance fee. The cheapest tickets start at €22.50 to €28.00 for the fast view option, so it’s not exactly ideal if you’re visiting Berlin on a budget.
Walking west through Alexanderplatz, superb city views present themselves at every angle. The beautiful St. Mary’s Church and Neptunenbrunnen (Neptune Fountain) frame the perspective. These attractions form a picturesque scene as you wander about, soaking up your first impressions of the German capital.
Peek behind the Iron Curtain at the DDR Museum
Through Alexanderplatz and the Marx-Engels Forum, it’s less than a 10-minute walk to the DDR Museum. This engaging peek behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany is one of Berlin’s must-see attractions, even if you only have one day in Berlin.
Whenever I travel to Central Europe & Eastern Europe, I can’t get enough of Cold War museums. And the DDR Museum is one of the best I’ve visited.
The museum immerses you in the full DDR experience. You can grip the steering wheel of a Trabi. You can let the sounds of East German music beat against your eardrums in DDR-era model rooms. You can endure a mock Stasi interrogation or see propaganda posters and watch sporting event replays. It’s like “Goodbye Lenin!” coming to life!
Want to avoid the queue at this popular museum? I’d recommend picking up some Skip-the-Line DDR Museum Tickets before you go to save some time.
View Berlin from above—and below—at the Berliner Dom
Cross the River Spree from the DDR Museum. Continue by entering the cavernous Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral). This famous church in the middle of Mitte has had a storied past, to say the least.
Since the 15th century, the grounds here have been a site of worship. The current Berliner Dom is a reconstruction of the fourth reincarnation of the site’s church.
The cathedral was finished in 1905 and restored after WWII. The Berliner Dom is a stunning example of Neo-Renaissance and Prussian historicist architecture.
Inside, you can admire the incredible frescos, arches, and pillars. But this isn’t where your Berliner Dom adventure ends.
Power upstairs to the cathedral’s Dome Walkway. Atop the dome, you’ll enjoy fantastic panoramic views over Berlin. Or sink down to the Hohenzollern Crypt. Here, you’ll see one of Europe’s most important royal burial places. The crypt is bedecked with late-Gothic-style coffins and monuments.
Peruse to your heart’s desire on Museuminsel
Berliner Dom sits on an island alongside Berlin’s biggest concentration of museums. The aptly named Museuminsel (Museum Island) is a dream for travelers who love art & antiquities.
The museums you’ll find on Museuminsel include:
- Altes Museum: Built between 1825 and 1830, this museum specializes in Greek & Roman antiquities. Its beautiful Neoclassical design is also worth a gander.
- Neues Museum: Dating back to 1855, this “newer” museum features a massive collection of 9,000 works of Egyptian art and artifacts.
- Pergamonmuseum: Focusing on Greek & Roman art, this once-popular Berlin museum has closed temporarily for renovations. Unfortunately, it’s not expected to re-open for more than a decade.
Although not on the island, the strong>Deutsches Historisches Museum—focused on German history—also lies just beyond. You could spend the entire day perusing the collections. But with only one day in Berlin, you’ll want to limit yourself. More action awaits!
Built up an appetite? Detour back over the river towards Hackescher Markt for a snack. The distinctive red brick S-Bahn station and square below offer plenty of eating options, from traditional German to Vietnamese. It’s a quick & interesting glimpse into pre-WWI Berlin.
Wander along Unter den Linden
From Museuminsel, stroll down East Berlin’s most famous thoroughfare, Unter den Linden, to push on with your 24 hours in Berlin.
Unter den Linden is named after the trees that shade its pedestrian pathways. The avenue has graced the city since the mid-17th century. There are plenty of interesting architectural distractions along the way. Keep on the lookout for the stately Kronprinzenpalais and Berlin State Opera.
Within a 20-minute walk, you’ll complete the less-than-two-kilometre stretch. At its apex, you’ll reach the most distinctive landmark in the city, Brandenburg Gate. The gate has hung around Berlin since the late 18th century. It’s provided the backdrop for some of the mega events of modern German history and is a must-see on any European itinerary for history buffs.
Anyone alive during the Cold War will remember Brandenburg Gate on newscasts. It was here that Reagan demanded that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall. And it was flickering in the background as the Wall fell and East and West Germany reunited. Clinging to these images and seeing where it all took place will make any visit here impactful.
At Brandenburg Gate, you’re also face-to-face with Berlin’s other most recognized landmark—even if you won’t immediately realize it. The former Berlin Wall ran through Pariser Platz, the square in front of Brandenburg Gate. It was left firmly in West Berlin while (roughly) the rest of Unter den Linden rolled into the East.
While you won’t see any of the Wall here, don’t worry: it’s coming!
Pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial
Cross back into the East, walking south along Ebertstraße where the Berlin Wall once stood. One block from Pariser Platz lies one of the most somber attractions in the German capital, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the site is quite unusual.
Over 2,700 concrete slabs are set over a city block at varying heights. As you immerse yourself in the monument, the ground slopes downward. The deceivingly large concrete pillars soon soar well above your head.
However you interpret the Holocaust Memorial’s meaning, be sure to treat it with respect. Far too many visitors forget and have used it as a parkour training ground or background for selfies.
(Read this interesting story for an idea of how bad this became and what one author is doing about it.)
Relive the Cold War at the former Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie
From the Holocaust Memorial, continue walking along Ebertstraße to Potsdamer Platz. Pause at Potsdamer Platz to seek out the few small graffiti-laden sections of the Berlin Wall. Continue south towards Niederkirchnerstraße.
Turn left and walk east along Niederkirchnerstraße. Soon, you’ll find one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall in the city. The Niederkirchnerstraße swath runs between the Topography of Terror and Wilhelmstraße.
