Berlin is one of Europe’s most colourful, dynamic and surprising cities, packed with infinite potential, history and culture. Walk and explore the city’s streets, go clubbing, try the tasty local gastronomy and learn about new trends in music, art, fashion or film. If it’s your first time visiting this wonderful city, we suggest you avoid the typical sightseeing tours and try these authentic experiences that will let you enjoy Berlin to the fullest.
1. Watch a karaoke performance at MauerPark.
On most Sundays in Mauerpark you’ll find a large crowd gathered in a circle, waiting for the first brave soul to step up to the microphone and sing their heart out in true open-air karaoke style. This is one of the best free things to do in the city! Grab a beer and join in the raucous applause that fills this outdoor amphitheatre (or bearpit as it’s known) – you may even be feeling particularly musical and fancy giving the karaoke a go for yourself. This is Berlin, anything can happen.
2. Go for a walk in Tiergarten
Tiergarten Park is Berlin’s largest park – 210 hectares of green goodness. It’s very much in the heart of the city, and much loved by locals for jogging, skating, or simply lying on the lawn in the summer. There is also, as you might expect from Berlin, a beer garden in the middle of the park, open almost all year round. There’s even a fire indoors for when sitting outside on the wooden tables gets too cold! The park connects many of Berlin’s famous sights such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the President of Germany.
3. Walk through Brandenburg Gate
This striking monument is, like many historical monuments in Berlin, a stark reminder of the separation within the city during the Cold War. Whereas once people used to visit Brandenburg Gate to get a glimpse of the unseen world behind the Iron Curtain, people now pass freely beneath it. This powerful monument that once divided the East and West, has today reinvented itself and now symbolizes a new, unified city.
4. Discover the lively and unconventional Simon-Dach-Strasse
A vibrant neighbourhood of restaurants, cafes and bars. The Simon-Dach-Strasse is a popular street in the Friedrichshain district – especially recommendable if you’re travelling on a budget. Here you’ll find eateries selling delicious foods from all over the world. Fatoush serves up some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city, whilst PlusMinusNull is a true delight for all Mediterranean cuisine lovers.
If you’re visiting Berlin around Christmas time, stop by Haubentaucher to visit the Christmas market high above the city’s rooftops.
5. Dance until the break of dawn
Ain’t no party like a Berlin party. Renowned mega-clubs such as Watergate nightclub and Berghain are what makes Berlin’s nightlife so intriguing. If you brave the queue and manage to get past the bouncers into the temple of techno, the hedonistic world of Berghain will suck you in and keep you there for hours (and sometimes days). Berghain is open every night of the week, but the real party starts midnight on Saturday, and doesn’t stop until Monday.
Notoriously difficult to get into, you can spend hours researching tips to get into Berghain. Our tip? Just go and try, there’s no real rhyme or reason behind the bouncers decision you just have to give it a go. The queue is always long at Berghain, even if you try your luck early on Sunday morning, you should be prepared to wait for an hour or so. Is it worth it? You tell us once you’ve been inside.
6. Cross Checkpoint Charlie
A poignant symbol of the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie represents the separation of East Berlin and West Berlin. During the war, it was the best-known point to cross the Berlin Wall. The name Checkpoint Charlie came from the letter C of the phonetic alphabet (Charlie). Similarly, other crossings along the wall were named in the same way (Checkpoint Alpha, Checkpoint Bravo)…
Although you will find many tourists flocking to Checkpoint Charlie to have their photo taken in front of the historic landmark, it’s important to point out that what stands today is a replica of the original checkpoint. There is, in fact, no original structure left – even the East German watchtower was destroyed in 2000, and was replaced by offices and convenience shops. So, although this is an important part of Berlin’s history, we advise to approach this tourist attraction with a pinch of salt. You’re likely to figure that out for yourself once you see all the souvenir stands surrounding it, selling fake military trinkets.
7. Feast on Berlin’s renowned street food
Just about every street corner in Berlin has a food truck selling currywurst – a steamed, then fried pork sausage covered in curry ketchup. It’s typically cut into bite-sized pieces so that you can eat it on-the-go.
The beauty of currywurst is that even though it’s incredibly popular in Berlin and can be found all over the city, it has escaped mass-manufacturing. Each street vendor who sells currywurst is different to the next. You can even taste the difference between a currywurst bought in East Berlin to one bought in West Berlin. During the time when the two parts of the city were separated by the Berlin Wall, the East had no access to casing for the sausage. This meant that the sausages in the East tended to be softer than in the West. This difference in taste between East and West currywurst still remains today – try it for yourself!
For more foods to try while you’re in Germany, check out this list of the 13 best German dishes.
8. Explore the Zoo of Berlin and go bear hunting (it’s not what you think)
Berlin’s zoo is famous for hosting the largest number of species in the world. Spend the day here and watch one of the impressive animal shows!
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll also enjoy spotting all the fibreglass bear sculptures dotted around the city. The bear is the symbol of Berlin, and these Buddy Bears as they are called, are considered unofficial ambassadors of Germany. Each bear has been painted with a different pattern and tells its own story. See how many you can find around the city!
9. Walk along the East Side Gallery
The East side Gallery is the largest and longest standing open-air gallery in the world. It is a monument to the fall of the Berlin wall – showcasing the paintings from artists around the world who painted directly onto the east side of the Berlin wall in 1990. You can walk alongside 1,316 meters of the original wall and feel the artist’s elation and hopes for a better Berlin. The most famous mural, located halfway down, depicts a kiss between the former Soviet and East German heads of state, Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker. The caption below: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” has become a powerful reminder of the Cold War years and the battle between the two sides of Germany.
The East Side Gallery is accessible to the public at all times of the day or night, and is free to visit.
10. Try a Berlin Burger
It has been said that Berlin does the best burgers – ever. Taking the baton from other big cities such as New York, Paris and London. Burger joints are popping up in Berlin like no tomorrow and we can declare Berlin the (unofficial) burger capital of the world. A great burger comes down to individual preferences, no doubt. For us, the best burgers in Berlin can be found at Shiso Burger, Burgeramt or Burgermeister. Try them for yourself and see what you think!
How long does it take to fly to Berlin from the US?
From the east coast (Washington DC, Boston, New York) it takes about 10 hours to fly to Berlin. From the west coast (Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco) It takes about 15 hours to fly to Berlin.