City Guide to Berlin, Germany | Must See Attractions, City Cards & Public Transportation
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As we travel different parts of Europe, we often see a particular attraction or even an entire city that reminds us of a loved one. We think to ourselves about how we’d like to share this place, this experience, and this time with them. For example, bagpipes always make Shannon think of her father, and Liverpool and the Beatles of Sergio’s mother. While in Berlin, Shannon often thought of her aunt, who spoke to her only in German while she was growing up. Even though it was Shannon’s first time in Berlin, being there brought up many cherished memories of her aunt, and she thought often of how wonderful it would be to share her time in Berlin with her.
We traveled to Berlin after a house sit in Budapest, Hungary. The differences between the two cities were apparent. Budapest just recently, within the last 60 years, had their Hungarian Revolution and shed communism, adopting a parliamentary representative democratic republic. The city of Budapest felt older, with small shops lining narrow streets. Berlin, in particular, West Berlin is a modern part of the city. We found the streets easy to walk, wide and surprisingly clean for such a large city. The stores and malls we walked through were large and similar to malls in the United States. East Berlin was somewhere in the middle between West Berlin and Budapest. It had narrow cobble stone streets, more graffiti and was less modern. Please understand, we by no means think that any of these three cities and our depictions of them are better or worse than the others. They’re simply our observations and opinions, and each have their charm, all with positives and drawbacks.
Berlin was a place we were visiting between house sits, so we had little responsibilities (beyond our work and clients) and were able to spend most of our time sightseeing. We’ve learned that it’s best to plan our schedule and accommodations before arriving to a new place. It’s also much easier to have a basic knowledge of how public transportation works and how much it costs.
A place to sleep each night will usually be the largest expense, not only while traveling, but also when staying in a fixed location (paying rent or a mortgage). In an effort to save money, we’ve found many alternatives to the standard retail priced hotel room.
For our stay in Berlin, we decided to take advantage of a point earning promotion with Club Carlson. On its own, the promotion was mediocre and not something that most people would deem worthy of going out of their way to do. However, since we were going to be paying for lodging one way or another, in our situation it made sense for us to take advantage of the promotion.
Essentially, it was a tiered promotion; the more nights you stayed at a Club Carlson property, the more bonus points you earned. We found the sweet spot of the promotion and signed up with a goal of staying eight nights and earning 50,000 bonus Club Carlson points. The promotion unfortunately ended in July, but if you're interested in how it worked (to have an idea of what to expect from future Club Carlson promotions) head on over to One Mile at a Time.
Saving $250.00 in Hotel Expenses
Club Carlson points are generally valued at $0.004 per point. This would mean that 50,000 Club Carlson points would be worth approximately $200. However, this valuation is done based on a middle of the road redemption of hotel points. In other words, we’re talking about redeeming for category three or four hotels that cost 28,000-38,000 points a night.
We value our points a bit higher, because we stick to category one and two hotels (9,000-15,000 points per night). On the conservative side, we value 50,000 points at roughly $250 ($0.005 per point).
To fulfill our eight-night stay, we stayed three nights in Budapest and five nights in Berlin.
The Budapest Park Inn by Radisson, only a quick metro ride into city center, was only $46.58 per night (including taxes).
The West Berlin Park Inn by Radisson, also only about a 10-minute U-Bahn ride into city center, cost $70.60 per night (including taxes and fees for an additional occupant). We were taken aback by an additional $10.50 charge per night for a second person, but we’ve heard this is fairly standard in many countries.
Our eight-night stay at Club Carlson cost us $492.74 out of pocket. Once you include the $250 we made in points, which were almost immediately deposited into our Club Carlson account after completing the eighth night, our total cost was $242.74.
That's just $30.34 per night!
Our stay was by no means free, but we can’t sneeze at saving $250.00. We weighed out the hotel stay with an Airbnb or Hostel stay, taking into consideration the amenities of privacy and comforts of a hotel stay. With everything taken into account, we think we made off pretty well!
