Berlin: The Top 20 Attractions - Global Storybook

Berlin: The Top 20 Attractions

Rayka Kobiella

Rayka Kobiella

Rayka Kobiella is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Germany).
Rayka Kobiella

The modern history of Berlin begun in the 13th century.  Since then it went through some tough and turbulent times – it was destroyed and rebuilt completely, over and over again.  In the mid-20th century, it became one of the strongest symbols of separation of the East and the West, when it was dissected in two: the GDR (German Democratic Republic) and the FDR (Federal Republic of Germany).

The Federal Republic of Germany had the weirdest location –  it was cut into an island-like shape, and placed right in the middle of its opponent – the German Democratic Republic.

Finally in 1989 it slowly transformed into a symbol of peaceful and glorious reunification of the two World Hemispheres – the East and the West, as well as the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

Berlin: The Top 20 Attractions - Global StorybookFrom a quick glance, anyone can see that this is the country’s capital, with its 3.6 million citizens, home to the Parliament of Germany.  On another hand, one might also notice that this is the capital of freedom, since it was at the Brandenburger Gate, where the East and the West Germany officially reunited.

If we were to summarize this modern city in a simple and clear way, we’d say that there might be no other place in Europe where so much cool stuff is happening right now – whether it’s about art, entertainment, nightlife, thrift shops, or the coolest hipster street life.

So make sure to explore the historical monuments along with Berlin’s notable lifestyle, as well as its fantastic food scene, street art, culture, nightlife, and more, while you stroll through the charming and pristine streets and boulevards of this cosmopolitan capital.  Now let’s review the Top 20 sights in Berlin that you must definitely know about!

Berlin: The Top 20 Attractions - Global Storybook1. Brandenburger Tor (The Brandenburger Gate)

The most defining monument of Berlin is undoubtedly the celebrated Brandenburger Tor with its iconic four-horse chariot on top, as well as six large columns at the base, representing five passages.  It was constructed between 1788 – 1791 for the King Wilhelm II, as one of the eighteen city gates of Berlin.  Though only one of them – this 26 meters high gate made out of sandstone, located at the Pariser Platz in Berlin-Mitte, survived until this day.

Another notable fact about this sight – the Brandenburger Tor was positioned in the off-limits area between the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FDR)during the years of the Cold War.  During the ‘Fall of the Wall’ it became an important symbol of the reunification of Germany.  Today you can also see the Gate on the back of the German Euro coins.

Pro tip: make sure to walk through the Gate as this was forbidden for a very long period.  Also, if you’re interested in knowing more about the Gate, stop by the Brandenburger Gate Museum, located just 50 meters away from the monument.

  • Address: Pariser Platz
  • Time required: less than one hour
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Entrance: free
  • Address of the Museum: Brandenburger Tor Museum (The Gate Berlin): Pariser Platz 4a, open daily 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Entrance: 7€ – 9€

2. Reichstag

This magnificent, historic building was erected in 1884 for the use of the national Parliament.  Paul Wallot designed this Neo-Renassaince structure with a circular dome, which was titled by Kaiser Wilhelm as the… ugliest building ever.

In 1933 a major part of Reichstag was destroyed by a fire.  Then the Nazis took over.  During the WWII, it was heavily bombed, then in April 1945 Soviet soldiers flew their flag above the ruined Reichstag.  Up until the reunification process, the Reichstag was in a slow process of decay.

In 1991 the government finally decided to move back to Berlin and hence commissioned the architect Sir Norman Foster to construct a huge glass dome and to renovate this historic building to its original form, though with some ‘good-looking’, energy-saving benefits.

At last, in 1999 the Parliament had permanently moved back into Reichstag.  Nowadays you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the top of its dome, while the nation’s politicians debate the country’s future underneath you.  Though make sure to book your ticket online in advance!

