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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 05 January, 2023

More than three decades after the Wall fell, Berlin still seems to be in a perpetual state of flux and this extraordinary dynamism shows through in the city’s innovative fashion, culture and arts scenes. Before you can say ‘uber-hip’, your favourite boutique, gallery or nightclub has shut, moved or reopened as something else.

Berlin’s reputation as a den of decadence is well deserved, but there’s so much more to this cosmopolitan, history-laden capital. You’ll find some of the world’s finest museums, sophisticated cuisine, inviting green spaces and an incredible tapestry of buildings historic and modern – testimony to a rich, tumultuous past.

Orientation

When the GDR crumbled, the city’s epicentre migrated from the Ku’damm to former East Berlin, now the most happening part of town.

Sprawling, historic Mitte holds the lion’s share of major attractions, with hip Prenzlauer Berg to the north. The coolest nightclubs are found further east and south, in gritty Friedrichshain and multi-ethnic Kreuzberg.

To the west of Mitte lie Tiergarten, Berlin’s Central Park; bohemian, gay-friendly Schoneberg; and the old-money districts of Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf.

 

Culture & Customs

With its broken economy, down-at-heel Eastern Bloc chic and healthy regard for 1920s hedonism, Berlin lives up to its ‘poor but sexy’ image. The relaxed attitudes stem from a large influx of foreigners and young, tolerance-seeking Germans from other parts of the country.

Teutonic orderliness is less pronounced here, although you might still be ticketed for jaywalking. Casual dress is pretty standard east of the old border, while the west is more formal.

Food & Drink

Traditionally, Berliners were ‘meat-and-potato’ types, but things have changed rapidly thanks to an influx of foreigners and a spirit of invention on the culinary scene.

Fresh slants on German standards and a global mix of flavours, particularly from Asia, can make eating out an extraordinary surprise that’s usually quite affordable.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

World-class art in Berlin

Berlin, Germany

Germany’s most fertile art city spans all eras, from ancient treasures to cutting-edge contemporary. One of the world’s great art destinations.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Berlin’s Museum Island

Berlin, Germany

An extraordinary UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site home to five world-class museums, covering 6,000 years of cultural and art history. An essential stop on any Berlin itinerary.

Best for ages: 18+ | £20

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Pergamon Museum

Berlin, Germany

A tour de force of treasures amassed by German archaeologists. The superb site pulls together three previous museums covering Islamic art, classical antiquities and the ancient Near East.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin, Germany

Impressive, history-laden 18th-century triumphal arch that today stands as the great symbol of reunified Germany.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Badeschiff
Experience

Badeschiff

Berlin, Germany

This repurposed cargo container moored in the Spree river is Berlin’s quirkiest swimming option. Daytime is perfect for a relaxed swim and sunbathing. DJs are let loose in the beach bar after nightfall, when parties spill over from the Arena disco opposite. In winter, it transforms into a spa with heated pool, two Finnish saunas and cocktail lounge under a series of tunnel-like tents. Open daily, all year round.

Best for ages: 8+ | £6 | 1+ hours

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Berlin-Hohenschonhausen Memorial

Berlin, Germany

This former prison of the Stasi, the notorious East German secret police, is a chilling memorial to the brutality of the Cold War, and a poignant testament to the appalling acts humans can commit against one another.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

Bode Museum
Experience

Bode Museum

Berlin, Germany

Reopened in 2006 after a major refurbishment, the museum now houses a fine collection of Byzantine art, coins, medals, and most notably, one of Europe’s finest collections of sculpture.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

2 Hour Berlin Small Group Segway Tour

2 Hour Berlin Small Group Segway Tour

Berlin

Take this 2 hour guided Segway tour through Berlin and enjoy a ride . Cruise the most scenic landmarks of Berlin's historic city center on S...

€59 | Rating 4.72 / 5 [102 ratings]

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3-Hour Berlin Highlights Bike Tour

3-Hour Berlin Highlights Bike Tour

Berlin

Enjoy a relaxed yet comprehensive 3-hour city tour introducing you to Berlin’s top sites.  You will see top attractions, such as the Branden...

