If you asked me “What’s the most intriguing city in Europe?”, my answer would be simple: Berlin. No other city in Europe captures the attention quite like Germany’s capital. (And everyone I’ve brought along to Berlin with me seems to agree!)
Berlin is a rare European destination that defies the Europe’s reputation for stunning cities. Sure, there’s plenty of of beautiful architecture to behold. But it’s a minuscule slice of what gets travellers excited about Berlin.
I’ve often said in the past: if the twentieth century could name a capital, it would be Berlin. Germany’s capital was at the forefront of two mega events in modern history: the end of World War II and the fall of the communism in Europe. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a history buff, its importance to the modern era alone makes Berlin a must-see in Europe.
Put its historical significance aside. Still, Berlin is, flat-out, one of the world’s most interesting cities. It hosts one of Europe’s tastiest dining scenes, edgy nightlife, and some of the most eye-catching street art on the planet. Get lost in the tapestry that is Berlin. I guarantee, you’ll soon be craving to come back for more.
Ready to visit Berlin? Start planning your trip with this Berlin travel guide…
When to visit Berlin
Like the rest of Germany, Berlin sports a typical European continental climate. It’s characterized by hot & humid summer and cool winters. The spring and autumn fall somewhere between the two extremes.
The best time to go to Berlin is late spring or early autumn, particularly the months of May and September. Both of these months offer warm & comfortable weather conditions without the sticky heat & humidity of summer. They also fall within the tourism shoulder season. In these months, you’ll enjoy smaller crowds and cheaper accommodations prices on average.
What to do in Berlin
As one of the most intriguing cities in Europe, there are plenty of fun things to do in Berlin. Although the German capital isn’t known for expressing its beauty outwardly, you won’t run out of things to see & places to go. You’ll stumble upon art galleries & history museums. You’ll find blissful churches & Cold War era installations. Every traveller will find something tailored to their interests in Berlin.
Want to stick around for a couple extra days? There’s a handful of fantastic day trips from Berlin to fill out your itinerary, too. The quick & easy German rail system puts a ton of cool excursions at your fingertips.
Want to get started on planning what to do? Here are a few of the best places to visit in Berlin…
History books aren’t your first reading choice? Even so, it’s impossible to visit the Berlin Wall without imparting feelings towards it. Although much of the wall has long been destroyed, there are still a few sections visible.
Visit the section at Niederkirchnerstraße near the Topography of Terror. It’ll give you a chilling sense of what the wall stood for. Aso ve sure to also check out the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse. The memorial features a re-creation of the wall’s watchtowers and “death strip.”
East Side Gallery
Want a different look at the wall? The East Side Gallery sits along a 1.3-kilometre section of the former Berlin Wall along Mühlenstraße. Don’t expect a boring slab of concrete here. It isn’t your typical wall section, it’s one of the most interesting open-air art galleries in the world.
The East Side Gallery features over 100 murals from renowned artists. The most famous painting here is “Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel. The mural depicts the budding “bromance” between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and the GDR’s Erich Honecker. With text “My god, help me survive this deadly love,” the painting is quite powerful.
Located along the banks of the Spree, Museuminsel is home to some of Berlin’s best museums.
The museums on Museuminsel include:
- Altesmuseum (Greek & Roman antiquities)
- Neuesmuseum (ancient Egyptian artefacts)
- Bode-Museum (Byzantine art)
- Pergamonmuseum (Roman, Greek and Islamic art)
- Alte Nationalgalerie (Romantic, Impressionist and Modern art)
Looking for beautiful architecture in Berlin? The Berliner Dom is one of the city’s most picturesque buildings. This early-20th-century cathedral is a must-see for any visitor to Berlin.
Besides the cavernous main chapel, be sure to check out the dome’s observation deck. It offers spectacular views over Berlin Mitte. The Hohenzollern Crypt in the basement is also worthy of a strop. The crypt house the remains of Central Europe’s most important former royal family.
During WWII, much of central Berlin was destroyed. Nikolaiviertel is one of the only places to get a sense of what Berlin may have been like in the pre-war era. Founded in the 13th century, it’s Berlin’s oldest quarter.
Although much of Nikolaiviertel is a reconstruction, it’s a fantastic quarter to wanker around. Pop into one of its traditional German restaurants to grab a relaxing meal or weißbier on the banks of the Spree.
Where to stay in Berlin
As with any large German city, choosing where to stay in Berlin can sometimes be challenging. The city spreads out over large area. You’ll find a wide array of accommodations options available at every price range. Among the best areas to stay in Berlin are:
Mitte is the central-most district in Berlin. It’s the perfect place for first-time travellers and those with limited time for sightseeing.
Many of the top attractions in Berlin are found in & around the area. With Mitte’s central location, accommodations prices are among the highest in Berlin.
Not far from Mitte, Kreuzberg is one of the city’s hippest districts. In recent years, it’s become a popular locale for young Berliners to move to.
Kreuzberg is the perfect choice for travellers looking for a more “local” vibe than Mitte. The districts teems with some superb international restaurants. You’ll also find plenty of alternative attractions, including Berlin’s coolest street art.
Charlottenburg is an upscale district in West Berlin. It’s the best place to stay in Berlin for travellers looking for a quieter alternative to the central districts.
The area is also one of the best places to shop in Berlin. Charlottenburg is home to the largest department store in Europe (KaDeWe). Its main avenue, Kurfürstendamm, is chock-loaded with boutiques and restaurants.
Prenzlauer Berg is more residential than many central Berlin neighbourhoods. It’s the best district to stay in Berlin for foodies & families.
The restaurant selection in Prenzlauer Berg is fantastic. There are also plenty of green parks for the kids to expend some energy.
Transportation in Berlin
There are two main international airports serving the city: Berlin Tegel (TXL) and Berlin Schönefeld (SXF). Tegel is the larger of the two airports. It carries most of the air traffic from international destinations.
Some major airlines flying into Berlin include easyJet, British Airways, Ryanair, and Eurowings. A new international airport, Berlin Brandenburg (BER), is slated to open in 2020.
From other German and European destinations, one of the best way of getting to Berlin is by train. Some of the most popular routes into Berlin (fastest journey times listed) include:
- Munich (4h14m)
- Frankfurt (4h8m)
- Krakow (8h37m)
- Prague (4h36m)
For most travellers, getting around Berlin by U-Bahn is the most convenient option. The U-Bahn covers nearly every neighbourhood you’ll want to explore in Berlin.
Single ride tickets cost between €2.80 and €3.40 depending on the distance. If you’re planning to ride more than two times in a day, the €7.00-€7.70 Tageskarte (day pass) is the best option.