Berlin truly has it all, so whether you’re going for a long weekend or a few weeks, you’ll be pressed for time when trying to take in all the sights the city has to offer. Here are some of the spots you should make sure not to skip.
Berlin is centuries old, yet it feels totally new and exciting. This vibrant and alternative city is home to everything from historic buildings to world-famous memorials, spreading green cemeteries to art spaces-not to mention three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Berlin truly has it all, and its size is massive (over 340 square miles). Whether you’re staying for a long weekend or a few weeks, it’s likely you’ll be pressed for time when trying to take in all the sights the city has to offer. Here are some of the spots you should make sure not to skip as you traverse this enormous city.
The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is one of Germany’s best-known and most iconic landmarks. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the gate stood directly on the border between East and West, and was a symbol of Berlin’s Cold War division. After thousands of citizens celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate, it became known as a symbol of the reunification of Germany. Today, the gate is one of Germany’s most visited landmarks, drawing more than 12 million visitors annually.
The Reichstag Building
The Reichstag building is home to the German Bundestag (federal parliament), but its main attraction is the spectacular glass dome roof that gives visitors a 360-degree view of Berlin. After passing through security, you’ll be taken up to the dome in a lift, where you can climb a spiral walkway until you reach the top. Take in the city from every angle, and enjoy an informative audio-guide that highlights points of interest about this historically-significant building.
The Berlin Cathedral
The Berlin Cathedral is an awe-inspiring place to visit. The magnificent dome of the Cathedral Church (Berliner Dom) is one of the main landmarks in Berlin’s cityscape, and the interior is one of the most ornate and grand in the world. Featuring a lavish mix of ornamental mosaics, gold features and impressive statues, the Berlin Cathedral is well worth seeing. Tickets are available online, and the fee includes a guided tour, which runs every 20 minutes and includes information on the Cathedral’s crypt (yes, it has a crypt!), the organ and the museum.
For decades, Berlin has been known more for its adventurous nightlife scene than anything else, but the restaurant industry is beginning to catch up. In addition to abundant street food and relaxed, budget-friendly options, Berlin also boasts 23 elegant Michelin-starred restaurants, making it one of the most exciting food destinations in Europe.
This two Michelin-starred restaurant is tucked away on a quiet, leafy street next to the Landwehr canal. Featuring the flavours of Austrian comfort food, the restaurant serves up dishes with locally sourced ingredients, and features an astounding Austrian wine list. Reservations are an absolute must!
Restaurant Tim Raue
Despite ranking an impressive #37 on the world’s best restaurants list, this small restaurant prides itself on informality. Known for its unpretentious service and vegan offerings, Restaurant Tim Raue is located near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin’s most famous crossing point between the former East and West Berlin. The menu features fusion flavours inspired by Japan, Thailand and China, and includes options such as wagyu beef, lobster, Australian winter truffle and tofu.
For those looking for a quick and casual meal, Azzam’s is an absolute must! Residents and tourists alike flock to Neukölln, the city’s most multicultural district, to sample Azzam’s hummus, made fresh throughout the day, and widely considered to be the best in Berlin. The restaurant also offers authentic, Lebanese specialities like falafel and baba ghanouj. Dig in to the delicacies on the benches in front of the restaurant or take them with you for a picnic in the nearby Körnerpark, which features cascading fountains and flower gardens.
Discover Street Art at the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a permanent open-air gallery on the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall, a 1.3km stretch along the River Spree. A heritage-protected landmark, the Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world. Notable works include Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss and Birgit Kinders’s Trabant breaking through the wall, but the entire stretch is worth a stroll.
Remember at the Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial), is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. The memorial consists of an undulating field of 2,711 uniquely shaped and sized concrete slabs, which can be passed through from all sides, and was designed with the purpose of disorienting visitors to mimic the sense of disorientation and loss that Jews experienced during the Holocaust. An information centre is located underneath the Memorial’s stones and offers biographical details, recordings and information about memorial sites throughout Germany and Europe.
Take in One of the Most Important Museum Sites in the World
No visit to Berlin is complete without a visit to Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Head over to the island that sits in the middle of the River Spree to see an ensemble of five of the best museums in the world built under the Prussian rulers. Throughout the museums, you’ll find works by Monet, Manet, Renoir and Caspar David Friedrich, as well as the famed bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Neues Museum’s best-known artifact.
Where to Stay
Luxury travellers in Berlin are catered to with a slew of five-star hotels and indulgent spas. The Waldorf Astoria is a classic Berlin hotel in the upmarket City West district that more than earns each of its five stars for its convenient location and excellent service. The first (and only) Guerlain Spa in Germany is located on the fifth floor of the hotel, and is one of the best in town.
My favourite spot to stay is the Westin Grand Berlin, located on one of the city’s most sophisticated streets, Friedrichstrasse. The Westin Grand offers classic five-star comforts and décor, a variety of services and an ensemble of fine dining and drinking options. The spa features a gorgeous circular indoor pool, and rooms overlooking the garden have a relaxing retreat feel, even in the heart of bustling Berlin.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.