How you should spend one weekend in Berlin (UPDATED 2016)

It's not hard to spend a sweet weekend in Berlin, but most people who come to visit ask me for advice on what the most important things to do are. There's no right answer, of course, but I wanted to create a list of things that always resonate positively with my guests. There are no secrets here, just a handy guide that will hopefully help when planning a short trip.
12 Jun ’10 by Sara Travel

About this Berlin weekend itinerary

So you’ve heard a lot about Berlin, and you finally booked a short weekend trip to our beautiful capital – but you don’t know where to start? No problem! On your first stop in this fantastic city, there is not much you have to keep in mind in order to make the best of your trip. This Berlin weekend itinerary is meant to give you an overview of what you can and should do to experience the typical Berlin atmosphere. It’s not an itinerary per se, although I will give you a rough outline of how my recommendations could be systemized into a 72h stay.

The good thing about this itinerary is that it focuses on the typical tourist sights as well as the local’s favorites (and sometimes, they are the same thing), so you’ll hopefully have a good mix.

We will assume that you arrive on Friday and depart on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Keep in mind that most of the suggestions off this itinerary will be valid on weekdays, too – but check first to be sure. Please keep in mind that I have deliberately not included any shops or plenty of cafés because I think that would be a very generic approach to urban tourism. Instead, this Berlin weekend itinerary focuses on the specific things that make Berlin special.

General information about Berlin

  • Sundays: On Sundays, most stores and shops are closed – so don’t expect any shopping opportunities. There are Spätis – late night kiosks or 24/7 – across the whole city that will cater to most of your needs, though.
  • Money: Always have cash on hand. It’s hard to believe, but most cafés, restaurants, taxis and supermarkets will not take your credit or debit card, even though we’re getting better at it.
  • Tipping: Tipping is considered nice in Berlin and most people do it by rounding up to the next number, but ultimately not necessary.

Getting around in Berlin

  • Bikes: In summer, you should definitely rent a bike from your hotel or hostel, or from the closest hostel near you. It should cost around 8 Euro per day. Berlin is best traveled by bike.
  • Public transport: You can definitely rely on public transport at all times, even thorughout weekday nights (although maybe at less frequent intervals). Buy yourself a ticket from the BVG machines at any train station. There are day passes and 72 hour passes that I highly recommend if you don’t want to buy a ticket every time you hop on the bus.
  • Taxis: Taxis are a comfortable way to ride around. There are no Ubers or Lyfts in Berlin, but the regular cabs are relatively cheap. If you’re traveling only two or three kilometers, ask for a “Kurzstrecke”: it’s a flat rate for 5 Euro. Make sure you get out once the meter beeps, though. Kurzstrecke only applies to cabs that are hailed, not called.

In which district of Berlin should I stay?

  • Mitte: Popular with most tourists, very central and well connected, great for shopping and strolling, museums, cafés, art galleries and restaurants, good in winter when it’s too cold to walk around
  • Kreuzberg: Good nightlife, well connected, multicultural, good restaurants, many students and yuppies, many cafés, especially good in summer when you can take walks along the canal.
  • Friedrichshain: Semi-good nightlife, lots of pubcrawls, younger tourists and hostels, greasy vibe all over but good value if you want to party, well connected, better in summer than winter
  • Neukölln: Very multicultural, many hidden gems in unsuspecting corners of the district, great vintage shopping and valuable gastronomic development, superb bar scene, pretty on the Kreuzberg side but can get a little grimey and nasty at night, well connected although a little far from the typical tourist attractions
  • Charlottenburg: Great for sightseeing, more urban city atmosphere, higher value luxury shopping and more luxe accommodations, good in the winter as there’s a high density of malls, fewer museums but some theaters and varieté stuff, well connected and a good city-center or hub for business trips or trips with the family
  • Prenzlauer Berg: Beautiful neighborhoods, small and cozy cafés, more relaxed atmosphere, well connected but can be far from Kreuzberg and Neukölln on bike, more grown up tourist vibe, sweet restaurants and good for taking strolls, but not much nightlife to discover and relatively boring if you’re out for some action

Recommended hotels and accommodations in Berlin

I don’t hang around in hotels much in Berlin, but there are definitely some houses that I know and always bring up when friends ask me. I think they’re all great for their value. The Airbnb market in Berlin isn’t as great as in other metropoles, because the laws here officially forbid private people to rent out their homes. I have yet to see a great hotel or hostel in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, so I’m open to any recommendations from my fellow Berliners if you have any – sorry about that, guys!

