Berlin -- Have you been there?

I have never been to Berlin, Germany. If you have been there, what did you think of the city? Did you like it or dislike it? Would you go back? How many days do you feel you need to see the city? What was the city like, compared to other major European cities. I have been to London, Rome, Prague, Istanbul, Paris, Venice, Florence and Amsterdam. I know they are all different, but how does Berlin compare. Did you enjoy visiting Berlin and what did you see? What was a wow moment or a hight light of the visit? Did you find it clean and did you find it safe? What were the cafes or places to eat like? Thank you for your input.

Posted by Rosalyn
1566 posts

Last September, we did a house exchange for two weeks in Berlin and liked it so much we're thinking of a return visit. It's clean, though there's lots of grafitti in many areas, and safe. Plenty of good food available, especially ethnic varieties. Compared to other world-class cities, it's not horribly expensive. The museums are spectacular, as good as any in the world, probably better than most. What was especially interesting to me was the way in which Berlin has come to terms with its past, both the Nazi period and the years of Communist rule.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3877 posts

Take a look at this thread...
a little down from yours and see what some people wrote about Berlin.
My son LOVED Berlin.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5541 posts

Have been to Berlin 5 times now and am going back again this July. All of these visits have been short ones, so I go see and do something different each time. On every visit I go on a themed walking tour, go to various museums, and eat at new restaurants.

Berlin has a fun vibe, it is cheap to stay there, and it is easy to get around. It never has felt unsafe and I am a lone woman walking around. Some might call it dirty, but it certainly smells a lot better than Paris does. Lots of graffiti, but it adds to the charm. You won't find typical German food there as much as you will ethnic food, but this is a bargain. What ever your interests, Berlin can probably fulfill them with a museum to match. The tours I have gone on: a General Overview Tour, which you should do the 1st day to get you oriented, a Cold War Tour, 3rd Reich Tour, Sachsenhausen Tour, and a tour to Potsdam. This July, I want to do a Jewish Berlin tour, and perhaps Berlin Underground.

Some people will recommend riding around on the 100 and 200 bus, but we found them to be a huge waste of our time. Ho Ho buses are a waste of money. If you aren't sure, read the reviews for all of the tour companies over on Trip Advisor. We saw ten times as much on our walking tours. Bike tours are a great way to tour also, and if you have the money, consider a Segway Tour.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2381 posts

I've been to Berlin several times and I like the city. I always enjoyed my visits over there.

Berlin resembles London and, in that, is very different from Rome or Amsterdam in that its major areas of interest are not clustered around a single core, but somehow scattered around a more central area. This has advantages (more place to see, and more room for visitors to be without the feeling of being overwhelmed by tourist crowds, more pleasant alternatives for accommodation) and disadvantages (you need to use public transportation to get around, you need something of a plan on where you want to go instead of just walking all over a relatively small area).

For its recent history (the division between the free Western sector and the communist-enslaved Eastern part), after a ravaging war that preceded that, Berlin has many dynamic areas and a lot of things going on. In that sense, Berlin looks and feels like a big and vibrant city. Many people like that, some are disappointed, it depends on each person. I personally like the vibe of the place and I keep going back.

Berlin has some of the finest older art museums in the World, and some very interesting specialized museums (like the Dahlem Ethnological Museum or the German Technology Museum). Both the Reichstag and the Ferhnsetrum (TV tower) are well worth the visit (book ahead, mandatory for climbing to the dome) on a fair weather day, as they allow impressive views of the city.

There are also many parks, open areas and tranquil spaces over the city. During summer, areas like the Grunewald come alive with many local visitors lazying around in the forest and near the many small lakes.

Good restaurants (though not the most hyped ones) are significantly less expensive in Berlin than in any other big Western European city.

I don't see any major safety or cleanness concerns regarding Berlin. There are some areas with a bit more graffiti and some blocks that look a bit rundown in areas that are undergoing gentrification like Kreuzberg or Neuköln, but those are not dangerous areas.

