How to get the most out of your 1-day Berlin stay – With a bit of travel planning (and this travel guide!) you may be able to cover both a couple of outstanding Berlin museums, as well as other iconic and popular sights in the German capital.
In case you have more than two days, you may want to take a look at our 3-day Berlin travel guide & itinerary!
Where to stay? Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin Alexanderplatz (budget) top location, Berlin Mitte, Radisson Collection Hotel (mid-range) near Museum Island, Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin (top) 5-star hotel & neoclassical pool, Brandenburg Gate.
On your first day, you will start out at Alexanderplatz in Berlin Mitte, where you will soak up the morning atmosphere in the German capital.
Alexanderplatz is the eye-catching central square where people pass by, meet, hang out, go for a cup of coffee, have a kebab, a beer and make a selfie. Besides, there are great shopping opportunities in the shopping centres surrounding the vibrant plaza. It is an ideal spot to start your sightseeing!
Now it is time to enjoy one of the best views of Berlin, namely from the impressive and iconic Television Tower.
Close to Alexanderplatz you will find the 368-metre tall elegant structure from 1969, the result of a 4-year construction project undertaken by the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
The labourers worked in shifts to deliver and complete the tower. It was not a low-budget project, since it cost 200 million Marks, which was way above the budget.
As the tallest tower in Germany, and all 220 metres higher than the Berlin Radio Tower, from 1920s, in the western part of Berlin, it was intended to be a symbol of strong East German power.
The lift is like a dream, since it moves unbelievably fast – only taking 40 seconds to reach 203 metres! Try it for yourself to arrive at a magnificent view on a clear day!
Today, the eye-catching tower is both a landmark in the city and a popular tourist attraction with an observation deck and a rotating restaurant way above the streets of Berlin.
Today is museum day, and you will now walk over to the museums on Museumsinsel, the Museum Island centrally located in the Berlin, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features several museums – some of the best cultural attractions you can visit in Berlin.
You will select two out of the five outstanding Berlin museums here, depending on your interests, one for a morning visit and one for an afternoon visit. These specific museum attractions really span over a broad diversity within the fields of geography, history and arts, and you will easily get carried away in the phenomenal collections.
Before arriving, do check out the museum passes available, since they may be good value for you. Do also beforehand check out rules about time slots etc. on the museum websites (find links below)!
The Pergamon Museum is an outstanding museum featuring a richness of treasures from lost worlds of ancient countries in the East such as Iran, Asia Minor, Egypt, Babylon, Uruk and Ashur, excavated by proficient archaeologists. You can explore the more than 2000-year-old wonders in the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum and the Middle East Museum here behind the massive museum walls. The museum is named after the Pergamon Altar, which was a fabulous Hellenistic structure made of white stone.
Fortunately the museum survived the deteriorations during the Second World War, and it has with time become one of the most popular attractions.
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If you are interested in ancient cultures, it is hard to spend less than a couple of hours in here – and most likely it will be more!
Inside a neoclassical frame, designed by the classicist architect Friedrich August Stuler in the 19th century, the Neues Museum has created a collection of artifacts of cultural interest. The works originate from both Europe and the Middle East and stretch across multiple time periods – from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages, and across a development of architectural styles – from classic to modern. In particular, the Egyptian exhibition is a draw – with its bust of Nefertiti herself, as well as a genuine papyrus collection, together with a number of authentic tombs and mummies.
The museum building was severely damaged during the Second World War, and it was not until 2003 that comprehensive renovations began with the British architect David Chipperfield in charge. This took six years, and finally in 2009 the museum reopened to the public.
This fine museum was built in 1904 in a baroque revival style by order of the German Emperor William II. In the past the Bode Museum was known as the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum after Emperor Frederick III, but it was later, in 1956, renamed after its original director, Wilhelm von Bode. Most strikingly, he displayed both paintings and sculptures in the same museum, which was a radical change to the traditional way of designing a museum exhibition.
Moreover, the museum features an impressive coin cabinet, which is one of the most significant numismatic collections worldwide – with around 500,000 unique pieces. Also a considerable number of medals are included in the exhibition.
