1. The museum Island
On the river Spree in Berlin, there is an island, the Spreeinsel, consisting of two parts: the southern part generally known as “Fisherman’s Island” and the Northern one entitled as “Museum Island”.
This last one, created in the early 19th century initiated by the King Frederick William III, brings together many museums in Berlin and is now one of the finest cultural heritage of the country. Classified as World Heritage by UNESCO, the island museums profits from a worldwide reputation and priceless works of art such as bust of Nefertiti and the Pergamon frieze.
You may find among the museums:
– The Bode Museum
– The Pergamon Museum
– The Altes Museum
– The Neues Museum
– The Alte Nationalgalerie.
– The Berliner Dom
– The Lustgarten
Be careful: it is free only the access to the island, as well as the Berliner Dom and the Lustgarten … the museums are obviously paid but a very advantageous Pass allows you to visit the five museums.
For more information, click here
2. The East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is the longest run in one way of the Berlin Wall still standing. Located along the Spree between East Railway Station and the bridge Oberbaumbrücke.
At the fall of the Wall, 118 artists from 21 countries have painted what is today the largest open pit mural of the world. The works address different topics but peace and love are the themes that come up most frequently.
In 2009, 40 paintings have been restored, including the famous painting of the socialist fraternal embrace of Honecker and Brezhnev, painted by the artist Dmitri Vrubel.
3. The berliners monuments
Because of its historical and cultural heritage, the capital has many monuments that now constitute its identity and that it is therefore interesting to see and to visit.
At the city’s entrance, there is also located the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of Berlin, which was for three decades part of the Berlin wall that split the city in two parts.
The famous boulevard Unter den Linden extends from the Pariser Platz on which stands the Brandenburg Gate to the castle’s bridge. The avenue is bordered by many institutions like the German Historical Museum, the State Opera House or the Berlin’s Old Palace, which makes it one of the capital’s most important ones.
A few steps away, there is located the Reichstag Parliament enclosed by its magnificent glass dome. Built in 1894 to shelter the Reichstag (the Reich Assembly), it shelters today the Bundestag (Parliamentary Assembly of the Federal Republic of Germany).
Alexandreplatz is one of the main squares of the city of Berlin. Representative of Soviet architecture, the place is full of luxury shops and many structures like the House of the Teacher (Haus des Lehrers), Urania World Clock, and the Fountain of Friendship among Peoples.
Visiting these monuments is free and they are available every day of the week, some on reservation.
4. The Holocaust memorial
The Holocaust Memorial, also called “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” is a work of Peter Eisenman aiming to preserve the memory of the Jewish victims exterminated by the Nazis during the Second World War and more particularly those of the Holocaust.
Located in the heart of Berlin, the work is composed of 2711 dark gray tablets of different sizes, on a field of 19,000 square meters, forming a labyrinth.
The principal feature of the Holocaust Memorial is that it gives everyone a personal room for interpretation. Each person can understand and experience different feelings.
Under the stones, there is located an information center about the Holocaust, with the Holocaust victims’ biographies and information about the Nazi death camps. Various exhibitions are held permanently in the center, and the visits are free.
5. Museum of the Second World War Topography of Terror
The museum “Topography of Terror” is a memorial of the Second World War, specifically devoted to the Nazi crimes. It was built on the Niederkirchnerstrasse street, at the site of the former headquarters of the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, the prison of the Gestapo and of the secret police (SS).
The first exhibition about the topography of terror took place in 1987 in the event of 750th anniversary of Berlin, but the documentation center, as it stands today, was only inaugurated on 6 May 2010 by President Horst Köhler to the occasion of 65th anniversary of the end of war.
A 200 meter segment of the Berlin Wall, preserved at the historical monument, borders the site next to the Niederkirchnerstrasse. An open-air exhibition documents the history of a place that was the nerve center of political persecution and extermination of the Nazi regime. The entrance is free and the opening hours are from 10 am to sunset (18h October to April and 20h of May to September).
6. Stroll the flea Markets of Mauerpark or Arkonaplatz
Berliners especially appreciate to spend their Sundays to stroll through the flea markets – Or Flohmarkts – of the city. Tradition which is rapidly transmitted to worldwide tourists visiting the capital, taking advantage of these days to find original souvenirs and grabbing more of the local urban culture.
