Print | Email Travel

10 Things You Must Do In...Berlin

by: Caroline Westbrook and Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2003-08-29

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate at night

Check out our essential guide to the best sights and scenes that Berlin has to offer. If you only do 10 things during your stay, make sure they include these.

1 Visit the Jewish Museum. A fascinating look at the history of Jewish life and culture in Germany over the past two millennia, plus an area that covers the Holocaust in compelling, unsentimental fashion. The gift shop stocks a wide variety of Judaic as well as books in German and English.

Top Tip: If you’re looking for a kosher meal stop by the museum restaurant, which is not kosher but can provide kosher meals on request.

Address: Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin 
Tel: 030 25993 300

2. Take a bus around the city. The best way to see the whole of Berlin very quickly is to spend an hour or so on a No 100 bus, which passes by all the main sights, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the State Opera. It also goes into East Berlin and offers some opportunity to see what the east of the city was like under Communism, before the collapse of the Berlin wall. With modernisation going on all over the city, it’ll soon be hard to tell where West ends and East begins, so this trip is worth taking while the differences are still noticeable. Even better, the buses in Berlin are so frequent and punctual you’ll never have to wait more than a few minutes for one.

Top Tip: Buy a 24-hour travel pass from one of the main railway stations (such as Zoologische Garten in the centre of town), as this gives you unlimited access to buses – and once you’ve validated your ticket once you don’t have to show it again, unless you travel on the buses after 8pm.

3. Go to Berlin Zoo. With around 14,000 animals, this is one of the biggest and most impressive zoos in Europe. The adjacent aquarium, featuring hundreds of species of fish, reptiles and insects, is also a must-see. And don’t forget the petting zoo, where very tame sheep, goats and other animals mingle with the human visitors – as much fun for grown-ups as it is for kids!

Top Tip: Budget to spend at least half a day here – it is so huge you will need it to see everything.

Address: Hardenbergplatz 8 or Budapester Strasse 34 (there are two entrances) 
Tel: 030 25 40 10

4. Check out Checkpoint Charlie. It used to be the border control point between East and West Berlin, now it’s a tourist attraction. Well worth seeing if you’re a first-time visitor.

Top Tip: Don’t bother with the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, it’s one of the few disappointments in Berlin.

Address: Friedrichstrasse 43-45, Berlin
Tel: 030 253 72 50

5. Go to the Film Museum. Located in the ultra-modern Potsdamer Platz, this excellent museum traces the history of German movies from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Run Lola Run. German stars such as Marlene Dietrich are also covered and there’s a fascinating, disturbing look at Nazi film propaganda. The complex also houses a cinema, the Filmhaus which plays host to the Berlin Jewish Film Festival every June.

Top Tip: Don’t miss the entrance to the museum itself (which you come across after you’ve bought your ticket), which is inspired by Metropolis.

Address: am Potsdamer Platz Potsdamer Straße 2, 10785 Berlin
Tel: 030 300 903 0,

6 Down a cocktail at Billy Wilder’s. Adjacent to the Filmmuseum, Billy Wilder’s serves a dizzying array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. And like most bars in Berlin it’s open until the small hours.

Top Tip: Can’t find the cocktail of your choice on the menu? Ask the staff if they’ll make it for you – chances are they will. Plus, go during happy hour ands blue hour for cheap cocktails.

Address: Im Filmhaus Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamerstrasse 2, 10785, Berlin

7. Breakfast on a Berlin bagel. The perfect antidote to those late nights in the Berlin bars, kosher café Salomon Bagels has a variety of flavours, from sesame, poppy and onion to cinnamon raisin, blueberry, thyme and chocolate. They also do a range of bagel sandwiches, all made to order.

Top Tip: All the bagels are good but we particularly recommend the chocolate.

Address: Joachimstaler Straße 13 10719 Berlin, and Alte Potsdamer Strasse 7,10785 Berlin
Tel: 030 252 976 26

8 Go shopping at the Ka De We. Kaufhaus Des Westens, more commonly known by the shortened version of its name, is the second largest department store in Europe (only Harrods in London is bigger), selling everything from clothes and household goods to stationery, toys and souvenirs. The quickest way to travel is in one of the glass-panelled lifts which give a superb view of the store as they whiz up and down.

Top Tip: Do not miss the gigantic food hall, which sells almost every type of food and drink you could possibly wish for, as well as housing several eating places.

Address: Tauentzienstr. 21-24 10789 Berlin
Tel: 030 21 210

9 Visit the Brandenburg Gate, which marks one of the dividing points between East and West Berlin and has been the focus of many of the key moments in German history.

Top Tip: Afterwards, take a stroll down neighbouring Friedrichstrasse for designer shopping bargains.

Address: Pariser Platz

10 See the Topographie Of Terrors. Located on a site that used to house Nazi torture cellars, this powerful exhibition focuses on events before, during and after the Holocaust.

Top Tip: Wrap up warm if you go in winter as this is an outdoor attraction and Berlin can get quite chilly during the winter months. And watch your step!

Address: Stresemanstrasse 110  (entrance is on Niederkirchnerstrasse)
Tel: 030 25 48 67 03

How to get to Berlin

British Airways, British Midland and German airline Lufthansa all fly to Berlin, as do budget airlines Ryanair, Air Berlin and Germanwings. There are three airports in Berlin; Tegel, Tempelhof and Schonefeld, which was previously the main airport of East Berlin. Tegel and Tempelhof are both close to the city centre.

The best way to get into the centre of town from Schonefeld is to catch a train from the airport to Zoologische Garten station, a journey of about 40 minutes, or get a cab. Depending on the traffic, the ride will be about half an hour and will probably cost around 35 Euros.

The journey time from the other airports is around 15-20 minutes with a cab cost of around 20 Euros.