Berlin is insane! If you are planning a trip there, be prepared to have your mind blown by the amount of things to do in this city. I’m hoping my itinerary will help you figure out some of the basics, but there is a much more extensive list of things I wanted to do and didn’t have time for. You can’t experience the whole city in a weekend! Believe me, I’ve tried.
The first day was all about getting our bearings. My friend and I flew to Berlin with KLM on the morning of the first day. We travelled to our (insanely gorgeous!) hotel in Kurfürstendamm (H10 Berlin Ku’damm). We splurged a bit on this hotel, and I’m happy we did. I’m also happy we decided to stay in this area.
Even though it’s not close to any of the old town sights, there are delicious restaurants in the neighbourhood, good bars and clubs & and a convenient U and S Bahn which takes you all over the city in minutes.
Free Walking Tour
We decided to get our bearings by joining a free walking tour. We might be from the Netherlands, but there’s so much we didn’t know about the history of the city. The walking tour is a great way to learn more & to see all the major sights. We opted for the plain vanilla version of the walking tour, but there are many more flavours. If a certain time period interests you for example, you could also choose the Red Berlin Tour or the Third Reich Tour. I will probably squeeze in another walking tour the next time I visit the city.
So, what do you see on the plain vanilla tour?
The starting point of the tour is the Brandenburg Gate. Not a bad sight to start your day with, I would say.
Near the Brandenburg Gate you can find the Adlon Hotel. This is the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby son Blanket out of the window. I didn’t know that, that’s why I like walking tours.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The next stop is the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s controversial because some people don’t like the design, others don’t like that it only commemorates the Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and others are bothered by the recreational way in which some of the pillars are used. I’m one of those people. I didn’t like to see people crawling around on the pillars to take the “perfect” selfie. Luckily, there’s some joy in seeing security guards chasing people away.
The bunker where Hitler married Eva Braun and committed suicide is now a car park. It’s a good stop to learn more about the history of the second World War.
The former location of the Ministery of Aviation is one of few buildings in Germany which still show the Nazi architecture.
After the Soviets tooks over, they continued to use this building. They removed the enormous eagle and swastika and drew an 18m long mural depicting the Socialist ideal of happy East Germans facing a bright future as one big happy family.
A happy family it was not though. You can still see this image today, but on the street opposite of the mural you can see a photo of how the workers really felt. You can see them protesting due to the bad situation they were in.
Berlin is famous for it’s wall. The most heart-wrenching and beautiful piece of the wall is now home to the East Side Gallery which you can see in my post about the Street Art Tour. Plain pieces of the wall can be found almost everywhere as well. The part we saw during the tour is the one near the Topography of Terror.
When we passed the Trabi museum (East German car brand), our guide advised us to start watching our things.
We would be entering a Disney-esque sight with many tourists, which in turn attracts pickpockets. If there is any sight I would advise you not to see, it’s Checkpoint Charlie. I would go so far to tell you to meet the guide at the next stop instead of going here. This area is unlike anything I would expect in Germany. The shops on this street have fake banners, and there are actors posing as soldiers, as if the checkpoint is still in place. It’s bad taste, it’s touristy, and I’m not a fan. I only took one reluctant picture.
All the madness was quickly soothed by the tranquility and gorgeousness of Gendarmenmarkt square, which is home to the Konzerthaus and two churches. This is where Berlin most surprised me, I didn’t know there would be buildings like these.
It only got better after the Gendarmenmarkt. The buildings continued to look beautiful. Bebelplatz feels a bit bitter sweet though. The area itself looks gorgeous, but if you look closely you find a monument in the floor. This monument commemorates the thousands of books that were burned by the Nazi on this square.
If you think it can’t get better after Gendarmenmarkt & Bebelplatz, this again. The next sight was actually near Bebelplats, so we decided to walk there straight after the tour. The UNESCO Heritage listed Museuminsel (Museum Island), is in a league of its own. I don’t think I have seen a more gorgeous sight in Berlin than the Berliner Dom. It looks classical, it looks Orthodox (do you guys remember my Orthodox church addiction? Exhibit 1, exhibit 5667), it’s beautiful & I love it.
A great place to get a bird’s eye view of the city, is from the top of the church.
We didn’t visit any of the museums, but just walking around this area was an experience in itself. Next time I’ll definitely visit the museums, I’m a fan of the Antiquities and there are supposedly a lot of interesting artefacts to see here.
Street Art Tour
Don’t worry day 1 is not an indication of how long this post will be. Day 2 will be a short paragraph, as I’ve already written a post about it. I loved doing the street art tour on the second day, because it’s a walking tour which shows a completely different side of the city. It also shows a different mentality. The voice of the people, rather than politics.
Read the post here: Berlin – Street Art Tour
The third day was actually the hardest day in terms of deciding what to do. On a full day, there are so incredibly many things to do and see in Berlin. Almost everything sounds interesting; so how does one choose? We basically flipped a coin. Neither of us had ever seen a Stasi prison before, therefore we decided to visit the one here. That’s how we ended up at Hohenschönhausen.
Read the post here: Berlin – Visiting Hohenschönhausen: A Stasi Prison
Walking & Shopping
We only had a few hours to kill on the fourth day. Therefore, we decided to spend those hours shopping. Berlin is not just a good city for culture & history buffs, it’s also quite good for spending your hard-earned cash in the shops.
Before we went into the shops, we decided we couldn’t miss the Reichstag building. We didn’t book a tour to enter the dom, but we didn’t want to leave the city without checking out the building.
Then we walked through Tiergarten park, past Unter den Linden street, all the way across the river to die Hackeschen Höfe. I thought this area was built for seniors. I was wrong, but even though most people are super enthusiastic about the little courtyards with cafes and shops. I wasn’t impressed, and we left quite quickly without buying anything.
We ended up walking more than buying, because we decided to walk back to the hotel instead of taking public transportation. That way we also got a good look at Tiergarten park.
Conclusion & What Remains
This was everything I had seen during my four day trip. I don’t regret visiting any of the sights, and I hope they inspired you a bit as well. Berlin really is a special city, and deserves a visit. It has such a rich history, the people are incredibly friendly and the buildings and parks are gorgeous. These sights are on my to-do list for my next visit, so I’ll definitely be back:
- Berliner Dark Worlds Tour
- Reichstag Dome – don’t forget to book in advance
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp