Things to Do in Berlin City – What Attractions to Visit in 3 Days?
Things to Do in Berlin City – What Attractions to Visit
7. Brandenburg Gate
9. Holocaust Memorial
11. Potsdamer Platz
12. Topography of Terror
13. The Jewish Museum
14. Checkpoint Charlie
15. East Side Gallery
How much can you include in a 3-day Berlin stay – and what to visit, if you want to cover as many historic places, attractions and other famous things & sites as possible in the remarkable German city?
Below, you will find a 3-day itinerary including all the best of Berlin in three days. Day 1 will take you to some of the real iconic places in Berlin – and includes some of the absolute top museums in the city! Day 2 will take you round to a large number of famous sights located in the city centre (Berlin Mitte), and Day 3 will show you some of the amazing outdoor attractions in the German capital.
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On your first day in Berlin, you will start out in 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 in Berlin!
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 Museumsinsel, the Museum Island centrally located in the city, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features some of the best cultural attractions you can visit in Berlin.
You will select two out of the five outstanding 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 to visit in Berlin.
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 in Berlin be focusing on 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)!
Today is the day you will visit all the traditional visitor spots, attractions & ‘must do’ things in the city of Berlin – so what to see? Most of the attractions are located within a short distance from each other in central Berlin.
The neoclassical structure Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor, is today one of the most significant landmarks and attractions in Berlin city. Since Berlin’s division into East and West and the reunification, it has become a symbol of the reunified Germany.
Constructed between 1788 and 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was the first Greek revival building in the city of Berlin. It was designed by the architect Carl Gotthard Langhans with inspiration from the architecture of the Greek Acropolis, resulting in elements like the six Doric columns.
In 1793, the gate was topped with the Quadriga statue, designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow. As an interesting detail, the French Emperor Napoleon had the statue transported to Paris in 1806 as a symbol of his victory. In 1814, it was then returned to Berlin where it again found its place on the Brandenburg Gate.
When the Wall fell, a hundred thousand people gathered here in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which had by then for many years been in the Soviet sector of the city. People now celebrated the reunification of the two sides, and the Brandenburg Gate became the symbol of it.
Next, you will visit another important site in Berlin city, the Reichstag building, which is the seat of the German National Parliament.
In 1894, the impressive Reichstag construction was erected with the purpose of housing the Parliament, at the time known as the Imperial Diet in the German Empire. For unknown reasons the building was set on fire in 1933. During the Second World War it was severely damaged – and was not appropriate for use in the following years. However, decades later, after the German reunification, the building was restored, and it now became the seat of the new German Parliament.
A British architect, Norman Foster, made an innovative and inspiring design of the new Dome, connecting the old part of the building with the new glass structure in an elegant way.
Today, the construction has become one of the top attractions in Berlin – come to see it for yourself!
If you want to see the Reichstag from inside, you will need to make a reservation for a tour in advance. You will also need to register here if you would like to visit the roof terrace and the dome of the Reichstag Building.
Continue a short distance down to the Holocaust Memorial, also situated in Berlin Mitte. This is the memorial for the Jews in Europe who lost their lives as victims of the Holocaust.
The memorial was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman and the engineer Buro Happold. Ingeniously designed, it consists of 2,711 concrete slabs in an intricate grid pattern on the sloping ground.
Moreover, you will find the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, received from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.
You may include the Gendarmenmarkt in your stroll through Berlin city. One of the things, that the square is known for today, is its famous Christmas market.
Friedrich Schiller is immortalised as a statue in the centre of the square Gendarmenmarkt. Flanked by Berlin Concert Hall, as well as the French and German churches, the vibrant square is worthy of a small detour. It was designed by Johann Arnold Nering at the end of the 17th century and remodelled by Georg Christian Unger in 1773. Originally, it was a marketplace, and it was named after the Gens d’Armes, which had established stables here.
Established as a Schauspielhaus in 1821, Berlin Concert Hall (Konzerthaus) is the most recent building on the Gendarmenmarkt. It was erected on the site of the former National Theatre. Also this building was damaged under the War – and reconstructed as late as in 1984, transforming it into the Konzerthaus Berlin.
Another interesting and famous square and intersection in Berlin is Potsdamer Platz, which is known for its city architecture. It is named after the small city of Potsdam to the southwest of Berlin. Potsdam Gate was where the old road passed through the Berlin city walls.
Potsdamer Platz began as a trading post where several country roads converged just outside Berlin’s old customs wall. The history of Potsdamer Platz can probably be traced back to 29 October 1685, when the Tolerance Edict of Potsdam was signed. Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia from 1640 to 1688, allowed large numbers of religious refugees, including Jews from Austria and Huguenots expelled from France, to settle on his territory.