Berlin has many flea markets in each district, where professionals merge with the individual sellers. You can retrieve the current object or from other eras as the GDR or the time before the war, but also furniture, clothing, books, toys, old accessories, new or used.
To name just two, for example you can go to the flea market Arkonaplatz, known for its location on a beautiful square hidden from the view, and for the wide choice it offers. This market is more frequented by families, and is open from 10h to 17h on Sundays.
You can also visit the flea market Mauerpark, the most famous and largest of Berlin. There, professionals, families, groups of friends or elders, all come together to sell their treasures. You can find there absolutely everything: clothes, accessories, but also a wide range of vinyl and bikes. Various food stalls, cafes and open bars are also found everywhere around the market. It is opened from 8h to 18h on Sundays.
There are also arts and cultural markets located near the Museum Island where you would especially find a large selection of works, books and music.
7. Sing in outdoor karaoke
The Mauerpark, Wall Park, was built where took place the old band “no man’s land”, located in the two parallel walls that separated the capital in the past. Today, it was built to become the largest park in Berlin. After making a turn at the flea market Mauerpark, you can spend the rest of the day to stroll within the park and to discover the various wonders and entertainments it offers.
Among them, near the amphitheater, an open air Karaoke is held on Sundays afternoon. From 14h to 20h, Joe Hatchiban and his actual famous Bearpit Karaoke (bicycle-wagon containing all the necessary equipment) offers you to share in the karaoke your good mood to the music of your choice. The entertainment is in several languages; therefore, it is intended for both Berliners and tourists.
The atmosphere is very cheerful, and the good mood is contagious!
8. The abandoned amusement Park of Spreepark
The Spreepark was an amusement park located in the heart of Berlin and the former territory of the GDR. Established in 1969 and formerly known Kültürpark Plänterwald, it was the only amusement park in the history of the GDR.
During the reunification of the two parts of the city, the park was renovated on decisions of the municipal authorities and was renamed “Spreepark”. Many attractions appear in it as roller coasters, trains of the python, etc. But the most famous attraction remains the great wheel.
Following legal problems with the company responsible for the renovation of it, there was declared bankrupt in August 2002. Today, the area is completely abandoned, but the attractions are still present. Many tours are conducted in this mythical place of Berlin life, which has since served as a filming location for numerous cinematic scenes.
You can also walk there alone and discover the ruins of the park that can be beautiful underground decorations!
9. Dancing to Clärchens Ballhaus
Step back into the past and spend a moment in this legendary and multifunction hall of the Berliner life, welcoming many generations since it was opened almost 100 years ago. This is the last true dance hall which is still present in the city. You can take there dance classes (tango, salsa, swing, chacha …), attend a concert or enjoy themed evenings. But also dine in the garden lit with lanterns, have a drink and eat pizza in the hall of mirrors, or even more, unleash yourself on the dance floor to the rhythm of the proposed variety of music. All in an old-school decor, dating from the end of the last century.
The hall is opened on weekdays until 23:30 and weekends until 4 am.
10. The alternative Kreuzberg district
The German capital is full of rich neighborhoods with history and culture. For a unique experience, we recommend the cosmopolitan area of Kreuzberg,in the south of Berlin. The area is inhabited by a large Turkish as well as student and artistic community, making it one of the liveliest of the city.
Formerly home district worker of the immigrant population and leftists and artistic movements, it is now frequented by all the inhabitants, including the Berlin and trendy bobos who are gradually transforming it into home.
Enjoy this detour to hunt for prewar objects in shops and thrift stores, to taste Turkish or Lebanese specialities, or explore along the streets the works of urban art in open air of the neighborhood’s artists. Cocktail bars and a multitude of restaurants and clubs enrich the night and the neighborhood’s festive life.
The German capital is full of overlooked and free places to see and visit, this article is just a non-exhaustive list of places we recommend for first time in Berlin. However if there is one thing that is hard to find, it is free WiFi. So to be sure, don’t forget to take a Pocketwifi with you 😉