  • Address: Platz der Republik 1
  • Time required: 1 hour or more
  • Hours of operation: 8:00am – 11:59pm
  • Entrance: free
  • English Audio Guides and Tours are available
  • Official website: www.bundestag.de/en/

3. Holocaust Memorial

Since around the 1980s there was a strong demand to built a memorial site for the Holocaust victims – a central monument dedicated to the 6 million Jewish people killed during the Nazi’s regime.  It took a very long time and some very lengthy discussions, up until the modern Holocaust Memorial was finally completed in 2006.

The memorial was designed by Peter Eisenmann and it consists of 2,711 concrete slabs spread around 19,000 square meters, located close to the Brandenburger Gate.  Unfortunately the site still remains in the epicenter of discussions – for some it’s too abstract, for some – too “cold”, while for others it’s just what it needs to be, to give visitors space to fully reflect on what happened.

Underneath the memorial one can find a commemorative exhibition full of information, located on around 930 square meters.  There are also computer stations where one can read through the 4 million Jewish names of the Holocaust victims.

Holocaust Memorial Berlin, Germany - Global Storybook

Photo © canadastock-shutterstock.com

  • Address: Cora-Berliner Straße1
  • Time required: 1 hour or more
  • Hours of operation: memorial: open 24/7; Place of Information/Ort der Information: April – September: Tuesday -Sunday: 10:00am – 8:00pm; October – March: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00am – 7:00pm
  • Entrance: free
  • Official website: www.holocaust-denkmal-berlin.de

4. Museumsinsel and Berliner Dom (Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral)

The incredible ensemble of five museums located on the Spree Island, in Berlin-Mitte, is known collectively as the Museum Island.  It includes the famous Berlin Cathedral and it has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  The complex was built between 1824 and 1930.

The view from the river of the island alone is simply amazing!  While the Museum Island itself is free to visit, you have to buy tickets to the individual museums, preferably in advance.

The impressive Dome of the Berlin Cathedral which stands at the entrance to the Museum Island, along the river Spree, welcomes the visitors.  This evangelic church used to belong to the Hohenzollern for around 400 years, since the 15th century.  Due to his distinct taste in architecture, Emperor Wilhelm I assigned the architect Raschdorff to build a bigger, more splendid cathedral than the St. Peter’s in Rome, or the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  Unfortunately, the older cathedral was torn down in 1893, and the newer one was built in its place, in 1905.  Inside the cathedral you can learn more about the old royal church, as well as take a look at a hundred coffins from the 400 year old Hohenzollern Crypt.

The most important museums on the Museum Island are the Neues Museum (which includes the bust of Nefertiti) and my personal all-time favorite – the Pergamonmuseum, which belongs to the family of the most important archaeological museums in the World.  You can find a partial recreation of the Pergamon Altar (170-159 BC) and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (605-563 BC) there.  It’s a truly amazing experience.

  • Address: Bodestraße 3
  • Time required: 5 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: Berlin Cathedral: Monday – Saturday 9:00am – 8:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm – 8:00pm; Museums: 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Entrance: Berlin Cathedral: 5 – 7€; Museums: start at 10€ or you can buy a 3-day pass for more than 30 museums including the island for 25€
  • Official Website: www.museumsinsel-berlin.de/en/home/ and www.berlinerdom.de/index.php?lang=en

5. Charlottenburg Palace and Park

The oldest Prussian estate of Berlin, located in the West-end part of the city, is from the 17th century.  It was once home to numerous German royalties from the Hohenzollern family, who lived there for a very long time.  This astonishing Palace with its beautiful, wide complex of gardens reminds some of the Versailles.

The Palace has been beautifully restored not only from the inside but also from the outside.  You can now visit the New Wing and its amazing Rococo State Apartments, as well as the impressive 42-meters long Golden Gallery.  Get an English audio or a guided tour option to get a much better idea of the history behind this grandiose place.

