What would YOU do in Berlin?


Apr 19th, 2016, 08:24 PM
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What would YOU do in Berlin?

Hi everyone,

Today we booked the last part of our trip in August...Berlin! We will spend 5 nights staying at the Ibis Berlin Potsdamer Platz.

I have come up with a list of attractions we would like to see while we are in Berlin. I am also looking for some input on what fodorites think are the MUST SEES/what they would recommend out of the list for our first visit.

Brandenburg gate
Checkpoint Charlie
East side gallery
Holocaust Memorial
Berlin Cathedral
Potsdamer Place shopping

Is this too much for our 4 full days? Are there any 'hidden gems' of Berlin that we should go and see? Also where are the best nightlife spots near to where we are staying? We would love to be able to get a nice dinner (it will be our anniversary in Berlin ) and go out for a few drinks after!

A bit of background (in case you haven't read my other posts) we are a young couple in our early 20s, we will be visiting Paris, Amsterdam and Prague also on this trip. We LOVE trying new food, exploring new places and i love amazing architecture also.
kiwiabroad3000 is offline  
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Apr 19th, 2016, 10:50 PM
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I'd say none of the above. Most of your list is stuff best driven by (some, like Alexanderplatz, thanking your good fortune for not having near you), and a morning on and off practically any HOHO bus will give you lots of quick photo-ops.

Berlin's two major tourist uniquenesses are:
- its obsessive and ubiquitous memorialisation of the period from 1920 (when most visitors could be forgiven for thinking the city was invented) to 1989
- its extraordinary collection of serious 19th century museums, and its ability to add what feel like hundreds more since.

The two often go together. the Topography of Terror indoor/outdoor museum is the most comprehensive (and relatively unharrowing) account I've seen anywhere of the bureaucracy of Nazi terror and genocide: the DDR Museum is an extraordinary account of what it was like to live in the Soviet puppet-state that occupied most of Berlin from 1945 to 1990.

The museums of Museum Island are phenomenal, though personally I'm as impressed with the Central Asian collections in the Dahlem museum complex out in the suburbs.

Every hotel sems to have the same huge fixture of brochures for lots of other museums. It's a highly dynamic industry, with new ones forever popping up and distinguished old ones forever being closed for refurbing or restoring. Rather than take others' recommendations, allow time to browse all the brochures.

Berlin's shopping is mostly the same mediocre tat as you'll find in any other capital city: even its Primark, though heaving like everywhere else, lacks the cutting-edge street fashion excitement of branches in London or Paris, and is stuffed with the dull bling worn by most newly-affluent middle-aged working class Eastern Europeans.

But the food hall in the KaDeWe department store has to be the best of its kind on earth: easily outclassing its Tokyo competitors. It's got dozens of microcafes, selling its food for instant consumption, and you really should plan a visit around mealtimes.

What particularly intrigued a group of us recently was getting a map that showed both the line of the Wall and the metro system as it was between 1962 and 1989. We then looked at how the border now looks, especially in its metro stations (Checkpoint Charlie is now a horrid complex of tourist tat shops). I was also fascinated by a football match at the Olympic Stadium. Hertha (whose home ground it is) doesn't seem to draw large crowds, and the 2016/17 season starts on August 15: tickets seem easy to get almost on the day - though I think yo need to buy them online first.

Berlin is awash with restaurants and bars, though proper pubs or beer-gardens are surprisingly thin on the ground. There's no point in recommending any one place without a better idea of what yo want to eat and drink.
flanneruk is offline  
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Apr 20th, 2016, 03:23 AM
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Here's my Berlin TR from a couple of months back which might help.

From your list, I would say definitely the East Side Gallery - there's more than half a mile of wall remaining and I found the murals really interesting and evocative. Also, whilst Alexanderplatz is undoubtedly quite brutalist and bleak, if you want to get a sense of what life was like in the former GDR then I think it's definitely worth a look. Actually, to me, the most interesting bits of Berlin were all about the cold war era and the contrasts between life in the East and West.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 05:23 AM
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You could start by browsing through the Arkaden in Potsdammer Platz across the street from the Hyatt
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Apr 20th, 2016, 05:41 AM
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Checkpoint Charlie is faux or even a fake. 5 minutes. Brandenburg Gate: Walk around for 15 minutes. The DZ bank nearby has an extraordinary, whale-like interior designed by architect superstar Frank Ghery (if the lobby is open.) The Reichstag/Bundestag, rebuilt home of the German government, is surmounted by a wonderful glass dome designed by Norman Foster offering panoramic views of the Berlin skyline. Do the tour, which requires advance security clearance:
The official city information site is an essential tool:
Best introduction is to do one of the half-day walking tours as soon as you get to the city. There are several, very cheap for what you get, and it will set you up for the rest of your visit.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 07:31 AM
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I would see everything on your list. Some won't take any time to see and you can fit it in and lots more in 4 days.
I think your list is great for a first timer to see.
I did when I first went there.
The Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust museum , Checkpoint Charlie , Tiergarten and the Gendarmenmarkt are all within walking distance of your hotel.
The Galleria Mall at Potsdamer Platz is a great shopping mall also.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:17 AM
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Here's some of the things I like a while ago.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:40 AM
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We had fun doing this.