€30 | Rating 4.92 / 5 [318 ratings]

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Berlin 4-Course Sunset Dinner Cruise Including Drinks

Berlin 4-Course Sunset Dinner Cruise Including Drinks

Berlin

The capital dinner cruises cater exclusively for guests who reserve their own private tables on board. Reserve your own special private tabl...

€119 | Rating 4.67 / 5 [49 ratings]

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Berlin Bike Tour

Berlin Bike Tour

Berlin

There's no better way to see the sights and learn the history of Berlin than by joining a bike tour! You get to have fun and socialize, have...

€72 | Rating 4.87 / 5 [797 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Hotel Amano

Berlin, Germany

The gorgeously understated Amano offers a soothing, affordable designer option in uber-trendy Mitte.

Official star rating:

Honigmond Garden Hotel

Berlin, Germany

Lovely small hotel exuding 19th-century charm, with a great location near Berlin’s top attractions and trendy Mitte, with an Eden-like garden.

Official star rating:

Michelberger Hotel

Berlin, Germany

Clever Manhattan-style blend of hostel and upmarket hotel in post-industrial surroundings, with an excellent in-house organic restaurant. Great for singles, the socially-minded and hip partygoers.

Official star rating:

Lux 11 Berlin-Mitte

Berlin, Germany

A superb apartment hotel, with 72 self-contained luxury apartments, conveniently located for Berlin best attractions, bars and shopping.

Official star rating:

When to go

The most popular times to come are during the summer (June-August), when the balmy weather and many street festivals keep the city humming, and around Christmas and New Year. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and winter bitterly cold due to the continental climate.

The shoulder months of April, May, September and October are the best times to visit – they draw lighter crowds while still offering pleasant temperatures.

Getting there and away

The sleek Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, 12 miles from the city, is the main international gateway.

The airport express is the best and fastest way to the city (30 minutes), for less than €5. The trains run every half hour from Terminal 1 to Berlin’s central station. Alternatively there are regular buses.

Taxis are available 24/7, take around 45 minutes, and cost around €50. There’s no set fare.

Getting around

Taxis are very reasonable by European standards. Rates stay the same around the clock, although for longer trips it pays to agree a fixed sum in advance. You can flag drivers down or there are taxi ranks in tourist-heavy areas. ‘Party hops’ of up to 2km for up to three passengers are a bargain.

The public transport network includes an efficient and extensive underground, known locally as the U-Bahn, trams and buses. Berlin’s transport authority, the BVG, provides a wealth of maps and information.

Where to stay

Most visitors gravitate towards the many design and budget hotels in Mitte and, to a lesser extent, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Charlottenberg. The former east tends to be much cheaper and offers the buzziest vibe, if that’s what you’re after.

Those in the city on business or hobnobbing with high society will more likely find themselves bedding down and entertaining in the old west.

Where to eat or drink

Steer clear of the tourist traps around major landmarks. The inner core of Mitte has a dearth of eating and drinking with local atmosphere, so instead head north to the streets around Hackescher Markt and Rosenthaler Platz.

Other rewarding areas to graze and bar-hop are Helmholzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg, Schlesische Strasse in Kreuzberg, Savignyplatz in Charlottenburg and Wühlischstrasse in Friedrichshain. Some of the coolest new addresses have sprung up in the rough-edged district of Neukölln.

Where to shop

The shopping scene in Berlin is highly fragmented with the most interesting stuff to be found in small shops and boutiques. Upmarket labels are strongest along glitzy Friedrichstrasse in Mitte, and on and around Kurfürstendamm and Kantstrasse in Charlottenburg. The hippest shopping drags include Alte Schönhauser Strasse and Oranienburger Strasse in Mitte, Kastanienallee in Prenzlauer Berg, and Bergmannstrasse and Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg.

Don’t miss the excellent Sunday flea markets at Mauerpark and Boxhagener Platz.