Berlin, Germany’s capital city, is a place filled with wild extremes. From centuries-old architecture to brand new, modern structures and Soviet-era ideologies clashing with Western ones, Berlin is a giant melting pot. The uniqueness of the city is expressed on nearly every corner, from fantastic museums and art galleries to delicious restaurants and lively clubs and bars. This post will break down all you need to know about visiting Berlin, including the best things to do in Berlin, how to get there, how to get around, and more.
Best Things to Do in Berlin
1. Check Out the City’s Renowned Museums
Berlin is, quite possibly, one of the best museum cities in all of Europe. I’d almost go so far to say that Berlin is one of the best museum cities in the whole world. Some of the museums in Germany’s capital are absolutely world class, and the range of themes and topics is as broad as can be. From top tier ancient history museums, to Jewish cultural centers, to European history museums and more, Berlin has a world-famous museum for everyone. There are simply so many great museums that I wrote an entire post about the best museums to visit in Berlin.
2. Reflect at the Berlin Wall and Holocaust Memorials
Both of these places made my list of the best museums to visit in Berlin, but I feel the need to call them out specially with their own write-up in this travel guide. Parts of modern German history are abhorrent while other parts are quite glorious, and these two sites serve as constant reminders that even the best among us can go down a dark path. The Berlin Wall Memorial enables us to reflect on a chilling truth; that this city was divided by force into two halves based solely on economic beliefs. Families were divided and defectors from East Germany were slaughtered. This happened in the capital city of Germany. Where else could it happen?
The Holocaust Memorial, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a touching and thought-provoking outdoor exhibit that leads to some really critical thinking, especially once you enter into the museum at its core and listen to the stories of some of the people who lost their lives in the Holocaust. This memorial is a constant reminder that oppression like this exists and can happen anywhere. While both places are more somber, they are truly two of the best places to visit in all of Berlin.
3. Go on a Craft Beer Tour
By most accounts, Germany is the undisputed home of modern beer. While Germany is typically known for its more traditional, fuller-bodied beers, there has been a massive wave of investment in the craft beer sector in Berlin. This city has become one of the craft beer capitals of the world, and they craft up some really great brews.
I paid $55 for a tour that included a full night of great beers to sample in many different breweries, as well as an instructional session on how beer is made and a dinner at a Mexican restaurant. While it may sound a little unconventional, it was a great time and was worth every penny.
4. Go Sightseeing to Berlin’s Biggest Attractions
I hate to fill up lists of the best things to do in a city with sightseeing. To me, that isn’t really a list of things to do, but rather a list of things to see. I have written several posts just about sightseeing, like the best sightseeing in Rome, so that I could leave all of those things out of my lists of the best things to do without excluding them altogether. With that being said, there are always some really cool things to see in a new city, and I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention them here.
If you are visiting Berlin for the first time, there are a few things you should definitely go and see. The Brandenburg Gate is the most notable of them, while the Berlin Cathedral comes in as a close second. There is also the rebuilt Reichstag building, the Berlin TV tower (Fernsehturm), and Checkpoint Charlie. All of these things are absolutely worth visiting to see and take a picture at, but there is little need to stay for any more than 5 minutes at any of them.
5. Relax and Recharge in the Tiergarten
Tiergarten translates to animal garden, but this is definitely not a zoo. Berlin’s Tiergarten is a 500+ acre green space sprawling throughout various parts of Berlin. Again, that is over 500 acres! This giant urban park is a great place to go for a picnic, read, get a suntan, hang out with friends, go for a run…really anything. That is the point of a park! Berlin’s Tiergarten is beautiful and is a great way to catch a little quiet time while on your trip to Germany’s busy capital. It gets its name because rich Germans used to go hunting here and it was stocked with animals.
How to Get to Berlin
If you’ve flown to Berlin in the past and it was before 2020, this part of the post will come as news to you. Berlin used to have two major airports; one in what was formerly East Berlin and one in West Berlin. These sides of the city were different countries, after all, and each needed their own airport! Once the Berlin Wall fell, both airports began to serve the city as a whole. If you flew into Berlin before 2020, you would’ve flown into one of those two, as they were both popular and busy airports.
In 2020, however, both of those airports were closed and a new, major airport was opened! Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) opened on top of the old Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF) and now serves all of the flights into and out of Berlin. If you want to fly right into Berlin, BER is your only choice, but it is one of the best airports in Germany for cheap airfare!
The best way to get from the airport to your hotel in Berlin is by booking a private transfer with our partners at Welcome Pickups. Welcome Pickups offers personalized, private, comfortable rides from the airport into the city for about the same price as a standard taxi. They monitor your flight status while you are in the air, and a driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it as soon as you arrive.
I usually provide some backup airport options, because flying right into the city isn’t always the cheapest way to get where you’re going. For some people, the savings don’t really matter and flying into the destination city is highly preferred. For others, saving $200 per person on the flight and landing two hours from the city is worth the time sacrifice. Unfortunately, when it comes to Berlin, you’re likely better off just flying right into Berlin regardless. Berlin has the 3rd busiest airport in all of Germany, and the only busier ones are way too long of a trip to make it worth the time.
