Tourist Offices in Berlin are well organized with free maps, leaflets and brochures for attractions, tickets for museums, the theaters and other events. You can also purchase your Welcome Card at the offices. The official Tourist information site is: http://www.visitberlin.de/en.
Europa-Center, Budapester Strasse 45, 10787 Berlin
Open Monday–Saturday 10am–7pm, Sunday 10am–6pm, (1st April - 31st October extended opening hours).
Brandenburger Tor, South wing
1st November – 31st March, Open daily 10am-6pm.
Fernsehturm (TV Tower), Alexanderplatz
Open daily 10am-6pm, (1st April – 31st October extended opening hours).
Tegel Airport, Main Hall.
Open daily 5am - 10.30pm.
KaDeWe Department Store
Wittenbergplatz, Travel Center, Ground Floor
Open Monday-Friday 9.30am - 8pm and Saturday 9am - 6pm.
Exploring all of Berlin takes years of exploration because of the city's size, depth of culture, and ever-changing personalty. However, there are some things you really must do.
Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)- This massive sandstone gate was once a symbol of a city divided, located in "no man's land" behind the Berlin Wall. An impressive transition from the East to the West, the gate remains an emotional center of the city. It was here - on June 12, 1987- that US president Ronald Reagan issued his command heard by both sides, "Mr. Gorbachev – tear down this wall!". When the wall fell in November 1989, the Brandenburg Gate became New Berlin's symbol of unity.
Bundestag— The German Parliament is the center of German politics. Located near Brandenburger Tor, the building was renovated by Sir Norman Foster and reopened in 1999 with a spectacular glass dome to symbolize the transparency of the German government. Visitors may enter the building for a free tour and a great view of the assembly floor, and the rest of the city. Due to terrorist threats, individual visitors now need to register up front to visit the glass dome and terrace. Book in advance as individual entry is limited to a maximum number of guests per day. Entrance is free, but there is no food or weapons (i.e. swiss army knife).
Berliner Fernsehturm - The "TV Tower" is noticeable from all around the city. Located in the center at Alexanderplatz, it is Germany's tallest construction at 368 meters high. The tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) administration who intended it as a symbol of Berlin. It was to be a symbol of Soviet excellence, but Swedish engineers actually constructed it. What was not the godless Communist's intention is the effect the sun has on the dome. When the sun shines on the multi-faceted dome it reflects as a cross.
There is an observation deck 204 meters above ground which costs 10.50 euro as well as a rotating restaurant and bar. If you go up beware that weather changes quickly and fog can roll in quickly.
Marienkirche is another notable site in Alexanderplatz, just below the tower. It is the highest church tower in Berlin (90 meters) and one of the oldest churches left in the historical center of Berlin. Entrance is free.
Yet another attraction in the area is the Rotes Rathaus. As a conglomeration of many towns, Berlin has several rathauses (city halls). Built between 1861 and 1869 in the style of the north Italian High Renaissance, it's distinctive red color gives it it's name.
Nikolaiviertel - One of the oldest sections of the city, this area gives an idea of what old Germany would look like. It houses Nikolaikirche, the oldest church in Berlin. The stones next to the ground date back to the beginning of 13th century. No longer serving as a church, there are changing exhibitions and free entrance.
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche — This symbolic church lies in West Berlin and dates back to 1891. Nearly destroyed in WWII, it now stands as a reminder. Beside it sits two modern buildings designed by Egon Eiermann in 1961, a hexagonal bell tower and an octagonal worship hall.
Berliner Dom — The biggest and most impressive church in Berlin, it is unusual in that it is a Protestant cathedral (versus the more common Catholic). It was built at the turn of the century as an expression of imperial power. Located next to Museuminsel, the Lustgarten in front of the cathedral regularly has art installations. Entrance is 5 euros, but can be avoided by attending service. The tower offers a view over the center of Berlin.
Gendarmenmarkt - The square in front of the Konzerthaus and between the twin cathedrals of the Deutscher and Franzosischer Dom (German & French Cathedral) offers the kind of regality you rarely see in Berlin. The square dates back to 1700 as part of King Friedrick I’s plan for Friedrickstadt, an emerging new quarter of Berlin.
Eastside Gallery - The 1.3 km remaining section of walls stands near the Spree River between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, stretching from Ostbahnhof station to the Oberbaumbruecke. The wall is preserved as a gallery with some of the most famous pieces being: "The Mortal Kiss" by Dimitrji Vrubel of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev’s mouth-to-mouth embrace and Birgit Kinder’s Trabi knocking down the Wall. The murals are heritage protected and constantly undergoing restoration because of decay caused by defacement, weather and air pollution.