As an example Sony erected their new European headquarters on the triangular site adjacent to the Daimler-Benz complex.
Go to see the intriguing architecture and skyline for yourself! If you love electronics, don’t miss the opportunity to enter another interesting site in the city, the Berlin Sony Centre!
Now, you have the opportunity to visit another phenomenal museum in Berlin, documenting crucial history. You may want to choose between this museum, the Topography of Terror, and the Jewish Museum, as you will probably not have time for both today. They show two different sides of the cruel and heartless history.
The Topography of Terror, or Topographie des Terrors, is both an outdoor and indoor historical museum, located precisely where the headquarters of the Nazi Sicherheitspolizei, SD, Einsatzgruppen and Gestapo used to be in Berlin.
Since 1987 it has been a memorial and exhibition area where the dreadful history has been displayed. Moreover, the torture cell and the execution site have been excavated, culminating with a joint East German and West German exhibition in 1989.
In 1992 the first steps were taken to establish a permanent museum, but it took several decades, before the museum saw the light of day.
Designed by the architect Ursula Wilms and landscape architect Heinz W. Hallmann, the new structure stood ready for visitors in 2010.
Instead of visiting the Topography of Terror, you may want to pick the Jewish Museum, or Jüdisches Museum, from 2001. In case you have a fourth day in Berlin, you may also keep it for later.
It is the largest Jewish museum in Europe and documents the Jewish history in Germany. Moreover, it is one of the most visited museums in Europe.
Besides giving insight into Jewish history, the museum also features magnificent pieces of Jewish art to make the Jewish history come alive here.
There are two buildings, the former Berlin Museum, the baroque Kollegienhaus, and Libeskind’s modern building, connected to the other building via an underground passage.
The permanent exhibition “Two Millennia of German Jewish History” introduces Germany’s history from a Jewish angle.
If you are curious abort the Jewish history, this is a must-see museum.
No Berlin visit without Checkpoint Charlie. So the famous crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin was nicknamed by the Allies.
Its history goes back to 1961, when the East German leader, Walter Ulbricht, obtained Soviet Union’s permission to initiate the construction of a wall separating East Berlin and West Berlin. The objective was to prevent the crowds from fleeing from the East to the West.
Checkpoint Charlie became one of the links between the two sectors – and became a symbol of the Cold War. Here America and the Soviet Union could potentially confront each other, which happened at an occasion in 1961.
There were two other border crossings between East Berlin and West Bering: Checkpoint Alpha and Checkpoint Bravo. What characterised Checkpoint Charlie was that only foreigners could pass here. It was the gateway where the Allied diplomats and foreign visitors could pass into the Soviet sector in Berlin.
The former East German watchtower has been torn down. Although the guard house in the street today is not the original construction, but just a copy, Checkpoint Charlie is still one of the main tourist attractions in Berlin and probably a must-see during your visit! For some years ‘fake guards’ in uniforms would stand here for pictures, but this approach to tourism has been abandoned.
Instead, you can visit the nearby Mauer Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie for more info and pictures.
Another open-air Wall experience is the East Side Gallery. You can access it in Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.
On a 1,316 m (4,318 ft) long section of the former Berlin Wall, a series of colourful murals adorn the brick surfaces. Painting the Berlin Wall was a project undertaken in 1990 on the east side of the Wall as a monument to the fall of the Wall.
In 2018, the State of Berlin transferred the East Side Gallery to the Stiftung Berliner Mauer, which took over the responsibility for the preservation of the murals. Several restoration works have been carried out to maintain the bright paintings.
The East Side Gallery has today become an iconic and popular landmark in Berlin with over three million visitors per year – definitely one of the top attractions to visit!
At the end of the day you will end up in Kreuzberg, where you will easily find a restaurant among the numerous ethnic eatery options.
Kreuzberg is the trendy, multicultural neighbourhood you cannot miss. Street food, antiques, art galleries, parks, cool bars and clubs – these are some of the things you can experience here in the streets, intersected by the picturesque Landwehrkanal. A visit here is one of the hip things to do in Berlin, and you will probably love to explore the vibrant area and chill lifestyle in Kreuzberg.
You may well opt for one of the genuine Turkish restaurant experiences here. If you like ethnic food, it is an excellent neighbourhood of Berlin to spend your evening in.
Day 3 is not as ‘museum-heavy’ as the two previous days. Today you will be able to indulge in shopping in the city and enjoy a couple of fabulous outdoor attractions in Berlin.
You will start out with a fascinating shopping experience in KaDeWe – Kaufhaus des Westens, the renowned department store at Tauentzienstraße, which used to be exclusively for West Berliners.