Public Transportation Quick Links
Before arriving to any new place, the first thing we do is look up the basics on public transportation. Since we’re not renting a car, it’s a bit more complicated than just showing up at a car rental desk, confirming the reservation and getting the keys. We learned our lesson about researching public transportation ahead of time after just one time stuck in a terminal trying to figure out what ticket type to purchase, what direction to head towards, and how to pay for the tickets. Plus, often times, buying a single fare ticket has a surcharge attached to it, and it’s a better proposition to buy a pay as you go transportation card or a travel pass that allows unlimited travel for a day or more. Therefore, if we’re going to be purchasing a travel pass for our stay, it’s best to know about it and purchase it right away.
Things are a bit more complicated when the stations, signs, and machines are in another language. Yes, there’s usually a button to change the language, but that doesn’t always mean that everything on the screen or the payment machine is translated. Both Berlin and Budapest had language buttons to translate everything to English, however, the credit card machines gave instructions in the local language.
We landed in Berlin and knew that the best option for us was going to be to buy a single fare ticket to get to the hotel. Once we started sightseeing, our Berlin Welcome Card would include unlimited public transportation. We purchased our tickets and made our way to the hotel on bus, with a transfer to the U-Bahn.
Berlin Public Transportation Basics
Buses – Buses cover the area that other public transportation doesn’t. Bus lines 100 to 399 connect the suburbs with central city, S-Bahn stations and U-Bahn Stations. Metro buses (M11 to M85) run 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, in ten-minute intervals. Night buses are marked with an ‘N’. Buses N1 to N9 replace the corresponding U-Bahn lines U1 to U9. Buses N10-N97 replace vital day bus lines.
- Designated bus and tram stops are marked by a sign with a green ‘H’ inside of a yellow circle, known as Haltestelle in German.
- Look for the posted sign with the bus numbers and schedule to find what buses and trams stop there and when the next one will arrive.
- Some stations have a digital sign showing the bus number, bus name, and time of arrival for the next couple of buses/trams.
- On board, most buses and trams have a digital screen that lists the next stop. If you’re on an older bus that doesn’t have this feature, use the google transit map (Google Maps) on your phone to see where you’re at in relation to your stop. Alternatively, ask the driver or another passenger for help in disembarking at the correct station.
- Buses may not always stop at every stop, so be sure to indicate to the driver that you want to get off the bus at the next stop by pressing the “Stop” button. These buttons are located on the yellow poles throughout the bus and labeled with the word “stop”.
Trams and Metrotrams – Tram and Metrotram lines extend the network of U-Bahn lines. There are over 20 tram lines. Metrotrams run more often than regular trams do. Times of operation vary by line, check timetables to find out more.
Regional Trains – Designated by an RB for RegionalBahn or RE for RegionalExpress. As it sounds, the RB stops frequently and the RE is faster because it makes fewer stops. There's also the Interregio-Express (IRE), which connects regions, but doesn't stop at all stops.
S-Bahn – An abbreviation for Stadtschnellbahn, which is German for city rapid rail. There are 15 S-Bahn lines. During the week, the S-Bahn runs 4:30 am to 1:30 am, with five-minute, ten-minute or twenty-minute intervals depending on the time of day. Service on the weekend is 24-hours, with thirty-minute nighttime intervals.
U-Bahn – An abbreviation for Untergrundbahn which is German for underground. There are 10 U-Bahn lines and over 170 stations. During the week, the U-Bahn runs 4 am to 1 am, with five-minute intervals during the day and 10-minute intervals at night. Service on the weekend is 24-hours, with ten-minute daytime intervals and 15-minute nighttime intervals.
Fähre – Meaning 'ferry' in English. To serve the rivers, lakes and canals, there are six ferry lines on BVG's public ferry transport. Lines F10, F21, F23 and F24 run every 60 minutes, while lines F11 and F12 run every 10-20 minutes. All lines are motor powered ferries except for the F24, which is a row boat. The F24 line was discontinued in 2013 when it was integrated into the F23 line. However, in 2015 it was re-introduced, but only on weekends and bank holidays. Route and timetable information can be found on the BVG website.
