Berlin is one of the largest capital cities in the whole of Europe. It also has a deep and varied history. This means that there is a lot in the city to discover. If you have never been to Berlin before, then you will benefit from making an itinerary before you go. This will help you to ensure that you are able to visit everywhere that you want to on your trip. The following list of twenty things to do in Berlin for first timers will give you some idea of the diverse things that there are to discover here.
20. Checkpoint Charlie
This is one of the best-known places where you were once able to cross between East and West Berlin. It was originally simply named Checkpoint C but began to be referred to as Charlie which represents the letter C in the phonetic alphabet. Today it is one of the most popular places in Berlin to get a souvenir photo taken. The checkpoint has been renovated so that it looks as it would do when the wall was still standing.
19. Botanical Gardens Berlin
The botanical gardens have over 22,000 different species of plant. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens that you can visit as well as one of the largest. Even though it is located in the middle of the city, you can really get away from all the hustle and bustle here. There are plants from all over the world and so it is a chance to see flora and fauna that you might not see elsewhere.
18. Markthalle Neun
This market hall dates back to 1891 and it was at risk of closure in 2009 but it was saved by a group of locals. Lonely Planet recommends that the best time to visit the market is on Street Food Thursday. This is an opportunity for you to try food from all over the world as the market becomes full of traders selling a vast range of different cuisines. Throughout the rest of the week there are traders that sell most types of goods that you can think of including both cheap and cheerful and high end items.
17. Victory Column
The Victory Column is located in Tiergarten today but it once stood in front of the Reichstag. It was moved before the start of WWII as part of Hitler’s plan to establish Berlin as ‘World Capital Germania’. The Column was originally erected in 1864 to celebrate the victory over Denmark in the Danish-Prussian War. A sculpture of Victoria was added to the top of the column after subsequent victories over Austria and France.
16. Treptower Park
Treptower Park in in the southeast of the city and is located next to the Spree. In the summer there are boat cruises that will take you along the river and there are also paths on the riverside where you can take a walk. The park is also home to the largest war memorial in the part of the city that belonged to East Germany. The memorial was built for the 80,000 soviet soldiers that were killed during the Battle of Berlin and shows a soldier carrying a child while standing on a broken swasticka. There are also sixteen sarcophagi made from stone which represents each of the sixteen states of the Soviet Republic.
15. German Historical Museum
Over 2000 years of German history can be explored in this museum. There are 7000 exhibits in the museum and these are arranged in chronological order so you can go on a tour of Germany through the ages. According to the Crazy Tourist, the museum has everything from historically important artifacts to items that show what life was like for ordinary people at different points in history. Highlights include the hat that was worn by Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and a painting of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the elder.
14. East Side Gallery
When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, most of it was pulled down immediately. However, there are still small sections that remain. One of these sections has been turned into a gallery. At 1316 meters long it is the longest open air gallery in the world as well as being the longest section of the wall that is still intact. There are 105 paintings on the wall which have been created by artists from all over the world. The pieces of art are mainly commentary on the political changes that took place in Germany after the fall of the wall and unification.
This is the largest square in the whole of Germany and is considered to be one of the most dynamic areas in Berlin. It started life as a parade ground but was completely destroyed during WWII. It was rebuilt during the 1960s by the GDR as a project to turn it into one of the main shopping areas of the city. It was also the scene of many peaceful protests against the wall. Alexanderplatz underwent a real transformation after the fall of the Berlin wall but there are still examples of GDR architecture that can be found in the square.
12. Olympic Stadium
The 1936 Olympics were one of the most famous in the history of the games. Hitler intended them to be a way to prove Aryan supremacy to the rest of the world. However, this plan did not come to fruition as Jesse Owens, an African-American, was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Olympics. Since the Olympics the capacity of the stadium has been reduced from 100,000 to just below 75,000. Tours of the stadium are available on weekdays and it is also used as the home ground of the soccer team Hertha BSC.