You will absolutely need to cross through the captivating food section with the most enticing delicacies and luxury food. Grab a quick bite here before exploring the rest of the eight floors!
After a couple of hours in KaDeWe you are ready to continue your sightseeing in the city.
On your way to Berlin Zoo you will pass the Gedächtniskirche at the 3.5-kilometre long Kurfürstendamm, one of the most famous shopping boulevards in Berlin. It was named after the prince-electors, or Kurfürsten, who took this way to go hunting in Grunewald.
Wilhelm II stood behind a magnificent neo-romantic church with all five spires, built by Franz Schwechten in the years 1891 – 1895. Moreover, the church bells were impressive and were some of the largest in German churches.
Instead, a new church was being projected, and the architect Egon Eiermann planned to integrate the ruin in the new church structure. Already in 1961 a new church with an octagonal shape was inaugurated, and the old spire was included as a memorial against war and destruction.
Do absolutely include the rare church structure in your itinerary today – it is incredibly original! Afterwards it is time to enter Berlin Zoo, just opposite.
In the afternoon you will visit another of the famous attractions in the city of Berlin, Berlin Zoo, which is situated near the vast Tiergarten park – and designed in the 1830s for hunting purposes.
Enter the Zoo through the famous Elephant Gate, or Elefantentor, from 1899, presenting two sculptured sandstone elephants carrying the sophisticated columns of the gate topped with a oriental golden upper part.
You will find no less than 20,000 animals in the Zoo, and, in particular, you should not miss the Cat House, or the Hippopotamus House. There is also a nocturnal animal house and a whole World of Birds.
Chill out for a few hours here and consider having lunch in one of the restaurants or at one of the food stalls inside the Zoo.
Don’t confound the Berlin Zoo with the Tierpark. The Tierpark used to be Berlin’s zoo in East Germany (GDR), and it didn’t open until 1955. It is located around 10 km away from central Berlin and covers an area which is 4 times as large as Berlin Zoo.
If you despite the two previous days of historical, cultural experiences – still prefer to squeeze in a last museum visit (which is definitely not boring!), you may opt for the intriguing DDR Museum to learn more about life in the former East Germany. Otherwise, if you prefer (or have a fourth day in Berlin for this), you can also skip this and instead move on to explore another iconic shopping opportunity in Berlin, the Hackesche Höfe.
You may be tempted to enter the DDR Museum to gain insight into the everyday life in the former GDR, or East Germany.
No doubt it is an unconventional museum, since you are allowed to touch, interact and even try a simulated drive in a Trabant car, explore an ordinary East Berlin tower block apartment and more to get a personal experience with the former GDR. You really have to come to see (and feel) it for yourself!
The DDR Museum, which opened back in 2006, has over the last years become a very popular museum among tourists and has achieved nominations for the ‘European Museum of the Year’ award. It is definitely one of the fun historical things you can do in Berlin!
In the 1700s the Hackescher Markt was designed by the commandant Hans Christoph Graf von Hacke. It soon became a Jewish neighbourhood, and a synagogue was planned and erected at Oranienburger Straße in 1866.
As was the case with many buildings in Berlin, it was damaged during the Second World War. Nevertheless, in 1993, a comprehensive restoration was initiated and this was the new beginning of a popular and flourishing spot in Berlin.
Today, it is one of the hip places to go for shopping, eating and nightlife! There is a wealth of bars, restaurants, clubs and other attractions, and this may be the perfect place to spend your last evening in Berlin!
What things to see and do if you have more than 3 days in Berlin? You may then additionally consider including the following attractions in your Berlin visit:
Charlottenburg: Enjoy the beauty of Berlin’s largest palace, built by Elector Friederich III in 1699. It was named after the first Queen consort in Prussia, Sophie Charlotte, and used to be a royal summer residence. A baroque-style garden surrounds the palace.
Berlin Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum: Explore the Botanical Garden consisting of awesome botanical pavilions such as the Cactus Pavilion, the Pavilion Victoria (containing orchids, giant water lilies and an amazing collection of carnivorous plants) and the Great Pavilion (containing tropical plants).
Tempelhofer Feld: Visit an abandoned airport and parade ground, which closed down in 2008. It has today been turned into a lovely recreational area, where you can have a picnic, sunbathe, jog or perform some other outdoor activities.
Sanssouci: Make a day tour to the Sanssouci Palace, built by Friedrich the Great in 1747 as a convenient summer residence among vineyard terraces outside Berlin. The Palace features the spectacular Neues Palais (New Palace), Neue Kammern (New Chambers), Chinese House and Orangery, as well as the Charlottenhof Palace.
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