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Worth spending more than a day in Berlin?

Hello everyone,

I'm doing a 1 month trip through Europe, and will be passing through Berlin. I've been looking at things to do, but when trying to find what there is to do, I don't see much that requires more than a day. I don't care much for museums, and I'm more interested in recent German history (post WW2). I'm more interested in just "seeing" the city. So I thought I could get a bike, and take the day riding throughout Berlin, go to the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, visit Brandenburg on the way. Visit Museum island (but not go into any of the museums), have lunch at the Berliner Ferschetan, Finish it off with visiting Prenzlauer Berg.

I'd be willing to extend the trip to 2 days, but I haven't really found much worth visiting in Berlin. I've been trying to see if there are some famous places with shows or operas (e.g. Palais Garnier or Moulin Rouge Paris), but I haven't really found anything. Again, I'm more looking at experiencing and seeing the city, rather than touring an museums or visiting any particular buildings (e.g. Ascend the Reichstag dome). I'd also be willing to go a bit outside of Berlin as well (if its possible to go and come back in the same day), if there are attractions outside the city center worth visiting ( I haven't been able to find any).

Posted by
30 posts

If you’re interested in the realities of post-war German life, why don’t you go to the Museum of East Germany? It’s un-museumy, small, not overwhelming and has very interesting displays on what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. It’s near Museum Island so you could go there as part of your bike tour. Just don’t eat at the restaurant, the food of those times was awful!

Posted by
3528 posts

Checkpoint Charlie is one of the lamest "attractions" in the world, an entirely artificial installation the size of a garden shed telling very little about the intrigue of the Cold War. Go see Tom Hanks' movie Bridge of Sighs instead.

The Berlin Wall is a must-see except there is very little left to see. A remnant remains at Niederkirchnerstraße 1.

A 15-minute walk takes you a more impressive visual installation, the Holocaust Memorial, not a museum but a sombre testimonial to the Jewish suffering. Its location, Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, used to hold part of the Wall.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_to_the_Murdered_Jews_of_Europe#Location

As well, the Brandenburg Gate is in the same region.

For my taste, the Reichstag is not only an intriguing replacement for the bombed-out legislature but also offers unmatched views across the cityscape from atop its dome. https://www.bundestag.de/besuche/architektur/reichstag/

My negative tone here arises from the suspicion that you have not researched the suggestions already available on this website page in the Travel Europe section, https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/germany/berlin
Plenty of suggestions for activities there, and also on Visit Berlin, the city's bountiful tourism guide: visitBerlin.de

Posted by
1930 posts

Ah, well. Different strokes for different folks. I spent 10 days in Berlin and didn’t feel like that was enough time. I would go back in a heartbeat! Maybe allow some flexibility in your current plan for visiting. Maybe you’ll see something that really intrigues you and want to stay longer. I took a day trip to Potsdam, an easy and short train ride from Berlin.

Posted by
751 posts

I'm a Berlin fan, but if you don't think you want to spend much time there, but do want to see Checkpoint Charlie, at least consider a look at the Mauer Museum near there. It's a small museum focusing on the tragic and heroic escape attempts from the GDR, quite a moving experience for me. https://www.mauermuseum.de

Posted by
4668 posts

I'm planning a possible trip to Berlin and trying to fit everything into a week, so my problem is the opposite of yours. One thing you might want to experience is the Holocaust memorial (Murdered Jews of Europe) in Berlin. Another might be the palace at Potsdam. Berlin and Potsdam also have great parks.

Posted by
18752 posts

There are quite a lot of Cold-War-related sites in Berlin. The previously-mentioned DDR Museum doesn't feel like a traditional museum; it explores life in the DDR, including the negative aspects of a centralized economy--shortages and shoddy goods. Two others you might consider are the Mauer Museum-Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, which focuses on escape attempts, and the Berlin Hohenschoenhausen Memorial, a former Staasi facility where political prisoners were incarcerated and interrogated.

