The best things to do in Berlin
Our favourite things to do in Berlin
Having briefly visited Berlin in our Top 5 Bank Holiday getaways blog, we thought, as it is such an amazing City, packed with so much to do and see, we should really re-visit it and do a full list of our favourite things to do in Berlin.
And given flights from Glasgow Airport to Berlin take so little time, we don’t think there are many better places to go for a long weekend break in Europe.
On top of that, Airport Park and Ride provides you with the best prices, on the most secure, Park Mark awarded airport car parks in Glasgow, so what’s stopping you? Pack it, book it and do the Peter Kay.
The seat of the German Parliament is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks. With good reason, too; not only is it a stunning feat of architecture, it is also steeped in history.
In 1933 the building burnt down, under shady circumstances – with the Nazis blaming the Communists, and the Communists blaming the Nazis – allowing Hitler to invoke emergency powers and claim absolute authority over the country.
In 1945, during the Battle of Berlin, the Soviet Union concentrated a huge amount of man power to capture the Reichstag – Stalin viewed it as the symbol of Nazi authority – and in doing so, left the building practically levelled.
Continuing into the Cold War and the division of Germany into East and West, the Reichstag remained abandoned.
After the reunification of the country, in 1990, Berlin was restored to its historic role as the capital city of Germany, and the Reichstag was restored as the seat of power and a symbol of democracy. A new central dome was added by the architect, Sir Norman Foster – to symbolize transparency and try and distance the building, and leadership within it, from the dictatorial element of its past.
You can take a guided tour of the Reichstag, when Parliament isn’t sitting, but try to book in advance to avoid the queues. You can even enjoy lunch in the rooftop restaurant. The Reichstag is a definite must see, if you’re in Berlin.
The East Side Gallery
Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, more than 100 artists from around the world, turned the longest remaining stretch of the Wall into an open-air gallery, covered in declarations of peace and other politically inspired murals.
A colourful and inspirational ode to freedom, the East Side Gallery, sitting alongside the Spree River, is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon in Berlin.
If Cold War history is your thing, you can’t visit Berlin without taking a trip to Checkpoint Charlie; the main entry point for anyone wanting to cross the Iron Curtain, during the division of Berlin, and Germany.
It’s also the spot where Russian and American tanks lined up to face each other, in 1961, in what, at the time, people thought was the start of another war.
Checkpoint Charlie, as it is today, comes with border guards outside and a museum – the Mauer Museum – full of memorabilia, exhibits and tales of escapees.
The most you’ll pay for admission is €12.50. We think that Checkpoint Charlie is a must visit.
Enjoy the food markets
The Berlin food markets serve up a tantalising range of treats. From gourmet cooking to rustic farmer’s markets, you’re bound to find something that meets your fancy.
Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg, has a decidedly artisanal feel, and takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays. The Turkish Market – Tuesdays and Fridays – is by far the most colourful, and can be found alongside the canal, in Kreuzberg.
Further fun can be had at the Markthalle Neun, a historic market hall, that is home to local grocers, butchers and farmers on Fridays and Saturdays, but also houses a wonderful carnival of international street food, on a Thursday.
Finally, it would be tantamount to blasphemy to visit Berlin and not partake in a classic currywurst; an institution in Berlin, it’s a classic bratwurst lathered in a combination of ketchup and curry powder.
Museum Island, situated on the river Spree, plays host to five adjacent museums (Pergamonmuseum, Bodemuseum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum) that, collectively, hold Unesco World Heritage status.
Each museum will probably need around half a day dedicated to its exploration, but they’re all well worth the visit. From the extensive collection of Ancient Near East and Islamic art at the Pergamon Museum to the fantastic collection of Egyptian and Classical artefacts at the Neues Museum and the sculpture collection at the Bode Museum, there is something for everyone on Museum Island.
You can either buy tickets individually, or buy a combination ticket for all five museums. Failing that, it’s also a lovely place to go for a walk and admire the architecture of the buildings from the outside.
Probably the most iconic and recognisable land mark in all of Berlin, if not Germany, the Brandenburg Gate was erected in 1791 as the Royal gate to the city and is topped by a magnificent sculpture of the goddess of victory riding a chariot.
In 1806, the invading army of Napoleon stole the sculpture from the top of the gate and took it back to Paris, where it remained until it was retrieved by the Prussians, in 1814. Reagan stood behind it whilst calling for Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”, and Michael Jackson’s infamous balcony-baby incident happened around the corner from it.
The best way to see the Brandenburg Tor is to wander down Unter den Linden, towards it, perusing the chestnut trees, shops, theatres and museums that line your path, before finally coming upon the magnificent structure itself.