Since Berlin’s airport is so busy, odds are you will find a great flight option into BER anyway. I wrote in my post about finding cheap flights that using hub airports will lead to more affordable airfare, and the same logic applies here. To get from Berlin Brandenburg Airport to the city, I highly recommend taking a train from the airport’s station. It is cheap and fast, and the station is easy to find from the terminal of the airport.
If you are already in Europe, you might be able to take a train or a bus right to Berlin rather than flying. There are tradeoffs to buses and trains, most notably just the fact that they take so much longer. With the prevalence of budget airlines in Europe, if the destination is more than a 5 hour trip on the ground, you’re probably better off flying. I wrote about that in my post about the best ways to travel around Europe. From Berlin, you can get to just about any city in Germany within 6 hours in a car, but those times expand when you’re on a bus.
The train network in Germany is very good, and you might be able to get from Berlin to any other German city in under 5 hours. I would look at the trains if you are coming from any city in Germany as well as nearby international cities like Prague. Any further than that, and you will absolutely want to fly, without any question.
How to Get around Berlin
U-BAHN | S-BAHN | TRAMS | BUSES
German cities are known for their fantastic public transportation systems, and Berlin is the country’s capital; as you may expect, the public transportation is fantastic. The two main method of transportation I recommend using are the U-Bahn (subway) and the S-Bahn (light rail/regional rail). These trains are highly efficient. punctual, and very well connected throughout the city. Like I just mentioned above, taking the S-Bahn from the airport is by far the best way to get from the airport into the city other than a private transfer with Welcome Pickups. Public transportation in Berlin is perfectly safe, and it is extremely affordable. A 24-hour pass is less than €10, and a single ride ticket is less than €4. If you use the metro 3 times in one day, it is worth getting the 24-hour pass.
Riding on any form of public transportation without a validated ticket is a punishable offense, and you will be taken by transportation police to be fined. The fine is up to €60, and simply being a tourist or not having the cash on hand will not suffice as an excuse. I got caught once without a validated ticket, I will admit, and I was escorted to an ATM to withdraw €120; €60 for me and €60 for my friend. When riding on the metro, you start to have thoughts like “do I really need to buy a ticket? Who will ever know?” Ethics aside, these questions will undoubtedly cost you later, when the plain-clothes transport police show up going car to car asking to see valid tickets. If you are in a car where they are asking for tickets, there is simply no escape.
How do I validate my tickets? What does that even mean?
If you haven’t used a metro system with validation before, this is a very valid question. Many cities, especially in Europe, pre-sell transportation tickets. “Validation” is the act of scanning that ticket under a machine to make it go live. Once the ticket has been scanned, it has a certain window of time until it expires. They do this to keep peddlers and criminals out of the trains. Validation also starts the clock on your 24-hour pass, so if you buy it at 3:00 but don’t use it until 5:00, your 24-hours will go until 5:00 the next day. If you buy a ticket but do not validate it, the transit police treat you the same as anyone else who doesn’t have a ticket and will fine you. Be sure to scan your ticket in the validation machine.
How Many Days Do You Need in Berlin?
Berlin is a capital city and is exploding with history and culture. If you have the time, Berlin deserves a full week-long trip. If you don’t have that kind of time, I recommend at least four days to soak in the sights and smells of the city while visiting some of its top museums. Also, Berlin is known to have one of the best nightlife scenes on the planet, so if that is your thing, be sure to visit during a weekend. Any less than 4 days and you won’t fully be able to soak in the wonders and uniqueness of this awesome, historic city.
When Is the Best Time of the Year to Visit Berlin?
Berlin is lovely to visit all year round for various reasons, but the most ideal time to visit is usually in May or June. The weather is nice and warm without being too humid, and the city is fully alive and buzzing with people. Still, it is not as busy as it is in July and August. The winter can get cold, but some people really enjoy the wintry things that Berlin has to offer. If you are looking for a nice time where you can comfortably flow between indoor and outdoor activities without having to wait in massive lines, May is the best time to visit Berlin.
Is Berlin the Best City to Visit in Germany?
To be honest, there is no clear answer to this question. Is Berlin the best city to visit in Germany? I think that is up to the individual, but I would love to know what you think! I personally ranked Munich above Berlin on my list of the best cities to visit in Germany, but I think it really just depends on the individual who is traveling.
In my opinion, Berlin is certainly near the top. I think it is one of the best cities to visit in all of Western Europe. However, I think Munich gives Berlin a real run for its money as the best city to visit in Germany, and I think that it all boils down to personal preference. If you like art, museums, nightlife, and modern history, the best city to visit in Germany is easily Berlin. However, if you like old-style German culture, older European history, stunning architecture, German food, and sports, Munich is the best city to visit. If you visit them both, let me know what you think!
That’s all we have for you about Berlin! I hope this post accomplished its goal of answering the question “Is Berlin the best city to visit in Germany?” If you have any more questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section or shoot us an email.
If you’re planning a trip to Berlin, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!