Here are some personal recommendations for how to spend your time in Berlin when we aren’t touring together!
Preparing for Your Trip
Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory Maclean: a perfect encapsulation of the remarkable history of this unique capital. My absolute number one recommendation!
Weimar Culture by Peter Gay: history of the incredibly progressive and vibrant 1920s in Berlin
The Third Reich by Michael Burleigh: comprehensive history of the Nazi regime
Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor: chronicles the military failure of the Nazis and the deprivation of the capital during the last moments of WWII
Stasiland by Anna Funder: concise overview of Berlin during the era of the Wall
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: basis of the stage show and movie ‘Cabaret’.
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin: epic tome of 1920s Berlin
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada: based on a true story, a powerful look at an ordinary couple’s resistance to the Nazis
The Good German by Joseph Kanon: a novel about an American correspondent in Berlin during the immediate postwar period
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick: a frightening post-WWII vision of an imagined German-Japanese victory
Christiane F (Uli Edel, 1981): a bleak vision of teenage drug addiction in West Berlin, with a great soundtrack by David Bowie
Run, Lola, Run (Tom Twyker, 1998): the film which ushered in the ‘New German Film’ of the early 2000s – Lola must sprint through post-Wall Berlin to help her boyfriend on time
Goodbye Lenin (Wolfgang Becker, 2003): a comedy about a family in East Berlin who must pretend the Berlin Wall still stands, to protect their ailing mother from shock
Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004): dramatisation of Hitler’s last days in the bunker
The Lives of Others (Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck, 2006): incredible film about Stasi surveillance in East Germany
Berlin, the capital of Germany with 3.7 million inhabitants, was founded in the 13th century and has been the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany since 1990. It’s a diverse city with large groups of people from Turkey, Poland, Syria, Italy and many other nations living here.
Visiting Berlin without speaking German is not a problem, and most people under 40 speak good English. It’s also a very safe city with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. Pickpocketing may happen in crowded tourist areas, so just be aware of your belongings.
A note on addresses in Germany: The street name comes before the number and street names often with -strasse, -allee or -platz. The five digit number after that is a zip code (Postleitzahl in German) and Berlin zip codes all begin with 10, 11 (for central Berlin), 12 (for south or south-east Berlin), 13 (for north Berlin) or 14 (for south-west Berlin).
Berlin covers a relatively large area for European cities (891 square kilometres or 344 square miles) but is very well connected by public transport and easy to get around. Trains, metros, buses and trams all use the same paper ticketing system and single journeys cost €2.80 for a standard journey (valid for two hours in one direction, including changes), or €1.30 for a short journey (valid for three consecutive stops on the train or metro, or six stops on the bus or tram).
There are no barriers to entry of public transport, but individual tickets must be validated in the yellow machines before you start your journey. An adult day pass is €7, meaning it’ll be worth it if you plan to do more than three journeys in a day.
Another alternative for your stay is the Welcome Card, with various options of transport passes for different lengths of stays which also include many discounts to several city sights. Taxis are readily available in tourist hotspots, and Uber is also a good alternative, though not as cheap as in many other parts of the world.
Berlin’s a big city, so breaking down your explorations by neighbourhood makes it more manageable. Each neighbourhood is quite distinct, so take some time to consider where you’d most like to stay.
Home to the baroque 18th century Charlottenburg Palace, this neighbourhood was a separate city until as recently as the 1920s. Full of culture, shopping and grand architecture, this is one of Berlin’s richer neighbourhoods.
Where to stay in Charlottenburg
Centred around the huge city park of the same name, this district of Berlin is a great place to stay to be right in the centre of the city but still close to a massive green space! Don’t miss the Bauhaus Archive and the Gay Museum if you’re staying here.
Where to stay in Tiergarten
Many of the major sights such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie are located here, and much of this part of Berlin was rebuilt completely after the Second World War. Nowadays, it’s mostly the financial centre of the city with lots of shopping opportunities and tourist hotspots.
Where to stay in Mitte
Historically a working-class neighbourhood to the south of Mitte, Kreuzberg is now a hip, vibrant part of the city with residents from all over the world and countless excellent restaurants and coffee shops. The most famous sights here is undoubtedly the Jewish Museum.
Where to stay in Kreuzberg
Full of typical and well-maintained 19th century architecture, this neighbourhood offers something of a village feel while still being well connected to the rest of the city. It’s also the historical gay centre of Berlin, especially around Nollendorfplatz where there are countless more old-fashioned gay bars and clubs.