The Palace Park was created in 1679, and it features a beautiful Neapolitan villa called Neue Pavillon (New Pavillon) from 1788.  Strolling around these stunning, lush gardens will make you forget that you’re in a big city for a moment or two.

  • Address: Spandauer Damm 10-22
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: The Park: Summer: 8:00am – 9:00pm; Winter: 8:00am – 8:00pm; The Palace: Summer: 10:00am – 6:00pm; Winter 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Entrance: the Park is free; the Palace is: 7 – 12€
  • Official website: www.spsg.de/schloesser-gaerten/objekt/schlossgarten-charlottenburg/

6. The East-Side Gallery 

There are only few remaining, conserved parts from the original Berlin Wall, which once divided the town, from 1961 to 1989.  One of these parts is known as the East-Side Gallery.

After the ‘Fall of the Wall’, various graffiti artists form all over the World rushed to Berlin, namely to this specific part of the Wall, to paint it over with some amazing murals.  Slowly this 1,316 meters long part of the Wall, located in Berlin-Friedrichshain, transformed into the East Side Gallery – the World’s largest open-air gallery, as we know it today.

Nowadays, this place is a mekka for graffiti-lovers.  You might even recognize some of its best known graffitis, like The Mortal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel which depicts Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev’s mouth-to-mouth embrace, or the ‘Trabi crashing through the Wall’, painted by Birgit Kinder.

7. Prenzelberg 

Prenzlauer Berg might be one of the coolest neighborhoods in Berlin, especially for those who are into indie boutiques, unique cafés, surprising bars as well as the best vintage in gentrified, artistic settings, full of beautiful historic buildings.

One must-see area in Prenzlauer Berg is Kastanienallee, which is filled with pubs, bars, beer gardens, and some cool little shops.  It has a nickname of Castingallee since its locals are known to dress up in different vintage or similar looks – walking up and down the streets, hoping that some big fashion label or a film director will spot them.  Grab a drink at one of the lovely bars in the area, and have fun observing the locals.

In addition, there are other cool areas like the Mauerpark.  It has been an abandoned green lot area at the time when the Wall stood there.  Nowadays people love to go there in the Summer to visit its massive flea market, as well as its fun karaoke bars.  Don’t miss out visiting the Kulturbrauerei either– it is an old brewery which was turned into a popular hub for concerts and nightlife, located at Schönhauser Allee 36.

The Kollwitzplatz, named after the artist Käthe Kollwitz, is another beautiful area in the neighborhood, covered with cafés, bars, and restaurants, where you can sit outside when the weather is nice, and spend a few relaxing hours.

  • Address: Prenzlauer Berg
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: 24/7; Mauerpark: 8:00am – sunset

8. Teufelsberg and Grunewald 

The contrast of a beautiful large forest with an artificial hill, known as Teufelsberg, that still has the remains of an old American spy facility, with a round dome crowning its top, could not have been bigger.  You can take a stroll inside this 32 square kilometers area, filled with oak, beech, pine, and acacia trees, as well as several charming lakes, while the graffiti-covered ruins located at the summit of Teufelsberg, remind you that you’re still in Berlin.

You can also find your way up to this beloved hipster meeting point.  Teufelsberg is an 80 meters high man-made hill.  After years of abandonment and vandalism, there are guided tours offered now, which can take you up to this popular photo op spot, with its amazing panoramic views and fun graffitis.

  • Address: Hüttenweg 100
  • Required time: 2 – 3 hours
  • Entrance: free; guided tours start at 6€
  • Official website (tours): www.teufelsberg-berlin.de

9. Kreuzberg

Compared to Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg looks more shabby-chic and gentrified, though it is still a cultural hub at its best.  Its Eastern side if full of young artists, while its Western side is a bit more settled and expensive.  The only thing that these two sides have in common is the eccentric look of its locals.

