Berlin, Germany is one of the top destinations in Europe. It has a long complicated history, yet has emerged to become a welcoming city that embraces differences and celebrates diversity.
Berlin dates back to the 13th century and later became the capital of Prussia before a unified Germany was formed in 1871.
In World War II, Berlin became the capital of Nazi Germany and the city was heavily bombed. After Hitler’s defeat, Berlin was divided into two sectors, separated by the Berlin Wall: The East sector, which was controlled by the Soviets, and the West sector, which was given to the Allied Forces.
After the fall of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Berlin was reunified a year later. Today, Berlin is a world-class city.
Historical remnants such as the Berlin Wall or Brandenburg Gate offer unexampled sightseeing opportunities unlike any other in Europe.
The Reichstag in Berlin is a big draw for visitors with its Neo-Renaissance architecture and an impressive glass dome that has seen the most changes in this European city from the rule of the Imperial Diet of the German Empire to its near demise from a fire.
Before you start planning your next trip to Germany, check out these top 11 things to do in Berlin.
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1. Hitler’s Bunker
Hitler’s bunker, also known as the Führerbunker, was constructed in two phases in the years of 1936 and 1944 under the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.
This subterranean bunker was where Adolf Hitler spent his final days at the end of World War II.
Today, not much of the bunker remains but the history is well-documented and can best be experienced on a 2-hour walking tour and/or guided tour that stretches along the Berlin Wall.
2. TV Tower
Standing at attention against the skyline of Berlin is the iconic landmark TV Tower.
Located in the Mitte district of Berlin and near the Alexanderplatz or “Alex,” the TV Tower, also known as Berliner Fernsehturm, offers a bird’s-eye view of the city from an observation deck or from the rotating 360° TV Turm Restaurant.
The central borough of Mitte is one of the most vibrant boroughs and is known for its nightlife, trendy boutiques, award-winning restaurants and the best street cafes to grab a coffee.
Mitte boasts six districts: Tiergarten, Wedding, Hansaviertel, Moabit, Gesundbrunnen and, of course, Mitte proper.
Mitte was once split between East and West Berlin and today draws throngs of visitors and Berliners alike.
4. The Reichstag
Berlin’s The Reichstag is a draw for visitors to Germany and is still one of the most recognizable landmarks in Berlin outside of the Brandenburg Gate.
The neo-renaissance building was finished in 1894 and was built to house the Imperial Diet governmental body during the German Empire.
The long history of The Reichstag includes a devastating fire in 1933 that reduced it to rubbles. It was further damaged by air raids during World War II.
Today, it’s a must-see. Its impressive glass dome can be climbed via stairs and provides breathtaking views of the River Spree, Brandenburg Gate and the Tiergarten Park gardens. Guided tours are highly recommended when visiting The Reichstag.
5. Friedrichstadt-Palast (Palast Berlin)
Self-coined the world’s biggest theater stage, Friedrichstadt-Palast or Palast Berlin boasts Vegas-style shows, cabarets and many live shows and entertainment.
Friedrichstadt-Palast’s theater seats almost 1,900 and is considered the largest show palace in Europe. Be sure to grab a drink at the Sky Lounge before or after a show.
6. Berlin Wall Checkpoint Charlie East Side Gallery
One of the best sightseeing opportunities is to stroll the Berlin Wall History Mile which takes you through the history of Germany via 32 info boards and memorial markers honoring those who lost their lives trying to cross it.
This tour also takes you through Checkpoint Charlie and the Checkpoint Charlie outdoor exhibition with details about the Cold War. The Berlin Wall Trail follows the border strip of West Berlin and the open-air East Side Gallery with vibrant murals painted on what still stands from the Berlin Wall near the center in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
7. Charlottenburg Palace
Charlottenburg Palace is a spectacular palace with baroque architecture in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin.
Like The Reichstag building, Charlottenburg Palace has a long history and also sustained significant damage during World War II but was restored to its former glory including the verdant gardens that are considered its main attraction.
8. Holocaust Memorial (Jewish Museum Berlin)
One of the most somber attractions in Berlin and Europe is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or the Holocaust Memorial. The 19,000 square meters (204,514 square feet) consists of 2,711 concrete slabs honoring the Jews who were murdered by Nazis during World War II.
9. Museum Island in Berlin
Located in the historic center of Berlin, Museum Island sits on the northern part of Spree Island (take a boat tour on the River Spree) and is home to several famous German art galleries, museums and landmarks including Neues Museum, Altes Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum and the Pergamonmuseum.
Mauerpark is an open-air market or flea market in Berlin that invites visitors and Berliners to peruse unique finds, antiques and works by local designers and artists.
One popular activity at Mauerpark is the outdoor karaoke happening every Sunday. It’s not hard to find – simply follow the sound system.
11. Brandenburg Gate
The last standing town gate, Brandenburg Gate is located at the western end of Berlin and is only one of the most recognizable monuments in Germany that at one time separated East Berlin from West Berlin.
The Brandenburg Gate dates to the 18th century and today it stands as a symbol of reunification. It should be at the top of your sightseeing list.
Author’s bio: Angie Cavallari, a lifestyle and pop culture expert, is the author of “Trailer Trash: an ‘80s Memoir.” She has authored thousands of blogs and articles, some of which has been featured in Huffington Post, The Reset and Go World Travel, among others. When she is not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her kids and her precocious pug, JJ.