  • The Michelberger Hotel: Great hotel with hostel atmosphere, clean and cozy, well designed rooms for budget value; fantastic location between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, so right in the middle of everything. The Michelberger is not just a hotel, it’s a Berlin institution and musical hub for the city. They do have a strict policy about large groups, but you’ll definitely enjoy the lobby atmosphere if you’re a solo traveler. Michelberger Hotel, € (Friedrichshain)
  • Oderberger Hotel: Good mid-budget value for travelers who’d like more than just a hotel room; includes a newly re-opened swimming pool and soon also a spa, right next to the Mauerpark (Sunday’s fleamarket) and in proximity to many restaurants and cafés. Oderberger Hotel, €€ (Prenzlauer Berg)
  • 25hours Hotel Berlin: Exciting and very well designed hotel, large in size but small in feeling, set smack dab on the Upper Westside of Berlin but can be a little annoying if you want to spend all your time in Kreuzberg or Neukölln, good value for Charlottenburg. 25hours Hotel Berlin, €€ (Charlottenburg)
  • Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm: Luxe but still mid-range business and family hotel on the shopping street of Berlin in Charlottenburg, can get great deals here with great options but it’s not a very individual hotel, rather for people who like convenience and conventional urban accommodations. Sofitel Berlin Kurfürstendamm, €-€€€ (Charlottenburg)
  • Gorki Apartments: Sweet little apartments in Mitte, with many different rooms and size options to choose from. Great location right next to Rosenthaler Platz and fantastic interior, with focus on design and cuteness. Very “boutique” feeling and definitely more on the Airbnb side of things, although possibly more expensive. Gorki Apartments, €€-€€€ (Mitte)

The most important sightseeing route of Berlin

One weekend doesn’t give you a lot of time to see all the sights, but there are definitely some things that you should do and some things you can safely leave out. There’s a very standard sightseeing route that you should consider, just so you can get the typical tourist stuff out of the way. Depending on how fast you are, you can do it in 1-3 hours, either on bike or on the public 100 bus line that starts on Alexanderplatz and ends on Bahnhof Zoo (you can obviously do the reverse route, too). On an official day pass, you can just hop on and off at the sights.

  • Alexanderplatz
  • Berliner Dom / Lustgarten
  • Brandenburger Tor
  • Reichstag
  • Tiergarten (especially great on bike!)
  • Haus der Kulturen der Welt
  • Siegessäule
  • Bahnhof Zoo / Kurfürstendamm

You can safely leave out these sightseeing spots:

  • Potsdamer Platz
  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Museumsinsel (unless you actually want to visit a museum)
  • Fernsehturm (meaning please don’t buy tickets, it’s not worth the money or the wait)
  • Eastside Gallery (the longest stretch of Berlin Wall left)

This route takes you across the city center, but leaves out a few landmarks that are in different areas of the city.

Which landmarks should I definitely visit on my weekend trip to Berlin?

  • Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in Treptower Park: This landmark is absolutely huge and dedicated to the fallen Sowjet soldiers of WWII. You won’t see anything like it anywhere outside of Russia.
  • Tempelhofer Feld: This former airport was transformed into a vast park for the city. In winter, you should do the tour inside of the amazing neoclassical Nazi building, which is one of the largest in the world (in addition to a world war bunker). The history of the Tempelhofer Feld alone will give you a great overview of Berlin.
  • Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden: This memorial to the murdered Jews of the 3rd Reich is breathtaking and humbling. You should definitely pay your respects here. It’s also a very interesting spatial experience. It’s meant to be “played with” and immerse you in its mighty and uncomfortable architecture.