Not far away from here lies East and West Berlin’s most infamous border station, Checkpoint Charlie. I’ll admit: the area around Checkpoint Charlie has become increasingly kitschy since my first visit almost two decades ago.
Nevertheless, I still love returning to Checkpoint Charlie whenever I’m here to imagine it during the Cold War. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a Cold War fanatic.)
Pop into the Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie for a deeper look into the East German border security system.
Dabble into the city’s gritty side in Kreuzberg
Not long ago, hardly any Berlin itinerary would have included Kreuzberg. Times are a-changin’. Along with Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg is one of the hippest neighborhoods in one of the world’s must-see cities. Why not see what all the fuss is about?
From Checkpoint Charlie, the heart of Kreuzberg is a short 20-minute walk via Rudi-Dutschke Straße and Oranienstraße. Among the best things to do in Kreuzberg is scoping out some of Berlin’s coolest street art. You’ll also love popping your head into vintage shops to beef up your record collection and wardrobe. Weave in and out of the streets off of Oranienstraße to dig into the district even deeper.
Worked up a hearty appetite? Test out Kreuzberg’s culinary scene. The area is popular among Berliners for its diverse cultural fabric; some of the city’s tastiest restaurants and street food await.
For a quick and filling snack, drop into Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36) for some of its renowned currywurst. Or give Tadim (Adalbertstraße 98) a try. This Turkish restaurant deals out yummy döner kebabs and lahmacun that’ll always leave you craving more.
Slip back into the Cold War at the East Side Gallery
Still got mileage left on your walking shoes? From Kreuzberg, it’s a 30-minute walk to one of Berlin’s most compelling attractions, the East Side Gallery. A quick U-bahn ride from Kreuzberg’s U-Kottbusser Tor or U-Görlitzer to U-Warschauer Straße will make the trip in less than 10 minutes.
Following the reunification of Germany, artists from both sides of the border (and from around the globe) banded together here. They wanted to express with joy and optimism of the changing of the times. The result was the East Side Gallery.
This open-air art gallery is painted on sections of the former Berlin Wall. It’s one of the world’s largest of its kind. Much of what remains at the East Side Gallery are restorations. The originals have deteriorated over the years due to vandalism and natural damage.
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Even if they don’t hold a candle to the originals, the feeling remains the same. No tourist attraction captures the euphoria of the fall of the wall and the collapse of communism in Europe better.
While at the East Side Gallery, look to the southeast to Oberbaumbrücke. This landmark is the most recognizable bridge in Berlin. It shows up distinctive Brick Gothic towers that give it an undeniable Eastern European feel.
Step back into old Berlin at the Nikolaiviertel
There’s no better place to end your Berlin layover than at the Nikolaiviertel. It’s hard to imagine Berlin before World War II; there are but a few pockets of architecture left to speak to the past of this grand city. Nikolaiviertel, the reconstructed quarter of Old Berlin, is the most compelling of them.
Age in Nikolaiviertel is deceiving. On the surface, it appears as if medieval Germany has come back to life on the narrow alleyways.
Truth is, much like the rest of Berlin, Nikolaiviertel lacks the authentic origins of other European old towns. The 1980s reconstruction is nonetheless impressive. Nikolaiviertel buzzes with activity, and it’s a great place for dinner and a nightcap.
For a traditional and hearty German dinner (or even just a beer) with a view, pop into the popular Brauhaus Georgebrau on the banks of the Spree. Other popular spots to eat & drink in the area include Zur Gerichtslaube (Poststraße 28), Zum Paddenwirt (Nikolaikirchplatz 6), and Zum Nußbaum (Am Nußbaum 3).
Where to stay on a Berlin layover
The German capital is one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe. You’ll need to choose where to stay in Berlin well ahead of time to snatch up the best rooms. For this 1-day Berlin itinerary, I’d recommend staying around Mitte. It’ll allow you to get front and center to all the action. Here are a couple of the great hotels to start your search:
- Arte Luise Kunsthotel: This stylish hotel features unique artistic decor and a whole lotta pizazz. It’s located just 10 minutes from Brandenburg Gate.
- Boutique Hotel i31 Berlin Mitte: This sleek modern hotel rests upon hip designs and a quiet location close to the Nordbahnhof. The garden terrace provides a pleasant escape from the big city.
- Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin: This world-renowned 5-star hotel peers out upon Brandenburg Gate from its palatial rooms. It offers the ultimate in classic European luxury. You’ll love everything from the neoclassical indoor pool to its double Michelin-starred restaurant.
Getting to Berlin
Berlin is served by the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER). Several major airlines fly into BER from destinations worldwide. Options include Lufthansa, easyJet, Eurowings, and Ryanair.
From the United States, return fares can run as low as $450 to 500 in the low season. Fares from Canada are a little more expensive at about C$750 to 800. Flights from elsewhere in Europe are much cheaper.
More 1-day Berlin itinerary ideas
- Want a relaxing evening on the water? Embark on an evening cruise along the Spree and see Berlin’s best architecture from a different vantage point.
- Need more of Berlin from above? Cruise up the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) for epic 360-degree views of the city.
- Money burning a hole in your pocket? Shop till you drop at Potsdamer Platz, on Friedrichstraße, or along Kurfürstendamm in Charlottenburg.
- Craving more of the Wall? Take the U-bahn up to Bernauer Straße and visit the Berlin Wall Memorial. Pop over to the nearby Mauerpark, a buzzing green space on the former border of West and East Berlin.
- Stomach growling? Head up to Oderberger Straße in the Prenzlauer Berg district for a tasty selection of ethnic restaurants.