Tickets are sold based on the zone you’re traveling to. You can buy tickets for AB zones, BC zones, or for all three zones (ABC). Here's a PDF of the Berlin Zone Map.
- AB zones – Most of Berlin, Tegel Airport, and almost all of the major attractions are in AB zones.
- C zone – Potsdam and Schönefeld Airport are in the C zone.
Purchase tickets from automated machines located at most train, S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations. Machines are bright yellow, have a touch screen, and are straightforward to use. Look for the language button on the right side of the screen, indicated by several flag icons. There are six language options, German, English, French, Spanish, Turkish and Polish. Larger S-Bahn stations may also have a ticket counter staffed where you can purchase tickets. You can also purchase tickets on the bus, but exact fare is required, as no change will be given.
There's a mobile app available for Berlin Public Transportation (BVG). You can purchase and use mobile tickets, find and save routes and much more. Find more information on the BVG website. There's an iOS app for iPhones and a Google Play app for Android based phones.
- Children – Children five years old and under travel for free when accompanied by an adult. Children six to fourteen years old travel at the reduced fare rate of €1.70 in zones AB.
- Single Fare – Good for two hours and will work on all modes of public transportation (listed above). The ticket allows for transferring between different modes of public transportation, as long as you're going in a direction away from your starting point (where you validated the ticket). For zones AB the cost is €2.80, for zones BC the cost is €3.10, and for zones ABC the cost is €3.40.
- Four Trip Ticket – A pack of four Single Fare tickets. For zones AB the cost is €9.00, for zones BC the cost is €12.00 and for zones ABC the cost is €13.20.
- Short Distance Ticket – Good for three stops on the U-Bahn or the S-Bahn. Changing trains is allowed. It’s valid for a trip length of six stops on buses and trams, as long you don’t change vehicles. This ticket saves €0.90 compared to a Single Fare ticket.
- Day Ticket – A day ticket is valid for unlimited travel, on all types of public transportation, for the entire day. It’s valid from the time you validate the ticket until 3 am the following day. Three children, ages six to fourteen are included at no additional cost with this ticket. For zones AB the cost is €7, for zones BC the cost is €7.40, and for zones ABC the cost is €7.70.
- Seven Day Ticket – Similar to the Day Ticket, but it's valid for unlimited travel for seven days. The ticket will expire on the seventh day at midnight. Three children, ages six to fourteen are included at no additional cost with this ticket. For zones AB the cost is €30.00, for zones BC the cost is €31.40, and for zones ABC the cost is €37.50.
- Group Tickets – Valid for one day of unlimited travel for up to five people traveling together. After validation, the ticket will be good until the next morning at 3 am. Children under six years of age are included at no additional cost with this ticket. For zones AB the cost is €19.90, for zones BC the cost is €20.60, and for zones ABC the cost is €20.80.
- Traveling with a Bicycle – There’s an additional cost of €1.90 to travel with a bike. Bicycles are allowed in marked S-Bahn, U-Bahn and trams, and are allowed only when sufficient space is available. Priority is given to wheelchair users and strollers (prams, carriages).
- Travelling with Dogs – Small dogs (the size of a house cat) can be carried inside a pet carrier at no additional charge. All other dogs must be on a leash and muzzled. All leashed dogs incur an additional €1.70 fare.
General information can be found at Berlin.de. However, we found the S-Bahn page on tickets to have much more detailed information, including fares for BC zone tickets. Additional ticket information can be found on the BVG website.
Using Your Ticket
Always remember to validate your ticket at the beginning of your journey. It’s pretty simple, just look for the small-ish yellow machine and stick your ticket into the slot. The picture on the machine shows what direction to insert the ticket into the machine. A time and station stamp will print onto your ticket. You can find ticket validating machines near the front of the bus, usually a row or two from the front of the bus, or, on the platforms of train, U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations.
Caution – Don’t forget to validate your ticket at the beginning of your journey. If you don’t stamp your ticket in the validation machine, your ticket won’t be valid. Ticket inspectors, dressed in civilian clothes, will randomly check passengers for tickets. If you’re caught with an invalid ticket, even if you just forgot to stamp it, you'll be fined €60.00, on the spot, for fare evasion.