Posted by
1 posts

I would add that there are (or used to be pre-pandemic) segway tours of Berlin-it's a fun way to get an over view of the city.
We loved the Reichstag Building and environs-lots of interesting things to see and you're right on the river at parts of it.
There's a great square near the opera house and if memory serves me, there is an amazing chocolate shop on that plaza!
Definitely see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. It is all outside and not at all museum like and very moving.
And I know you are not much into museums, but some of them in Berlin are very unique and well worth a visit-especially the one near Checkpoint Charlie which is all about the wall and how people tried to escape from the east. (Speaking of Checkpoint Charlie-it may only be the size of a shed, but it is worth seeing if you are my age-it was moving because I heard so much about it while growing up during the cold war.)
Good luck and have a great trip!

Posted by
1420 posts

Southam said:

The Berlin Wall is a must-see except there is very little left to see. A remnant remains at Niederkirchnerstraße 1.

There is a memorial at that location, but the main part of the Berlin Wall that's still standing and that is worth visiting is at Bernauer Strasse. It is more than a kilometer long I believe.

I'm with those who have a hard time imagining doing Berlin in a day. It is one of the most vibrant cities I've been to in Europe. But if all you want to do is ride around on your bike and get a flavor of it, that's your call.

By the way, there are two great opera companies in Berlin: the Deutsche Oper and the Staatsoper Berlin. I believe the Deutsche Oper is reopening very soon. Not sure about the Staatsoper. And the Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphony orchestras in the world. I don't know when they are planning to reopen.

Posted by
267 posts

So I thought I could get a bike, and take the day riding throughout Berlin, go to the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, visit Brandenburg on the way.

One day seems very little for Berlin, but you cannot be serious about squeezing in Brandenburg (neither the city of Brandenburg nor any other interesting places within the state - which place were you thinking of? Potsdam? That would be worth a visit and is close to Berlin, but does not make sense if you just stay for a day).

Posted by
2094 posts

Another Berlin fan here, there is so much to see there and I think you are underestimating Berlin. The wall memorial at Nordbahnhof is worth half a day alone. And do try to find some time to visit the Fernsehturm, it can feel a bit like a tourist trap but the views of the city are unbeatable. For Opera, have a look at Deutsche Oper and for classical music in general Berlin is home to the Berliner Philharmoniker, one of the best symphony orchestras in the world.

So I thought I could get a bike, and take the day riding throughout
Berlin, go to the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, visit Brandenburg on
the way.

Brandenburg is 60 km outside Berlin, so not doable on the way by bike. Unless you mean the state, which is larger but still not doable on the way by bike. Although a day or two in Potsdam is well worth it.

Posted by
6 posts

Kind of depends on what you mean by "seeing the city." If you mean that you want to see a few buildings and hit the non-museum landmarks so that you can say you've seen Berlin, a day is more than enough. But you also mention wanting to "experience" the city and to do anything like that you're going to need a lot more time.

Berlin isn't a small European city where you can plant yourself in the main square, take a half day walk and leave confident that you've seen the place. At a minimum, Berlin is two cities (East and West, which still feel very different), with many fascinating areas to discover and explore. I've been a number of times and each time I get shown a different part that I knew nothing about. It's not unlike Los Angeles in that way: one needs time to even begin to scratch the surface. Doing research will help.

Posted by
41 posts

To reply to a few comments.

I personally only care for Museums if they themselves are the site of the history (e.g. some of the palaces and buildings, or checkpoint Charlie itself). While it may be a "lame" attraction, for me its about being in the location itself (I could look on youtube for a history lesson such as one you'd find in any museum).

I have looked at steves recommendations (hence why I said I don't want to do the dome, since his number one recommendation is to do the dome, also a lot of his recommendations are to look at his book, which I don't have). I think you could get a better view from Berliner Fernsehturm, with added lunch too!

The irony is, I still haven't gotten many recommendations outside of museums. Yes, Berlin has a lot of museums, but I don't want to leave the city, to go in an inclosed building, do a tour looking at whatever the musuem is about. They take hours to do, and I'd rather just spend that time at a cafe staring at the city and people. For me, its more about seeing/feeling the city/culture (hence why I wanted to get a bike and just bike around the city, then take a tram later in the day to Prenzlauer Berg to see a different part of the city). I'd rather have a picnic in a park for the entire day, then spend it in a museum or two.

I apologize, forgot to write the word gate. I meant Brandenburg Gate (which should be on the way to Checkpoint Charlie). Someone brought up differences between East and Western Germany, what regions/cities does that include? If they are distinct, I'd definitely like to spend a day visiting each.

