Things to do in Berlin
Berlin is massive. There’s so much to see and do in this exciting and progressive world city it would take you a lifetime to cover and then some! Since reunification, Germany’s capital has become known as a cultural hotspot and the site of one of Europe’s most important music, film and art scenes. Museums abound; in fact, there’s an entire island of them called, imaginatively enough, Museum Island, lying in the middle of the Spree. Here you’ll find 5 of Berlin’s most important museums including Neues (New) Museum, Altes (Old) Museum, Bode Museum, Pergamonmuseum and Alte Nationalgalerie. Other must-see museums include the Jüdisches (Jewish) Museum and Stasi Museum.
No matter what the season, Berlin has a plethora of festivals, events and celebrations. Check out the multicultural Karneval der Kulturen and Christopher Street Day pride parade for a showcase of the city’s diversity, or go traditional with gluhwein, lebkuchen and ornaments at the Christmas Markets and Berliner Märchentage (Fairytale Festival). Berlin also hosts huge industry events like Popkomm for music, Art Forum Berlin, and the Berlin International Film Festival and International Beer Festival.
One of the top places to visit in Berlin is continental Europe’s biggest department store Kaufhaus des Westens, known as KaDeWe, which attracts up to 50,000 shoppers a day. Other shopping districts to check out include Soto (South of Torstrasse), North Mitte and Kreuzberg. For outdoor browsing, markets offer everything from bric-a-brac and GDR kitsch to Turkish fare and organic produce.
While you’re outdoors, pack some goodies from the markets and jump on the S-Bahn to Grunewald – Berlin’s largest forest– for a picnic among freshwater lakes and a manmade hill. For manicured gardens, the huge, landscaped palatial surrounds of Schloss Charlottenburg date back to the 17th century. For our pick on what to see in Berlin, read on.
One of those ‘where were you when?’ type questions, the fall of the Berlin Wall that divided two halves of the German capital was a momentous event in the late-1980s and symbolised the end of the Cold War. See the remains at various spots around Berlin.
An iconic symbol of Berlin, the Brandenburger Tor has had a chequered past from its sculpture pilfered by Napoleon to joyous celebrations when the Berlin Wall came down. The imposing structure is also a popular site to welcome the New Year and watch the fireworks.
The best-known Berlin Wall border crossing between East and West Berlin, the guardhouse dubbed ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ by the Western Allies now resides in the Allied Museum, although you can check out the replica and visit the Checkpoint Charlie Museum at the original site.
Built to house the German Empire parliament in the 19th century, the Reichstag building was gutted by fire in 1933, abandoned during the Cold War and finally completely refurbed in the ‘90s. The historic building now has a clear rooftop dome for amazing panoramic city views.
The Berlin Zoo & Aquarium is one of the most popular sights in the city with almost 20,000 creatures from 1,500 species set among 24 hectares, while the onsite aquarium has 9,000 animals from 800 species. The off-site Tierpark is Europe’s largest zoo and another must-visit.