Things to See & Do in Berlin
Berlin Infostores, at the Europa-Center on Budapester Strasse, is open Mon-Sat, 8am-10pm and Sun 9am-9pm. Here you can buy the Berlin Welcome Card (2-day 16.50, 3-day 22) which gives you discounts on attractions, museums, tours and 3 days unlimited public transport. EurAide in Bahnhof Zoo station also provides tourist and accommodation help. It is open 11am-6pm daily. Check out the book Berlin for Young People, sold at many bookstores and other shops throughout the city for about 6. It is an excellent, extensive local guide to the neighborhood scenes.
City Bus 100
For the price of a single fare (2.10), take bus number 100 to see many interesting sights and attractions going from Zoo Station, by the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag and ending in Prenzlauer Berg. The BVG offers a brief guide giving an overview of the tour.
Offers excellent walks of Berlin lasting between 2-3 hours. The cost is 12 and 9 with a Berlin Welcome Card.
Brewer’s Best of Berlin
Their tour is an excellent way to get acquainted with Berlin - both its history and layout. Tours last anywhere from 4-10 hours depending on the day and tour guide. A great value at 12. You can buy tickets at your hostel.
Berlin consists of extremely distinct and dynamic neighborhoods. As such, we describe the city’s four most interesting and enjoyable areas below.
The Mitte is the historic heart of Berlin and contains many of the city’s most popular tourist sites. Unter den Linden used to be one of the most fashionable and famous streets in Europe; today, it is mainly new embassies and fancy shops. Once across the Spree, however, Mitte becomes the most fashionable district in the city. Mitte was the first area of the former East to be revamped and resettled and where the whole artistic explosion first started. It was in Tacheles (Oranienburger Str. 53), a bombed-out Jewish department store that had been left unrepaired since the war, that the first squatters began establishing the spontaneous, erratic, and frenetic alternative arts culture that thrived immediately following the fall of the Wall. Tacheles is now preserved in its still-destructed form as an institution for contemporary art. It is a must see by day and by night: inside there are artists living and working, a fantastic café, an alternative movie theater, and a music venue.
A bohemian neighborhood, even under Communist rule, that has now become an incredible conglomerate of beautiful buildings, streets and cafés. Prenzlauer Berg was the next hot spot following Mitte and is now also quite well established. On the streets, many of Berlin’s young crowd chat endlessly on sidewalk cafés and inside mellow clubs. Don’t expect outrageous punkiness - it is a lively and intellectual scene that is a delight to explore. Most of the scene is focused around Kollwitz Platz and the fire-tower between Diedenhöfer Str. and Kolmarer Str. However, it is also worth venturing over to the wonderful cafés and bars on Winsstrasse and Kastanienallee, and around Helmholtz-platz. Make sure you spend time walking around this fabulous area.
This was the center of anarchy and alternative culture in West Berlin. Kreuzberg is also well-known as being the center of a large Turkish population in Berlin - one of the largest Turkish communities in the world! The mix of immigrants and alternative lifestyles makes for a fascinating, fun, and a vivacious neighborhood. Kreuzberg still holds its own as one of Berlin’s most exciting and active areas and is still very much a center of outrageous nightlife, eccentric bars and cafés, and a very youthful, active, and vocal population. Along the area’s most crowded and popular street, Oranienstrasse, you will find tons of great nightclubs (S036 is the most famous), many great used bookstores, original and unique shops, and endless bars, cafés and restaurants. A particularly prime place to sip a coffee or beer is at one of the cafés around Heinrichplatz. Don’t just limit yourself to Oranienstrasse. Further south along Wiener Str. and at Spreewaldplatz there is also a great deal to explore.
Berliners say this is the new cutting-edge neighborhood. Further east and far removed from the snazziness of Mitte, Friedrichshain is an old working-class district which is now being filled with students and youth. Here, some signs of squatting and the politically conscious commune-like settlements of the early 90s are still visible. This area does not have the intensity of Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg or Kreuzberg, but the laid-back and comfortable atmosphere of the various hangouts is really fun and unique. Some of the best streets to explore are Simon-Dach Str., Wühlisch-strasse, Rigaer Str. and Schreiner Str.
Topographie des Terrors
Located behind a large portion of the wall, this is an exhibit of Nazi history at the former site of the Gestapo and SS. Although the information is provided in German only, it is worth a visit and is on the way to Checkpoint Charlie. Admission is free.
Just past the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, home to the German parliament. The dome on top offers excellent views of Berlin and is also an example of great modern architecture. Open daily until 10pm and is free. Located at Platz der Republik in Tiergarten. S: Unter den Linden.
This former concentration camp has been turned into a memorial/museum. It served as a “model” concentration camp during the holocaust where over 100,000 people were murdered. After World War II, it was used for political prisoners by the Russians. To get there take the S1 from Friedrichstrasse to Oranienburg (takes about 45 minutes). From there you can walk 15 minutes (2km) to the entrance or take the 804/805 bus. Free admission.
Originally opened in 1866, but during the Kristallnacht Pogram in the 1930s the SA tried to burn it down. Due to the building’s landmark status, it was spared by the city police but was later destroyed during WWII. From the remains, reconstruction on the synagogue began in 1988 and it was reopened in 1995 as a memorial and museum. Open 10am-5pm, 3. Oranienburgerstr 29.
Food & Nightlife
The Mitte district is known for its nightlife, but also check out Oderberger Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg for cheap eats and drinks. In general, eating and drinking in “Kniepen”, local pubs that serve beer and food, is usually easy on the wallet. In addition, What’s on in Berlin, distributed at EurAide, is a good guide (in English) to the city’s happenings.