Posted by
1420 posts

I have to ask, since you're spending a month in Europe, what are the things that you want to spend your time doing in other cities? I just think if you can't find things to interest you in Berlin for more than a day, I wonder what cities you think are worth an extended visit, and what you will do there.

The irony is, I still haven't gotten many recommendations outside of museums.

Think of the entire city of Berlin as a grand outdoor museum. You can explore a different neighborhood every day for a week and see something new and different and special every day. If you like to sit in a cafe and people-watch, you can do that in a different cafe every day. And it is probably one of the best cities in the world for walking tours; several companies offer excellent tours of different neighborhoods, where you'll get a ton of historical context for what you're seeing, something you won't get by riding your bike around the city.

Plus a visit to Potsdam is really worthwhile if you like to be at places where history happened.

then take a tram later in the day to Prenzlauer Berg to see a different part of the city

What do you mean by "a different part of the city"? Different from what? The entire city is made up of different parts of the city. Why do you think Prenzlauer Berg is different or worth a specific visit?

Brandenburg Gate (which should be on the way to Checkpoint Charlie)

It all depends where you're coming from and what direction you're going. They are about 1.5 kilometers away from each other.

It kind of sounds like you got bored doing your research. You said you didn't find any famous places with shows or opera, but there are many. You said you couldn't find attractions outside the city center worth visiting, but again, there are many.

I think it's ridiculous to post on this forum asking people whether one of Europe's greatest cities is worth more than a one-day visit, and then cut down our suggestions as well as the ones Rick Steves recommends (and admit you don't have his book). Perhaps you are right to limit your visit to one day.

Posted by
2537 posts

Berlin is my favorite city. Music/Show venues:

Lido -- small indie music venue (capacity around 500) in a former movie theater (seats removed) that has a lot of great bands

A-Trane -- awesome jazz club

Admiralspalast -- opened in 1910 and somehow escaped much bomb damage in WWII, this is one of the few preserved pre-WWII variety venues in Berlin and offers a huge variety of shows and performances

Konzerthaus Berlin and Berlin Philharmonie -- a traditional venue and a modern venue (at least at one time 🙂) that offer excellent classical music performances

Nothing here that interests you? Look at the copious performance venues on the VisitBerlin website.

Posted by
2537 posts

I personally only care for Museums if they themselves are the site of
the history

Museums where history happened:

Cecilienhof at Potsdam -- site of the Potsdam conference that still has the meeting room arranged as it was for the conference -- see Truman's and Churchill's quarters. Quite good audioguide. The most interesting thing to me (by far) at Potsdam, though Potsdam certainly has other interesting things

Deutsch-Russisches Museum at Karlshorst -- make the front desk people happy and tell them you are from somewhere besides Russia (Russians make up most of the visitors). The museum has the room where Germany signed its unconditional surrender to the Allies (set up as it was at the time of surrender). If you go through the museum, you get a Russian spin on WWII history. The bus ride from the Karlshorst S station to the museum takes you through a historic old part of Berlin built from 1895 to the 1920's. It was one of the neighborhoods for the upper crust of DDR society.

Hohenschönhausen -- Stasi remand prison where DDR (East Germany) "enemy of the state" prisoners were taken; some visitors are lucky enough to get a former prisoner as a guide; the site will look familiar if you have watched the recommended Stasi film The Lives of Others. Plus walk through a real, live, rundown former East German area of town from the bus stop to the museum.

Stasimuseum -- Home of East Germany's secret police. As I recall, there is an English tour once per day. Perhaps more interesting to me than the museum is the art installation at the Magdalenstraße U-station platform in front of the museum. It consists of 20 murals painted by DDR artist Wolfgang Frankenstein that represent 20 great moments in history, at least according to the DDR.

I'm sure others can add to this list.

Posted by
2537 posts

While [Checkpoint Charlie] may be a "lame" attraction, for me its
about being in the location itself

You are correct. Checkpoint Charlie in its present day state is a little hokey. BUT, it is the site of amazing history, like when Lucius Clay defiantly drove through the checkpoint when the DDR tried to close it or when US and Russian-borrowed DDR tanks faced off at the checkpoint. There was a decent outdoor display about the history of the site on one of the street corners at last check, including photos of the tanks with the still-present buildings surrounding them. To me, it is a must-see place for someone who is interested in the history of cold war Berlin -- not for the fake checkpoint building, but to stand where history happened.