For me, the most important observation for an enjoyable visit is a bit of 'spatial planning'. Fork the money for a transportation pass (a 5-day pass with unlimited use costs less than € 30), get good map/app and don't hesitate using the U-Bahn (subway) and S-Bahn (overground local trains) to move around.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5541 posts

George, the OP is asking about personal experiences that people have had in Berlin, most likely in the last 5 years or less. Not what Berlin used to be like decades ago, or in the 1800's. Your copy and paste job on 3 posts does her no good at all and isn't very helpful.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3877 posts

"it certainly smells a lot better than Paris does"
Having spent over 7 yrs there, I have never known Paris to smell bad.

Posted by Alexandra
West Coast, California, USA
368 posts

Berlin is a wonderful city with its own unique vibe. It's also very different from the typical Bavarian towns that most people who have never traveled to Germany think of when considering Berlin. The museums are awesome. The history of WWII and the Wall are something that I think everyone should experience. I'm not interested in the nightlife, the clubs, etc.... though many of my relatives who live in little German towns absolutely relish.

On our last trip, we started in Berlin and then journeyed west and then south. The further south we got the more my husband liked the towns, as he considered this quintessential Germany and didn't care as much for Berlin.

If you go to Berlin, do one of those 'hop on, hop off' bus tours. Not too expensive and you get to see a nice overview of important things. For a favorite cafe we enjoyed the Operncafe near the Opera House. KaDeWe is the largest department store in Europe and worth seeing, particularly the floor with all the wursts, cheeses, breads, etc...

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts


Yes, Roger Moorhouse is a good, competent authority, knows what he is talking about on Berlin. For a more comprehensive treatment on Berlin historically and culturally, I like Alexandra Ritchie's book on Berlin, takes the British side in " the race for Berlin" question.

Posted by KevinK
Suburban Indianapolis
57 posts

Go to Berlin so you can compare it with the other major European cities you've visited. I spent three nights there in 2003 and enjoyed it. Our hotel was in the heart of old East Berlin near many sights and the museum area. I've not been back because I'm trying to visit other cities first but would go again. Things I remember include the Brandenburg Gate, Pergamon Museum, Kaiser Wilhelm Church, KaDaWe store and food floor, Potsdamer Platz, Tiergarten, what's left of the Wall (I bought my piece), and wandering around. Following Berlin, we traveled to Dresden and on down to Prague - which seemed more touristy. I liked Prague better but in my opinion Berlin is more important to have on your travel resume. Have fun!

Posted by Jeff
Vancouver, WA, USA
420 posts

As a child of the Cold War, I found Berlin fascinating. It is striking that in this one city could be found the pinnacle of art, music, industry, science, learning -- and of man's inhumanity to man. Art, technology and education, it would appear, don't necessarily improve human nature. It was heartening, though, to see that even after the eighty-year quadruple-whammy of WW1 defeat, economic depression, Nazism and Communism, the city is now pulling itself together so beautifully.

Admire the classic proportions of the Berliner Dom, a souvenir of a more elegant time. Stand in Gendarmenmarkt and imagine the Französischer Dom in rubble, a cylinder of flame shooting up from where the dome used to be, as shellshocked Berliners walked by determined to carry on with their lives. Remember the cold war humor of Jimmy Cagney's One Two Three as you look at the Brandenburg Gate, now with US and French embassies, luxury hotels -- and a Starbucks -- on the east side of it. See the glint of a cross reflected from the top of the television tower, and imagine the chagrin it caused the East German Communists who built it. At Checkpoint Charlie look past the tacky fast-food joints (under the sign "Snack-Point Charlie") and souvenir shops to imagine the tension that pervaded that street just over two decades ago. And visit a Stasi prison, in the company of a tour guide who himself had been a prisoner there ... for the crime of trying to leave the country. And there is so much more.

Berlin may not be the most beautiful city in Europe, but it is certainly emotional and thought-provoking.

Photographs of Cold War-era sights in Berlin

Posted by gone
2081 posts


I havent been to Berlin, yet, maybe next year.

the days i spend in the city is determined by what there for me. Since i havent researched it yet, i dont know. The minimum i will spend is 2 days since i feel 1 day isnt enough.

happy trails .

