The capital city and largest city in Germany has an infamous past and a vibrant present and future. While the city is moving on from the events that happened here, they also do not shy away from it. There are plenty of museums and memorials that serve as a reminder for what happened. While you could, of course, spend way more time in Berlin, here are some things you should definitely do if you only have two days in Berlin, Germany.
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Two Days In Berlin
Berlin is definitely a walkable city with plenty to see and do. While I was in Berlin, I stayed at the Meininger Berlin Mitte. (Mitte means middle, so the hostel is very centrally located.) This hostel was clean and in a good area. It is within walking distance to a lot of things, and there is a subway stop right in front. The breakfast wasn’t too bad either.
My first full day in Berlin was spend doing a World War II walking tour. I cannot rave enough about the local guide we had named Ben. He was just such an interesting person and a great tour guide. Ben actually is Jewish and from Israel and moved to Berlin because he loved it so much, which I thought gave such a unique perspective when we were discussing World War II and visiting such important historical sites.
Now the day of our walking tour the Berlin Marathon was going on, which just added to the excitement! There were so many people out and watching the runners go by was exciting. There were a few times where you had to wait for a break in the runners and sprint across the street, so I definitely got my steps in during this walking tour! On our walking tour we stopped at Brandenburg Gate and Pariszer Square, where we learned about all of the long history the gate has seen. Afterwards we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. When you come upon this memorial, you will notice how enormous it is. You might also notice that there is nothing indicating what it is, which was somewhat controversial. This memorial really makes you think, though, as it looks like it might be a graveyard. The concrete blocks are various heights, and the ground is uneven. It makes you a bit confused and disoriented while walking through. The architect is actually from the United States, and he won a design contest.
We also visited the site of Hitler’s bunker. The bunker is actually underground, filled in with cement, with a parking lot sitting on top of it. The German government has been asked to excavate the bunker, but so far they have always declined. They believe it’s better that the bunker cannot be viewed, and I would have to agree with them. We did learn about how Hitler’s last days in the bunker and how he ultimately died.
We also saw the Plaza of the Uprising of 1953. This uprising occurred in East Germany to protest against the government’s demand to increase productivity. We ended our walking tour at the Topography of Terror. There is also part of the Berlin Wall still standing here. The Topography of Terror is an indoor and outdoor museum located where the SS Reich Main Security Office and headquarters of the Gestapo used to stand. The museum is free to enter and very matter-of-factly documents what led up to and what went on during the Third Reich. Unfortunately I did not have much time to go through the exhibit, but what I did see was very interesting and informative. There is a lot to read and look at. The museum offers free guided tours as well.
After the walking tour, it was recommended to visit Mauerpark. This was definitely a great recommendation! Mauerpark has a wonderful flea market on Sundays with great food, music, and vendors. As a former site of the Berlin Wall, part of the wall is actually still standing here and artists from all over the world can come paint on this part of the wall. We happened to have beautiful weather on this day, so it was very nice getting to walk through the flea market and grab lunch. I had a pizza with slices of potatoes on it that was amazing. We then went and walked along the Berlin Wall and watched different artists spray painting. (Mauerpark translates to Wall Park.)
My second day in Berlin was also spent touring, but this time via bus. Traveling by bus was a great way to see more of the city. While the walking tour focused more on World War II, the bus tour focused more on the Cold War and Berlin Wall. During our bus tour we made stops at the Berlin Wall Memorial, where you can see part of the wall still standing and get a better idea of the “Death Strip.” This was something I did not know about. The Berlin Wall started off as just some barbed wire on the ground and evolved into a whole complex known as the “Death Strip.” There are also markers on the ground all around the memorial that indicate where someone tried to cross over the wall and whether they were successful or unsuccessful. There are also markings on the ground indicating where former buildings, tunnels, and other places that were destroyed. It gives you If you are interested in learning more about life around the Berlin Wall, this is definitely worth a visit.
After visiting the memorial, we then made a stop at the East Side Gallery. This is a former section of the Wall that was turned into an open air art installation. There are some beautiful, thought-provoking paintings paintings. I like that former parts of the Wall have been allowed to be painted on. It’s really taking something ugly and turning it into something beautiful. Our final stop on the bus tour was “Checkpoint Charlie.” This is where the USA/Soviet checkpoint was located, and it was a very tense area. At one point there was a standoff with US and Soviet tanks here. It has now been turned into a tourist attraction, where you can pay to take photos with men dressed in USA military uniforms, which I found a bit cheesy but people were lined up to take the photos. The checkpoint was definitely the most crowded area that we stopped at. There is a museum here as well that unfortunately I did not have time to go into.
After the bus tour, myself and some other people in my tour group grabbed a quick lunch and then decided to walk to Museum Island. It’s about a 20/25 minute walk from Checkpoint Charlie to Museum Island. We had driven through Museum Island on the bus tour, and as someone who loves museums I definitely wanted to come back here. There are five museums located here. We decided to go to the Pergamonmuseum, which focuses more on ancient history. Even if you don’t want to visit a museum, it is a great place to walk around and look at the buildings.
Now, I was in Germany after all, so next stop was a beer garden (biergarten)! We stopped at the Prater Garten, which has an outdoor beer garden in the summer and a restaurant that is open year round. It was a great time sitting out there, having a glass of wine (or two…) and people watching. I don’t drink beer, but the people I was with were trying all different kinds of beer and said it was great. After the beer garden, we started making our way back to the hostel. We stopped by Alexanderplatz, where you can find St. Mary’s Church and the TV Tower. The TV Tower was originally built as a symbol of Communist power, but now is just a famous symbol of Berlin and a popular tourist spot. You can visit the top of the tower for some spectacular views. There is a bar, restaurant, and observation deck. (If you don’t want to pay as much or wait in a long line, you can go to the Park Inn, which is right across the street, and pay less to get almost the same view.)
While obviously there is way more to see and do here, these are some highlights if you only have two days in Berlin. This is such a fascinating city to visit, because Berlin was founded as a city in the 13th century, but the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, which was only about 30 years ago. The recent history combined with the medieval history makes for one very interesting city. We also learn so much about World War II that seeing the places where it was planned was compelling and unsettling all at the same time.
Best times to visit: The best weather in Berlin is from around May to September. I was there in mid-September. The weather was really nice while I was in Berlin, but it pretty abruptly got chilly halfway through my trip. Definitely pack layers if you are going around this time of year. The winters are freezing, but this is also when you can see the Christmas markets and it may not be as crowded with tourists.
Bring comfortable shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking. I recommend downloading Maps.Me or Google Offline Maps. Also, don’t be afraid to use public transportation.
Is Berlin a place I would like to go back to? Yes! Absolutely. I feel like there is so much more to see, and I also did not really have a chance to experience the nightlife or what the locals like to do.
Have you been to Berlin, or is it on your bucket list? What are your recommendations, and what would you like to see? Comment below!