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Berlin small museums or activities?

I could use some suggestions to round out my Berlin itinerary.
I'll be in Berlin for 5 days at the end of the month. I've worked out the basics, including a number of the "must-dos" as it's my first trip to Germany. (We're also going to Munich for 5 days and stopping in the middle in either Nuremberg and/or Regensburg.)

This is a very short notice trip (using expiring flight credit from canceled pandemic trip) so I haven't been able to spend as much time as I like to get as deep into research as usual. I'm kind of feeling like my itinerary isn't really quite what I want yet.

I'm interested in adding some smaller museums or other unique activities to get more of a feel for modern, contemporary Berlin- but I'm not a night club person, totally not cool enough for that!

I'm a little overwhelmed and impressed at how many smaller unique museums I'm finding, but I'm having trouble trying to choose. I can't even make a list of them right now.

I would also like to hear your thoughts on places that were a disappointment/overrated or not worth the €.
For example, which Wall exhibit is the most interesting and worthwhile? I think I've found 3 different ones so far.

I'd also be interested in suggestions for lunch spots, chocolate, must try bakeries, that sort of thing.

I have included a day trip to VW in Wolfsburg as it's a must do for the DH. (Hope the trains are running, the fast train is the only thing that makes this reasonably do-able.)

I have Reichstag dome tickets, unfortunately the tours were already full.

I considered a day trip to Potsdam but I'm not sure it's the best day trip in Winter with the short days, large gardens and sites being very spread out. I think the VW trip kind of took that time anyhow, so next time!

Thank you 😊

Posted by
7368 posts

Because you don't mention art museums specifically, I'm reluctant to mention the easy to get to Käthe Kollwitz Museum. Her work, small sculptures, prints and drawings, is in most major art museums. But she has an interesting story. Much of her artwork could be poorly summarized as pro-peasant, pro-labor, and recognition of motherhood.

Walkable from there AFAIR is a nice fine-dining option Austrian restaurant, Ottenthal.

There are a tiny number of private modern art collections that require far in advance reservation and payment. They're worth it.

Posted by
6603 posts

I don't know what you already have on your list, but I saw the Wall near the Topography of Terror, which is well worth seeing, It is right next the Wall and is a documentation center that shows the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis. It's located right up the street from the Checkpoint Charlie sight. You could also visit the East Side Gallery, which is the longest section of the wall and has been covered with art.

I also enjoyed the DDR Museum, which houses memorabilia from the Soviet occupation of East Berlin and Germany.

Posted by
30 posts

Yes, definitely already including the Topography of Terror.

Also including the Neue Nationalgalerie in the Mies van de Rohe building.

I hadn't really considered the bunkers. Those tours look a lot more interesting than I'd realized.

Yes, I am interested in interesting small art museums. It's probably too late for some of the most exclusive, though, unfortunately.

I'm looking to balance out the very dark history with some more uplifting things. And cake...

Posted by
6603 posts

I'm looking to balance out the very dark history with some more uplifting things. And cake...

Oh well, if it's cake you're looking for, I direct you to my favorite dining experience in Berlin--Sammy's Berliner Donuts. They make incredible filled donuts that will make you weep for joy. I ordered a raspberry and basil donut, which was the best donut I have ever eaten. It had a raspberry glaze and filling but the filling was not the sickeningly sweet raspberry goop that so many places in the US use. It was real pureed raspberries with a titch of sugar. And the basil cream that mounded the top was just decadent. The flavors all melded together like perfection. I still dream of that donut.

They have 3 locations in Berlin. Do yourself a favor and stop at one of them.

Posted by
2389 posts

You could do any of the walks led by Insider Tours. I did one on my first day in Berlin and it hit all the highlights (and then some). I thought it was a great value and got me off on the right foot for further days in Berlin.

I liked the main wall exhibit on Bernauer Strasse - great exhibits and the viewpoint over the wall segments provided a good perspective. I also was very moved by the Tränenpalast museum, a former east/west border crossing station. I enjoyed the DDR Museum and the Gemäldegalerie for art. Keep checking the Bundestag website, it is possible there could be last minute cancelations on the building tours.

I'm not cool either, but I really enjoyed taking a street art tour. There are several companies that offer them ("free" or paid). It was a great way to see a lot of modern murals away from the tourist area, and discuss them in the context of those that are on the remaining segments of the wall.

Try currywurst and pork knuckle (not at the same time). Both interesting culinary delights in their own way.

Posted by
7368 posts

You don't need pedestrian Kaffe und Kuche, you want freshly made, hot and crispy Oma's Quarkbollen. Luckily we found a parked trailer making them walking from the U-Bahn to the Jewish Museum.

Posted by
3 posts

For chocolate, I highly recommend Rausch.

The shop is beautiful, smells heavenly, and there is a cafe upstairs for a nice break with cake or pastry and hot chocolate.

There is also a Ritter Sport store nearby with lots of flavor combos that you definitely won't find in US stores.

Posted by
8963 posts

Another shout out for Insider Tours. I have gone on 5 of them and always find them to very interesting, well guided tours.

For something fun in the evening, there are 2 Christmas Gardens you could visit. One is in the Tier Garten and the other one is in the Botanical Gardens.

Posted by
331 posts

For balance, I seek out an evening musical performance or ballet. Last year, we attended a Berlin Philharmonic concert. Both the orchestra and the hall were fabulous.

There’s so much to do in Berlin, it’s possible that your Wolfsburg day trip will not leave you time for another day trip. But, if you end up in Potsdam and you’re looking for an indoor activity, check out the Museum Barberini. With 38 Monet paintings alone, the museum’s collection of impressionism blew me away.

Museum in der Kulturbrauerei is a quirky little museum about life in the DDR. Interesting and nicely presented but not dark or overwhelming.

