Berlin is an incredible place. I know as a German I might be slightly biased, but rarely have I visited a city so rich in history, culture and human stories. It has survived through many unimaginably challenging eras in German history, and emerged as the vibrant, artistic, free and inspiring place it now is.
You could spend weeks in Germany’s capital and wouldn’t get bored. So where to start when you only have a few days?
Here are a few ideas of what to do during a weekend in Berlin
The German Reichstag, located at the Platz der Republik, has been the seat of the German parliament since 1999, but was first opened in 1894 when it housed the Imperial Diet of the German Empire.
The iconic glass dome of the German Reichstag was designed by British architect Norman Foster. The futuristic mirror cone on the inside directs light into the parliamentary chamber below and allows visitors a glimpse at what’s going on.
It’s free to visit but you need to register either online or at the box office.
Not far from the Reichstag is the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), built in the 18th century. Images of the residents of both parts of divided Berlin tearing down the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 1989 went around the world. Now it is a world famous symbol of peace and unity.
The Siegessäule (victory column) is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and commemorates the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war in the 19th century.
Schloss Charlottenburg, built in 1699, is the largest palace in Berlin. Large gardens with a belvedere, a pavilion, a mausoleum and a theatre stretch out behind the Palace. Parts of the old and new palace as well as the grounds are open to the public.
The Holocaust Memorial
The Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe commemorates the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and the millions of people persecuted by the Nazi regime. The memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of different sizes spread over a 19,000 square metre site, as well as a museum, all of which visitors can explore freely.
Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) commemorates the division of the city by the Berlin Wall with a large open air exhibition. The remains of the original wall and border strip are silent witnesses of the atrocious history and numerous deaths that occurred here.
The former border crossing into the Soviet sector at Checkpoint Charlie is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin and the scene of many successful, and sadly unsuccessful, attempts to escape to the West. The Checkpoint Charlie museum (Mauermuseum) is dedicated to telling these tragic and inspiring stories.
Stasi Prison Berlin-Hohenschönhausen
In the 1950s, the East German Ministry for State Security established the former Soviet prison at Berlin-Hohenschönhausen as its central remand prison where over 11,000 people were incarcerated and endured relentless psychological torture. Former prisoners lead the guided tours through the prison, an experience that is incredibly moving, horrifying and memorable. English tours are available.
The Television Tower was built in the 1960s and provides fantastic views over the city from 203 metres height.
Thanks to Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel with the same title, Berlin Alexanderplatz is the city’s most famous public square. At its centre is the World Clock (Weltzeituhr) sculputure. The nearby headquarters of the city police is also known as the Red Castle, due to its striking façade.
East Side Gallery
Stretching along 1,316 metres the East Side Gallery is the longest open air gallery in the world, using remains of the former Wall as canvas. The wall formed part of the border between East and West Germany and was painted with 101 such large format images in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The Museum Island in central Berlin is just that – an island in the middle of the river Spree housing numerous significant museums, as well as the Berlin Cathedral.
No visit of Berlin is complete without a taste of Currywurst – German Bratwurst (fried pork sausage) seasoned with curry ketchup and served with fries, usually sold at a little hole in the wall or kiosk.
Hotel Gat Point Charlie is a simplistic yet modern hotel right in the centre of Berlin. Rooms are on the small side but stylish and immaculately clean. There’s a small lounge bar downstairs and breakfast is plentiful. It’s located just off Friedrichstraße, just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie and the Mauermuseum, the perfect starting point for exploring Berlin. The underground stop Stadtmitte is only a couple of minutes’ walk away.