Planning your first trip to Berlin but don’t know where to start? Forget about all the things you’ve heard and start here for your ultimate Berlin weekend experience.
This itinerary focuses on a mix of tourist must-sees and local culture, so hopefully, there’s something for everyone in it. For the sake of brevity, I’ll assume you arrive on Friday morning and depart on Sunday evening, but most points will be valid even on weekdays.
Table of contents
- Where to stay in Berlin
- Essential Berlin Landmarks
- Recommended Berlin itinerary
- More helpful information about Berlin
Where to stay in Berlin
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. You’ll definitely enjoy the lobby atmosphere if you’re a solo traveler.
Garden Boutique Hotel
I fell in love with this hotel quite coincidently. Perfectly located near Nordbahnhof and very close to all the Mitte landmarks both south and north, the Garden Boutique Hotel is a refuge with comfortable ground floor rooms and a very relaxed vibe.
so/ Das Stue Hotel
Essential Berlin Landmarks
Brandenburger Tor & Reichstag
Very standard, but very necessary, are both the Brandenburger Tor on Pariser Platz and the Reichstag (the building is called Reichstag, the parliament is called Bundestag), which you will need to pre-register for. I recommend booking a tour that takes you to both sites and takes around 2-3 hours. The Reichstag is one of the most magnificient buildings in Berlin and the heart of German politics. The interior is full of contemporary German art, and the estate right at the Spree welcomes you to a long stroll if the weather allows for it.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe & Topography of Terror
Many people come to Berlin to learn about the history of WWII where it happened. Although it’s impossible to comprehend the atrocities that took place in Berlin, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Topography of Terror exhibition are good starting points for your exploration. Immense yourself in the open structure of the Memorial and dive into its manifold meanings. I think it’s a very singular and haunting experience. In the same vein, the Topography of Terror exhibition, which is free, will give you an absolute overview of Hitlers rise to power and the consequences of the war.
Boros Art Collection
The Boros Collection is a private collection of contemporary German and European art. What make this collection stand out is its unique location in a former air-raid shelter in Mitte. The renovated bunker has its very own history (including use as bunker, warehouse and sex club), which you can learn about on the guided tour (booking required).
Landmarks you can skip
- Potsdamer Platz
- Checkpoint Charlie
- Fernsehturm (meaning please don’t buy tickets, it’s not worth the money or the wait)
Getting around in Berlin
Recommended Berlin itinerary
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
More helpful information about Berlin
- Sundays: On Sundays, most stores and shops are closed – don’t expect any shopping opportunities. There are Spätis – late night kiosks or 24/7 bodegas – 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 or about 5-10%, but ultimately it’s not necessary. Service can be very hit or miss in Germany as a whole, so don’t feel obliged to pay if it didn’t meet your standards.
- Mitte East: The area around Alexanderplatz is popular with most tourists, very central and well connected, great for shopping and strolling, museums, cafés, art galleries and restaurants and highly recommended as your hub for Berlin.
- Kreuzberg: Kreuzberg has a great nightlife but is acutely residential. If you’re coming to party, you may be happier in a sublet or Airbnb, but if you’re looking for a proper hotel and good connections to the typical landmarks, you’re better off in Mitte.
- Friedrichshain: Bachelor parties, some good restaurants, mostly annoying nightlife (unless it’s your thing), a few hidden gems.
- Neukölln: Very multicultural, many hidden gems, great vintage shopping and valuable gastro development, superb bar scene, well connected and definitely a Berlin hotspot for locals. Not many hotels though and not a great starting place for first-timers.
- 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 stores and landmarks.
- 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, relatively lame in the evenings though.