Siegessaule (Victory Column) - This 60 meter high monument offers panoramic views of the city. A steep 285 steps lead up to the statue of Victoria (Goddess of Victory ) and the famous angels congregating scene in "Der Himmel ueber Berlin" by Wim Wenders. The symbol has undergone several transitions, not the least of which are moves around the city. Originally a symbol of Prussian military victory in the 19th century, it is now a symbol of Berlin's thriving gay community. It was recently the site of then US Presidential candidate, Barrack Obama's, speech in Berlin on July 24, 2008.
Topography of Terror - Berlin does not hide it's difficult history. The city has had the tricky task of identifying it's dark past without making it a site for memorial. This exhibit displays the reality of the Gestapo in Berlin during the Nazi years (1933-1945). Located on the grounds of the Gestapo "house prison" and, after 1939, the Reich Security Main Office, as well as the SS High Command and the Security Service of the SS High Command, the exhibit is chilling in it's detail.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe - This thoughtful and eye-catching memorial by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold has had it's critics and difficulties. Opened in the spring of 2005, this gigantic abstract site which covers an entire block (19,000 square meter) near the Brandenburg Gate is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs. Underground, below the many blocks, lies a more descriptive museum with extensive details on the Holocaust and the people who died during it. Entrance is free, but there is no food, cell phones, or weapons (i.e. swiss army knife). The blocks start out at ground level on the outer edges of the memorial, and then grow taller towards the middle, where the ground also slopes downwards. It is supposed to create the feeling of alienation and confusion.
One of the most controversial issues about the design was to allow graffiti or not. Eventually it was decided to use an anti-graffiti agent. This caused further issue because the company contracted for the coating, Degussa, had been involved with the National-Socialist persecution of the Jews. A subsidiary company of Degussa, Degesch, even produced the Zyklon B used to poison people in the gas chambers.
Potsdamer Platz - Originally one of the busiest junctions in Europe, WWII left this area in disrepair. A large scale renovation has once again revived the area for dining, cinemas, and shopping.
Gedenkstaette Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) - An absolute must for anyone interested in the history of a divided Berlin. A memorial to those who died crossing, this site succeeds where tacky Checkpoint Charlie fails. The monument is a short replica of the wall, complete with "no man's land". The documentation center across the street on Bernauer Strasse excellently documents the time of the Wall through newspapers, film, and personal documents (unfortunately most of the documents are in German). It also explores the many creative ways people tried to escape. A viewing platform gives visitors a view of the true scale of the Wall.
Checkpoint Charlie — At the intersection of Zimmerstrasse and Friedrichstrasse, Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. The site has been moved from it's original location for further building, there is a photo opportunity with the guard station. The museum is dedicated to people who tried, some successful and some not, the cross to the West. This is a private museum with kitschy memorabilia and is less authentic than some of the other sites around the city.
Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace)- Built in the baroque style in 18th century Berlin, this is the largest palace in Berlin. It was constructed as a summer home for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Elector Frederick III. Beautiful grounds and an auxiliary collection of porcelain are also notable.
Zoos & Aquarium- As a city with at least two of almost everything, Berlin has two zoos and an aquarium. The Berlin Zoo in the west is the historic zoo and was world famous for their polar bear cub raised by the zoo keepers, Knut. Sadly, Knut mysteriously died in early 2011. The Elephant Gate (Budapester Strasse) is a beautiful entrance next to the Aquarium
Berlin is a large city with more to see than you think at first glance. There is a range of tours with different focuses, price points, and modes of transportation. Many inexpensive tours start at the larger hostels, and most accommodations will have pamphlets.
Not technically a "tour", but one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see the main sights of the city is on buses N100 and 200. These public bus routes are run by double-decker buses between Zoo Bahnhof and Alexanderplatz, with the N100 passing the Tiergarten and Reichstag and the N200 taking a slightly more southern route via the embassy area and Potsdamer Platz before converging on Unter den Linden. It is a great way to orient your self with the city and get your first look at some of the wonders of Berlin.
City Circle bus- A two hour tour on yellow, double-decker buses run every 10 minutes. There 13 different language options piped through headphones. You can jump on and off at the 16 stops between 10:00 - 18:00. Kurfuerstendamm 216 and Alexanderplatz are the two main starting points. The ticket is valid for 24 hours and costs 20 euros. You can combine the tour with a river cruise (29 euros) or other attractions.
Berlin Walks - Offers 7 tours with different themes like Discover Berlin, the Third Reich tour, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp. All tours meet at the taxi stand at Zoo Station, but also pick up at Haagen Dazs at Hackescher Markt for the Discover Berlin, Sachsenhausen and Jewish tours. Tickets 9-15 euros.
Brewer's Berlin - Veteran guide Terry Brewer (a former Cold War intelligence officer and official guide for the Allied forces) and his team have daily Classic Berlin and All Day Berlin tours (4 hours 10 euro/ 8 hours 12 euro), as well as Cold War, Third Reich and Nightlife tours. The meeting point for tours is the Australian ice cream near Friedrichstrasse station.
