Berlin has been on my ‘must visit’ list for a long time and I finally got the chance to go in mid November. There is so much to explore in Berlin, I wanted to put together a list of my must-dos to help anyone planning a trip…
1. Take a Fat Tire Bike Tour
Berlin is very spread out due to it’s former division into East and West, so cycling is one of the best ways to get around and see the city. The Fat Tire Bike Tour covers all of the key landmarks at a leisurely pace including a stop at a beer garden for lunch. Our guide Merren shared a wealth of information at each stop, I came away feeling like I had learned so much about the history of Berlin during the 4 hour tour.
2. Run or walk in Tiergarten
Tiergarten is the largest park in the city at 210 hectares; it was created from a former hunting reserve at the end of the 17th century and soon became a popular place for Berlin residents. The park is full of sculptures, lakes, monuments, gardens and trails making it a perfect place to run or walk. Tiergarten was at it’s best when we visited in Autumn with golden leaves falling from the trees and frost crunching underfoot.
3. Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) is a 4.7-acre site which is covered with 2711 concrete slabs or ‘stelae’ arranged in rows on an undulating surface. The installation was built by American architect Peter Eisenman and opened in 2005. The meaning of the memorial is open to interpretation by the individual, but the slabs are commonly thought of as unmarked graves. Walking between the slabs is like entering a maze and it’s easy to get lost and feel a sense of unease and claustrophobia. There is also an information centre containing the names of six million Jewish holocaust victims, but unfortunately this was closed when we visited.
4. Browse the shops at Bikini Berlin
Bikini Berlin is a concept shopping mall next to the zoo in the west side of the city. It’s full of an eclectic mix of fashion, furniture and lifestyle boutiques from independent brands and upcoming designers. After you’ve browsed the shops, grab a smoothie from ‘Funk You’ and watch the monkeys from the large windows overlooking the zoo enclosures.
5. Go up the Fernsehturm
The Berlin Television Tower (or Fernsehturm) is visible from almost every point in Berlin and stands as the tallest building in Germany at 368m. Construction finished in 1969 and it still operates today with over 60 radio and television programs broadcast via the antenna. The lift reaches an altitude of 200m in 40 seconds and it’s well worth going up to the observation deck for panoramic views across the city.
6. Walk along the East Side Gallery
The Berlin Wall divided the city into East and West between 1961 and 1989. After the wall was torn down, artists were invited to paint a remaining section of the wall alongside the River Spree. The East Side Gallery is covered with colourful murals and graffiti which have political or peaceful messages. It’s the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world and stands as a memorial for freedom.
7. Pop in to the Currywurst Museum
Currywurst is Berlin’s traditional streetfood dish which consists of a steamed, then fried pork sausage covered in curried ketchup. The museum is a fun look at the history of Currywurst with interactive exhibits and games. It’s very kitsch and light-hearted which makes a change from some of the more sombre sites in Berlin. We loved the sausage shaped sofa!
8. Learn more at the Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror is an exhibition documenting the history of the Nazi regime throughout Europe. The museum was built on the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters and the Reich Security Main Office. The documentation takes an in-depth look at the propaganda and methods of control which were used during the Nazi reign of terror. It’s quite an intense and harrowing experience, but very much worth visiting.
9. Wander around Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg
Friedrichshain is a trendy neighbourhood full of boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and nightclubs. On the opposite side of the river, Kreuzberg was inhabited by immigrants, hippies, artists and squatters during the time of the Berlin Wall. It still has an alternative vibe with entire buildings covered in graffiti. Spend an afternoon wandering around the streets soaking up the atmosphere.
10. Check out Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War. The name comes from this being the third crossing and Charlie being the third letter of the international spelling alphabet. It’s a popular tourist attraction now (with McDonalds and KFC right beside the guard house), but you can’t leave Berlin without seeing this iconic landmark.
Have you ever visited Berlin? What were your favourite things to do?