If you’re wondering what you should and must do and see in Berlin and you’ve already flipped through all of the usual tourist guides, this list is for you.
Visit the Boros Collection
The German couple Boros bought a former WWII bunker and transformed it into their personal art gallery. On display are contemporary works from their own collection.
Every visit through the collection is guided, and even visitors without an enhanced inclination for (contemporary) art should partake in this wonderful experience of Berlin history, culture, architecture and art. You will need no knowledge of art or Berlin to enjoy this unique Berlin experience, but you have to book your date a few weeks in advance. The installations change every four years.
Sunset over Tempelhof
Tempelhof airport was shutdown in 2008. Today, the tarmac is an unbelievably big urban playground for Berliners, even bigger than Central Park in New York. I recommend lounging in the sun to watch the sunset over the mesmerizing landscape. In bad weather, consider taking a tour through the gigantic Tempelhof airport building, constructed by the Nazis and used by the Allied forces after the war.
Clubbing in Berlin
Berlin is known as the capital of nightlife in Europe. Of course, Techno found fertile ground in the many industrial warehouses that were desolated after the war. This clubbing culture is supported (mostly, anyway) by a great infrastructure and careful politics. Clubs like Berghain cater to those passionate about electronic music, but there are many other scenes worth considering. Going out in Berlin can be a mind-bending experience, as people of all kinds and colors meet in the night – freely and openly. My favorite clubs (besides Berghain) are Farbfernseher (for a more house-y night out) and about:blank, but there are many seasonal parties and events, so stay updated on Resident Advisor. And yes, Berghain is as good as they say.
Enjoy Turkish culture on Oranienstraße
Come in the early afternoon in the summer and sit down at Smyrna Kuruyemis, a Turkish seed & nut shop. Have some black tea. Enjoy learning how to split seeds with your tongue (no hands), lean back into the Turkish heritage of Oranienstraße, and watch as people pass by. It’s my personal “Paris” experience in Berlin. In the summer, you might want to get some roasted sunflower seeds to take away and sit at a Späti or in the park with your friends.
Experience Berlins modernist architecture
If you’re interested at all in modernist architecture, you’ll definitely enjoy exploring Berlin. The geographical divide between East and West has yielded interesting contrasts. For example: the powerful designs of the Karl-Marx-Allee and its Western counterpart, the Hansaviertel. Lovers of brutalist architecture will also find their fair share of objects scattered around the city. Read more about Berlins brutalist architecture on Finding Berlin.
Visit the Soviet Memorial
There are plenty of memorials around Berlin, but the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park is definitely my favorite. It’s really massive and regularly takes my breath away. It’s not on route of the usual tourist busses, but definitely recommendable.
Eat a Köfte sandwich
Köfte is often left out when people talk about Berlin streetfood (such as Döner, Falafel and Currywurst) but it’s just as good (or even better). A relative to the Kebab, Köfte came to Berlin with the Turkish immigrants of the mid-century. The well-seasoned, juicy meatballs are pressed into a sandwich and complemented with spices, a spritzer of lemon juice and lots of love. My favorite Köftes can be found at Gel Gör (Neukölln) and Izmir Köfte (Kreuzberg), best enjoyed with a cold drink of Ayran (a yogurt drink – not for the lactose intolerant).
Berlins bridge culture
Marcus once produced a little series about our fake Mediterranean “bridge culture”. Warschauer Brücke, Oberbaumbrücke, Admiralsbrücke, Hobrechtbrücke, Glogauerbrücke: name a bridge in Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain and I dare you not to find buskers and loads of people there in the summer. It’s quite an atmosphere, comparable to the lively and spontaneous vibe on the plazas in Italy or Miradurous in Lisbon. Those public places always offer that little bit of urban magic that makes any city trip memorable.
Stop at Schwarzes Café
The “Black Café” is open 24/7 and a real Berlin institution, born out of the anti-anarchist movement of the West at the end of the 70s. It’s not particularly anti-anarchist now, but it still carries the kind of Berlin charm that many places have tried to reproduce in the past. With a huge menu and a lively, but not overcrowded or annoying atmosphere, Schwarzes Café is usually the best choice when passing through the West or Kantstraße in particular.
Enjoy a typical Berlin breakfast
There’s a flamboyant and outgoing breakfast culture in Berlin. Many cafés offer a German “Brotzeit“, consisting of fresh baked bread and rolls, different varieties of cheese and cold cuts or vegetarian options. You’ll also find fancy Chia puddings, mueslis and pancakes, but everyone should enjoy a “Berlin” breakfast once.
My favorite breakfast in Berlin is at Bastard in Kreuzberg.
Boat trip on Landwehrkanal
Dit is so Berlin: riding an inflatable boat down the canals through Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Treptow. I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the muddy waters, but if you’re lucky, you can catch a few sunrays and a gorgeous sunset.
Boat trip through Neu Venedig
“New Venice” is a very sweet corner of Berlin, best experienced via rental boat. Named for its many canals and bridges, you’ll find that Germans are really obsessed about their gardens and front yards – especially when they’re so often seen from the shore. This is one of my favorite activities in the summer in Berlin, don’t miss out on it. And unlike Landwehrkanal, you can definitely swim in the Müggelsee :)
Visit the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
A visit to Berlins most controversial memorial can be a highly sensual experience. I consider it a powerful design, and whenever I pass by, I am overwhelmed by emotions. I don’t really feel disturbed by the plenty of people who take pictures or otherwise “mistreat” the memorial, I think it’s a great achievement if you can make people immerse into history like that. But if you can help it, try to actually experience the design and don’t just take selfies for your Tinder profile.