Berlin has a seemingly endless array of activities for visitors to get stuck into. The city’s fascinatingly turbulent past mingles with a vibrant modern scene. There’s always plenty to do, for culture vultures and dedicated beer drinkers alike. Here, we’ve picked out 10 of the German capital’s top attractions, which anyone planning to stay in Berlin should check out to get a good overview of the Berlin’s many different facets.
Completed in 1894, the Reichstag Building was the main seat of Germany’s parliament, up until 1933 when much of the building was damaged by fire. From this point the Reichstag was little used, until 1990 when Germany’s reunification sparked new interest in the building. A competition was launched to redesign the building so it could be reinstated as the home of the German Parliament. British Architect Norman Foster came up with the winning design, referencing the original dome with a modern twist, and allowing visitors to view the main chamber from above. The Reichstag is free to visit, with audio and guided tours available. Guests should book online well in advance, turn up on time and bring their ID with them!
Possibly the most iconic image of Berlin, the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) has stood since 1791, when it was built to celebrate peace within the Prussian Empire. The Gate is a focal point for many of Berlin’s major events, including the celebrations of Germany’s 2014 Football World Cup win and the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall took place. The Gate stands in a mostly pedestrianized area of the city centre and can usually be accessed freely, unless there is an event going on.
Deutsches Historisches Museum
One of the city’s most fascinating museums, the Deutsches Historisches Museum covers the region’s entire history, from the Middle Ages up until the present day. It’s a lot to take in if you only have a few hours to visit, there are fascinating exhibits on the French Revolution, World Wars 1 and 2, the DDR and much more, as well as regularly updated events and special exhibitions. The museum is open daily from 10am until 6pm. Admission is 8€, 4€ concession and visitors under 18 years old may enter free of charge.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Commonly known as the Holocaust Memorial, this striking installation was opened on 10th May 2005, to commemorate 60 years since the end of World War 2. The monument is composed of 2711 large concrete slabs (stelae), designed to create a feeling of unease and confusion as you become lost among them. Underneath the monument is a small museum, which includes a timeline of the Holocaust’s progress across Europe and further exhibits demonstrating the devastating toll the years of persecution had on thousands of families across Europe. The monument can be freely accessed, and the museum is open daily from 10am until 7pm, closed on Mondays. Further memorials to the Sinti & Roma victims and the Homosexuals Persecuted under National Socialism are also located nearby, within Tiergarten Park.
Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror exhibition is located in the former headquarters of the Gestapo and SS, and serves as a powerful reminder of the crimes committed by these organisations and provides an insight into the methods used by these organisations to terrorise and persecute minority groups during the darkest period of Germany’s history. The exhibition is open daily from 10am until 8pm free to access, with guided tours available for a fee. Topography of Terror is located at the heart of Berlin, a few minutes’ walk from the famous Checkpoint Charlie.
The Berlin Wall Memorial
The Berlin Wall’s construction in 1961 divided the city for the next three decades, separating families and friends and leaving many citizens living in constant fear. The Wall Memorial is the last standing segment of the wall with the full border strip in place; allowing visitors to gain real insight into what the border would have looked like before the wall fell in 1989. The Memorial is divided in to four sections, covering different aspects of its history and the effect it had on the lives of Berlin’s citizens. It is open 7 days a week, from 10am until 6pm. Guided tours and seminars are available for an extra fee, for smartphone users a free online tour guide can be accessed.
Hohenschönhausen: Memorial Located in a Former Stasi Prison
A chilling reminder of the oppression exhibited upon the people of East Germany by its Soviet leaders, this former Stasi Prison was used to house political and other prisoners from 1945 right up until 1990. Living conditions were horrific and torture was commonplace. Hohenschönhausen is situated in the North East Berlin District of Lichtenberg, a little out of the way but well worth a visit for anyone interested in the Cold War period. Entry is only allowed as part of a guided tour, which costs €5. One of the most interesting features of this memorial is that many of the tours guides are former inmates of the prison, able to give a unique personal insight into the political persecution meted out by the DDR. English speaking tours take place daily, beginning at 2:30pm.
Get a Subterranean Perspective on Berlin with an Underground Tour
Like many other cities, Berlin is home to marvelous labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, bunkers and fortresses that tell a story all their own of the city’s history. Berliner Unterwelten is your key to these underground wonders. You can visit the ruins of an enormous fortress, see the remains of bygone eras, experience a taste of what life was like for Berliners during the bombing of the city or admire the formidable efforts of East Berliners attempts at tunneling to freedom. A range of different guided tours are available in several languages. visit their website for times and prices.
Mauerpark/Boxhagener Flea Markets
Sunday is outdoor market day in Berlin, all the year round. One of the city’s best markets can be found at Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, and another at Friedrichshain’s Boxhagener Platz. Both are a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, there are all sorts of quirky stalls to browse; from brand new artworks to antique typewriters, as well as some quality food stalls and a great variety of street performers. During the summer months, Mauerpark also hosts one of Berlin’s quirkier attractions: an outdoor amphitheater hosting a karaoke, where locals and tourists alike turn up to rock out their favourite tunes in front of a huge crowd. Both markets take place every Sunday, from early morning until late afternoon. Be warned that when the weather’s good it can get very crowded!
Tempelhofer Feld: Relax in the sun at an Abandoned Airport
Berlin’s lengthy summers and fantastic selection of parks make it a brilliant city for those who love the great outdoors. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin’s hip Neukölln district is one of the most interesting locations to spend a sunny afternoon: A working airport up until 2008, it was closed and residents were given the chance to vote on what should be done with the land. The winner was ‘leave it as it is’ and now the former runway is used for kite-boarding and other wacky outdoor pursuits. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.