What are the Top Ten Sites to Visit in Berlin?
One of the most famous cities in the world, the list of what to see in Berlin is immense. A city packed full of character, culture and style, it pulls in millions of tourists each and every year - all seeking the very best places in Berlin to visit and usually fighting a tight schedule at the same time. From famous places with names steeped in history like the Reichstag, to the relatively obscure Berlin Flak Tower and far more beyond, Berlin simply has so much to see!
So if you’re planning to visit this glitzy yet gritty city and want to make the most of your trip, then our list of the top places to visit in Berlin could be just the thing for you. We’ve pulled together an expert selection highlighting what to see in Berlin on a short trip, with our top ten places to visit stacked alongside a handful of additional recommendations that didn’t quite make the cut but shouldn’t be ignored if you have more time.
Probably Berlin's most famous landmark, the Brandenburg Gate is a stunning Romanesque structure modelled on the ancient gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Standing at the heart of the city, the Gate is a symbol of the German capital and is consistently ranked among the top 10 things to see in Berlin. Commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia and built between 1788 and 1791, today, visitors from around the world come to see the Brandenburg Gate and its ornate carvings, including its dramatic depiction of Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, driving a horse drawn chariot.
No visit to Berlin can miss the famous German parliament building, the Reichstag. One of the most popular places to visit in Berlin, the Reichstag Building as we know it today is a fusion of the original 19th century building - heavily damaged by the infamous fire of 1933 and subsequent WWII bombing - and a restoration project which finished in 1999. As well as viewing the stunning architecture particularly the remarkable roof terrace and dome, visitors can explore more via guided tours are available, but these must be booked in writing well in advance.
3. Berlin Wall
Probably the most famous of all the places to see in Berlin, the Berlin Wall split the city and was a dramatic symbol of the ideological struggle of the Cold War. An 87 mile long concrete barrier that divided East and West Berlin, the Wall was the most obvious embodiment of the so-called ‘Iron Curtain’ between eastern and western Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall finally occurred on 9th November 1989 and it was almost completely dismantled in the weeks that followed. Very few segments of the wall remain today but they have become an extremely popular draw for visitors to the city. The largest section can be found at the open air East Side Gallery, although small sections are dotted throughout the city.
4. Berliner Dom
One of the most stunning buildings in Berlin, Berliner Don is an exceptionally beautiful early 20th century Cathedral built during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Constructed between 1894 and 1905, this ornate structure is crowned with a remarkable, imposing dome and is now open to the public to explore. It’s the capital’s largest and most important Protestant church and, when it comes to deciding what to see in Berlin, this hugely popular landmark is an absolute must.
History runs to the very heart of Berlin. And though at times the city has been at the centre of great things, the city’s past also runs deeply to darker times. Yet rather than shy away from such events, Berlin has taken a conscious decision to ensure that the horror of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust are not forgotten. Central to this is the Holocaust Memorial - a vast granite maze covering 19,000 square metres which remembers the millions of European Jews murdered by the Nazis.
Located on Museum Island, the Pergamon Museum showcases a vast and fascinating world famous collection of ancient artefacts, Ancient Near East and Islamic art. For lovers of history, it ranks as one of the very best things to do in Berlin. As well as a host of incredible artefacts the museum houses monumental structures such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus, all consisting of original parts brought from their original locations in Turkey.
Originally built in the 1890’s and dedicated to Kaiser William I by his grandson Kaiser William II, today the fusion of Romanesque and modern architecture make the Kaiser Wilhelm Church a fascinating place to explore. Seemingly odd to view from the outside - being as it is a largely 18th century tower with a modern concrete, steel and glass hulk attached - inside the Church is truly stunning, with beautiful glass walls and an epic feel. Truly unique, if you’re wondering what to see in Berlin and are pushed for time, this is well worth a visit.
An infamous East German prison which operated during the Cold War, the Berlin Stasi Prison is a memorial to those who were persecuted there. Following WWII, East Berlin was under the occupation of Soviet Russia as the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Stasi were the official security forces of this state. The Berlin Stasi Prison became the detention centre for anyone considered hostile to the state until it was eventually disbanded in 1989 as the GDR began to falter. Today, the prison is a memorial to those who were detained there and is a stark reminder of the atrocities carried out during the Cold War. Tours are offered and visitors can see a film about the prison’s history.
One of the more hidden and obscure places in Berlin to visit, the Berlin Flak Tower is a World War II anti-aircraft station and bunker which can now be seen via organised tours run by the Berlin Underground Association. Visitors can explore three of the seven floors of the bunker and discover the astounding underground landscape and can stare deep down into the very depths of the building.
Built in 1713 as a summer getaway for the first queen of Prussia, Charlottenburg is Berlin's largest royal estate. One of Berlin’s most beautiful museums, the architecture is predominantly baroque, reflecting the taste during the period when it was first constructed. Today Charlottenburg ranks among the top places to visit in Berlin and visitors can undertake a guided tour through both the Old Palace and the New Wing. Tours guide visitors through the rich family history of Sophie Charlotte, in addition to the property's extensive collection of artworks.
Best of the Rest: Other Tourist Attractions in Berlin You Must Not Miss
Of all the things to do in Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie is probably the most over-rated. Despite this, it’s still clearly one of the best-knownof Berlin’s places to visit. A prominent symbol of the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie was an important crossing point in the Berlin Wall and the only place where Allied forces were allowed to cross the border. It was therefore the most visible checkpoint along the wall, hence its world-renown. It was also the site of many stand-offs between Soviet and American forces, including the October 1961 dispute over the checking of the travel documents of US officials, which culminated in both sides amassing tanks at the checkpoint. Today the original gate is in the Allied Museum and a replica stands on the site which has become something of a uninspiring tourist trap.Read more
The German Resistance Memorial Centre is a monument and museum to those who fought against the Nazis before and during WW2. In particular, it commemorates the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler by Claus von Stauffenberg in July 1944, the so-called ‘July 20 Plot’. The museum explores the whole issue of resistance, especially against the Nazis, but also looks at the idea of resistance throughout history. There are audio guides to the site and guided tours take place weekends.Read more
Berlin’s oldest museum, the Altes Museum houses collections of Classical antiquities, particularly from the Greek and Roman eras. Hosting a range of ancient collections, the Altes Museum is one of the most popular things to visit in Berlin and is part of the National Museum. Even the building itself reflects this theme being as it is built in a style inspired by Ancient Greece.Read more
One of the newest things to see in Berlin, the DDR Museum examines what life was like within the former German Democratic Republic. Through impressive exhibitions, the museum throws visitors into the years of communist rule, which existed primarily between 1949 and 1990. The museum is a wholly interactive experience, wherein visitors enter a genuine model of a GDR estate. Visitors can see how the Socialist ideologies of the Stasi were conveyed through real TV shows and movies, read the diary of a GDR citizen, and even take a simulated ride in one of the beloved 'Trabi' cars.Read more
The Neues Museum is part of Germany’s National Museum and is home of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, parts of the Collection of Classical Antiquities and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. Opened in 1859, the Neues Museum was built to bring relief to the over-popular and over-crowded Altes Museum.Read more
The Zionskirche is a picturesque 19th century historic church in Berlin and an exquisite example of the neo-romantic architecture. Founded by German Emperor William I, the church's tower stands 67 metres high and is a popular spot for sightseeing in the city. Still an active church, the Zionskirche is certainly one of the most charming places in Berlin to see.Read more