study abroad · travel

City Guide: Berlin

If you have been following the blog for a while, you probably remember my weekend recaps while I was abroad. Usually it was pictures and stories about what I had done, like a diary entry. It was great for everyone keeping up with my travels, but looking back, I want to dive a little deeper into some of the cities I visited.

So, I am starting another new series on the blog: City Guides. I wanted to do the cities in order, but instead, I am starting with one of my favorite cities: Berlin.

If any of you have Timehop, you know how addicting it can be to look back at fun memories (and embarrassing moments). Earlier this week, my Timehop was filled with pictures and posts from my trip to Berlin this time last year. While I can’t pick a favorite city that I visited, Berlin is pretty high on the list. It was such a different experience and definitely one of my favorite weekends. 

If you are planning a Berlin trip anytime soon, here’s my guide of things to see and do!

What to do in Berlin

Sights

  • Berliner Dom aka the Berlin Cathedral. Aside from the stunning cathedral, you can visit tombs underneath or head up top (it’s a bit of a climb) for nearly 360 views of Berlin. The cathedral sits on Museum Island, a small island in the Spree River where several of Berlin’s museums are located. 

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

  • Holocaust Memorial. We didn’t have time for the Holocaust museum while I was in Berlin, but we did take some time to walk through the memorial outside. The massive columns sink deeper and deeper into the ground, and are eerily quiet as a reminder of what happened.
  • Reichstag, or the Parliament building, is smack dab in the center of the city. You have to buy tickets in advance (which we didn’t do, so add it to the list!), but if you do you can climb to the top and look down at Parliament through a glass floor. 

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

  • Berlin Victory Column. The column sits right in the middle of a roundabout in the park, and has several smaller monuments around it, including one to Otto von Bismarck. The column is a much easier climb, and offers views of the city from a few different levels.

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

  • Soviet Memorial.  There are actually two in Berlin- a smaller one near the Reichstag, and a massive one in East Berlin. It’s not a popular attraction, but history buffs will enjoy the trek out there.
  • Charlottenburg Palace. I didn’t actually get to visit but I am adding it to my list of things to see next time! 

Museums

  • DDR Museum. Also know as the GDR, the museum gives the history of East Berlin while the wall was up. You can sit in an old car, listen to a bugged apartment on real Stasi (secret police) equipment, step inside a rebuilt apartment, and sit in an interrogation room. The museum is filled with photos, artifacts, and stories that tell the history of life in East Berlin. 
  • German Historical Museum. If you don’t like history, sorry, but as a huge buff I loved this museum! It tells the entire history of Germany (we’re talking 500 AD to present day). Give yourself a few hours and try to see as much as you can. 
  • Holocaust Museum. Another one for history buffs. While I didn’t have time for the museum, it’s going on my list! If you don’t have time (the line was very, very long, and I happened to visit Berlin during Holocaust Remembrance Day) at least take a few minutes to walk through the memorial. 

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

Photo Ops

  • East Side Gallery. This is pretty much an Insta-lover’s dream, and most pictures you see from Berlin are probably taken at the gallery. Reminder: Germany was divided amongst the Americans, the Soviets, the British, and the French after World War II. Berlin was located inside the Soviet sector, but the western half of the city was under Allied occupation, while the eastern half was under Soviet control, and the Berlin Wall separated the two sides. The city was reunited in 1989 when the wall fell, and Germany has been a united country ever since. When the wall came down, artists were invited to paint what had been the side of the wall that faced East Berlin (which was blank during the separation) in order to commemorate the separation and transform the wall. Give yourself about an hour, as you will want to stop and snap a pic in front of almost every section. Some parts are hopeful and show what a reunited Germany can look like, and others are a reminder of the separation.

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

What to do in Berlin: City Guide What to do in Berlin: City Guide

  • Brandenburg Gate is a former city gate that led from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg (hence the name). The gate was seen in much of the footage of the wall coming down, and is one of the main symbols of Berlin. 
  • Bebelplatz is a square in central Berlin, and is anchored by St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the State Opera, and part of Alexander von Humboldt University. The square was also the site of a massive Nazi book burning, and a memorial sits in the middle of the square, but you have to look closely! On the ground is a glass window set in the cobbelstones, and through the window you can see an empty library. 

Getting Around

  • Berlin is huge, so be prepared to hop on public transportation a few times. You can buy a pass that lets you use all public transportation. Since you don’t need to swipe, many tourists skip it and try to ride for free, but you can be fined for this so watch out! Renting a bike is another good option, just get your bearings before setting off into traffic! 

What to do in Berlin: City Guide

What are some of your favorite sights in Berlin? If you are heading to the city soon and have questions let me know!

One thought on “City Guide: Berlin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *