The German capital is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most exciting cities. Due to the major events of the 20th century and its famed arts scene, this urban giant is a melting pot of history and culture.
When it comes to what to see in Berlin, there’s all sorts. Turn back the clock to learn all about the Berlin Wall, check out the many museums and galleries and time your trip for winter so you can embrace the festive spirit at the Christmas markets.
To get you excited about exploring the best of Berlin’s tourist attractions, we’ve put together a handy set of places to go to first.
- Berlin Wall Memorial
- Brandenburg Gate
- Holocaust Memorial
- Museum Island
- Pergamon Museum
- East Side Gallery
- Charlottenburg Palace
- Topography of Terror
- Christmas Markets
Make your way to Reichstag and see one of Berlin’s best landmarks in all its glory. This iconic government building dominates the capital’s skyline and has a reputation for being one of the city’s most awe-inspiring architectural structures. It’s changed a lot since it was first built in 1894, having been burnt and bombed during its lifetime.
Restored in the 1990s, Reichstag is now topped with a glass dome and features state-of-the-art lighting. It's free to take a trip up to the roof terrace, so wind your way up the spiral staircase to the top and enjoy panoramic views of the city. As it gets darker earlier in the winter months, you can opt for a morning visit to witness it all in natural light, or a dreamy afternoon-evening trip to see Berlin all lit up.
2. Berlin Wall Memorial
What remains of the Berlin Wall and the division it created now serves as a living reminder and memorial. This open-air museum has a visitor centre and various exhibitions, where you can read all about the events that segmented the city between 1961 and 1989.
As you wander around the reconstructions, you’ll spot bright and boldly-coloured graffiti etched across the concrete walls. These expressive artworks were the sketches of disillusioned people that were sectioned off into either West Berlin and East Berlin. It’s a very humbling experience.
3. Brandenburg Gate
Of all the Berlin sights, this epic gate is a knockout. It’s arguably the city’s most famous landmark and symbolises unity after it once showed division between Berlin and Germany during the Cold War. When it’s dark outside, the Brandenburg Gate glows resplendently – the warm hues of the columns contrast with the turquoise-tinged chariot drawn by four horses.
4. Holocaust Memorial
Pause for thought, reflection and consideration as you pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial. The installation is made up of 2,711 sloped concrete slabs, with open space between each block to provide room for people to walk through and ponder. As the memorial is only a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate and is such a point of poignant historical reference, it’s an essential site to visit.
5. Museum Island
Calling all history buffs! Of all the things to see in Berlin, you’d better make a beeline for Museum Island. Five all-encompassing, informative museums complete this vast complex and, better yet, you only need one ticket to get into the lot!
Meander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll find it houses some jaw-dropping pieces. Look out for the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti, sets of Etruscan art, medieval sculptures and much more.
6. Pergamon Museum
When it boils down to what to do in Berlin’s acclaimed Museum Island, the Pergamon is a classic. It’s broken down into three main areas – the Collection of Classical Antiquities, Museum of the Ancient Near East and Museum of Islamic Art. It’s safe to say you won’t be short for things to look at. One show-stopping feature? Without a doubt, it’s the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
7. East Side Gallery
Tying back in with what’s part of the Berlin Wall Memorial, the East Side Gallery is a 1.3km open-air stretch dedicated to art. More than 100 paintings embellish the concrete, with artists from all around the world leaving their mark. One of the features you might’ve already heard about is the Fraternal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel, which depicts Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev in large graffiti form.
8. Charlottenburg Palace
Named after Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, the largest of Berlin’s palaces is a mesmerising spectacle. The royal residence was built in baroque and rococo styles, before being damaged during World War II. It’s since been beautifully rebuilt and is a lavish place to discover. Wander the impressive halls and see stunning state rooms, Prussian crown jewels and exquisite tableware.
Back outside, the English-style grounds are the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. At Christmas, the park’s transformed into a large expanse of festive market stalls. Roam around and buy trinkets, German handicrafts, edible treats and more.
9. Topography of Terror
This indoor and outdoor museum is one of Berlin’s most-visited places of World War II remembrance. The exhibition spans the site of the former SS Reich Main Security Office. You can take a full tour and learn about the Gestapo and the propaganda employed between 1933 and 1945.
10. Christmas Markets
If you’re a fan of festive celebrations, some of the best things to do in Berlin include the Christmas markets. The city plays host to more than 60 during the holiday season and each one has something unique.
Alexanderplatz Market is one of the biggest and you’ll find a medley of blacksmiths, potters, mulled wine stands and more, teamed up with a huge Ferris wheel that boasts staggering views of the city. But, if you’re on the lookout for something a bit different, hit the Klunkerkranich Rooftop for a high-up festive experience, without the hustle and bustle.
Tempted yet? Prioritise these top things to do in Berlin and you’ll see just how incredible the city is. We offer marvellous Jet2CityBreaks to Berlin, so you can mix in a visit to all the key sights while you check out the magical Christmas markets.
Posted: 3rd Apr 2019.