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46 Best things to see & do in Berlin

  • Berlin, Germany

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
  • Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s Museum Island

Bucket List Experience

Berlin’s Museum Island

Over the centuries, Berlin has amassed an impressive hoard of treasures, starting with the collections of culture-mad Friedrich the Great, followed by a succession of emperors – their royal curators and architects equipped with lavish budgets – and rounded off by the spoils of a globe-spanning German Empire.

Most are now conveniently housed on one small ‘Museum Island’, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site boasting five adjacent world-class museums, covering 6,000 years of cultural and art history. An essential stop on any Berlin itinerary.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 18+

  • Berlin, Germany

Pergamon Museum

Bucket List Experience

Pergamon Museum

Berlin’s most popular museum is a tour de force of treasures amassed by German archaeologists during their plunderings of the ancient world. The superb site pulls together three previous museums covering Islamic art, classical antiquities and the ancient Near East.

The antiquities collection at the Pergamon includes a wealth of finds from famous archaeological sites such as Priene, Olympia, Miletus, Cyprus and Didyma, in what’s now Greece and Turkey.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+

  • Berlin, Germany

Brandenburg Gate

Bucket List Experience

Brandenburg Gate

This former city gate was rebuilt in the late 18th century as a triumphal arch for a rising Prussia.

The arch was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia to symbolise a period of peace and prosperity in Berlin. The neoclassical design by Carl Gotthard Langhans was inspired by the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, and it built from 1788 to 1791. It stands as the entry to Unter den Linden, the boulevard of linden trees that formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs.

Now one of Germany’s best-known landmarks, the Brandenburger Tor is laden with historical significance. Napoleon briefly stole the Quadriga, the horse-drawn chariot atop the gate, and it was here Reagan urged Gorbachev to tear down the Wall. Nowadays, the gate stands as the symbol of national unity after reunification.

Good for age: 13+

  • Berlin, Germany

World-class art in Berlin

Bucket List Experience

World-class art in Berlin

Berlin is a world-class art destination, thanks to three primary, complimentary causes.

First, there was a hoard of masterpieces collected on the order of culture-mad Friedrich the Great, followed by a succession of emperors – their royal curators and architects equipped with lavish budgets. Second came the spoils collected from a globe-spanning German Empire, and third, a generous amount of public funding in recent years has established Berlin’s state-owned museums way up there on the world’s A-list of art collections.

No less impressive is Berlin’s thriving contemporary art scene – the most fertile in Germany – with more than 600 private and commercial art galleries, showcasing a wealth of well-known, emerging and undiscovered talent.

Good for age: 18+

Old Museum

  • Berlin, Germany

Old Museum

Experience

The first museum to be built on Museum Island, set in a stunning neoclassical building, the Altes Museum houses exhibits from the Collection of Classical Antiquities. The permanent Greek collection is displayed on the ground floor, with special exhibitions on the second.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

  • Berlin, Germany

With its grim border guards and ominous sign – ‘You Are Now Leaving The American Sector’ – Checkpoint Charlie put the world on edge when Allied and Soviet tanks faced off for a few nail-biting days in October 1961. It was the recognised crossing point for the infamous Berlin Wall, which symbolised more than anything else the West’s ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Union from 1947-1991. For a small and fairly non-descript site, it has enormous historical significance that will lives long in the realms of history.

Today, a cramped but compelling museum there tells the history of the Wall and the rickety tunnels, home-made aircraft, reinforced cars and mini-subs people used to attempt escape to freedom from East Germany – efforts that more often than not ended in heartbreaking tragedy. There are some good documentary clips too.

For a couple of Euros you can pose with a mock guard at the replica border booth and get your passport stamped with a pre-1989 visa.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 8+

  • Berlin, Germany

East Side Gallery

Bucket List Experience

East Side Gallery

This 1.3km-long, visually captivating segment of the old Berlin Wall is the largest open-air gallery in the world, adorned with paintings by 118 artists bidding goodbye to the Communist regime. Many of the colourful works pursue themes of hope, peace and freedom on this longest, most authentic section of the ‘anti-Fascist protection barrier’ (the GDR’s parlance).

Look out for The Mortal Kis by Dimitrji Vrubel, the confronting image of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev engaged in a mouth-to-mouth kiss, and Birgit Kinder’s Trabi knocking down the Wall.

Good for age: 8+

  • Berlin, Germany

Old National Gallery

Bucket List Experience

Old National Gallery

The Alte Nationalgalerie, one of the three internationally-renowned galleries on Museum Island, showcases one of the world’s largest collections of 19th-century sculpture and paintings, with additional collections of neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionist and early Modernist artwork.

Adult price: £10

Good for age: 18+

  • Berlin, Germany

In case you didn’t know already… the Holocaust saw the systematic murder by the Nazis of approximately six million Jews during World War II, almost two thirds of the European Jewish population – including the murder of over one million children.

Made up of 2,711 concrete slabs in undulating rows, this Field of Stelae is a monument to those who died. Designed by Peter Eisenman was designed to make visitors feel uneasy.

The underground information centre is eerier still, documents the persecution and extermination of European Jews through personal effects, tape recordings and letters of Holocaust victims presented in bare, windowless rooms.

Themed rooms showcase historical photographs and footage of the sites of persecution and extermination, plus there are moving photos, diaries and letters from victims.

It’s a poignant and important memorial to a genocide that must never be forgotten.

Good for age: 18+

  • Berlin, Germany

Gallery of Old Masters

Bucket List Experience

Gallery of Old Masters

First opened in 1830, the Gemaldegalerie is one of Europe’s finest assemblies of European art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (13th-18th centuries).

Although Italians such as Caravaggio, Raphael, Rubens and Titian grab the limelight, at the heart of the museum are its Dutch and Flemish masterpieces, notably 16 works by Rembrandt at the height of his powers.

Other gems to look for include Franz Hals’ Mad Babette, Bruegel’s impish Netherlandish Proverbs and Vermeer’s Glass of Wine.

Adult price: £16

Good for age: 18+