And enjoyed the boat tour for a very different view of Berlin.

Museum Island
Pergamon Museum.
gomiki is offline  
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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:49 AM
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Here my comments on your list:

Brandenburg gate - it is an impressive monument, but you just look at it or you may walk through it, a thing of 5 minutes

Checkpoint Charlie - there is a little museum which is quite interesting IMO, but you will be done in 20 minutes

East side gallery - graffiti on leftovers of the wall, again a quick and easy visit

Holocaust Memorial - near Brandenburg Gate, one look is enough or a short walk through part of it

Alexanderplatz - a very ugly square, but it shows how it was in the socialist times

Tiergarten - it is a park, you may drive through it, the Victory Column is an impressive monument

Berlin Cathedral - a large church, certainly worth a visit

Gendarmenmarkt - Berlin's most beautiful square in the heart of the city, with two gorgeous churches on it, a theatre, and lots of restaurants around it

Potsdamer Place shopping - it is a modern, soulless shopping mall; no Berliner would go there shopping

Let's get constructive.

The first thing that I would do is riding the public bus #100 from Alexanderplatz to Bahnhof Zoo (or the other way round). It is a double-decker bus that connects the main attractions and drives along Unter den Linden, the boulevard which is lined with the splended historical buildings. A ticket costs €2.80 for 90 minutes and it is hop-on/hop-off.

This is the very best way to get a first impression of the city.

Then, attractions. The Pergamon Museum is outstanding. Imagine the original gate of Babylon in this museum - just breathtaking.

Second, the Neues Museum has the bust of Nefertiti and many excellent findings from Egypt.

The Jewish Museum is very interesting and in a fine Libeskind building.

Walk Oranienburger Straße to Hackesche Höfe to soak in Berlin atmosphere.

On a good day, take a boat trip on the River Spree to see the city from the water (they start at Pergamon Museum).
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Apr 20th, 2016, 09:03 AM
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Berlin Walking Tours in English offers some great group tours that would cover a number of the places you mention - I saw most of those sights in their 4 hour tour. I also have done a tour that center around the Third Reich.

Spending a day at Potsdam is fun. There are castles, beautiful gardens, and fun restaurants. KaDeWee has an unbelievable food floor with restaurants, coffee bars, and groceries. I stay in Charlottenburg have found a variety of restaurants. The Charlottenburg Palace is interesting too.

Berlin has many interesting museums - the Pergamon, Altes, etc. There will be some topic that interest you. If you have an interest in architecture, Schinkel designed the Unter den Linden and many of the buildings in the Mitte that open for visit. He also designed the summer house at Charlottenburg Palace which is a real gem.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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" The Reichstag/Bundestag, rebuilt home of the German government, is surmounted by a wonderful glass dome designed by Norman Foster offering panoramic views of the Berlin skyline. Do the tour, which requires advance security clearance:

I usually avoid tours, but this one was worth it....
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Apr 20th, 2016, 11:23 AM
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I forgot, if you like zoos they have a great one.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 03:12 PM
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Wow so much good advice here guys, thank you so much.

I did realise that most of the items on my list would not take much time to see. I am finding planning the Berlin part of our trip quite difficult (compared with my planning for Paris. I've found way too many things i want to do in Paris, and it seems like Berlin is a bit the opposite sadly ).

@traveller1959I have definitely heard about the bus 100/200 route. That was included on my newest list of things to do.

Are there any walking tours in particular that you would recommend @mes2525/southam?

Potsdam does look great as well! I don't know why i didn't think of it before How do you get public transport from Potsdamer Platz to Potsdam?
kiwiabroad3000 is offline  
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Apr 20th, 2016, 03:54 PM
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Sounds like you need a better guidebook. You can take a train to Potsdam - buy a transport pass that covers Potsdam as well as Berlin.

For another TR on Berlin start here:

Links at the top of the page, go backwards for Potsdam.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 05:19 PM
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First thing you should do is check the official TI website for upcoming exhibitions, festivals etc. in August.

Some of the info given above is slightly outdated, so I take the liberty to give an update whenever required.
Sorry in advance for being a bit on the lengthy side... and for typos. Too late to proof-read.

Several of the buildings are from East Berlin's socialist past, but many new box-style buildings have been added. It did not really enhance any beauty, thought.
Main attraction: TV tower, observation platform, often lines.

Potsdamer Platz
It's a good location for shopping since the new Mall of Berlin opened last year. It's several times the size of the older Potsdamer Platz Arkaden - the one mall most PP referred too. You have a wider choice of the stores at the Mall of Berlin - but probably nothing that will make your heart stop. But still, many Berliners go there for shopping.

One of the taller buildings, the Kollhoff House has a nice open air observation platform on the 25th or so floor.

The new Spy Museum looks - like the DDR Museum or Madame Tussaud's - a bit like a tourist trap.