Good to Know Tips when Taking Berlin Public Transportation
- Ticket machines don’t accept credit cards. Pay with cash or a bank debit card only.
- Always validate your ticket at the beginning of your journey. If you have a ticket that’s good for multiple journeys, like a day pass, only validate it once, at the start of the journey.
- There are station maps at the entrance to stations, usually found at the top of the stairs. Use these station maps as a guide to which train to take. (Sergio here! We initially missed the signs at the top of the stairs/entrance to the S-Bhan stations and for the life of us couldn’t figure out why there weren’t any station maps on the platforms).
- Trains are labeled with their final destination. Use the station maps to locate your desired destination, then, look at the final stop/end of the line to see which train to take.
- While using public transportation we got on the wrong direction a couple of times by accident. However, since we’re in the habit of double checking our direction of travel with Google Maps (GPS) we realized it right away. We got off at the next stop and just took the train/bus/metro going in the opposite direction. If you don’t have a map with your current location, just pay attention to the name of the first stop and then match it up with the map on board the train. You’ll then be able to confirm your direction of travel as being correct, or not, as the case may be.
- If you’re the first or only person disembarking, to exit you’ll probably need to press the ‘open door’ button once the train, tram, or bus has fully stopped.
- Trains come often. We never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a train.
- Some buses run less often. Once, we waited 20 minutes for the next bus.
- U-Bahn stations are indicated with a white, bold letter ‘U’ inside of a blue square.
- S-Bahn stations are indicated with a white, bold letter ‘S’ inside of a green square.
- If you’re lost or unsure about anything, just ask someone nearby. We asked for help with directions as well as confirmation that we were on the right train platform many times. Almost everyone we asked spoke English.
We’d looked up all of the attractions we wanted to see in Berlin while we were still in Budapest. Doing this means we can hit the ground running as soon as we get there and aren’t stumbling with what to see. Once we narrow down all of our sightseeing options to what we want to do, we map them on a Google map (Google My Maps, not to be confused with Google Maps). We add notes for prices, times and any interesting details or facts about the location. We’ve found it important to spend a couple of extra minutes looking up each attraction to make sure it isn’t closed for renovation, has any particular restrictions like booking in advance, or just closed on a particular day of the week.
Once everything is mapped out, we have a good sense of how much time we need to sightsee at each attraction and the overall locations within the city. We can also look at the map and logically segment it into what we’re going to see on what day and in what order. At the end of a day sightseeing, we revisit the map and delete the attractions we visited that day. This keeps the map tidy and easy to use, since it only has what we have yet to see on it.
*We hope this map will be a starting point for others that are visiting Berlin. We created it with information that was relevant at the time of our visit, and with attractions that suit our sightseeing style.
Tip: Our sightseeing map is created and saved under our personal Google account under “Your Places” and “Maps”. We turn these maps on and off on our mobile device as needed. You can also add layers. So for Berlin we had a Berlin Layer as wells as a Potsdam Layer. This is helpful because you can turn layers on and off as needed. We use the basic Google map under our account to “Save” locations such as our hotel and grocery stores. We use the basic map to navigate walks and everyday activities. We then turn on the sightseeing map, which will show up over the basic navigation map.
Saving Money Sightseeing in Berlin
We’re big fans of sightseeing with a city pass or card. It’s touristy, but it saves a bunch of money! There are a few different options for city cards in Berlin. We did the research to know exactly what we wanted to see throughout the city. We then ran the numbers to find out what card would save us the most money on what we were planning to see and do. City cards and passes routinely boast about how many attractions they get you into. It sounds impressive, but don’t be fooled. Even if the card has dozens of attractions included, it does you no good if they aren’t places you plan to visit.
