There’s nowhere quite like Berlin. Once a divided city, it has now made its mark on the 21st century as a hub for culture and all things alternative. Whether you’re going interrailing or just planning a city break, Berlin definitely deserves a place on your list. Here’s my itinerary to make sure you tick off all of the best bits.
Day 1: History
How to get there: take the U6 metro to Kochstrasse.
Price: €4 for a photo with the soldiers
Kick off your visit with one of the most iconic symbols of Cold War Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie was once the site of the Soviet Union and the West’s clashing ideologies – crossing this point was literally a matter of life or death.
How to get there: take the U55 metro or the S-Bahn to Brandenburger Tor.
Heading from Checkpoint Charlie, make your way down Friedrichstrasse and turn left onto Unter den Linden, where you’ll see the towering Brandenburg Gate in front of you. This is a perfect photo opportunity and, if you’re lucky, you might stumble across a huge street party or Fridays for Future protest – the atmosphere is amazing!
How to get there: a short walk from either Friedrichstrasse Station or the Brandenburg Gate.
Opening times: 8am-9:15pm daily
The Reichstag is not only the political centre of Germany but is also a stunning building! Book a visit to the glass dome for an unbeatable panoramic view of the city and a free guided tour. Places go fast, so make sure you book in advance.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
How to get there: a short walk from Reichstag or take the U6 metro to Mohrenstrasse.
Price: Free with suggested donation
Opening times: 10am-7pm daily except Monday
The Holocaust Memorial can be a difficult visit but is incredibly thought-provoking and a must-see when visiting Berlin. Meander through the thousands of concrete blocks at your own pace before paying a visit to the underground museum.
How to get there: a short walk from the memorial or take the U2 metro or S-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz station.
Potsdamer Platz was one of the world’s biggest construction sites in the 90s, and the gleaming high rises represent Berlin’s new, united front since German reunification. Nearby is a favourite all-day brunch spot amongst Berlin locals: The Steel Vintage Bikes Café. Re-fuel and tuck into millennial classics like avocado toast, eggs Benedict or berry pancakes.
How to get there: take the S-Bahn to Hackesher Markt.
Price: Museum student entry is €9,50
Continue your first day of delving into the city’s history by stopping at Museum Island. The Pergamon Museum is just that little bit different, and its breathtaking collections will take you on a journey through ancient Persia. Bring your student ID for a discount and make sure it has an expiry date – if not, a PDF of your uni registration letter with dates will do.
Day 2: Culture
East Side Gallery
How to get there: take the S-Bahn to Ostbahnhof and start at the western end of the Wall.
Kick your culture tour off with a bang with a visit to the East Side Gallery. This unmissable exhibition is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. At almost 2km long, it displays graffiti-style artwork by artists commissioned from all over the world who were inspired by their own interpretations of “peace”. Keep your eye out for some of the most iconic images of Berlin here like the Honnecker-Gorbachev kiss.
Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain
Once you’ve reached the end of the Wall, simply stroll along and turn right over the bridge into the trendiest Berlin neighbourhood. Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are real cultural melting pots, and the old-fashioned, brightly coloured buildings and cobbled streets have taken on a gritty feel, making this area perfect for wandering and feeling like a local. Enjoying some made-to-order street food waffles at Aldemir Eis on Falckensteinstrasse is a must.
How to get there: take the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz.
Alexanderplatz was once the central point of Cold War East Berlin, and the staggering concrete TV tower is a legacy of the East’s vision for the city. With a price tag of €21, the Panorama at the top of the tower isn’t as enjoyable as the free Reichstag dome. If you’re visiting in November or December, though, don’t miss the traditional Weinachtsmarkt Christmas Markets in the square below.
Bike hire & Tiergarten
How to get there: take the S-Bahn to Hackesher Markt.
Price: around €2 per hour
Hop back on the S-Bahn to the next stop at Hackesher Markt, where you’ll be presented with an array of cute and trendy cafes. The market square is also a great place to hire bikes from – you’ll have seen various rental bikes dotted around the city, and now’s your turn to have a go! Simply download the Donkey Bike App, follow the instructions, and cycle away.
One of the best tried and tested routes is to cross the bridge from Hackesher Markt onto Museum Island and, from there, merge onto Unter den Linden. You have the freedom to cycle all the way up to and under the arches of the Brandenburg Gate itself, where Tiergarten Park will be directly ahead of you.
Kürfurstendamm shopping & high rise bars
How to get there: take the metro or S-Bahn to Zoologischer Garten.
Take the S-Bahn from Tiergarten to Zoologischer Garten, where you can feast your eyes on the Bikini Berlin concept mall, which showcases loads of up-and-coming brands. Treat yourself to a cocktail at the open-top bar before continuing down the road to Monkey Bar. This skylounge is exquisitely designed to showcase views of the Tiergarten park and zoo animals on one side, and the high-rise cityscape on the other.
You can’t leave Berlin without dipping your toes into the authentic and gritty atmosphere the city is famous for. Stop by Holzmarkt in Friedrichshain (Ostbahnhof station) as the sun goes down for an informal beachy vibe right on the riverbank, or visit the Klunkerkranich rooftop bar in the notoriously trendy Neukölln district (Rathaus Neukölln metro station).
Things to be aware of
- There are no ticket barriers at Berlin metro stations, but the fine for travelling without a ticket is €60 on the spot. You could be arrested if you refuse to pay, so my advice is not to risk it, especially as a day ticket costs a reasonable €7!
- Don’t hire a bike without having travel insurance. Berlin’s roads are busy and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
- Berlin is a safe city but, as always, keep an eye on your friends and your drinks. Read specific advice on travelling with your friends here: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/
- And, before you go, make sure you sign up to email alerts about travel in Germany here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/germany/email-signup