Someone brought up differences between East and Western Germany, what
regions/cities does that include

If you want an interesting contrast in post-war East German vs West German architecture, take the U to the Frankfurter Tor U station and then walk down Karl-Marx-Allee towards Strausberger Platz to see grand classical architecture with common recreation space behind the buildings to encourage community. Then head over to the Hansaviertel in the former West Berlin to see the modernist Bauhaus-influenced architecture that was built there at around the same time.

Posted by
2537 posts

Interesting places to stand:

Checkpoint Charlie

Site of the former Bornholmer Straße Checkpoint at the Bösebrücke -- the first checkpoint to open on Nov 9, 1989 as part of what was truly an "accidental" opening of the Berlin Wall when the head guard tired of holding back the chanting East Berlin throngs with no guidance from his superiors, so... he opened the gate to let people pass into West Berlin. Sadly, the checkpoint building is gone (replaced by a Lidl, as all good things in Germany are). There is still part of the wall there, and last time I was there, a tiny patch of pavement with faded lane markings from the old checkpoint. There are some boards there with the history of the site (I can't remember if they are in English or just German).

Gleis 17 aka Track 17 at the Berlin-Grunewald S station -- the site where Berlin's Jews were placed on trains for transport to death camps. There are metal grates along the no-longer operating track -- one grate for each transport train and each grate lists the train, destination, and number of souls on board.

Over any Stolperstein (stumbling block) -- brass-colored squares in the sidewalks outside buildings that commemorate the murdered Jews who lived there.

Tempelhof Airport -- one of the primary locations of the Berlin Airlift, one of the USA's greatest moments. Tours of the airport in English were given pre-COVID and are pretty great for those who have interest in airplanes/airports. There is a memorial near the airport to the airmen who died during the Airlift. I left a flower.

Fernsehturm. I think it's pretty cool to stand outside looking up and to stand inside looking down. I've eaten dinner there twice, reserving a table by the window a little before sundown so I can make a revolution during sunlight, during dusk, and during the dark of night. Eat slowly. And get dessert.

I know you said you are not interested, but... the Reichstag. Totally different viewpoint from the Fernsehturm. I've also done the cupola twice -- both times close to sunset. Do the short audio tour while it's still light and then wait for darkness to descend for some really nice views of the city.

Volkspark Friedrichshain -- few places are better to watch Berliners being Berliners. A HUGE park with fountains (including a very cool fairy tale fountain), walkways, playgrounds, sports courts, a random memorial (Polish Anti-fascist fighters, as I recall), two hills made out of WWII building debris.

Tiergarten -- nice for a walk, especially Luiseninsel; there is an outdoor cafe/restaurant this is a nice place to people watch

The Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park is stunning and well worth a visit. It includes an enormous statue of a Soviet soldier crushing a swastika with his foot while holding a German child. It is built atop a mass grave of Soviet soldiers. Treptower Park is nice for a walk, too.

Rathaus Schöneberg. Ich bin ein Berliner. And exactly zero people in the crowd chuckled, thinking he was erroneously talking about jelly doughnuts. The inside of the building where JFK gave his speech looks like it is still trapped in the 1960s. I went to the men's room and wondered if there was any chance I was peeing where JFK peed. If you ask really, really nicely, the guards at the front desk may let you go up to the bell tower to see the Freedom Bell; it was a gift from US citizens, who each made a small donation to have the bell cast for West Berlin. It arrived in 1950.

Near MOLECULE MAN! I love that guy. I don't know why.

Posted by
2537 posts

If you don't mind paying for a guide and driver, as well as slipping some money to a guy rumored to be involved with the Italian mafia, I can hook you up with a guy who can take you into the underground bunkers where Russia stored the nuclear weapons that were to be handed over to the DDR to "engage" West Germany in the event of nuclear war.