I may be in the minority here, but I was a bit underwhelmed with the East Side Gallery.

Posted by
2356 posts

More important than the tour provider is the actual guide. Try to get a tour with a person who lives looong in Berlin (best 30+ years). All the English permanent guests have learned the books but do not live Berlin - this city is about emotion not about history facts. My Insider Tour experience was 80% which is quite OK.

Fun fact about Wolfsburg: I hope your ICE is stopping there - a very few times the ICE train drivers forget to stop there (example).

Very (too?) modern contemporary is the area north of Hauptbahnhof (Heidestrasse and side streets of Lehrter Strasse) but may be too new. Same for Meredes-Benz-Platz area around Ostbahnhof. Potsdamer Platz incl. Leipziger Platz is one generation older but it is still no integrated part of the city (office life). From Cold War times the difference between Hansaviertel (west; grew up in Pierre Vago building) versus Karl-Marx-Allee / Frankfurter Tor (east; my actual nighborhood) is remarkable. Very often you will find a hard mix between renovated old buildings and new built ones leaing to each other wall-to-wall. A lively quarter is the Bergmann-Kiez with a lot of small special shops and nice food places, e. g. "Frau Behrens Torten Kreuzberg".

Best Currywurst you will get at Bier's or Konnopke - do not choose any place with a number in the name, e. g. Curry 36.
Bread at Butter Lindner (Croissants), Manufactum (walnut bread rolls) and Kamps (ordinary Schrippe) are good choices.
For coffee choose Einstein or Espresso House - one is near Bauhaus Archive.
Do not miss to visit a weekend market on Saturday mornings, e. g. Boxhagener or Winterfeldt.

Museums: Off-beaten track are Cranach collection in Jagdschloss Grunewald, Barberini in Potsdam or a very local the Zille museum. Also have a look into one of our 400+ art galleries.

Outskirt tips are Frohnau, Köpenick or Altstadt Spandau.

Never forget to check Berlin Event page and VisitBerlin Blog for actual tips.

Enjoy your stay in my city.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks everyone! I'm busily doing my "homework" from your suggestions. I'm working on a long reply but it's not finished yet. Just popped in to say that I haven't disappeared on you and will post more later.

Posted by
14580 posts

A real pity that I missed this exhibit "Unveiled" / " Enthüllt" on salient figures in Prussian-German history in the Zitadelle in Spandau when I was in Berlin in June, would have loved to get into an exchange, an inciteful discussion on the display's contention.

Posted by
442 posts

My friends and I had a wonderful visit to the Berlin Zoo. If you like zoos and have extra time, it is really well done.

We thought that a walk through the Tiergarten park was well worth our time. It is located close to the Brandenburg Gate and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, and besides the natural beauty of the park, there are several thought provoking memorials inside the park.

Posted by
30 posts

You gave me homework! Excellent. I've been off reading things.

I know there's always more to do than time to see it all and FOMO is real. I've found these suggestions interesting enough that I spent most of the weekend trying to rejigger time to add another day (or two) in Berlin but it just isn't going to work. We will miss out on other things.
One of the very worst parts of short planning time is the need to make decisions on where to go when and how before I've fully laid out what specific things I want to do, and what days I need to do those things. Leaving Saturday morning has eliminated more possibilities. 😕

So, in classic Rick Steves style, this will just have to be my FIRST trip to Berlin. (Note to self: make sure to schedule a weekend in Berlin next time)

I wish I could respond directly under each of your comments a la reddit, but I'll do my best with this.

Tim: Ok. Quarkbällchen are a much easier sell than takoyaki (fried doughballs with octopus) in Dotonbori. I could not get the Dh to go for them at all.

amenjivar: Ohhhh yes, have already mapped those out! I'm staying in Mitte so I found them while I was looking up transit routes and stops-they're not too far from my hotel. Definitely walking distance. (uh- oh) We're penciling in the Rausch cocoa and cake after a cold walk one of the days, whenever we fit it in.

MarkK: Oh no! Not stopping at Wolfsburg! Awful (Ok, kind of amusing but awful). I double checked my trains. I think we'll be able to cope. At least the station ticket people wouldn't give me grief about missing the train.😄

I think your advice about avoiding any Curryhaus with a number in its name is good advice for most restaurants. I can certainly extend that to Teriyaki places here.

I enjoyed reading about Hansaviertel. What a fascinating project, and the architects involved!

I think I am going to really enjoy visiting your city. I am truly spoilt for choice with it all.

The Zitadelle in Spandau is very intriguing. Sadly, I'm not sure I can fit it in. It's going to be on my list anyway, as an alternative if we change our minds on another thing.

The lights shows at the Botanischer Garden and Tier Garten sound fun. I was disappointed to realize that they are closing the garden at 3 and re-opening at four for the lighted garden. I was already trying to fit in the garden glasshouses but I don't know what to do with the in-between hour. Even without sticking arou nd for the garden lights, the shortened open hours also make the garden harder to combine with another activity.

I found a bunker cold war tour that I was going to book-but then it was announced U8 was going to be closing a section of track for repairs that included the ghost stations. No more bunker cold war tour with ghost stations and Wall memorial (temporarily). Ah well, these things happen.

I'm not really a tour person but with so many recommending it, I signed up for the Insider Tours Explore Berlin option as it seemed comprehensive and a good way to start a (too short) week.

I've added a concert in Konzerthaus Berlin for an evening- supposedly its acoustics are among the top five in the world. (The Berlin Philharmonic is currently touring in Asia.)

I'm still juggling a bit here and there-but I always try to have at least 2 full sets of options per day in case of cancelation/weather/just don't want another museum day and now I have that! I am very happy with this improved itinerary.

Thank you to all who gave me interesting things to consider!