In Kreuzberg, you can explore the large and beautiful Görlitzer Park, or “Görli” in short, a place where people gather around for BBQs and some spontaneous concerts when the weather allows.  Next to it you can find the Wiener Straße, full of tasty cheap bites and drinks.  Across the park there’s the Bethanienhaus, which is often used for cultural, social, and other artistic events.  Everywhere in between you’ll also find some cool and surprising shops, remainders of the anarchist era, as well as the Turkish “history” of this neighborhood.

Be on a lookout for some delicious oriental food and drinks around the Bergmannstraße.  Survey the side streets for its awesome bars and cafés along the canals, its colorful cinema-bars, pop, rock and techno clubs.  Kreuzberg is also well-known for its famous graffitis and murals, and you can take a free guided tour to discover them closer.

10. Gendarmenmarkt

Three large elegant and historic buildings are located at the center of the Gendarmenmarkt the Konzerthaus, the French Cathedral from the early 1700s, as well as the German Cathedral from the same period.  Together they form one of the most beautiful squares in Berlin.  Once upon a time, in the 17th century, the Gendarmerie even had a guardhouse.  Nowadays it’s a beaming hotspot for various cultural activities.

The two cathedrals are not really ‘cathedrals’ anymore, since the French Cathedral now houses the Huguenot’s Museum, while the German contains an exhibition called The Path to Parliamentary Democracy in Germany.

Inside the Konzerthaus, which was built in 1821, Goethe’s Iphigenia had its inspirational beginning.  In front of the structure you’ll find a monument dedicated to the famous German poet Schiller with four women surrounding him.  They are the Lyric poetry (harp), Drama (dagger), History (tablets), and the Philosophy (parchment scroll).  If you are visiting in the Summer, check out the Open Air Classic Concerts that frequently happen here, and if you’re coming in the Winter – don’t miss the super-romantic Christmas Market!

  • Address: Gendarmenmarkt
  • Time required: 1 hour or more
  • Hours of operation: 24/7, Cathedral: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Entrance: free, French Cathedral 1-3€

11. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtsniskirche)

In 1895, this stunning church was completed in honor of the Emperor Wilhelm I.  Unfortunately it was heavily bombed and almost destroyed in 1943.  In 1961 a modern church was built in its place, which incorporates the remaining part from the old one.  Inside it you will find a memorial hall with the original architecture, as well as some photos, including a figure of Christ from the old church.

You are welcome to visit it on a Sunday or during a weekday mass, or even for an Evening Music Service.  Guided tours are also offered inside.

12. Potsdamer Platz

In 1838 a huge train station, called Potsdamer Platz was completed.  It soon transformed into a much beloved area for entertainment, great restaurants, and shopping.  However, during the WWII it was completely destroyed.  It later became known as the triangle between the American, British, and Soviet sectors, where the biggest black market started to rise.

In 1961 Berlin Wall cut Potsdamer Platz and turned it into the widest death strip in Germany.  It quickly became a mostly forgotten and rotten place, that many came to fear.

During the ‘Fall of the Wall’ several meters of the Wall were torn down in this area, creating a direct passage from one side to the other.  It’s also here where the popular rock-band Pink Floyd once performed their famous concert titled “The Wall” in 1981.

The decision was later made by the Berlin’s city council to completely rebuilt this area – to fill it in with modern architecture, turning it into an even more spectacular hub for entertainment, shopping and dining, than it ever was before.  Nowadays it’s a lively place with a cosmopolitain flair, where you can enjoy movies, theater shows, great food and drinks with fantastic views, as well as shopping, in one of the largest malls of Berlin.

  • Address: Potsdamer Platz
  • Time required: 1 hour or more
  • Hours of operation: 24/7; shops and restaurants have different opening hours
  • Entrance: free
  • Official website: www.potsdamerplatz.de/en/

13. Alexanderplatz & Fernsehturm (Alexanderplace with TV-Tower)

The Alexanderplatz, known locally as Alex, is the second biggest interchange of Berlin.  It was named Alex by the Emperor Wilhelm after the Russian Zar Alexander payed a visit to Berlin, in 1805.  This place was the original settings for numerous historical events, such as the March Revolution in 1848, or the biggest peaceful demonstration by the GDR citizens at the end of 1989, shortly before the ‘Fall of the Wall’.