Posted by
134 posts

You haven't mentioned KaDeWe, Kurfürstendamm, Hackesche Höfe, the Grunewald, Bayrischer Platz, Tiergarten/Victory Column, Rotes Rathaus, Nikolaiviertel, Potsdamer Platz, the East Side Gallery, Spreepark, the Hauptbahnhof (yes, it's worth a visit), Kaiser Wilhelm church, Berliner Dom, the Gaslaternen, Olympiapark, Botanischer Garten, Schloss Charlottenburg, Düppel, Wannsee, Tempelhof, Sanssoucci . . . .

And that's before you have visited a single museum or WWII related site. As others have said, even if you don't go to museums normally, you might enjoy the DDR Museum. It's small and one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. The Checkpoint Charlie museum is actually also really good (and not very big).

For WWII, the two don't miss choices are obviously the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (you really can't miss it) and the Topography of Terror "museum" (It has an indoor section, but it's mostly outdoors and doesn't feel like a museum, so it might work for you). Even if WWII isn't interesting, these two are important. Or go just outside the city to Sachsenhausen or to the aforementioned Gleis 17 within the city.

I am really baffled how anyone could think that Berlin could be done in a day, even without the Museums or the WWII sites. Not finding anything? What DO you want to see? I could spend days just people watching at Bahnhof Zoo or along Under den Linden. No cultural events? Berlin has an amazing nightlife.

By your description, you can do London in a day, too. Or Paris. Or any place, really. If you want to experience it like a local, go where the people are. That means lunch in a cafe, walking down the shopping street, going to the local parks or the zoo, dinner, etc. Those things can't be done in a day. And those things are not always going to be in a guidebook, but they take time.

For what you want to do, you may as well bike through Seattle. But even without the "tourist" sites (which are tourist sites for a reason, mind you), there is a TON to see and do in Berlin.

Posted by
11261 posts

I waited to reply, as I'm very torn about how to respond to your post.

On the one hand, Berlin is one of my favorite places, and I always say that like New York or London, you'll never run out of things to do there. You've already gotten long lists of ideas from others. In terms of neighborhoods, there are lots of different ones worth seeing, in addition to Prenzlauer Berg. Do you want edgy, bourgeois, etc? And while the city has been reunified for 30 years, there are still differences between the former East and former West Berlin.

As for being on sites history happened: Years before I had traveled, someone told me I had to go to Jerusalem - "It's history under your feet." I thought of this phrase CONSTANTLY when I was in Berlin. Whether it was crossing the street and seeing the markers indicating that I had just crossed where the Berlin Wall was, or going to the Topography of Terror and having someone point out a part of the Wall just a few feet away (not even marked at the time, just standing there), I was constantly aware of the overlap of lots of twentieth century events in a small space. I've never felt history so viscerally before or since. And much more of Berlin is still standing then I had been led to believe. Just as one example, the house where Christopher Isherwood lived, at Nollendorfstraße 17 in Schöneberg, still stands.

Ironically, I was much less impressed with Jerusalem than with Berlin. And that leads to the other part of my post: listen to your instincts. Both Jerusalem and Kyoto Japan are supposed to be fantastic places that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime. In my pre-trip research, I wasn't taken with them, but everyone else couldn't be so wrong, could they? Well, they were. I didn't care much for either one, and see no need to return.

So, if Berlin doesn't call to you, and if nothing in the lists above changes that view, then stick to your plan of spending less time there and more time in other places. It's YOUR trip, so do what works for you, rather than what others (even me!) say you should do.

Posted by
7884 posts

As an FYI, Stolperstein (Stumblestones) are for anyone who was killed by the Nazis: Jews, Socialists, Roma-Sinti, Homosexuals, Jehova Witnesses, T-4Victims, Priests/Nuns/Ministers, Communists, Resistant Fighters, etc. They are in 24 countries and there are over 75,000 of them. Most cities in Germany have them.

Posted by
2537 posts

I stand corrected on Stolpersteine!

I know the OP said he is not interested in museums, but others have mentioned the DDR Museum, so I will add that there are 2 museums in Berlin focused on the DDR:

  1. The one near Museum Island (DDR Museum) is a private, bright, interactive museum that is more nostalgic. It definitely is the more entertaining of the two and is very well done. While it does not ignore the negative sides of life in the DDR, it understandably focuses less on them because as a private enterprise, it (1) wants you to enjoy your experience and return some day and (2) wants you to be motivated to buy plastic DDR egg holders and toy Trabants in the gift shop.