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

We were there last May and loved it! Can't wait to go back. It's not like any other European city - it has a very modern feel to it and a great vibe. We did one of the bicycle tours - what a great way to get an introduction to the city. It is more of a cosmopolitan city than other cities as demonstrated in the diverse cuisine available - we were actually told not to have German food in Berlin as Berliners are not good at it! It is a great mix of old & new, architecture & parks, art & art? and history & progress. Depending on your interest in museums I would say a minimum of 4 to 5 nights - I know some will say longer - that is a personal preference. We never even thought about safe or unsafe so I guess we must have felt safe! The public transport is easy to use and a great way to get around.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
701 posts

I have visited Berlin only on business, but it was a business trip when I was able to stay over a day or two so had some time to explore the town (also in the evenings on my own, and various team events). I thought the city was enjoyable and intriguing and there is a lot to explore. Checkpoint Charlie Museum, the main art museum (I forget the name), seeing the Brandenburg Gate, climbing the Reichstag with coworkers. I had some very enjoyable meals out, nothing fancy but just in cafes and such. Ironically, I caught an American singer-songwriter playing at the B-Flat jazz club, had a couple of great beers there as I listened. They seemed to excited to have an American performer there, it all felt very hip hanging out at this place. It wasn't really a jazz act, but still lots of fun. It is not what you would think of as a beautiful city by usual European standards, but well worth a visit. When my wife and I visit as a couple, we will give it three full days (four nights), I think. This is a very friendly city, I found the people very nice. Clean and safe, no issues there. I should mention that I was there in November and it was cold, probably would be even better in September or May.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6312 posts

I went to Berlin for the first time last year and loved it! It was cold and rainy most of every day (early May) and I loved it anyway.

However, I'm a city person so I don't expect quaint.

Posted by kgeisl1
10 posts

I studied abroad for a month in Berlin and it was the greatest experience I've had by far! Berlin has a very unique feel and something to engage everyone no matter there interest. There's endless history, culture everywhere, great nightlife and I really enjoyed gaining a feel for both west Berlin and east Berlin.

I thought the tours of the bunkers underground were real great. Sachsenhausen and the Jewish musuem were also very interesting WWII history landmarks. The Reichstag is awesome to go walk around and it overlooks Tiergarten. Brandenburg gate is right there as well!

The city is also remarkably affordable considering some of the other major cities you've listed. I managed a very affordable stay at a hostel, but I had a lot of costs included in tuition I paid to study. I thought the cost of going out was very reasonable. If you want to eat cheap there's a doner kebab stand or some currywurst right around the corner. You should also wash it down with a Berliner Pilsner or Berliner Kindle!

I'm trying to find this book I bought before I went there to find the title. Basically it compared Berliners to being the "New Yorkers of Germany." I do not think a Berliner to be the usual German and I found it to be an amusing but accurate book.

Do you have any specific questions?

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts

Where did you stay during this one month's study in Berlin? In which district is this hostel? Stanford University has a program in Berlin-Dahlem. It is indeed a fascinating city , culturally and historically. No other place like it in Europe in terms of vibrance, excitement, cuisine, cosmopolitanism. Check out their music and book stores. My first trip to Europe in light of the Cold War had to include (West) Berlin after landing in London in '71. When I first saw the eastern section in 1984 on a bus tour from (West) Berlin, all those famous historical sights in Mitte, on Unter den Linden, etc were still black. Of course, I was surprised but shouldn't have been ,since I saw the same in Vienna in the '70s too. Seeing them now that's hard are to imagine.

What about Berliner Weiße, preferably "with red" with that Wurst?

"Berlin is a wonderful city with its own unique vibe." How true and accurate, Berlin ...die dufte Stadt.

@ Ann....Yes, the city is safe/clean. But if you go Kreuzberg, you'll see alot of tagging. I remember seeing (West) Germany and (West) Berlin minus that sort of activity.

One cafe I would recommend is Cafe am Opernpalais am Unter den Linden, ie from the Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz keeping walking on the right side past the famous Adlon Hotel, going east and you'll see it. Or, if you really don't mind splurging, have a coffee break at the Adlon Hotel..