We’ve used Leisure Group (Dublin Pass and London Pass) a couple of times in the past and were pleased to see they had a Berlin Pass. However, once looking at the cost and what it included, we found that it wasn’t the right card for us. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a great deal because it includes the Berlin Dungeon, Madam Tussauds Berlin, a boat cruise and Aquadom & Sea Life Berlin. However, the boat cruise was closed because it was off-season during our visit, and we didn’t want to see those three major attractions, so the value of the card wasn’t there for us. If you want to see those three attractions and can do the boat cruise, then this card is likely a very good deal.
We found the Berlin Welcome Card and the Berlin Museum Pass to be the best value for what we wanted to see. The Berlin Welcome Card includes free public transportation and discounts at over 200 attractions across Berlin and Potsdam. The card can be purchased all over the city; we bought ours at the hotel we were staying at. It can be purchased for two-days of use, or all the way up to six-days. The prices range from €19.90 to €46 depending on the number of days, and zones of travel you select. If you’re staying in Berlin and not venturing beyond, stick with the AB zone travel card option (the base level). If you’re planning on going to Postdam as well, then pay a few Euros more to get the Welcome Card with the travel pass that's valid in both AB and C zones.
The Berlin Museum Pass is valid for three days and costs €24. The pass includes entry into over 40 museums, including all of the museums on Museum Island. If you just want to visit the museums on Museum Island, you can get a pass that's valid for one day and costs €18. Since there were a couple of museums we wanted to see beyond Museum Island, and we were going to take more than just a day to explore them, the Berlin Museum Pass turned out to be our best option. The pass can be purchased at any of the museums that accept it.
We saved hundreds of dollars when visiting London, England, Dublin, Ireland, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, by using city passes. Our savings in Berlin was no exception. We were able to see everything we wanted to and saved 45% off retail cost! For the two of us, including the cost of both the Museum Pass and the Welcome Card, we spent €182.02, while the full retail cost would have been €336.00.
Berlin Sightseeing Itinerary
We didn’t limit our sightseeing to the items included with the cards. When we visit a new place, we want to see it all. The goal is that once we’ve left, we feel satisfied that “we’ve been there, done that”. We’re not saying we’ll never be back, but if we never make it back, we won’t feel like there was something major that we missed out on.
Of the six days we were in Berlin, we spent a day in Potsdam, a day just walking and exploring, and four days sightseeing in Berlin. We usually jam-pack our sightseeing days with as much as we can. However, for our sanity and for time to work in the evenings, we took a slightly less hectic and a bit more leisurely pace for our time in Berlin. Don’t be fooled though, by most metrics, we still got a lot done in just a few days.
Brandenburg Gate – One of the most well-known landmarks in Berlin. This is a must see, but beware, there are hundreds of people at just about any given time.
East Side Gallery – 1,316 meter section of the Berlin Wall. A memorial to freedom and a monument to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Siegessäule - Berlin Victory Column – Also known as Golden Lizzie. The monument is located in Tiergaten Park. It was built between 1864 and 1873, after Prussia’s victory in the German-Danish war in 1864. You can take the 285 steps up to the top for a view of Berlin.
Pergamonmuseum – The most visited museum in Berlin. It has three wings, the Collection of Classical Antiquities, Middle Eastern Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art. The museum is currently undergoing renovation and it’s expected to be complete in 2025-2026. It’s still worth seeing, even with parts of it being closed to visitors. Check the website for up-to-date information. We highly recommend allotting a few hours, as entrance is capacity metered/controlled, and the line can get long. Located on Museum Island.
Bode Museum – Originally intended to house Renaissance art, after reopening in 2006 it now houses two collections, the Sculpture Collection and Byzantine Art. Located on Museum Island.
Alte Nationalgalerie – (Old National Gallery) Features 19th century art. Located on Museum Island.
Neues Museum – (New Museum) This museum’s two permanent collections are the Armana Art and Papyrus Collection and the Museum of Pre-history and Early History. Located on Museum Island.
Altes Museum – The permanent exhibition, New Antiquity in the Old Museum, is of Greek and Roman art and sculptures. Located on Museum Island.
Reichstagsgebäude – (Reichstag, Deutschen Bundestag). The Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. There’s much to see and do at Reichstag, although visiting the dome is the most popular attraction. It’s free, but registration and time slots are required. It’s strongly recommended that you book a slot in advance online.
