Visiting Berlin should never be a rushed job. But unfortunately travel itineraries often dictate that only 2 or 3 days can be given to this sprawling city. So for those of you who want to get the basics in one fell swoop here is my recommendation:
A lot of people will jump straight on one of the ubiquitous City tour buses you find in every big city. But, they are often a little on the pricey side which can be a bummer. Luckily in Berlin there is a bus which almost replicates the route these buses take and it is just one of the local lines: Bus 100. Jump on at Alexanderplatz or Zoologischer Garten, buy a day ticket (tageskarte).
The route goes from Zoologischer Garten to Alexanderplatz, but you can jump on at either of these stops or any of the stops in between.
If you catch this bus you can go by the following itinerary and give it more or less time as you wish.
Gedächtniskirche at Zoo. Starting the journey here and taking a look inside the old church is a good idea. Admission is free so walk in and stare up at the richly decorated ceilings which are still miraculously intact after the massive hit this church took. There is a lot of information presented inside regarding the bombing of the old building.
Reichstag. I recommend visiting the Reichstag website at least 2 weeks before you arrive and booking a date and time to visit the dome. It is brilliant and a much better way to view Berlin than paying for a pricey trip up the TV tower (Fernsehturm) It is free entry you only need to take your passport along and of course a printed receipt of your confirmed visit time. You'll be decked out with a headset which will automatically play as you spiral your way around the dome towards the roof, explaining the various sites you can view out of the glass dome.
Brandenburger Tor – Get off the bus here and take a walk up Unter den Linden. The best time to visit is at night, there are fewer tourists, it is quiet and you can get a decent picture in front of the gate without annoying street performers in the way. It also looks particularly spectacular with the glowing yellow light adorning the columns.
I also recommend leaving the bus at this point and walking through the gate and taking a left then following the road down to get to the Holocaust memorial. The bus won’t take you here.
After walking through the impressive monument you can get to the free museum in the top corner. You should take about an hour out to visit this museum. From here you can follow the road down to Potsdamerplatz and visit the impressive Sony center. Inside the building as you emerge from the S-bahn is a wall with a time line showing the construction of the site from a virtual no man’s land into the busy center it is today. After this you can make your way back to the Brandenburger Tor bus stop and jump back on the 100 bus.
Bebelplatz – an impressive monument in the middle of the square commemorates the Burning of the books which took place on the 10th of May 1933
Neue Wache – Inside the barred gates is a memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. It is worth getting off and peering through the bars at this lonely monument.
Zeughaus – refurbished and renovated in 2006. German Historical museum.
Schlossbrücke built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
Altes Museum. I recommend getting off here and walking around. The lawn area is bordered by the museum and the Berliner Dom. On a sunny day it is lovely lying on the lawn between these two impressive buildings.
Marx-Engels-Forum. A relic from the GDR era the statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels stand behind the palace square.
Fernsehturm. An iconic Berlin icon is worth a look from the bottom and you will see it poking out among views from around Berlin but I wouldn’t recommend paying to go up. As I mentioned earlier you can get just as good a view for free from other places. But if you have a lot of cash then by all means.
Alexanderplatz itself isn’t the most beautiful of places but it has a few interesting sites. Unfortunately since I work here I don’t have the warmest of opinion towards the place but it is a great connection point when you are travelling to other great sites in Berlin. One of the most interesting points at Alex for me is an old Stasi building on the corner of Otto Braun Straße.
Siegessäule or Berlin Victory column, which commemorates the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war. The bus will take you past here. You can get off for a photo opp or to visit the cafe within the column, otherwise it is nice enough to see from the bus. (You will also get information regarding the column if you take the guided tour of the Reichstag Dome)
If you take your time to get off at the stops along the way and venture around in between this should take up a good part of two days.
Additionally, you should also take time to go to:
- Bernauer Straße on the U8, just a couple of stops from Alexanderplatz. This neighbourhood served as a border between East and West and is now a park with information posts and housing foundations.
- East Side Gallery. Get the S-bahn to Warschauer Straße and walk along the longest remaining strip of the wall which has been painted by various artists. At the end you will be at Ostbahnhof and you can jump back on the S bahn.
As my parents soon learned upon their visit here, you have to be prepared for a lot of walking. So wear sensible shoes and make sure you are comfortable.