What are the five best things to see and do in Berlin?

Berlin is a vibrant city, steeped in history and culture. Here are five activities not to miss in the German capital:
 
1. The Reichstag. Home of the German parliament, the Reichstag is a marvel of democracy and architecture. You must register at least a month ahead to visit the building’s dome. British architect Sir Norman Foster’s mirrored spiral draws thousands to the roof every day, so be prepared to wait (if you’re visiting the building’s rooftop restaurant, you can skip the line). Guided tours can be arranged in English six days a week, however, 45-minute lectures about the history of the building are only offered in English Tuesday afternoons (registration is required for both). After registering, you can even watch a session of parliament.
 
2. A visit to East Berlin. East Berlin has a drab history, which included small, bland apartments in nondescript gargantuan concrete buildings where everyone lived. Today, you can still see signs of the area’s past — like the buildings, along with some lingering war destruction — but you’ll also see shops, museums and a vibrant nightlife scene. While it may be cliché, a bus tour is one of the best ways to see East Berlin. Look for tour companies like Berlin City Hop-On Hop-Off, which lets you get on and off as many times as you like, so you can explore the area by foot.
 
3. Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg). Before 1871, Germany was home to closely related states and kingdoms. Royalty had mansions sprinkled throughout the region. We are drawn to the majesty of Charlottenburg Palace, the largest castle in the capital. Construction on a summer residence started in 1695 for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Prussian Elector Frederick III. After he ascended to the throne, the palace and its ornate gardens became more and more grand. Although the structure sustained substantial damage during World War II, the baroque and rococo mélange was lovingly brought back to its original splendor in the 1950s. It's a great place to get a glimpse of the life of Prussian royalty and see exquisite collections of 18th-century French and German paintings and porcelain.
 
4. Visit the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer). Construction of the Berlin Wall started on Bernauer Street (Bernauerstrasse), where a visitor center now sits. However, you’ll see the full exhibit outdoors. Walk about nine blocks along Bernauer Street; the wall has been replaced with 12-foot-tall rusted metal poles. Go there to read and hear (audio is available) about the cinder-block barrier and the lives it separated.
 
5. Museum Island. The World Heritage site holds five world-class museums, including the Pergamon Museum and Old National Gallery. Head to the area to get an up-close look at the Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate on this land in the middle of Berlin.
 

  • On July 29
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best wine bars in Berlin?

    Berlin has a number of great wine bars to choose from. One of the classiest is Weinbar Rutz, which boasts a Michelin star and is said to have the best Riesling list in Germany.

    A more traditional wine bar is Prenzlauer Berg’s Weinstein, near Hemholz Platz, which has the feel of Old World Germany and carries a diverse list.

    For a low-key experience, head to Weinerei, near to Zionskirchplatz, where you’ll find living room style décor and a laissez faire honor system policy—after enjoying the selection of wines, guests are simply asked to leave the price they think is fair.

    And just off of Mitte’s trendy Rosenthaler Strasse, Muret la Barba is a great Italian bistro and wine shop, where you’ll find a large variety of wines to both purchase and sample. The classic menu, with charcuterie and housemase pastas, is also worth trying.
  • On July 29
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best cocktails in Berlin?

    Germany may be known as the capital of beer, but the city boasts quite an impressive cocktails scene as well. From intimate, speakeasy style bars to hotel lounges, you can find plenty of places to get a great drink in this city.

    If you are looking for a great cocktail in West Berlin, head to the saloon-style bar Stagger Lee, try the speakeasy Green Door or head to Tiergarten park and Victoria Bar. In the center of town, you’ll find the Amano Hotel, Newton Bar, and Reingold, all well known in Mitte for their drinks menus. In Prenzlauer Berg, Beckett’s Kopf and Immertreu are favorites, while Würgeengel and John Muir are places to try in Kreuzberg. And elsewhere in Berlin, you’ll find great drinks at Bebel Bar & Velvet Lounge, Neu Odessa, and Rum Trader.
  • On July 29
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Berlin?

    If you can only do one thing in Berlin, visit the Tiergarten, and on bike would be best! Starting at Brandenburg Gate, directly opposite the park’s entrance, you are immediately thrown into the city's storied history and impressive architecture.

