We are planning this tour for next Fall. Would appreciate any helpful advice from veterans of this tour. How many pre-tour days in Berlin would you suggest? What sights in Berlin, not included in the tour would you recommend?
If you go to the tour link https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/eastern-europe/berlin-prague-vienna, scroll down and click "Planning Tips," then scroll down again, you'll see "Sightseeing On Your Own" (this used to be called "Pre Tour" and therefore was easier to find). It has tips for both before and after your tour.
For Berlin it says:
"Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Berlin that we will not be doing as a group (see the guidebook for details): Jewish Museum; Gemäldegalerie; Spree River cruise; Reichstag Dome."
Those would not be my priorities, but Berlin, like London or New York, has many days of top sights of all kinds, for all tastes. I loved the German History Museum (could have spent a full day there), the DDR Museum, the Berlin Wall exhibits at Nordbahnhof (first the station itself with its details of escapes, then the free films, then the double wall itself), and the aquarium. All except the aquarium are described in Rick's book. The aquarium is next to the zoo; the zoo was OK, but the aquarium was great ("exceeded expectations" as they say).
I wasn't as taken with the Gemäldegalerie as many others are (the poor lighting didn't help, but the paintings themselves "did not meet expectations"). I went up in the Reichstag Dome before one needed reservations, and did like it a lot; however, you now need to reserve in advance, or you won't get in. The Spree river cruise was relaxing, but not earth-shaking; in a short visit, I'd do other things. I haven't been to the Jewish Museum yet.
Do some research and see what appeals to you.
To answer your other question: "How many pre-tour days in Berlin would you suggest?" As many as you can spare. Again like London or New York, you won't run out of things to do. And there's such a variety - there's Prussian history, gay sights, Communist relics, Jewish history, museums of all kinds, and more.
Is Potsdam on the itinerary with its gardens and palace? Easy ride with the suburban S-Bahn. Or Charlottenburg, also with its palace and gardens? It's on the metro network (U-Bahn).
An easy »adventure« out of the city is historical Wittenberg. A nice day out. And cheap as well with the Brandenburg-Berlin-Ticket: EUR 29 for the two of you if you don't mind leaving after 09.00 and taking the Regional Express (1.15 hrs instead of 40 mins on the Intercity Express train).
I have been to the Jewish Museum and if you are into WWII history you should go.
I went on this tour in June 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed it! I arrived one day early to Berlin and went to the Pergamon Museum and the Gemaldegalerie - Art Museum includes a Vermeer, and loved their collections. Of course, I am an art lover. We also went to the Jewish Museum- highly recommend it. I could easily spend more time there, so much to see.
After the tour, which ended in Vienna, I stayed 3 more days.
I am an alumni of this tour. I have not read the other responses, but here are my comments.
I loved Berlin. I went 5 days early. I could have spent another week.....so yes, I am going back. Here is what I did.....some are part of your walking tour. It depends how much time you want to spend at each site. I did a lot of homework before the trip. I had no down time.
There are several walking tour companies depending on what interests you (see RS book). They are fairly cheap. I took a day tour to Potsdam (go here). I did several others based on the Cold War and Nazi stuff. Getting a Berlin Pass/Welcome Card helps with costs....but it is still not very expensive.
Spent half a day at Sachsenhausen. Took the train. Easy connections.
Went to the Olympic Stadium.
East Side Gallery is worth the time.
Went to the Reichstag. Took a day tour and an evening tour. Going up into the dome is great! You must sign up on-line.
Took the elevator to the top of the TV tower. The view is good, but not great. It is a very historic tower from the Cold War.
Went to the musical instrument museum. Just missed out on seeing the Berlin Philharmonic.
Saw a performance of "Messiah" in the Berlin Cathedral. Awesome!
Lots and lots of museums....from Museum Island to the Jewish Museum to the Curry Wurst Museum....endless choices.
Do not get on the public transportation without a valid ticket. Yes, there are plain clothed police who check. I was checked 3 different times. They have no mercy....no ticket = 50 euros. Its in the RS Book.
Ate at KaDeWe. Great views of Berlin. Food was good.
I enjoyed people watching at the Brandenburg Gate......the epicenter of the "selfie" world.
I tried to balance my time between the "dark side" of Berlin and the modern Berlin.
These are just a few quick random thoughts. Hope this helps.
My reply is basically the same as others. Are you interested in art, history, food, military history, shopping, etc?
I've been to Berlin 2x, once with spouse for 4 days, and once with the same tour you're taking.
~For my pre-tour I reserved ahead for the tour of the Reichstag which includes all the time you want at the end of the dome. You do it online and are given a date and time slot from three you will list. This was my late afternoon evening activity
For the morning I walked and visited all the musuems and sights of the East Side wall.
~During our free afternoon I walked to the Jewish Musuem with several others and then we all just went at our own pace with prearranged plans to meet for dinner later on.
~The day I met the group I went early that morning Museum Island and spent it all at the Pergamonn.
With my spouse we enjoyed many hours at the German History Musuem, had a sausage lunch on the benches in the park area of the Berlin Dome. We followed that up with a lazy boat ride on the River Spree.
~One clear morning we visited Alexanderplatz and had called ahead to have breakfast at the TV tower. From therre we had free access to the outside viewing platform. Wonderful views. Lines were very long when we left so good to call ahead
Then we did the OBW Third Reich Tour and spent time at the Documentation Center and Checkpoint Charlie area.
~Another morning we strolled the Ku'dam area, had breakfast at an outdoor place. We window shopped and went to the Underground Bunker on the Ku'dam. Then saw what we could of the Kaiser Wilhem Church as it was in restoration.
We used taxi for airport to hotel transfers, and the tram and U-bahn as needed to fill in long legs of the day. Berlin is friendly, vibrant, and easy to navigate. I hope you have a wonderful time.
We went 3 days early and wished for more. We stayed in the tour hotel and at check-in got a museum pass (not sure if still included). Went to Potsdam, history museum (wasn't on museum pass and ran out of time to see it all). The museums on Museum island were great. Went to Jewish museum on free afternoon during tour. Also did the relaxing boat tour
We did walking tours but minimal time in museums during the tour itself. Have fun!