Kaufhaus des Westens – The largest department store on the European continent, comprising over 60,000 square meters (645,834 square feet) of sales floor. In all of Europe, it's the second largest department store, with Harrods in London being the largest.
Berlin Cathedral Church – Both the exterior and the interior are breath taking. Entrance includes the view from the dome. It’s a great way to see the city from up high, without any glass or fence obstructions. Located on Museum Island.
Charlottenburg Palace – The largest palace in Berlin. It was damaged in World War II and has undergone extensive reconstruction and renovation. Be aware, if you want to take pictures inside, you’ll have to pay an extra fee on the top of the regular admission.
Jewish Museum Berlin – A museum about German Jews and Jews in Germany. History, as seen through the perspective of Jews in Germany.
Bellevue Palace – The official residence of the President of Germany. Since it’s an active palace and residence, only a few tours are offered each month and require a formal request and registration. If your in the area though, it’s worth a visit to see from afar. It’s near the Berlin Victory Column in Tiergarten park.
Gendarmenmarkt – A square in the Mitte district that’s worth visiting for the three buildings around the square. Here you’ll find the French and German cathedrals, and the Konzerthaus (concert hall).
- Konzerthaus Berlin Concert Hall – Located in Gendermenmarkt, this classical building was built as a theater in 1821 and was later changed to a concert hall after World War II.
- Französischer Dom – (French Cathedral) Located in Gendermenmarkt, the cathedral was built to be a safe haven for French Protestants seeking refuge. It’s currently used for worship, concerts, exhibits, and events, as well as housing a library and archives of the French parish. Climb the nearly 300 steps to the tower for panoramic views of Gendarmenmarkt.
- Deutscher Dom – (German Cathedral) Located in Gendermenmarkt, it dates back to 1708. The building and dome were damaged during World War II and weren’t fully restored until 1996. The Cathedral is now home to a permanent exhibition on the parliamentary democracy of the German Bundestag.
DDR Museum – One of the more popular museums in Berlin. It’s an interactive museum where you can see, touch, and feel the exhibits as you learn history. Fun for adults and kids alike.
Berliner Philharmonie – If you want to go to a concert while in Berlin, this is the place to go. It’s home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and is known for its architecture and acoustics. Take a one-hour tour that’s offered daily at 1:30 pm (tours are not offered in July or August).
Topography of Terror – This historic site was the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and was the Reich Security Main Office during the Third Reich. It's both an indoor and outdoor museum that’s free to visitors. Outside, a portion of the Berlin Wall still stands with excavated segments of the cellar wall, an exhibition addressing the National Socialist policy and the consequences for Berlin. Inside, the exhibition is of the history of the site and the Gestapo, SS and Reich. Free to visit.
Classic Remise – If you’re a car buff, this is a must see. From a Bugatti Veyron, to the Lamborghini Countach and American Muscle cars like the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger. It’s free to visit and is a service center specializing in classic, vintage, and collector cars. As this is a place for car owners to store their vehicles in controlled environments, visitors have a chance to see rare old and new cars.
German Museum of Technology – (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin) A well done museum featuring exhibits of science and technology, as well as large collections of historical technical artifacts. Originally featuring an exhibit on rail transport, it now also consists of industrial, maritime and aviation technology exhibits.
Olympiastadion Berlin – Built for the 1936 Summer Olympics, it‘s now the largest stadium in Germany for football (soccer). It has hosted matches for the World Cup on several occasions and maintains a reputation for being a sporting and entertainment venue. It’s Olympic history has been well preserved, in the lobby, you can still see the original Olympic flag used during the 1936 opening ceremony.
Zoo Berlin – The most visited zoo in Europe. It was opened in 1844 and has 1,380 different species. Regular animal feedings, as well as a giant panda make this a great zoo to visit.