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts

@ Ann...I forgot to mention what others have accurately posted as regards to tourist accomodations. Compared to Paris and London (places I am familiar with based on your above list), Berlin is cheap period. You can get a single (EZ) for 39 Euro in a Pension, very good neigborhood, etc or try the other 2 and 3 star hotels, both German and US chains. You'll see for what you paid, what you get (what they call das Preis-Leistung Verhältnis) is well worth it compared with London and Paris.

Posted by kgeisl1
10 posts

Hi Fred,

I stayed in what I believe was Friedrichshain, but I remember being close to Kreuzburg, right across the street from Warschauer StraBe U-Bahn and next to the Warschauer StraBe S-Bahn. The hostel was a chain called "Plus Berlin." This is an awesome area if you're interested in seeing that sort of city. I found it completely different than other major cities I'd been in such as London or Paris... Maybe I just didn't know where to go there, but East Berlin was a world of it's own to me. You could easily meet people in the park or street and strike up a conversation.

Haha, yes I agree Kreuzberg is where you're going to see the strange people. I enjoyed it! Take a walk through Gorlitzer Park and you'll see even crazier people.

It was an international business program through the Berlin Schule of Wurtschaft und Recht. The schooling wasn't as presitigious as going to Humboldt I don't think. Regardless the "study abroad" was more about seeing something new and meeting new people. I'm still in touch with a lot of my classmates from there.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts

@ kgeisl1....for Wirtschaft und Recht is a very heavy duty subject matter and to get down that Wirtschaftssprache, a language of its own in German. Of course, being at Humboldt Uni would have been much more prestigeous, and you would have been right there on Unter den Linden! Kreuzberg was never interesting to me, only went there once, gave in to curiousity to see it in 2007, esp since I wanted to see the famous historical monument, das Freiheitsdenkmal, in the Viktoria-Luisen Park in Kreuzberg, finally tracked it down, black like other Prussian monuments/memorials.... a bit slanted in the presentation of the history on the "war of liberation" in its "selective" list of the skrmisches and battles leading to Napoleon's final defeat.

Friedrichshahn is the new "youth scene" area after Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte, never have been out to Friedrichshahn. Thanks for the tip. In July 1989 with that "day visa" I went over to East Berlin, got to Prenzlauer Berg, quite different then, prior to all the rebuilding, saw wall after wall with numerous, numerous bullet holes, just pock marked with bullet holes.

Totally agree that the vibe/feel in the east section of Berlin is different, even if without the presence of those Stalinist apt. buidings occupying a whole block, as alluded to above, these ugly Mietskasernen. I've seen them in eastern Berlin and Magdeburg.

Posted by Mark
Berlin, Germany
333 posts

From the perspective of a Berliner I find the perceived 'prestige' of the two universities quite amusing. The Humbold uni is a big public university, which means that both the funding-per-student and teacher-per-student ratios are barely adequate. For example undergrad lab courses have austere equipment and materials, and expensive items of equipment will probably be several generations old.
The Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht on the other hand is the place where the civil servants of the city of Berlin get their degrees. Because the city has a vested interest that its middle management, police detectives, officers of the court, and so on are well trained it is much more responsive to HWR's funding.needs.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts

Point well taken, Martin. From the perspective of an American exchange student with a choice at which Uni to study as opposed to that choice being dictated by his university at home, I probably would have chosen Humboldt over the TU on Hardenbergstr. But if the TU students focused only on the sciences, etc, then that choice would not have been available to me anyway. In that case the choice would have been between Freie Uni (regardless of its reputation) and Humboldt.

Posted by kgeisl1
10 posts

Hi Mark, I did not mean to discount my experience at HWR. I just meant from an outsider's perspective simply what Fred has said. I had some very interesting and well qualified professors. I also enjoyed going to to Schoneburg every morning! It was an international business program and it did provide me with very interesting perspectives surrounding global issues. There was great discussion with students across the world. I appreciate the extra insight on HWR. It seems like they have an extensive business curriculum from what I've seen on their website.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4471 posts

I think that Berlin is a marvelous city to visit. I first visited in the 70's when the wall was the dominant factor in any visit. But many of the sties we saw then are the ones you still go to today--the Brandenburg Gate, the Pergamon, the History Museum, the Gedankness Kirche, the zoo, etc. Back then, there was amazing energy in the West and the East was oh, so very grey. But there still the radio/TV Tower in Alexander Platz!