Ticket B City – 1 1/2 hours to multi-day tours by architects in Berlin that show off the city Berlin. Led in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish. They arrange your special tour on contemporary architecture in Berlin with many exclusive visits to the interiors of buildings and unforgettable experiences.
Alternative Berlin - English tour starting at 11:00 and 13:00 each day at Alexander Platz TV tower in front of Starbucks coffee. This tour uses Berlin's transit system to cover a massive amount of territory and focuses on the underground sites and sounds of Berlin, including art & graffiti culture, technological wonders, and landmarks of rock & electronic music. The tour takes three and half hours and is technically free, but tipping is encouraged as the tour guides don't receive any other salary.
Stern und Kreisschiffahrt - The biggest boat company in Berlin with tours of the city by river, and excursions onto the many lakes.
Trabi Safari - The car of the east is your chariot for visiting Berlin. It is amongst the cultural "musts" for any visitor. Prices run about 79.00 Euro/person per car.
The Berliner Unterwelten - Allows you to experience Berlin's history from an unusual perspective, through its underground installations dating back to the Cold War, WWII or earlier. Regular tours are offered on Sat to Mon (year round) and from Wed to Fri in between April and October. Tour 1 is a bunker from the Nazi era; Tour 2, explores the Flak Tower Humboldthain, buried under rubble; and Tour 3 shows the Subways, bunkers and the Cold War era. Tickets and meeting point are at the southern entrance hall of the Gesundbrunnen station. Admission €9.
Berlinale - Berlin's Film Festival is one of the city's largest cultural events and an important fixture in the global film industry's calendar. 250,000 tickets are sold and over 400 films are screened. All screenings at the Berlinale are open to the public, although tickets for the most popular movies sell out while in advance.
Lange Nacht der Museen - A large cultural event in January and August with museums open until 2:00 and extra events around the city.
Karneval - held in late February or early March, this event is known as Fasching in southern and western area of Germany. It is not heavily celebrated in the North and Berlin as people are generally indifferent to religion, but there is a moderate carnival parade.
Christopher Street Day - This is the largest German gay pride parade. It is a well-known annual political demonstration for the rights of the gay culture and different parades occur throughout the nation. Usually held in June.
Karneval der Kulturen - "Carnival of Cultures" is held in May or June (on Whit Sunday). This event is a parade of various ethnic groups with traditional music, costumes and dances.
Oberbaumbruecke Festival - In August each year, the bridge becomes an open air gallery with artists selling their works, public performances, and festival activities.
Water Battle - The Oberbaumbruecke is also the site of a faux competitive war every August. The bridge separates the neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain and since 1998 young people have met on the bridge form the two areas to fight an archaic-anarchic mock battle using assorted weapons such as rotten fruit. Each side tries to defend the bridge and repel the adversary.
Fuckparade - Held in August, this was once known as the Hateparade and is in reaction to the commercialized Love Parade. Unfortunately, after the disaster of in 2010 or a crowd rush causing the death of 21 people, the Love Parade has been permanently canceled. However, the Fuckparade continues. Music is mostly independent/alternative/extreme electronic music.
Hanf Parade - Also held in August, this is the biggest European political demonstration for the legalization of hemp for use in agriculture and as a stimulant.
Weihnachtsmarkt - Christmas markets are huge in Germany with many western culture's Christmas traditions based on German tradition. Though the best are in the south, Berlin hosts a market on almost every square. Some charge a small entrance fee, and all offer a variety of crafts, food, and drinks. Get a drink of traditional Gluehwein or Grog with an additional schuss (shot) for 4 euro and keep the commemorative cup for between 1-3 euros.
There are several combination deals and discounts available for people visiting Berlin or interested in seeing the sights.
The Berlin Welcome Card - Offers up to 50 percent on the entrance costs of many museums and attractions. Offers unlimited travel on public transportation which is an excellent deal. The Welcome Card can be obtained from S-Bahn ticket offices, tourist information offices, BVG ticket offices and many hotels. The Welcome card costs 21 euros. It also comes in different packages for 48 hours, 72h Berlin, and 5 Days Berlin.
The Berlin CityTourCard - Offers a discount card for tourist attractions and transport ticket. Cards come with a discount and map booklet. The card is available at any BVG and S-Bahn ticket machine or counter. Also offers packages for Pergamonmuseum, the Altes Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bodemuseum. Ticket options: Berlin CityTourCard 48 AB/ABC 15.90/17.90 euro, Berlin CityTourCard 72 AB/ABC 21.90/23.90 euro, Berlin CityTourCard 5 days AB/ABC 28.90/33.90 euro.
The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (state museums) - This offers discounted ticket options for permanent collections at some of the main museums. A single ticket costs 4-8 euro. You can buy a 19 euro three-day ticket. A ticket for all the museums on the Museum Island costs 14 euro. Admission is free for under-16s.