10 top things to do in Berlin: a local's guide

From beer gardens to abandoned amusement and airports parks, Tripbod Jeroen reveals 10 of the best alternative things to see and do in Berlin.

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1. The Berlin Wall Memorial

The right place to learn more about the Berlin Wall and the division of Germany will be the official Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse, north from the centre. The border ran right over the façades from the houses here, and after the inhabitants were evacuated as well as the lower floors were bricked up, people still managed to flee the GDR by jumping right out of the top floors. The data centre shows films of the building of the wall, and there's a view tower overlooking a brief stretch of wall that has been restored to the original, brutal look. Walk round the back to get a peek at the 'death strip' through the gaps within the rear wall.

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Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer

Bernauer Strasse 111 & 119, Mitte

Tel. 49 30 46798 6666


Open 9: 30am-7pm, Nov-Mar 9: 30am-6pm. Closed Mon (outdoor exhibition open 24hrs).

Admission free

Berlin Wall Memorial © Jeroen van Marle

Berlin Wall Memorial

2. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is without doubt one of the best on earth. Directed by Englishman Sir Simon Rattle, it performs regularly in Berlin, and tours the world extensively as well. The orchestra's home is the striking yellow tent-shaped Philharmonie near Potsdamer Platz. Its interior with seating terraces all around the stage was revolutionary in the event it opened fifty years ago. Don't miss the free Tuesday lunchtime concerts by renowned and upcoming musicians; arrive 30-45 minutes early and bring something soft to sit down on, as the audience sits around the lobby floor!

Berliner Philharmonie

Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße 1, Berlin-Tiergarten

S/U Potsdamer Platz

Tel. 49 30 2548 8999


Lunchtime concerts: 1pm, 3 Sept - 14 June 2014

Berlin Philharmonic, Axel Lauer / Shutterstock.com

3. Three panoramic places

Berlin may be a relatively flat city with only a handful of high-rise buildings, but there are several places to get great panoramic views across town. The Panoramapunkt on top of the brick Kollhoff tower on Potsdamer Platz is my favourite city centre viewpoint. Europe's fastest elevator it zips you 100 metres up for views of Berlin's old and new centre, plus it comes with a café and exhibition. Just south in the centre, the monument near the top of the Kreuzberg hill in Viktoriapark is Berlin's highest natural point; buy some beers in a Spaeti shop and walk up along the romantic waterfall at sunset. Within the Neukoelln district, the newest Klunkerkranich 'cultural rooftop garden' on the top of a mall parking garage includes a bar, DJs, live music and parties with fabulous views over Berlin.


Potsdamer Platz 1, Berlin-Mitte

Tel. 49 30 2593 7080


Open daily 10: 00-20: 00

S/U-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz



U-Bahn: Mehringdamm


Karl-Marx-Strasse 66, Berlin-Neukölln

U-Bahn: Rathaus Neukölln

Open Fri 16: 00-24: 00, Sat/Sun 14: 00-24: 00.


Victoriapark, Kreuzberg © Jeroen van Marle

Victoriapark, Kreuzberg

4. Take a tour with a difference

There are dozens of tours around Berlin’s tourist sights, but I really enjoy joining small tours around the outlying districts. The history the following is no less interesting, and you'll get insights into normal daily life within the city. Slow Travel Berlin, an internet site published by Berlin-lovers, organises district walking tours that truly take the time for in-depth exploration of Prenzlauer Berg, western Kreuzberg or Wedding. Finding Berlin is yet another website by Berlin enthusiasts that spawned tours; join their 'Little Istanbul' walk that includes chats with Turkish bakers and shop owners in Neukoelln, or the 'Life & Styles' tour, exploring eastern Kreuzberg using vintage fixed-gear bicycles.

Slow Travel Berlin


Finding Berlin Tours & Vintage Bike Rental

Schlesische Straße 29/30 (2nd courtyard), Berlin-Kreuzberg

U Schlesisches Tor

Tel. 49 176 9933 3913


woman riding bike, Berlin

5. Markthalle 9

Only two of Berlin's 13 market halls survive, and the beautiful 'number 9' hall in Kreuzberg, dating back to 1891, was recently revived using a lively weekly farmers' market; I live nearby and it's an excellent place for fresh regional food. But there's more: the Kantine restaurant serves excellent organic lunches each day, there's a popular street food market every Thursday evening and there tend to be special markets on Sundays, dedicated to local crafts or sweets. If that isn't enough reason to drop by, the new Heidenpeters microbrewery sells its ales on market days. By the Puecklerstrasse exit, the famous Weltrestaurant Markthalle is a lovely place for a schnitzel, or a beer on the terrace.

Markthalle 9

Eisenbahnstrasse 42, Berlin-Kreuzberg


Weekly market Fri/Sat 10: 00-18: 00, Streetfood Thursday 18: 00-22: 00.