Should I do a boat trip in Berlin?

If the weather is nice and you can’t be bothered to jump into a crowded bus or ride a bike, then a boat tour on the Spree and the Canals is a great alternative. You get to see most of the city from a chill perspective and can listen to the history of the city. That said, the boat tour can eat up 3 hours and is very inflexible and comparably expensive to the other options, so it’s more of an add-on than a “must-do”.

Which museums should I visit in Berlin?

Depending on your taste, there are plenty of options to choose from. I’m not a big fan of museums, but Berlin can definitely hit you with some bad weather, so it’s nice to have some options on hand.

  • The Boros Collection: Not actually a museum, but if you’re visiting Berlin while it’s cold, you must absolutely visit this incredible private collection of contemporary art. Even if art is not your thing, the exhibition is located in a former bunker (which was used as a sex club in the 90s), and a visit here will disclose many of interesting details of Berlins wild nightlife scene post-reunification. Absolutely definitely must book ahead, but if you’re super lucky, you might have a shot at cancelled spots on the tour. Sammlung Boros, 12€, Mitte
  • Stasimuseum: The national security of the GDR was known to be extremely radical in its measures. When the Wall fell, the former intelligence headquarters were preserved. Today, you can step into a different time and country when you visit the Stasimuseum. It’s as close as you’ll get to contemporary North Korea in Berlin. Stasimuseum Berlin, 6€, Hohenschönhausen
  • Natural History Museum: The Naturkundemuseum in Berlin does not compare in size to it’s New York counterpart, but it’s still great – especially since they brought in the new T-Rex skeleton. I would suggest skipping it on Saturday mornings, but if you have children, you’ll be delighted to spend your rainy weekend here. Naturkundemuseum Berlin, 8€, Mitte
  • Topography of Terror: Calling it a museum might be a little bit of a stretch, but this exhibition and documentation center right next to Martin-Gropius-Bau will definitely give you deep insights into the atrocities of WWII and the 3rd Reich. It’s a haunting experience and I’d advise you to read carefully through the panels. Topography of Terror, admission free, Mitte
  • Bauhaus Museum: If you’re more into design and the modern world, the Bauhaus Museum might be exactly what you’re looking for. Its Archive – or Museum of Design – houses a sensational collection of sculptures, ceramics, furniture and architectural models by Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, Klee, Kandinsky and many more. A free guided tour runs every Sunday at 3pm. Bauhaus Museum, 8€, Mitte

Where to party in Berlin

Berlin is known to be a hotbed for party-goers, but often tourist are disappointed because they don’t really know where to go to find what they like. They end up in Techno clubs when they don’t like Techno, or resort to the tourist traps when there are, in fact, many great options to choose from. Here are a few select choices that will definitely teach you the Berlin ways.

As a word of general advice: weekends tend to get really, really crowded at doors. Dress casually, but not shabby and don’t go out dancing before 1 AM or you’ll likely end up on an empty dancefloor.

