One of the perks of living abroad is having our kids attend an international school. The education is top notch and they have so many opportunities that they wouldn’t have back home. One of these opportunities is one I am happy to get onboard with too; school world travel. Oh, my son needs to perform in a choir festival in Berlin? Well, I guess I should go too. You know, just in case he might need me. 😉 So, a couple of months ago my friend, Diane and I boarded a plane to Berlin. Because you know, I couldn’t go to “supervise” my son on my own. I needed a travel companion to supervise ME. Haha! After all, why should I be the only one who benefits from my child’s success? So, Berlin-bound we were and with only 4 full days to take in the city, we had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. Oh, and we also had a choir concert to attend which was, after all the entire reason we were there.
Although there are many things to do in Berlin, I hope I can narrow some down for you. The city has much to offer so you will most likely need to pick and choose the things that matter most.
To make it a bit easier, let’s break it down by numbers.
8 Things to do in Berlin
1. SANDEMANs Free Tour of Berlin.
We wanted to begin our trip by hitting the highlights and getting a lay of the land so we decided the first thing we would do was take a 3-hour walking tour. This was a great idea. We learned about the history of the area and saw many important sites so we could determine which we may want to explore further.
2. Rausch Schokoladenhaus
I am a self-declared chocoholic so putting a chocolate shop on our list of must-dos was a no-brainer. Rausch Schokoladenhaus didn’t disappoint. It had every type of chocolate you could imagine, had huge models of local attractions made out of chocolate scattered throughout the store, and even had a chocolate cafe upstairs. We liked it so much we went back twice!
3. Kathe Wohlfahrt
If you want a bit of authentic German shopping, be sure to visit this store. It is like walking into a German wonderland. I had my sites set on buying an authentic cuckoo clock in Germany (yes, I know they are made in the Black Forest region, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? At least I could say we were close). Kathe Wohlfahrt had just remodeled their Berlin store and it was incredible! Two stories of items all made in Germany and cuckoo clocks galore! I happily found the perfect one and was over the moon with my souvenir purchase.
4. SANDEMANs Potsdam Tour
If you want to get out of the area to explore, this is a great little town to visit. If you are brave enough to take the U and a bus then I would suggest making a day of it on your own. Potsdam is lovely and offers loads of cute shops and restaurants. It is also home to Frederik the Great’s summer home, Sans Souci which is a beautiful ornate yellow palace situated atop a hill. We chose to use SANDEMANs again because we didn’t feel confident to fully go at it alone. We really enjoyed the tour and learned a lot about the history of the area, but we would have liked more time to shop and meander on our own.
5. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This is a somber memorial. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on all those who lost their lives during the Holocaust. It is a place you must visit while in Berlin and one that will only take a small amount of your time. So much of the city is tied up in its history surrounding the second world war that most of the sites you will visit are related to this time period. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is no exception.
6. Berliner Kunstmarkt
This is an outdoor weekend market adjacent to Museum Island. People sell their handmade wares and it’s fun to shop locally. While at the Berliner Kunstmarkt, I bought an infinity scarf and a handmade pottery cup and Diane bought a ring. It was a nice opportunity to get outside of the more touristy gifts and find more unique goods.
7. East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a mile-long area of what’s left of the Berlin Wall. The entire wall is now covered with graffiti murals and some of the artwork is stunning. Plus, just seeing the actual Berlin Wall is a really cool opportunity.
8. SANDEMANs Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp tour
Can you tell we loved Sandeman’s tours? They are a fantastic tour company. Read more about them here. This was an excellent tour. Our guide met us by the Brandenburg Gate and got us to and from Sachsenhausen-a journey that required a U and bus ride. Chris, our guide spent the day walking us around Sachsenhausen telling us about the camp and it’s deplorable history. You cannot visit Germany without a visit to a Concentration Camp. Sure, it is not the happiest place to visit, but it is such a huge part of history, that it should not be passed up.
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Brandenburg Gate
- East Side Gallery
- Museum Island (we didn’t go the museum route due to lack of time but I would highly recommend going to a museum or two.
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
1. Checkpoint Charlie
I was disappointed as it just seems like a glorified tourist stop, but it could be a good place to just walk by and get a picture.
2. Dome of the Capital Building
We really enjoyed the free tour through the Dome. Just make sure you book ahead.
3. Hitler’s Bunker
Honestly, unless you are walking by on a tour, don’t bother. The location is now a parking lot for an apartment building.
4. Topography of Terror
Walk through the beautiful park that lies in the center of the city. When we visited Berlin, it was the coldest week on record so we didn’t get to enjoy this peaceful part of the city.
3 Places we wanted to see but ran out of time
- Shop at the Mall of Berlin (note, the mall is closed on Sundays)
- Explore Gendarmenmarkt
- Visit the top of the Berlin TV tower
(all food related of course. Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters the most) 😉
Go to the cafe at Rausch Schokoladenhaus. It’s the stuff dreams are made of!
2. CurrywurstTrust me, it tastes much better than it sounds.
Duh! Who wouldn’t eat a German pretzel, right?
4. German foodIf you like sauerkraut, potatoes, beef, and beer, German food is for you!
- Check out Visit A City to help plan your trip. It is a great website tat will give you suggested itineraries and maps according to your schedule.
- Book a tour (or two, or three) with SANDEMANs New Europe Tours. They are informative, will help you get a lay of the land, and are entertaining.
- Take public transportation. One ticket gives you access to the U, busses, and trams. It is a very convenient and inexpensive way to travel. That being said, it does take some planning and there were a couple of times we just had enough of trying to figure things out and ended up taking a cab.
- Many restaurants only took cash. I was surprised more didn’t take credit card so just make sure you have plenty of cash handy.
- This may sound silly, but Berlin was not what I expected Germany to be. I had romanticized the notion of a city tucked on the side of a hill with cute little cafes and castles. Naive, I know. But although Berlin is wonderful, I would not go there expecting it to fulfill the cute version of Germany you may have in your head. It’s a large, relatively modern city that has a lot to offer, but it is not quaint by any means.
I hope this guide to Berlin will help you plan your trip. Whether you are following your teenager to a choir festival or not, you will find a plethora of options to keep you busy. There are many things to do and one could not possibly do them all in one visit. It is a city rich in history, interesting sites, and great food that may leave you wanting to return for more.