11. Berlin TV Tower
This is the tallest building in Berlin and offers a 360 degree view of the whole city. Miss Tourist suggests that the best time to visit this tower is at sunset as this will give you really scenic views. There is an observation deck where you can take in the views of the city. Telescopes can be found on this deck which allow you to zoom in on the places you are looking at. If you wish to spend more time at the top of the tower, then you can dine in the revolving restaurant.
10. Berlin Zoo
Berlin Zoo has over 20,000 animals and is one of the largest zoos in Europe. It is the oldest zoo in Germany and it has a very diverse range of animals that are taken care of here. The Panda Garden is home to the only Giant Panda in Germany and this is one of the most popular attractions in the zoo. If you are visiting Berlin with children, then this is one of the best places in the city to visit as a family.
9. Templehof Field
Templehof is an abandoned airport that is now used as a park. This is not the first time in its history that it has been used in this way. It was once a parade ground and families would picnic there on weekends and public holidays when it was not being used by the military. An airport was opened in 1920 which closed in 2008 and it became a park once more. There is still an extensive picnic area at the park along with a trail that can be used to jog, walk and cycle.
8. Charlottenburg Palace
Charlottenburg Palace is a little outside the city center but it is well worth making the journey here. The Palace was built in 1699 and it was originally called Lietzenburg Palace. The name was changed after the death of Sophie Charlotte, the first Queen Consort of Prussia. There are many different events that are held at the palace throughout the year and some of these are listed on the Visit Berlin site. There is also an extensive park that makes up part of the grounds and this can be visited free of charge.
7. Holocaust Memorial
This is also referred to as the Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe. It is located one block away from the Brandenburg Gate and is a memorial to the millions of Jews that were murdered during the Holocaust. The memorial consists of 2711 concrete slabs which are arranged in a grid formation on sloping ground. The memorial was inaugurated on May 10 2005 which marked the sixtieth anniversary of the end of WWII.
6. Berlin Cathedral
Although this church has never been the seat of a bishop, it is still often referred to as a Cathedral. It is located on Museum Island and is considered to be the most important Protestant Church in Berlin. There has been a church in this location since 1451 and this is the fourth building that has stood here. The current building was built in 1904 and after suffering damage from the war it was restored. Architectural highlights within the church include sculptures, mosaics and the use of gold.
5. Unter Den Linden
This is the most famous boulevard in Berlin and runs all the way from Museum Island to the Brandenburg Gate. A View On Cities calls it the most prestigious boulevard in the city. It gets it’s name from the rows of Linden trees that line the avenue. Some of these trees are over 300 years old. When the wall was built the boulevard became deserted but it soon became revitalized after the fall of the wall. Some of the most historic buildings in Berlin can be found along this boulevard such as the State Opera and Humboldt University.
There are many parks that can be found in Berlin but the Tiergarten is the biggest. It is right in the center of the city and covers over 500 acres. The park is the perfect place to relax with a picnic and you can also rent a boat to travel around the lake. The Tiergarten is also home to Schloss Bellevue which is the residence of the German President.
3. Museum Island
You will find five of the best museums in Berlin on this island in the middle of the Spree. It is easy to spend the whole day on the island and you still may not have time to get around every museum, depending on how much time you spend in each one. There are three day passes available for the island which may be a good idea if you want to return. The National Art Gallery can be found on the island, along with Pergamon museum which is one of the most visited in Europe.
The Reichstag is the meeting place of the German Parliament. Trip Savvy describes it as a must see building in Berlin, not only because of the historical importance of it but also because of the views over the city you get from the top. It was built in 1894 before being destroyed by fire in 1933. It was further damaged by bombing during the war and attempts at restoration began in the 1960s, although it was not fully completed until 1999. The new building included a glass dome which is a symbol of openness and freedom of expression. Visits to the Reichstag are free but you will need to book your tickets in advance.
1. Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous sites in Berlin and should be top of the list for any first timer in the city. It is one of the most recognizable sites in the city and this has been the case for centuries. The gate was damaged during WWII but remained intact. It was closed during the time that the Berlin Wall was intact but when the wall came down it became a symbol of unification. The gate continues to be used for celebrations today and it is the place in the city where people gather to watch fireworks on New Years Eve.