    The sprawling park (600 acres) is full of historical landmarks, including the Reichstag, the Victory Column, and Germany’s version of the White House, Bellevue Palace. There are picturesque meadows, plenty of paths, and of course, the River Spree to walk or bike along. You’ll also find several beer gardens tucked inside the gardens, a nice way to relax and enjoy some of the local culture. It’s really a great way to see a lot of Berlin.
  • Just now

    NEW FOLLOWERS

    Emil Stancu Jennifer Kester Andi Berens
  • On July 9, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best local dishes in Berlin?

    Unlike Belgium’s waffles or French Champagne, Berlin isn’t known for something ultra luxurious with it comes to cuisine. The real treat here is street food, and the two must-try dishes are currywurst and doner kebabs.

    Instead of a typical bratwurst, grilled and served in a brötchen, currywurst is a steamed, then fried pork sausage that is sliced and covered in curried ketchup. The bread comes on the side, perfect for soaking up all the sauce. The doner kebabs come thanks to Berlin’s large Turkish immigrant population, and feature veal, chicken, or lamb slowed cooked on a spit, which is then shaved and served in a pita-like flat bread. Hot sauce, garlic sauce, and yogurt sauce generally top the meat, along with a salad of shaved lettuces and cabbage. You can find both items at the city’s many Imbiss, Berlin’s answer to the fast food stop.

    On the sweet side of the spectrum is the jelly doughnut, made infamously popular with John F. Kennedy’s 1963 Brandenburger Tor speech that included “Ich bin ein Berliner.” In fact, the doughnuts in this part of Germany are called pfannkuchen (which confusingly means pancakes elsewhere throughout the country). No matter the name, they are delicious, especially when found at some of the city’s older traditional-style bakeries.
  • On July 8, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best bars in Berlin?

    Berlin’s go-to bar is a casual watering hole that looks like your best friend’s living room, complete with the assortment of vintage furntiture and odd ball curiosities. Try places like Kreuzberg’s Vögelchen, where the 1960's style TV has been refurbed into a fish tank, or Prenzlauer Berg’s Weinerei, which has a very friendly honors system when it comes to paying for your vino.

    When the weather turns warm, the best place to take in Berlin’s drinking atmosphere is at one of the city’s many beer gardens. The sprawling Prater Garten is the oldest in Prenzlauer Berg and one of the city's best, while the idyllic Tiergarten park is home to several options, including the canal side Cafe am Neun See.

    For a more sceney bar, Hotel de Rome’s Bebel Bar & Velvet Room ranks high on cocktail lovers’ lists, as does Le Chat Gris in Mitte. And beachy Spree River-side clubs like Club der Visionaere never fail to disappoint if you are looking for a casual place to grab a beer and listen to some dance beats.
  • On June 20, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best hotels in Berlin?

    Berlin offers a variety of stunning hotels, spanning Old World charm to modern-day aesthetics. Here are some of the top choices for lodging in Germany's capital.

    The Hotel Adlon Kimpenski has been a major landmark in Berlin’s cityscape for ages; Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo were among the hotel's early fans. Although the buidling suffered damage during the World War II bombings, it was restored in 1997, and is today one of Berlin’s premier luxury hotels, featuring glamorous Old World style and elegant décor. The spacious rooms offer sweeping views of the nearby Brandenburg Goate, and include free Wi-Fi. The hotel boasts the popular outdoor Beluga Terrace, as well as a new restaurant from chef Tim Raue, Sra Bau, among other dining options.

    Inside a former 19th century bank building, Hotel de Rome is a towering neoclassical building located on Bebelplatz. The building was converted to a hotel in 2006 and its trappings still harken to its financial beginnings—the highly lauded spa is inside the old jewel vault, while the swimming pool floor is speckeld with gold flake. The 146 rooms include high ceilings, wood paneling, and complimentary internet access. Don't miss the hotel’s Bebel Bar, one of Berlin’s top choices for a specialty cocktail.

    Set amidst the skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz, the Mandala Hotel is one of Berlin’s top boutique hotels. Its impressive 157 studios and suites, said to be the largest hotel rooms in Berlin, include walk-in closets, small kitchens, and the latest in technological amenities, making it a great choice for longer visits. The atrium-level restaurant Facil, helmed by chef Michael Kempf, offers one of the most dynamic culinary experiences in the city.