Museum für Naturkunde – (Natural History Museum) The star of this museum is the newly redesigned dinosaur exhibit, The World of Dinosaurs. Kids will enjoy the giant dinosaur as soon as they enter the museum and be amazed by the world’s biggest dinosaur skeleton, a Brachiosaurus that’s over 43 feet high. Other permanent exhibitions include Evolution in Action, System Earth, The Cosmos and the Solar System, and Trisitan (Tyrannosaurus Rex), and much more.
GDR Watchtower – Located at Postdamer Platz, this watchtower originally stood between the Brandenburg Gate and Leipsiger Platz to serve as a base to monitor the House of Ministries. It was built in 1966, relocated in 2001 and of the more than 200 built of its kind; it’s the last remaining watchtower from the Berlin Wall. Close to the very popular and crowded attraction Checkpoint Charlie, the lesser-known GDR watchtower is worth the time to visit.
Soviet War Memorial Treptow – Located a bit out of city center, but worth the time to visit. It’s the largest anti-fascist memorial in Western Europe and serves as a cemetery for 5,000 Soviet soldiers. Opened in 1949, the memorial honors the approximately 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. The focus of the monument is a sculpture of a Soviet soldier holding a German child and standing over a broken swastika, in honor of Sergeant of Guards Nikolai Masalov who risked his life to save a three-year-old German child. In the center of the memorial, the 16 stones represent each of the Soviet Republics and is the area of rest for 5,000 soldiers. The two large structures, made of red granite, are representations of the Soviet flag, each with a statue of a kneeling soldier.
Bebelplatz, Square – This is where nearly 20,000 books were burned by the German Nazis on May 10th, 1933. Now you can find a subterranean monument, seen through a clear covering where empty shelves that can hold 20,000 books, can be seen. The public square, dating back to 1740, is in the Mitte district and surrounded by the State Opera building, Humbodlt University buildings, and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral.
Checkpoint Charlie – One of the most well-known crossings between East and West Germany, it was a crossing for Allied forces starting in 1961.
- Mauermuseum – The museum at Checkpoint Charlie shows many of the ways people escaped out of East Germany.
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche – Located in the middle of a busy shopping district, the tower that stands is the only building to survive the bombing. The tower has been preserved as an anti-war memorial for peace and reconciliation. A modern church was built in 1963 next to the tower.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Near the Brandenburg Gate, this 4.7-acre memorial can be walked through. Designed with 2,711 blocks of differing heights and on an uneven incline as a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Hamburger Bahnhof – A modern art museum in the former Berlin-Hamburg Railway Station built in 1846. Offers an interesting contrast of old and new.
Sightseeing in Berlin Tips
- If you want to go to the top of the Reichstag Dome (Deutscher Bundestag) you’ll have to book a time. You can do it at the gate, when you arrive, but there’s usually a long line and a good chance there’ll be no space until later in the day, if at all. Instead, book your space ahead of time online, it’s free. Just provide the name and birthdays of everyone in your party and then select three preferred dates and times. After submitting your request, you’ll get a response by email with the date and time they selected for you from the three dates and times you initially chose.
- Most museums, especially on Museum Island, are closed on Mondays. Plan accordingly.
- The Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and the Berlin Wall at the Topography of Terror are two very different experiences. We recommend going to both. Both are free.
- We highly recommend going to Potsdam for a day and visiting the palace. However, be aware that during the winter months (through March), statues are covered with gray boxes to protect them from the elements. This takes away from the beauty of the grounds and buildings, but we still enjoyed it despite the boxes.
- The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park is a bit out of town, but in our opinion worth the bus trip.
- Checkpoint Charlie is worth a visit, but can be extremely crowded, even during off-season. In contrast, when we visited the GDR Watch Tower, it only had a couple of people on the street.
- Wondering what the pipes are all over town? So were we! Berlin Global explains that they’re water pipes, meant to drain water from the city, since it was built on swampy ground.
- Be careful of scammers. We were approached, a few times, by women and children who were asking for charity donations for non-verbal and/or hearing-impaired citizens. They can seem very legitimate, as they are, or seem to be, disabled and carry a petition for signatures. However, chances are it’s a scam. Berlin is a busy city, be sure to stay safe and keep your belongings secure.