During the WWII it was almost completely destroyed, though later the GDR had rebuilt it with the Soviet style structures.  Nowadays it’s an interesting mix of modern architecture, Soviet buildings plus a few older houses.  It’s a great and lively shopping area with a charming Christmas Market in the Winter.

You will also find the striking 368 meters high Fernsehturm (TV Tower) next to Alex, which offers incredible panoramic views.  You can see almost the entire city from its top observation deck, located at 204 meters.  The ticket price starts at 12,50 € – which is totally worth it!

  • Address: Alexanderplatz
  • Time required: 2 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: 24/7; check shops and restaurants for their opening times.  Fernsehturm: March – October 9:00am – 12:00pm; November – February: 10:00am – 12:00pm
  • Official website: www.tv-turm.de

14. DDR Museum (GDR Museum)

This interactive and engaging museum dedicated to the GDR (German Democratic Republic) will leave you with an unforgettable impression of what the life was like for its inhabitants.  You are also allowed to touch and try out the numerous things inside the museum, so that you’d have the most realistic experience and understanding of how it was like during the old days of the GDR.

One of the most popular exhibitions in this museum is the driving simulation of an original Trabant or a Trabi car. Interestingly enough, it was the only car produced in the GDR.  And if you really liked the driving simulations and would want to take it to the next level –  you may also rent an original Trabi for a tour around the city!  Needless to say, the DDR Museum is the most popular choice among the Berlin’s visitors!

DDR Museum Berlin, Germany - Global Storybook

Photo © Luisa Fumi-Shutterstock.com

  • Address: Karl-Liebknecht-traße 1
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: Monday – Sunday: 10:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00am – 10:00pm
  • Entrance: 8,50€
  • Official Website: www.ddr-museum.de/en

15. Tempelhofer Feld

When you first arrive to this spot – you will see a large green field followed by a spectacular massive building.  In the 1920’s, the local government started to built an airport at this sight, known as the Tempelhofer Feld.  In the 1930’s, Ernst Sagebiehl designed a grandiose building for the airport, which unfortunately was never finished because of the impending war.  Until this day, some parts of this complex can still be found in the area, like the remains of thirteen stairs made for 80,000 visitors.

During the division of Germany, a part of the Tempelhofer Feld was utilized, which makes it so special to Germans today.  The US Air Force used the runaways to airlift food into the West Berlin, which was then an isolated island positioned in the middle of the GDR.  After the ‘Fall of the Wall’ the German government decided to use it again as a small airport.

It was finally closed in 2008.  Nowadays, this 386 hectares site includes a 2.5 hectares of recreational, BBQ area with nice jogging trails for all kinds of visitors.  Notably, the former airport building is the largest monument of its kind in Europe.  Today, it’s a fantastic Creative Center for Berlin and will be turned into a new and official ‘Berlin Creative District’ soon.  It’s a great place to explore and hang out in with local Berliners.  There are also guided tours available in English inside this grand airport building.

  • Address: Tempelhofer Feld
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: sunrise – sunset
  • Entrance: free; tour starts at 10€
  • Official website: www.thf-berlin.de/en

16. Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum)

The German Historical Museum was founded in 1987 on the 750th anniversary of Berlin.  The Central Historical Museum of the GDR’s collections were transferred here in 1990, finally turning it into one complete museum of history for “both Germanies”.  It also offers a permanent exhibition in the famous Zeughaus (Arsenal) building with more than 7,000 objects, as well as a movie theater showing historical films.