Where to stay in Schöneberg
If you plan on visiting a lot of museums and paid attractions, it may be worth considering the three day Berlin Pass for €89 per adult, or €115 including transport. Otherwise, if you’re only interested in having access to museums specifically, consider the Berlin Museum Pass for €29 for three days, but which doesn’t include travel or other sights.
German Historical Museum, Unter den Linden 2, 10117: giving an overview of German history within a global context, this museum is a must for any history buff!
Gemäldegalerie, Matthäikirchplatz, 10785: this important museum has a stunning collection of European paintings spanning the 13th to 18th centuries
Topography of Terror, Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, 10963: partly outdoor exhibition and partly formal indoor museum, this museum displays moving exhibitions on WWII history in the former Gestapo headquarters
German Resistance Memorial Centre, Stauffenbergstrasse 13, 10785: commemorating the execution of Colonel Klaus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and others who were involved in the 20 July plot
Berlin is a foodie’s dream! There are so many great restaurants serving all kinds of food from all over the world. Here are my personal top picks.
La Perla Jonica, Belzigerstrasse 20, 10823: an authentic Italian restaurant in Schöneberg
Rosa Caleta, Muskauerstrasse 9, 10997: a fun Jamaican restaurant in Kreuzberg
Umami, Bergmannstrasse 90, 10961: an excellent Vietnamese restaurant in Kreuzberg
Das Meisterstück, Hausvogteiplatz 3-4, 10117: a modern but traditional German brewery and restaurant in Mitte
Café am Neuen See, Lichtensteinallee 2, 10787: a seasonal and regional restaurant inside Tiergarten overlooking the lake
Stagger Lee, Nollendorfstrasse 27, 10777: a stylish and laid-back bar with great cocktails in Schöneberg
Mein Haus am See, Brunnenstrasse 197-198, 10119: a cute place with cosy seating and nice drinks in Mitte
BrewDog, Ackerstrasse 29, 10115: a bar specialising in Scottish craft beer in Mitte
Silver Future, Weserstrasse 26, 12047: an intimate queer bar with occasional drag performances in Neukölln
Barkett, Czeminskistrasse 10, 10829: a vegan bar and café with a great selection of beer and food in Schöneberg
Here are my top picks for places to find books in English in Berlin, both new and used.
Dussmann, Friedrichstrasse 90, 10117: open till midnight, this huge store has books on a huge range of topics, with a super English section!
Eisenherz, Motzstrasse 23, 10777: a queer bookshop with a great selection of media beyond just books
Another Country, Riemannstrasse 7, 10961: selling used English language books, this place has a cosy vibe and sometimes hosts events
Curious Fox, Flughafenstrasse 22, 12053: another used English language bookstore, this friendly place regularly has poetry readings, quizzes and book launches
Shakespeare and Sons, Warschauerstrasse 71, 10243: with an attached café, this stylish bookshop is a great place for new and old titles in English
Fernsehturm, Panoramastrasse 1A, 10178: the iconic symbol of Berlin, and tallest building in the city, offers the most spectacular view
Reichstag, Platz der Republik 1, 11011: the modern dome on top of the German parliament building affords great views over Tiergarten and beyond (use the link to reserve a free visit)
Siegessäule, Grosser Stern, 10557: another iconic Berlin landmark, the Berlin Victory Column is a fun place to climb up for a good view
Viktoriapark, 10965: on the border of Kreuzberg and Schöneberg, this park on a hill has nice views over Mitte and to the north of the city
Klunkerkranich, Karl-Marx-Strasse 66, 12043: an unlikely bar on top of a shopping centre in Neukölln, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset over Berlin’s skyline
Off the Beaten Track
Treptower Park, Puschkinallee, 12435: one of the city’s largest parks, its vast Soviet War Memorial is quite a spectacle!
Bergmannstrasse, 10961: walking down this hip street in Kreuzberg you’ll discover some of the recent examples of gentrification in Berlin such as cool coffee shops, international restaurants and boutique gift stores.
Boxhagenerplatz, 10245: a cool area to explore to see modern Berlin, this central square in Friedrichshain used to be run-down, but is now surrounded by lively bars, vegan restaurants and tattoo parlors.
Schillerkiez, 12049: a small neighbourhood consisting of around 20 city blocks, this is the main access route to Tempelhofer Feld and full of cute shops and pleasant cafés
Tempelhofer Feld: built as one of Europe’s first city airports in the 1920s, it operated until 2008, when the runway became a city park. Nowadays, it’s a nice place to have a picnic, explore the communal gardens or fly a kite on a windy day! During WWII, it served as the landing ground for the Berlin Airlift to West Berlin