If you were to ask me “What is the most intriguing city in Europe?”, my answer would be simple: Berlin. No other city in Europe captured my attention as quickly as Germany’s capital. (And everyone I’ve brought along to Berlin with me seems to agree!)
Berlin is one of those rare European destination that seems to defy the continent’s reputation hosting stunningly beautiful cities. Sure, there’s plenty of stunning architecture, but that’s just a minuscule slice of what gets travellers excited about Berlin.
I’ve long maintained that if the twentieth century could name a capital, it would be Berlin. Germany’s capital was at the forefront of not one, but 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.
Aside from its historical significance, Berlin is just 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 and I guarantee, you’ll soon be craving to come back for more!
When to visit Berlin
Like the rest of Germany, Berlin sports a typical European continental climate characterized by hot & humid summer and cool winters. The spring and autumn fall somewhere between these two extremes.
Overall, 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 meaning 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 places to see & go. From art galleries & history museums to blissful churches & Cold War era installations, every traveller will find something tailored to their interests in Berlin.
If you choose to stick around for a couple extra days, there’s a handful of fantastic day trips from Berlin to fill out your itinerary. 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…
- Berlin Wall: Even if history books aren’t your first reading choice, there’s no way you could check out the Berlin Wall without imparting any feelings towards it. Although much of the wall has long been destroyed, the section on Niederkirchnerstraße near the Topography of Terror will give you a chilling sense of what the wall stood for. Be sure to also check out the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse for a re-creation of the typical watchtowers and “death strip” of the wall.
- East Side Gallery: One of the coolest open-air art galleries in the world, the East Side Gallery sits along a 1.3-kilometre section of the former Berlin Wall along Mühlenstraße. It features over 100 murals from renowned artists including the famous “Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel, depicting the “bromance” between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and the GDR’s Erich Honecker.
- Museuminsel: Located along the banks of the Spree, this island is home to some of Berlin’s best museums including the Altesmuseum (Greek & Roman antiquities), Neuesmuseum (ancient Egyptian artefacts), Bode-Museum (Byzantine art), Pergamonmuseum (Roman, Greek and Islamic art), and Alte Nationalgalerie (Romantic, Impressionist and Modern art).
- Berliner Dom: 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 and the Hohenzollern Crypt in the basement housing the remains of Central Europe’s most important former royal family.
- Nikolaiviertel: Berlin’s oldest quarter, Nikolaiviertel is one of the only places to get a sense of what Berlin may have been like in the pre-war era. It’s a fantastic quarter to walk around or grab a relaxing meal or weißbier along 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 is spread out over large area with a wide array of accommodations options available at every price range. Among the best areas to stay in Berlin are:
- Mitte: The central-most district in Berlin that’s the perfect place for first-time travellers and anyone with limited time for sightseeing. Many of the top attractions in Berlin are found in & around the area. Mitte’s central location means that the accommodations prices here are among the highest in Berlin.
- Kreuzberg: Not far from Mitte, Kreuzberg is one of the city’s hippest districts. It’s the perfect choice for traveller looking for a more “local” vibe than Mitte with some superb restaurants and alternative attractions nearby.
- Charlottenberg: A district in West Berlin that’s the best place to stay in Berlin for travellers looking for a quieter alternative to the central districts. It’s also one of the best places to shop in Berlin.
- Prenzlauer Berg: More residential than many central neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg might be the best district to stay in Berlin for foodies & families. The restaurant selection is varied and there are plenty of green parks for the kids to expend some energy.
Transportation in Berlin
By air: There are two main international airports serving the city: Berlin Tegel (TXL) and Berlin Schönefeld (SXF). The larger of the two airports, Tegel, carries most of the air traffic from international destinations. Some of 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.
By train: 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 to Berlin (4h14m)
- Frankfurt to Berlin (4h8m)
- Krakow to Berlin (8h37m)
- Prague to Berlin (4h36m)
By U-Bahn: 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.