  • Berghain: If you like Techno and House music, Berghain is your best choice. Be aware that it’s very cool, very queer and very hard to get in to as a tourist. Do not go in groups and try to be quiet in the queue. If you can, go Sunday morning or afternoon, before the headlines play, or on Friday nights, which are usually label nights and with a more mixed up crowd. Although Berghain is more famous for its myth rather than its ultimately great line-ups and amazing soundsystem, I guarantee you if you love electronic music, this is your place to be.
  • St. Georg: This little club in Kreuzberg is relatively new and unknown, as Berlin is only getting started with parties that explore different genres of music. The booking here covers everything from rap, grime, footwork and electronic music, so definitely check the website for the line up of your designated Berlin weekend.
  • Farbfernseher: A small and inconspicuous little bar and dancefloor in Kreuzberg, but it’s been an institution for many years now. Expect solid house music to cheer to!
  • Südblock: Another institution in Kreuzberg, aimed at open-minded and queer people. From pub quizzes to eccentric art performances, the club nights here have many political themes and explore the depth of musical possibilities. If you’re an artsy type of person, you’ll like it!
  • OHM: While Tresor may be the bigger name, this little club next to it is much easier to get in to. Like St. Georg, the music here – depending on the night – explores different ranges and genres of electronic music. Baile funk techno, grime and rap have all been on the line up.
  • ://about blank: This techno club is a close up follower to Berghain in terms of line up, although the soundsystem could use a refresher. It’s a much more leftist vibe here, and people are usually not covered from head to toe in black clothes. Strictly Techno and definitely worth a visit in the summer, when the garden is open.
  • Schwuz: This club is huge and a great partying place with a queer backbone. The line up ranges from indie music to hard and heavy techno, and it’s usually very well visited without spilling over. Definitely check out the line up and clubnight on your arrival.

What to eat in Berlin

You’ve probably heard about Döner Kebap and Currywurst, but Berlin is a lot more than just that. Obviously, there’s a big list of things to recommend, but I’ll try to pick my favorites for each kind of category.

  • A quick Köfte at Konak: Döner and Falafel are great, but you’ve probably had those in any other city before. The Köfte sandwich, on the other hand, is legendary at Izmir Konak Grill. The lamb meatballs are grilled to perfection, then put in a crispy, hot roll and marinated with special sauce. Absolutely must do while you’re strolling around Kottbusser Tor or coming back home from partying!
  • Fine Dining at Nobelhart & Schmutzig: Not a cheap thrill, but a Michelin promise of fine dining. This young restaurant will treat you to an 8 course dinner, consisting exclusively of regional products. This is as “German” cuisine as it gets, and highly recommended if you want to splurge on a night out.
  • Breakfast at Bastard: This little café and restaurant in Kreuzberg will serve you with a typical German breakfast, meaning there’s homemade bread, pastries, cold cuts and cheese, along with fruit and vegan or vegetarian options. Gets super crowded but absolutely worth it.
  • Pizza at Casolare: Especially in the summer, the Casolar beergarden gets really crowded, everything is hectic and you can see the people and buskers sitting on Admiralsbrücke in the sun. All of this chaos is absolutely worth it if you’d like a crispy, perfect Neapolitan pizza.
  • Henne Wirtshaus: Do you like rotisserie chicken? You better like it here, because there’s nothing else but that and a potato and krautsalad on the menu – along with beer and wine, of course. But it’s perfect, crispy, fresh and delicious, and the ambiance of the restaurant is truly old-fashioned and cozy.
  • Burger at Shiso Burger: I don’t know if it’s the best burger in the world, but it’s definitely among the best in Berlin. This little burger restaurant serves high quality food for budget prices. Run by the coolest Vietnamese gang you could imagine, try to book a table ahead as it does get crowded – at any time of the day.
  • Diener Tattersall: For hearty, German meals in another Berlin institution, check out this artists diner in Charlottenburg. The food isn’t over the top fantastic, but it’s great for good money, and you can absolutely dive into the Wiener Schnitzel here.

The best bars in Berlin

There are no “best bars”. There are great bars everywhere in the city, and depending on the Kiez – the neighborhood – you’ll find different “bar scene personalities”. From shabby in Neukölln to chic in Charlottenburg, I would always recommend to just follow your instincts and try to pick places that aren’t close to the landmarks.

That said, I think if you want a “bar hopping experience” in Berlin, I think you should stick around Weserstraße in Neukölln or Reichenbergerstraße in Kreuzberg. Here, the crowds are very diverse and there are many different bars and places to choose from. If it gets wild, you’re always close to clubs and usually public transport is great from here.