Unter den Linden
Still a major construction site due to the extension of subway line 5. The buildings left and right can still be seen. But you cannot promenade in the center strip again yet.
The last stages of the fake City Palace at the beginning of Unter den Linden (near Alexanderplatz) are somewhat impressive. Well, a bit monstrous, but anyway.

Museum Island
Still THE place to go if you remotely interested in the stuff they have.

Holocaust Memorial, Topography of Terror, Jewish Museum - very much worth a visit.

Reichstag cupola - ditto.
Check the website mentioned above.

More history?
Checkpoint Charlie is more or less an insignificant tourist trap. The museum right nearby looks a bit old and overpriced- but it's been an institution for decades and is only privately-funded and receives no subsidies. Hence the somewhat pricey entrance fee. Not sure to recommend it, though.
For a more realistic view, you can check out the Berlin Wall Memorial site:
Life in the old GDR:
Tränenpalast / "Palace of Tears" - former border control facility, adjacent to Friedrichstr. station
Museum of Contemporary Life in the GDR (there is another "DDR Museum" in Mitte but it asks for a quite steep entrance fee while this one is for free)
And, last but not least, the ex Stasi HQ
and the Stasi jail
All of the above is for free.

Bus #100
It's been some time in the 1990s when Lonely Planet discovered that you have one midly scenic bus line which you can ride with your regular transit pass or ticket. Since then, it became a regularly overcrowded institution that most passengers ride squeezed like in a sardine can.
You can use it if you desperately need to see Bellevue palace or want to climb up the Victory column in Tiergarten (nice view, by the way), but otherwise you can see the sights on Unter der Linden just by taking the S-Bahn to Brandenburger Tor station.

Is a nice trip.
If you want to get inside Sanssouci palace, you should book ahead. It will be very crowded in summer.
If you only want to go to Potsdam once, you can buy an add one to your Berlin transit pass. It's cheaper than to buy e.g. a weekly pass that covers also Potsdam as you will need it only on one day.

Cool place for 20somethings to hang out?
Among others, Kreuzberg. Oranienstr. between Moritzplatz and Görlitzer Bahnhof subway stations. And further on to Schlesisches Tor subway station and Oberbaumbrücke.
More pubs, clubs etc than your metabolism can handle.
Also Bergmannstr. neighborhood - via Mehringdamm or Gneisenaustr. subway stations.
Both areas are also cool to find quirky shops or many eateries during the day. No German required.
In summertime, you will have several beaches in town - some just for sunbathing along the Spree river in the Eastern city center, some real ones - like Wannsee beach.
Or the Badeschiff in Kreuzberg

Nice place for dinner - with a view
Neni Restaurant @ 25hours hotel, top floor.
After dark, the side facing the city will look better. If still daylight, the side facing the Zoo is nice.
Reservations strongly advised. But not really expensive.
There are obviously hundreds of other places - but at some point it becomes a matter of budget.
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Apr 20th, 2016, 07:33 PM
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I thought the Pergamon Altar was closed until 2019.

Posh shopping: Galeries Lafayette on Friedrichstraße. Amazing food hall in the basement. Mariage Frères. Lauderee.

Fassbinder and Rausch chocolates
@ Gendarmenmarkt.

But nothing can compare to the Food Halls @ KaDeWe!!!!! Swoon!!!!

I also think the best museum in Berlin is the Gemäldegalerie. Vermeer's Woman with a Pearl Necklace is here.

The dome @ Reichstag is the bomb!


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Apr 20th, 2016, 07:35 PM
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Correction: Laduree

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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:14 PM
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There is a Laduree in Berlin??? I read somewhere (i think on fodors!) that Ladurees in Paris are closed in August. But this made me so happy!

I have found one on google maps a few streets away from Gendarmenmarkt...really looking forward to visiting!

@Cowboy1968 - i've googled where Moritzplatz and Görlitzer subway stations are. It is pretty close to where we are staying by the looks of things as well, seems to be an easy walk away

Thank you for the advice about booking ahead for the Sanssouci palace! Duly noted, will probably book it in the next few weeks

Thank you for advice about checkpoint charlie. It seems to be a common theme that it is not worth time! We will definitely wander past (as it is only around the corner from where we are staying) but i didn't have too much interest in the museum from the beginning. Will definitely look into the other museums you recommended.

Thanks so much for all of the advice - i feel like i am getting more and more excited for Berlin now that i have a good list of what we will do
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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:46 PM
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Apr 20th, 2016, 08:55 PM
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I use Insider Tours when I visit Berlin and have gone on 5 of their tours so far. Cold War, 3rd Reich, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Potsdam, Dresden, and on my 1st visit their general overview tour of Berlin. Recommend doing this the 1st day.

Do spend at least one day in Potsdam.

If visiting a concentration camp is of interest, you can visit either Sachsenhausen or Ravensbruck. I have been to both of them twice and they both of excellent exhibits. Ravensbruck was for women though and for me has a completely different feel to it.

If time allows, you could visit the Olympic Stadium, Wannsee Villa, or Track 17. There are multiple memorials in Berlin to visit, so you could go see the one to the victims of the T-4 Program, the Roma & Sinti, or the Homosexual memorial.
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