U-Bahn: Goerlitzer Bahnhof

Weltrestaurant Markthalle

Puecklerstrasse 34, Berlin-Kreuzberg

Tel. 49 30 6175 502


Markthalle 9, Berlin © Jeroen van Marle

Markthalle 9

6. Clärchens Ballhaus

Generations of Berliners have danced the nights away at Clärchens as it opened in September 1913. Here normal Berliners might have fun and possibly dance with all the male or female with their dreams. The photos at the entrance show that very little has changed over the last 100 years, though the front of the building, now a terrace, was bombed in the war. Nowadays, Clärchens is Berlin's last real dance hall, with great pizza and German dishes, and themed dance nights (salsa, tango and foxtrot etc - free admission) on weekdays. The legendary schwoof parties (€5) occur at weekends, when there's live music, and you're welcomed in the wardrobe by Günter who started working here in the mid-1960s.

Auguststrasse 24, Berlin-Mitte


S-Bahn Oranienburger Straße

Open daily 11: 00-02: 00, Fri/Sat 11: 00-04: 00

7. Tempelhofer Freiheit Park

Every time I take visitors onto the runways of the former Tempelhof Airport and there's two kilometres of wide empty runway in front of them, their eyes always begin to sparkle, though visiting a former airfield may not sound very exciting. Tempelhof airport was built-in the 1930s to be the world's most advanced airport and one of the world's largest buildings. Later, the Americans used it as being a military airport, and it also played a vital role in saving West Berlin through the 1949 Soviet blockade. The 1200-metre-long terminal building can be used for events and tours, while the airfield has become changed into a park for lying in the sun, kite boarding, jogging and cycling roller-blading, dog-walking and barbecuing. It is best to come by bike to get the most from it!

Tempelhofer Freiheit Park

Several entrances; S/U-Bahn Tempelhof and U-Bahn Boddinstrasse are easiest.

Open sunrise to sunset, admission free.


Tempelhof © Jeroen van Marle

Catch the wind: Tempelhof

8. Have a beer in Berlin's new microbrewery scene

Berlin has a long tradition of brewing too, even though bavaria may have Germany's most famous beer brands. In recent years several exciting new brewers have create shop. Hidden within a Wedding student housing complex, Eschenbraeu is worth visiting for its home-brewed beers and flammekuchen pies. In the Friedrichshain district, the Hops & Barley bar attracts a young crowd. Nearer to the centre, Brauhaus Lemke is actually a nice brewpub. But my favourite places for a beer are definitely the Prater Garten, the oldest Biergarten around town, serving its very own Prater Pils and also the relaxing Cafe am Neuen See which serves Bavarian beers and overlooks a beautiful boating lake in Tiergarten Park.


Triftstrasse 67, Berlin-Wedding

U-Bahn: Leopoldstrasse


Hops & Barley

Wühlischstraße 22-23, Berlin-Friedrichshain

S/U-Bahn: Warschauer Strasse


Brauhaus Lemke

Dircksenstrasse, S-Bahnbogen 143, Berlin-Mitte

S-Bahn: Hackescher Markt


Prater Biergarten

Kastanienallee 7-9, Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg

U-Bahn: Eberswalder Strasse


Café am Neuen See

Lichtensteinallee 2, Berlin-Tiergarten

S/U-Bahn: Zoologischer Garten


beer, Berlin

9. Go urban exploring

Photographers, graffiti-artists as well as the plain curious are common attracted to Berlin's many abandoned and ruined places, and lots of websites are dedicated to this 'urban exploration'. Southeast in the city centre within the Treptow district, the first kind Spreepark theme park is among the most spectacular examples; the Ferris wheel and several rides are slowly being swallowed by the forest, and will be visited over a tour or perhaps by wandering in. In the western side in the city, there's the previous CIA listening post on Teufelsberg hill. Further afield, explorers look for the Olympic Village and also the Beelitz Heilstätten hospital and several Nazi or Soviet military areas.


Neue Krugallee, Berlin-Treptow

S-Bahn: Plänterwald


Spreepark © Jeroen van Marle


10. Party on in a festival

Berliners like to celebrate outside through the warm summer. Nevertheless the festival season starts off each year in the middle of winter using the Berlinale Film Festival in February, which sees 1000s of Berliners and foreigners retreat to warm cinema halls to view the very best new film releases. The outdoor season kicks off on May 1 with the MyFest street festival in the Kreuzberg district. Berlin's main street party will be the multicultural Karnaval der Kulturen parade at the end of May. Listen to live music at stages throughout town during Fete de la Musique, on 21 June, while late June sees the huge Christopher Street Day gay parade. Finally, the city's main landmarks and buildings are majestically lit up during the Festival of Lights in October.

Berlinale Film Festival




Karnaval der Kulturen


Fete de la Musique


Christopher Street Day parade


Festival of Lights



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