When I went back again about 6 years ago, the energy was now through out the city. The East blossoming in color, the music, art, theatre, clubs etc are everywhere. And still it's surrounded by the fascinating 20th century history.

Go, go, go. It's an important European/World city to visit.


Posted by Michal
Szczecin, Poland
35 posts

You can also visit the area of Berlin, including Potsdam and Oranienburg. German capital is not far away from the border with Poland, That's very easy to reach Szczecin (German name: Stettin), Poznań (German name: Posen) or Wrocław (German name: Breslau). The easiest is Szczecin - my city - 2 hours and 10 Euro for a train ticket from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Berlin Gesundbrunnen Station (more trains) - direct connections or with a change in Angermünde, that takes usually about 5 minutes (usually at the same platform)
Look at (with English language version)
or (with English language version)
to find information about trains between Berlin and Szczecin.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5541 posts

Michal, they are only interested in Berlin, they have not mentioned going on day trips nor traveling to Poland. Why do you keep posting all these links to places in Poland? Is this some kind of agenda, or spam?

Posted by Anna
Seattle, WA, United States
723 posts

My fiancé and I visited Berlin for about 5 days a few years ago, and we loved it so much we are going back in about a month! I have always been interested in the city's history (and German culture at large), so I found there was a lot to see and do from a tourist perspective. It may not be as architecturally "pretty" or ornate as Prague, Paris, Bruges, Florence, etc., but there are many sights with heavy historical influence that I found very interesting. It's also a great place for going out and enjoying good beer and good food on a much lower budget compared to other major western European cities. The public transportation system was probably the best of all the cities we visited on that trip (Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, Prague, Munich).

If you're looking for comparisons, I can say that it has a similar environment to Prague (though not as visually charming, as I already mentioned). I found both cities had a historically rich environment, and were also very unpretentious and friendly to younger people and/or those travelling on a budget. There were some similarities with Amsterdam, I guess, but the overall look/feel was more modern, and you can definitely sense the Eastern Bloc influence still hasn't entirely left the city.

In short, I highly recommend you visit Berlin. If the opportunity ever presented itself, I would love to live there at some point.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4427 posts

@ Anna..totally agree with your assessment of Berlin, well expressed. True, every European capital has its own vibe and charm. Berlin is no different. It has its own charm and that well known Berliner Milieu As a student backpacker on a shoestring budget, I decided to be different in (West) Berlin, a top priority city, when I got there the first time in July 1971 by not staying in the HI hostel but rather in a Pension. The hostel has a three day limit which didn't fit into my plans. In spite of the oppressive heat (I thought this must be the famous Berliner Luft they sing about), I found the place absolutely fascinating as regards to street names, museums, the sites, etc.

Now since the end of Cold War, the city has an attraction for repeat visits due its diversity of cultures, cuisines, (Turkish, American, French, Greek, Chinese, Italian, German too, if you know where to find it, Czech, Japanese, etc.,) the historical and cultural aspects, etc.

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

Hi Ann,

I was in Berlin for three days about a year ago, traveling with my husband and two sons in their 20s. We stayed at the Belahre near Potsdamer Place and had a whole apartment with two bedrooms and a pull out couch in the living room for maybe $100 USD per night. We loved it and would definitely go back. In three days we took a guided walking tour and visited four museums (Pergamon, Computerspielemuseum, Deutsches Technikmuseum, Topography of Terror). One of my "wow" moments was watching the sun set and the lights come on at the Brandenburg Gate on my birthday. We ate in a variety of places: ethnic take-out, fancy Italian, breakfast buffet, hotel restaurant, Subway. We found it safer and cleaner than New York City, about on par with London or Amsterdam (safety probably depends on the part of town and the time of day, in my opinion).


Posted by Jude
Berkeley, CA
18 posts

I had the privilege of visiting Berlin (both sides) while the wall was still up, and have visited many times since. I've done a lot of international travel, but for the last 5 years, I've spent my vacation in Berlin, and I've barely scratched the surface. The postings above confirm what I was going to say—whatever you're interested in, you can find what you're looking for. It's a vibrant, forward-thinking cultural capital. Have fun!