Alte Nationalgalerie, or the Old National Gallery, was erected, by order of King Frederick William IV of Prussia, in a neoclassical and Renaissance revival style. The museum was founded in 1861 as a temple-like building with a first collection of 262 paintings, donated by Johann Heinrich Wagener and housed in the Akademie der Künste. The King’s dream was to combine arts and science.
Today, the current museum building houses sculptures and paintings from the 19th century. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, these art pieces were united in the same building. They had for some years been dispersed in the New National Gallery (Neue Nationalgalerie) and in Charlottenburg Palace. The Old National Gallery then reopened in 2001 for its 125th anniversary, now with the unified collection that had survived the Second World War.
The neoclassical Altes Museum was the first museum established on the Museum Island. Completed in 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, it is one of the most significant neoclassical structures existing. It impresses with its eighteen Ionic columns, its atrium and rotunda adorned with magnificent antique sculptures.
A papyrus collection and the bust of Nefertiti were earlier exhibited here (2005 – 2009), but this former Egyptian part of the museum is currently displayed at the Neues Museum.
The current collection includes exquisite Greek, Etruscan and Roman art as well as classical antiquities. Some of the sculptures were previously on display at the Pergamon Museum.
After a couple of incredible and enriching museum experiences, you will now walk over to the Berlinerdom, Berlin’s Cathedral. It is also situated on the Museum Island.
The neo-Renaissance Cathedral, as it stands today, is the result of several reconstructions and deliberate remodelling. Most recently, it was rebuilt after the destructions during the Allied bombing in the Second World War.
Over the years the architectural style changed from baroque, introduced by Frederick the Great in 1750, to neoclassicist, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in 1820-1822. More remodelling followed under Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the current structure was completed in 1905.
After the somewhat ‘history heavy’ museum visits earlier today, it is now time for a distinct cultural experience. You can visit the Cathedral for a small fee, and climb the dome for spectacular views of the surrounding city.
Inside the church you will notice the carved pulpit, the staircase, the gold alter and magnificent organ featuring more than 7,000 pipes. If you have time, you may also take a look at the crypt below, which contains a large number of coffins from the 1600s.
Out again, you will for the rest of your first day be focusing on Berlin’s exciting open-air attractions!
Take the U-bahn U2 up to Mauerpark, a large open space in the northern part of the city. If you happen to be here on a Sunday, you may be able to experience the flea market brimming with secondhand clothes, vintage bags, old vinyl records, musical instruments, jewellery and much more. It is a popular and hip place where the Berliners come to participate in the karaoke sessions taking place at the amphitheatre on Sunday afternoons.
The park has a historical side as well. When Berlin was divided, the current park was the border land of the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989 – and therefore ‘no man’s land’. After the reunification, the architect Gustav Lange designed the new park, Mauerpark, as a recreational space for the Berliners. It opened in 1994, precisely 5 years after the Wall fell.
Go for a stroll along the many eye-catching traces of the former Wall – you may continue down to Berlin Wall Memorial.
Last thing today is a visit to the Prater Biergarten (weather permitting), a stone’s throw from Mauerpark. It is recommendable to make a reservation if you want to eat in the restaurant here, since it is very popular! It seats 600 people at the traditional tables and benches between the trees. Try Kartoffelsalat, Pretzels or Bratwurst – and do what the Berliners have done since 1837 – have a beer in the garden! It is Berlin’s oldest beer garden.
In recent years, Prater got a renaissance after the fall of the Wall. It reopened in 1996 with new ideas, including readings of the East German writer Peter Wawerzinek. Prater was handed over to the district of Prenzlauer Berg – and the building to Volksbühne, which managed to give the traditional biergarten a renaissance!
Enjoy your evening here among locals (and tourists)!
Which sights to see if you have more than one day in the city? You may then want to check out our 3-day Berlin itinerary & travel guide which has suggestions for day 2 and day 3 in Berlin.
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‘Berlin Museums & Travel Guide for 1 Day’
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Berlin museums / travel guide 1 day