  2. The Museum in the Kulturbrauerei. The permanent exhibit ("Everyday life in the DDR") consists of two parts: an encyclopedic detailing of work life and oppression in the DDR and a lighter, less dense exhibit about social life in the DDR. This museum is much more academic than the one near Museum Island, and you definitely will not exit the exhibits thinking about cute plastic egg holders. The retail area in the museum reflects its content -- it is better described as a tiny bookstore than as a gift shop. The museum often has very interesting special exhibits like the current Eastern Germany in Close-up: Photographs by Jürgen Hohmuth 1990-1994.

Posted by
291 posts

I vividly recall the first time we passed through the wall at Checkpoint Charlie. I was carrying a sewing machine. We were also carrying fresh cherries and honey from my grandfathers "garden". I was about 10 years old. My mother, sister and I were going to visit her sister, brother and my cousins. It was very real and a bit terrifying crossing over to the side where there were Soviet and East German guards everywhere. With military ID we were able to get away with bending the rules, we thought. It's as vivid in my mind as hearing shooting along the wall/fence at night when East German's attempted an escape.
From my grandfather's garden in NeuKoln I watched the continuous construction that was going on on the East side. We watched the mine fields expand, fences being built, towers going up and then the wall. The East German workers were close enough to hear them talking, watch them sweat as they labored with the continuous construction. I watched the guards on patrol with their dogs as they watched me watching them. You should visit whatever remains of the wall but you will be challenged to appreciate what it once was. You won't experience stepping through to the other side and wondering what will happen. You won't experience waving to your relatives across the wall as they wave from a window. You may not appreciate that some das the news on Telefunken tied the gun shots to deaths of attempted escapees....but you should try to envision that if you can. CPC may be a kitschy display for some.....
Berlin is a fabulous place to visit...one or two days just scratches the surface. Take the S Bahn, U Bahn and pop out on KuDam near the Gedächtniskirche, go to the zoo, visit Potsdam, walk a neighborhood like NeuKoln, have a brothchen fresh from the bakery and a few beers in a bar, maybe one of the silly Berliner Weisse's and a shaslik....

Posted by
1461 posts

If you want to go local, do it but do it the right way. Prenzlberg is touristy and a lot of people living there are locals but not Berliners (question of mindset and wearing heart on the tongue like we say) - only 46% of people living in Berlin were born in Berlin. So, find the other places.

By the way: VisitBerlin developed an app to help you with that.The app Going Local Berlin helps to "discover the capital off the beaten track because this is not a classic travel guide app for the top sights. With more than 700 personal Berlin tips, tours and restaurant recommendations, you can now experience Berlin like a Berliner."

https://www.visitberlin.de/en/going-local-berlin

But with the time you plan just visit a week or flea market and then try to find a place where real Berliners are.

My tip for everybody visiting Oranienburg. Get of S-Bahn station Frohnau and enjoy a café or restaurant around local famous Zeltinger Platz.

Posted by
356 posts

If you are truly intent on spending a day, or at most two days, in Berlin, I would suggest the best walking tour of the city you can find depending on your budget. Berlin has an unusually high number of both first-rate tour guides and reasonably priced walking tours. You will see much and get a feel for the city.

However, I will join the chorus in saying that Berlin is huge and fascinating, and merits, at a bare minimum, three days.

Posted by
126 posts

Hi..ahh Berlin! It was a genuine surprise..and 3 days was not enough! I love your idea of the bicycle..and I did not enter museums and still could not get enough of this city. From an historical perspective..I agree with previous posts..Berlin off ers first class walking tours that will not disappoint..I did 3.
All re: WW2 HISTORY. Of course.
Go with your own sense of what you prefer but you will not be disappointed if you add a day or 2!

Posted by
41 posts

I'm sorry for the late reply, so many suggestions and so many to look up. You guys have convinced me. I have added an extra day to Berlin. Thank you especially to Dave and HowlinMad. These are exactly the type of recomendations I was looking for! Now looking through everything, 2 days doesn't even seem enough :)

Posted by
5550 posts

So glad you have added a day. It is a city with so much history, it's just that much of it is so recent.