The Gate features a Room of Silence, created specifically for visitors to enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation and reflection, and a dedicated museum, in which you can learn a detailed history of the Brandenburg Gate.
A symbol of German national identity, freedom and reunification, the Brandenburg Gate is a stunning sight, that no trip to Berlin is complete without.
A fascinating den of courtyards, perfectly restored, in central Mitte, the Hackescher Höfe is a great place to have an afternoon coffee, pick up a distinctive gift for your family at home, or shop for the indie fashion of Berlin.
If you’re looking to do something a little different whilst you’re in Berlin, this is a great place to start.
Berlin is home to Europe’s largest department store, the Kaufhaus des Westerns (KaDeWe). It stocks a huge range of designers and, on the sixth floor, has a simply mouth-watering selection of delis, butchers, patisseries, and grocers with plenty of prepared foods to take away. The Oyster Bar is a perfect mid-shop pitstop, and on the level above, there is a magnificent glass-roofed restaurant, with a view of Wittenbergplatz.
In addition to KaDeWe, Berlin plays host to a seemingly infinite number of independent boutiques and small shops situated around Torstraße and Mulackstraße. There’s vintage aplenty in Prenzlauer Berg.
If big name designer stores are your thing, then Friedrichstraße is the place for you.
If shopping is what you’re after, you won’t go short of things to do in Berlin.
Immerse yourself in the club scene
Berlin knows how to party. There are no two ways about it, from the vast beer halls, to the techno and trance clubs, the party scene in Berlin is non-stop!
If you’re after an all-night techno rave, head to Panorama Bar, on the border between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. Many will tell you that this club is the holy grail of European techno.
If you’re more into underground house, then Salon Zur Wilden Renate is the place for you; with three main rooms, and a veritable maze of smaller rooms tucked away around this labyrinthine, underground adventure playground.
Another hotspot for house is Watergate. The downstairs floor is especially interesting, with panoramic windows looking directly out on to the river Spree and a floating deck terrace, from whence you can watch the sun rise over Kreuzberg.
Visit Charlottenburg Palace
Situated at the western end of the city, the beautiful palace and gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg looks not dissimilar to the Palace of Versailles.
It was originally built by Friedrich I, the first king of Prussia, as a summer retreat for Queen Sophie-Charlotte, it was then named after her, following her death in 1705.
After sustaining damage in WWII, the palace has been restored to its original glory and is the last surviving palace that belonged to the Hohenzollem family and is also the only royal residence inside Berlin.
Inside, probably the most striking area, is the Neue Flügel – New Wing – a suite of lavish Rococo state apartments, built by Friedrich I’s successor, Friedrich the Great. The New Wing includes the Golden Gallery – unsurprisingly drowning in gilt. But also, the sharp contrast provided by the classical winter chambers of the palace’s third occupant, Friedrich Wilhelm.
The gardens are modelled on the decadent style of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, and provide the perfect place for a romantic wander with your other half.
Potsdam isn’t technically in Berlin, but is only 30 minutes away, and makes a great day trip. Potsdam is the capital city of Brandenburg.
Located right on the river Havel, Potsdam is home to a character-filled two-street Dutch Quarter, containing distinctive Dutch houses, modelled from red brick. You’ll also find Schinkel’s Roman Baths, the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, and, of course, the truly mind-blowing Schloss Sanssouci – which was the residence of the Prussian Kings until 1918.
No checklist of things to do in Berlin, or indeed, trip to Berlin is truly complete without a visit to Potsdam.
The first of a simply staggering number of concentration camps established by Himler, after he became Chief of the German Police, Sachsenhausen was built in 1936. The design became the model for all other camps built during WWII.
More than 200,000 people were imprisoned at the camp between 1936 and 1945, tens of thousands of whom died from the starvation, forced labour, disease and systematic extermination they had to endure during their stays. Thousand more then died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp in 1945.
All of this is well documented inside the camp, large areas of which have been rebuilt, to demonstrate exactly what it would have been like to be a guest during the war.
Following the liberation of Sachsenhausen, the Soviet Secret Police once more turned it into a prison, overseeing untold death and desolation for a further five years.
The museums and archive areas of the camp don’t open on Mondays, but the open-air exhibitions and visitor centre are open every day, and admission is free.
Airport Park and Ride
There’s so much more to Berlin than we could possibly cover here, hence why it has made it into two of our blogs – it’s a must visit European destination.
And remember, when you’re flying from Glasgow to Berlin, Airport Park and Ride has the best selection of Park Mark awarded Glasgow airport car parks that you’ll find. So, however you prefer to do your airport parking, whether it’s park and ride, or meet and greet parking you’re after; simply log onto www.airportparkandride.com, pick your car park, and off you go, safe in the knowledge that your car is being looked after. Airport parking made simple.