As the second most populated city on the continent, Berlin is both an extraordinarily historic crossroads of politics and one of the leading economic centers of modern Europe. A visit to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without visiting these must see attractions.
It has seen the rise, fall, rise, and fall again of several empires, from the Holy Roman Empire to the original German Empire to the Nazi Reich and the Soviet Union. So above all, it’s a place of massive change and tenacity in the face of oppression. That turmoil is well represented in the sites to visit.
1. The Reichstag
Home to Germany’s government, this historic building survived a Nazi fire, the bombing of WWII and abandonment for decades to eventually become a symbol for the resilient German people. Refurbished after the country’s reunification, looks inside are available to the public with prior registration. The glass dome is walkable, and offers a sweet view for those able to scale it to the top.
2. Brandenburg Gate
Just down the road from the Reichstag and across the street from Tiergarten park sits perhaps the most internationally famous Berlin site. Both a symbol of the city divided by the Berlin Wall and of the later reunited nation, Brandenburg Gate is the only remaining monument of an 18th century wall that surrounded the city. In the days of the Cold War it sat in the lonely zone between the walls, but today it’s in the center of several embassies and the occasional anti war protest.
Speaking of Tiergarten, it’s the Berlin equivalent of New York’s Central Park. A 40 minute walk from one end to the other, needless to say it’s absolutely massive. Whether it’s an afternoon in the green or a quick stroll through, any stop in this beautiful garden is a must when visiting Berlin.
4. Potsdamer Platz
Formerly situated between the Berlin walls in the same no man’s land as Brandenburg Gate, today a giant shopping center sits on the site. The Arcade features several shops that will be familiar to most westerners, and the Sony Center across the street houses an enormous IMAX theater for movie enthusiasts.
5. Kaiser Wilhelm Church
Bombed out during WWII, this 19th century church has been partially refurbished to become both a church again as well as a popular tourist attraction. Visiting is free, and it’s right next to a central underground station in the west part of town.
Germany’s most famous product might be beer, and they know it! You an’t wave your arms without hitting a pub or shop selling beer, and what’s more, there’s no laws against public consumption of alcohol! So grab a pint and have a sip in the park if you like, but if you prefer the American way of drinking in an establishment, the Schleusenkrug in west Tiergarten is a delightful open air setting.
7. East Side Gallery
The largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, this must see public art exhibition was put on after the fall of the wall to commemorate the new era of peaceful unification. Stretching almost a mile long, hundreds of thought provoking murals are available for public consumption. Practically all are photo worthy, but undoubtedly the most famous is the fraternal kiss painting, ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ located near the end of the wall.
Extra notes: Berlin City Card
See all the famous sites in Berlin at a discounted price with the Berlin City Card. Most of the best known tourist spots and restaurants are included in these deals, all conveniently lined out in an included booklet. Even better, it also features a pass for any underground train, overground tram, or bus in town. They recently launched their ‘all-inclusive’ card which offers you free admission to dozens of attractions, and I highly recommend the upgrade!