Next to the prominent baroque building of the former Arsenal, you’ll find a modern structure made out of glass, where the histories of the GDR and the FDR were collected and are now exhibited together.  The gallery’s opening was a major step in the process of reunification and is definitely worth a visit.

  • Address: Unter den Linden 2
  • Time required: 2 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Entrance: 4-8€
  • Official website: www.dhm.de/en/

17. Berghain Club

Long queues, tough bouncers and no real party before 2:00 am – the Berghain isn’t just your regular techno club.  It’s only the most famous club in Berlin, as well as across the entire World.  The club’s settings are awesome – it’s located in a former power plant and is therefore huge!  An 18 meters high dance floor, an interior design made of concrete and steel, and a panoramic bar, are set here next to a darkroom and some great artwork.

The atmosphere is liberal and the floors are filled with some eccentric people.  To have a better chance of getting in, you should be sober, calm, and have been waiting in the queue patiently.  Just pretend like you’re the best in the crowd – but don’t try to show too much attitude.

Berghain Club, Berlin, Germany - Global Storybook

  • Address: Am Wriezener Bahnhof
  • Time required: 3 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: Saturday midnight – Monday noon
  • Entrance: 8-35€
  • Official website: www.berghain.de

18. Hamburger Bahnhof

This incredible art museum, the Hamburger Bahnhof, is a good enough reason alone for most art lovers to visit Berlin.  Some 13,000 square meters include one of the World’s best collections of contemporary art, from the 1960’s to the present.  The museum is set in a former train station that once connected Berlin with Hamburg.

The museum was opened in 1996 with a permanent collection, as well as some temporary exhibitions.  You’ll find Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys among other famous artists.  Also, don’t miss out the amazing works of Anselm Kiefer.

19. Hackesche Höfe and Scheunenviertel

In the 17th century this area wasn’t even on the map of modern Berlin, as it was filled with barns for storing hay.  That’s why it’s still sometimes know as the Scheunenviertel – “the barn quarter”.  As Jewish residents begun to settle in this area more and more, a vibrant Jewish community has slowly developed.  One can now find an old Jewish cemetery and a synagogue there from 1866.

The atmosphere inside these traditional and large single-courtyard complexes is simply amazing.  Locals and tourists mingle together in restaurants, bars, some independent cinemas, and a number of cultural institutions, found around each corner.  It opened in 1906 but was sadly neglected during the GDR time, and had been in a slow decay.  Finally, after it’s full restoration in 1993 it had re-opened once again.

  • Address: Rosenthaler Straße 40-41
  • Time required: 2 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Entrance: free
  • Official website: www.hackesche-hoefe.de

20. Boulevard Unter den Linden

In 1573 this Boulevard, which is known as the Unter den Linden today, was nothing more than a riding track for the royals.  It was the shortest route from the royal palace to the Tiergarten, where the aristocrats used to hunt.  Some wonderful trees were planted during this time, namely – linden.

Later in 1696, Friedrich I founded the Academy of Arts and a few years later the Academy of Science was also built here.  And just like that, this Emperor has laid the foundation for one of the most impressive boulevards in Europe.

Unter den Linden boulevard starts from the Brandenburger Gate and it stretches for over 1400 meters until the Schlossbrücke, from where you can easily get to the Museum Island (sight #4).  While taking a stroll on this beautiful, wide boulevard you will pass many interesting, historical buildings.  The most remarkable are the Zeughaus (Arsenal) which dates back to 1695, the Gendarmenmarkt, the Opera House built in 1742, as well as the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral from 1747.

  • Address: Unter den Linden
  • Time required: 2 hours or more
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Entrance: free

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Comments

  1. That’s an incredible article! I’ve been to most of the places back in 2016. But I would also mention the Jewish Museum. I found it quite interesting! Looking forward to go back there! Berlin so beautiful and green!

    1. Daria Silter

      I agree with you Stef! We’ve been there once, many years ago, in the Winter time when it was super cold and snowing, yet it was still magical! 🙂

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