 

The perfect Berlin weekend itinerary

 

So, all of this information has overloaded you – when in fact the only thing you were looking for was an itinerary, straight to the point. You can pick and choose from the lists above what you want to do, but if you really want a perfect Berlin weekend itinerary – provided the weather is good, meaning it’s not raining or really really cold – then here’s your best outline in my opinion:

Friday

  • Arrive Friday morning at airport, take bus or trains to Michelberger Hotel. Check in and rent a bike!
  • Ride your bike down the Eastside Gallery at the Spree (right next to hotel) in the direction of the Fernsehturm.
  • From Alexanderplatz, ride through the city center and see the landmarks on the way (Berliner Dom, Brandenburger Tor, Reichstag)
  • Stop at the Mahnmal der ermordeten Jude and drop into the Topography of Terror, if you’re not hungry yet.
  • Continue riding through Tiergarten. Make a stop at the Café am neuen See or at the Schleusenkrug for a quick meal and a coffee, or just have a little cake and stay hungry for dinner.
  • From Bahnhof Zoo, ride your bike down the Landwehrkanal to Kreuzberg (or take the M29 bus for the same route)
  • Sit down in the Görlitzer Park for a fresh Gösser (lemonade + bier from the Späti) and maybe sunflower seeds from the shops on Oranienstraße. You can watch the sunset from here, best in springtime and autumn.
  • If you’re hungry, move on to Izmir Köfte for a fantastic and quick sandwich, then move on to Neukölln’s Weserstraße and hop the bars there. From here, you can easily get to Schwuz, but any club you want to visit should be open today.

Saturday

  • After breakfast at the hotel, grab your bike again and ride to Tempelhof. You can either circumnavigate the premises – a whopping 7km! – or take the tour inside of the building.
  • For lunch, make a long trip to Mitte and sit down at Shiso Burger. Then take a digestif walk around the old Mitte neighborhood around Weinmeisterstraße, Gipsstraße, Leinestraße, Ackerstraße, Rosenthaler Straße and Alte Schönhauser Straße, but try to avoid the shops. Grab a coffee on the way and enjoy the great architecture here.
  • Continue to see the Boros Collection. The tour takes around 1,5 hours.
  • Afterwards, ride back in the direction of Kreuzberg. By now, you should be hungry again, and have hopefully made reservations for the divine Nobelhart & Schmutzig dinner.
  • If you’re still good to go after your dinner experience, go back to Kreuzberg and enjoy a few hours of house music at Farbfernseher or a bit of hip hop at St. Georg.

Sunday

  • Skip breakfast at the hotel and ride straight to Bastard!
  • After breakfast, take a stroll down the Canal. Every 2nd Sunday, there’s a flea market on Maybachufer. It’s relatively small and very packed, but usually a nice walk and here and there a few good bargains.
  • Are you ready for Berghain? Around 3pm, get back to the hotel, leave your bike there and walk to the cathedral of Techno. If that’s not your thing or you didn’t get in, continue to Treptower Park to see the Sowjet Memorial. From here, you can also take a boat tour that lasts around 1,5 hours. Basically, whether Berghain or boat, just do some day drinking. Spritz Aperol is the city’s favorite in terms of light drinks, but hey, all options are open to you. That’s what Sundays are for in Berlin. Also, if you find cake on the way, just have some cake too.
  • When you’re done with your Sunday afternoon activities, return to your hotel and either prepare for dinner or just go to sleep.
  • After drinking, a pizza or some pasta might be in order. See Casolare for a relatively close option or La Bionda if you don’t mind traveling even a bit further.

This Berlin weekend itinerary obviously works best in summer, but if you cut out one or two things on the list, you can also transform it to work perfectly with public transport and indoor activities. I might add a winter Berlin itinerary in the feature, but for now, this here should work. I hope you enjoy your stay in Berlin, and if any of you have ideas or criticism, I’m always open to ignore your feedback.

Eight comments

  1. Thank you for this.

    A real delight to read.

  2. kottbusser tor is not, and never was in east-berlin …

    nice blog anyway :-)

  3. Nice one thanks!

  4. Nice one thanks!

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