    Located in the heart of the trendy Mitte neighborhood, Casa Camper puts you steps away from some of the city’s top boutiques, galleries, and landmarks. An emphasis on creative design and simplicity gives this hotel a chic minimalist look—wooden floorboards and furniture, chrome fixtures, bold color choices, and modern accents fill the lobby and rooms. The hotel’s popular restaurant Dos Pallilos serves playful Japanese-themes tapas.

    If you’d prefer a more verdantly lush locale, the Schlosshotel Im Grunewald offers the elegance of royalty (the hotel was the former residence of the personal advisor to Kaiser Wilhelm) alongside the city’s picturesque and sprawling 7,400 acre Grunewald forest. A design renovation in the early 1990s thanks to Karl Lagerfeld gives the hotel a good mixture of modern aesthetic and classic style, incorporating velvet chaise lounges, glass chandeliers, and antiques.
  • On June 18, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best restaurants in Berlin?

    Although Berlin isn’t well known as a top culinary destination, the city’s growing number of avant garde locales, modern eateries, and Michelin-starred restaurants give plenty of reason to pay attention to what’s going on in its food world. New restaurants are opening everyday, but these five are a cut above the rest, and are really defining the food scene in Berlin right now.

    Rising culinary star chef Tim Raue has earned much praise for his innovative Asian-inspired Restaurant Tim Raue. Located near Checkpoint Charlie in the city’s trendy Kreuzberg, the restaurant combines the flavors and techniques of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine with Raue’s refined style. With two new resturants, Sra Bua and La Soupe Populaire, opened in summer 2013, Raue is continuing to make his mark on Berlin.

    Set on the fifth floor atrium of the elegant Mandala Hotel in Potsdamer Platz, Facil is run by the talented chef Michael Kempf. The tasting menu is among the most affordable in Berlin, and offers some of the city’s most innovative cuisine.

    Another Michelin-starred wonder, Reinstoff combines modernist cooking techniques with the inventive flair of chef Daniel Achilles. Tucked inside the industrial space of a former warehouse in Mitte, Reinstoff’s chic décor provides the perfect backdrop for this daring cuisine.

    For a taste of traditional German fare, Lutter & Wegner offers some of the best schnitzel in the city, along with other traditional Austrian specialties. Inside a historic-style building across from Gendarmenmarkt, the former vinter also boasts an extensive wine list.

    Grill Royal is one of the most well known restaurants in Berlin, recognized for both its incredible steak menu and its celebrity clientele, including George Clooney and friends. Located on the Spree River, this upscale steakhouse offers impressive views alongside a no-frills menu of top quality meat and seafood.
  • On June 13, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What is Berlin’s dining scene like?

    German food has a reputation for being heavy and rich—sausages, dumplings, gravies, and potato dishes all come to mind. But Berlin has a surprisingly vibrant culinary scene, a combination of the Old Guard and new chefs ready to take the world by storm—as of 2013, the city has 13 Michelin stars, more than any German city.

    Old-school German restaurants are still here, with places like Max und Moritz and Clärchens Ballhaus showing off the charm of yesteryear, and still offering a great schnitzel. But in a city known for reinventing itself, today’s young Berlin chefs are branching out from tradition, bringing in the new techniques of modern cuisine and embracing the spices of other cultures. Restaurants such as Reinstoff and Facil both serve food as impressive as their surroundings, creating an engaging, cerebral experience. This type of resaturant really shows where the future of Berlin's cuisine is headed.

    As Berlin’s culinary scene continues to grow and modernize, the city is also becoming home to a number of moderately priced restaurants. Home to a large Turkish community, as well as growing Vietnamese and Japanese populations, the city boasts a number of wonderful ethnic restaurants, pastry shops, and eateries. You can now find restaurants of every type in Berlin, from Santa Maria, a Mexican-style cantina in Kreuzberg and Si An, a Vietnamese teahouse in Prenzlauer Berg, to Cocolo Ramen, a hidden away Japanese ramen restaurant in Mitte.

    The city also has a thriving number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Restaurant Cookie’s Cream has become popular for its affordable chef’s menu, as well as the nightclub underneath the restaurant. And Berlin is home to a growing supper club scene, with more and more young chefs stretching their culinary wings here, which whispers of more great things to come.