I first visited Berlin as a student before the Wall came down. Then we visited the wall with a view point over to the East. Checkpoint Charlie wasn't a bit hokey. We went to the Pergamon museum and to history museum in the East that was bizarre. We saw Charlottenburg and sat in cafes on the Ku Dam where I saw the first prostitute I had ever seen in my life. She had on a very short red dress--this was the days of the mini and it still was short to me. :). We say the Gedächtnis Kirche. We went to KaDeWe. We saw the rubble piles in the East. We saw new housing developments in west of brightly colored buildings. We drove around the Brandenberg Gate in our bus peering at all the barbed wire.

I went back a bit over ten years ago. I marveled at walking through the Brandenberg Gate. I saw the new US Embassy. I wander through the new Holocaust Memorial. I walked down Unter den Linden and it was so different from the first time. See this article and you will see what I mean about the history. There was something about the place were the books were burnt. I did go back to the Ku Dam and the Kaiser Wilhelm Church. There I didn't feel the German history so much as my own. I could see the wisps and ghosts of my college classmates all around 19 years old with so much to learn and so much ahead of us. This week is a virtual reunion for our University. Normally the Eningen crowd gets back together and drink a pint or two and sip some oozo. (Many, many Greeks in Germany in the 70s so many gasthofs serving oozo to everyone. ). I also went to to Potsdam Square and thought about JFK. Then I went to the Sony Centre and saw one of the Ocean's 12 movies. What a world we live in.

Posted by
2094 posts

Good choice! And no, 2 days is not even close to enough time in Berlin, but a lot better than one!

Posted by
944 posts

I’ve been to Berlin twice and would return in a heartbeat. Not sure what month you’re going, but both times it rained. The first time was late Nov / early Dec and it rained the entire time. However, it was not a torrential downpour and all I needed was a lined raincoat and umbrella.
The second time was in June and the first three days were dry and sunny, but the last day had a horrific down pour that prevented any outside activity and it lasted the entire day, unbelievable. I did go out making quick dashes to get inside of places and was so wet I went back to my hotel early. My clothes were soaked and left a puddle even after I wrung everything out. Nothing was dry the next day either.
I used Lonely Planet as my guidebook since it was more recent than Rick Steves and it was excellent. I explored the neighborhoods since that was how the book was laid out. This is a young city with tremendous amount of street art and cool places to hang out and drink a beer. One of the places near the Berlin Wall Museum had a wall you could climb and showed movies. Do have a backup plan in case it rains while there.

Posted by
1009 posts

Don't feel bad about staying a day or two. Some cities don't really appeal to certain people. What I would do is first day go on the half-day walking or biking tours. Original Berlin Tours are good or there are free options. These tours will take you on a walk through the history of the city hitting all the "must-see" attractions listed above. Then if you see anything on the tour you want to explore I'd do those for remaining time you have left.

I also found tours to be good places to find information from others, such as restaurants or places I'd never heard of in the city.

Posted by
12263 posts

With a month in Europe, you could just skip Berlin which I would see as a big mistake. First time in Europe I had to go Berlin, just unthinkable not including it in the itinerary, spent 5 days there.

I would also suggest the museum in Berlin-Karlshorst housed in the building where the Germans signed the last of the 4 surrenders in 1945, that to the Soviets, a day later after they had signed the surrender to the Anglo-Americans in Reims. That was a Germany Army building, a Wehrmacht building.

You want to see ruins where history took place, I suggest the Panzerschule in Berlin-Kramnitz between Grunewald and Potsdam The Soviets took over the grounds and after they pulled out in 1992, the place fell into disrepair.

From Berlin Hbf you could walk to the Invalidenfriedhof, ca. 30 mins, to the oldest Prussian-German military burial site.

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Hey Fred! You said you included Berlin in your original European itinerary. What else was on your original itinerary? I’m looking for examples to use as reference for my own first trip.

I was planning to include London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Athens... though I’m only in Berlin for 3 nights and not 5 hahaha.

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12263 posts

@ ifgh 2015...

My first two trips I count as one with a 2 year pause in between, since for all practical purposes as regards to traveling style, budget, focus, etc they were practically the same.

The first trip included London, ( obviously,) Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Vienna, and numerous other places in Germany. The second trip included Berlin, Paris (my first time) and Prague., Nürnberg. This was in 1973. If I had been more exact with the planning, I could have done at least a day trip, if not spending one night, in Kiel.