    But without a doubt, Berlin is known for its street food. Many locals live off a diet of döner—a Turkish-style sandwich composed of grilled meat and garlic sauce—and currywurst—a bratwurst covered in curried ketchup. Konnopke's Imbiss is said to be one of the best for currywurst in the city; for a döner try Rosenthaler Grill & Schlemmerbuffet.
  • On June 13, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What is Berlin’s dining scene like?

    German food has a reputation for being heavy and rich—sausages, dumplings, gravies, and potato dishes all come to mind. But Berlin has a surprisingly vibrant culinary scene, a combination of the Old Guard and new chefs ready to take the world by storm—as of 2013, the city has 13 Michelin stars, more than any German city.

    Old-school German restaurants are still here, with places like Max und Moritz and Clärchens Ballhaus showing off the charm of yesteryear, and still offering a great schnitzel. But in a city known for reinventing itself, today’s young Berlin chefs are branching out from tradition, bringing in the new techniques of modern cuisine and embracing the spices of other cultures. Restaurants such as Reinstoff and Facil both serve food as impressive as their surroundings, creating an engaging, cerebral experience. This type of resaturant really shows where the future of Berlin's cuisine is headed.

    As Berlin’s culinary scene continues to grow and modernize, the city is also becoming home to a number of moderately priced restaurants. Home to a large Turkish community, as well as growing Vietnamese and Japanese populations, the city boasts a number of wonderful ethnic restaurants, pastry shops, and eateries. You can now find restaurants of every type in Berlin, from Santa Maria, a Mexican-style cantina in Kreuzberg and Si An, a Vietnamese teahouse in Prenzlauer Berg, to Cocolo Ramen, a hidden away Japanese ramen restaurant in Mitte.

    The city also has a thriving number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Restaurant Cookie’s Cream has become popular for its affordable chef’s menu, as well as the nightclub underneath the restaurant. And Berlin is home to a growing supper club scene, with more and more young chefs stretching their culinary wings here, which whispers of more great things to come.

    But without a doubt, Berlin is known for its street food. Many locals often live off a diet of döner—a Turkish-style sandwich composed of grilled meat and garlic sauce—and currywurst—a bratwurst covered in curried ketchup. Konnopke's Imbiss is said to be one of the best for currywurst in the city; for a döner try Rosenthaler Grill & Schlemmerbuffet.
  • On June 13, 2013
    Katherine Sacks answered the question: Katherine Sacks

    What are the best outdoor activities in Berlin?

    Anyone will tell you that the best time to visit Berlin is summer, thanks in part to the city’s thriving outdoor pastimes. The German capital is composed of roughly one-third natural space—parks, rivers, lakes, and gardens. One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in Berlin is in one of the city’s many parks; from the central Tieirgarten to the former airport turned city getaway Tempelhofer Park, these parks include paths for walking, jogging, and biking, along with restaurants and cafés. Many of the city’s parks, including Volkspark Friedrichshain, also screen outdoor movies in the summertime, another pleasant way to enjoy the city al fresco.

    Another great way to enjoy the outdoors in Berlin is on bike. Rentals are available all over the city; companies like Berlin on Bike and Fat Tire Berlin offer rentals starting at 10€ a day, as well as guided bike tours. The city has an impressive network of bike paths and lanes, making it easy to get around and see many of the major sights and landmarks and the many picturesque parks are quite enjoyable to ride through.

    If you’d prefer a less sprightly activity, a boat tour through Berlin is a wonderful way to see the city’s sights with a fresh a perspective. Companies like Reederei Riedel, Exclusiv Yachtcharter, and Stern und Kreisschiffahrt offer tours from 1 to 6 hours, covering the major landmarks, history, and geography of the area. From artwork to cultural sights, you can see it all by boat, while also catching the breeze of the Spree River and some sunshine.

    Or if you’d prefer to just sit back and relax, there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, and beer gardens along the Spree River that are perfect for people watching and taking in some sun. Monbijoupark is a park right across from the Spree, and popular with lounging locals. Further down the river you’ll find Capital Beach, a river side bar whose deck chairs are directly opposite the Hauptbahnhof. And for the German beer garden experience, visit Zollpackhof, where you can enjoy beer and bratwurst in the great outdoors.
Next