From the monument and museum-filled Mitte to creative Kreuzberg and the pristine Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin has something for everyone. If you’re spending a weekend in this diverse metropolis, we’ve put together a guide for how to get the most out of Germany’s capital city.
Kick off your wild weekend by responsibly fuelling up on carbs at Goldies, the home of Berlin’s messiest (but tastiest) fries. Wander along the lively Oranienstrasse and stop for a drink at one of the many local watering holes, like hipster haunt Café Luzia or the swanky ORA, a re-purposed 19th century pharmacy brimming with old-school-cool vibes.
Take in the vibrant atmosphere of the iconic Kottbusser Tor (affectionately known as ‘Kotti’ to locals) as you walk towards the unassuming entrance of Fahimi, a ‘secret’ bar accessed through an unmarked door. If the weather allows, take a stroll down to the idyllic Admiralbrücke where locals love to hang out with a few späti (convenience store) beers during the warm summer evenings.
If you feel the pangs of late-night hunger, the streets of Kreuzberg are lined with places to buy Berlin’s favourite street food – the döner kebab – or you can make your way to Schlesisches Tor for Burgermeister, a stall cranking out exquisite burgers from a converted public toilet under the train tracks.
Start the day with an intensely fluffy cinnamon roll and a coffee from Zeit für Brot before jumping on the number 100 bus (€2.80), which will take you on a wallet-friendly tour of all the most important sights in the German capital. Be sure to hop off at the Brandenburg Gate to grab a few selfies, before heading over to the Reichstag to see where the country’s laws are made. Tours of the Reichstag need to be booked in advance, but you have the option to see aerial views of the entire city from the glass dome at the top, you just need to register on the day.
Alternatively, you can also get a great view from the top of the Siegessäule (Victory Column), but you’ll need to contend with the 285 steps to get all the way up. While you’re in the area, be sure to grab a moment of peace in Tiergarten, one of the world’s largest urban parks.
The Topographie des Terrors is another must-see along the 100 bus route, offering a deeply interesting, sombre look at the atrocities committed by the Nazis. After reflecting on the darkest period of Germany’s history, stop by the Holocaust Memorial to pay your respects.
After craning your neck to gaze up at the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) at Alexanderplatz and refuelling with an obligatory currywurst (sausage with curry powder and fries), wander over to Museum Island. Here you’ll find fine art, historical relics, and the very modern latest addition, the James-Simon-Galerie.
Take the S-Bahn to Warschauer Strasse and marvel at the iconic Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin’s prettiest bridge, before wandering along the East Side Gallery. This preserved stretch of the Berlin Wall is now adorned with commissioned artworks and recreations of the most famous graffiti from the time of Berlin’s division.
If all that history has left you feeling parched, keep walking along the river until you reach Holzmarkt, a beautiful, rustic bar complex sitting on the banks of the Spree.
Berlin is your oyster, and Saturday night is the perfect time to party! Whether you’re a staunch techno fan or you like to jam out to the oldies, you’ll find a nightclub to suit you. To get in the mood, load up on Club-Mate before heading out; a sparkling iced tea loaded with caffeine that locals love for late nights on the town.
To many Berliners, Sunday means a long lazy morning at brunch, usually in buffet form. Head to Pasternak for a taste of Russian influence or stick with more Western fare at Betty ‘n Caty before taking a walk over to Mauerpark, the home of Berlin’s most popular flea market. Wander past rows and rows of knick-knacks, vintage furniture, second-hand clothes, locally crafted accessories, artisanal liqueurs, GDR memorabilia, all while getting some sublime people watching in.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Kulturbrauerei where the eclectic Street Food Auf Achse is held every Sunday from January to October. Countless food trucks and vendors descend on the cultural centre every week to sell the delicacies of their homelands, from Brazilian tapioca treats and Argentinian empanadas to Chinese dim sum and Italian porchetta.
Next stop is the Berlin Wall Memorial, a long open-air exhibit following the length of the Berlin Wall from Bernauer Strasse to Nordbahnhof, reflecting on the daily struggles of those who lived in a divided Berlin at the epicentre of Cold War tensions.
Aim to wind up at The Castle on Invalidenstrasse to grab a cool craft beer.
Where to stay
Berlin’s various districts have distinct personalities, so it’s a good idea to find which one is right for you. If you’re mostly here to hit the clubs, staying in Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain will allow you easy access to your hedonistic pursuits without having to fork out for taxis every night. If you’re here to fill your weekend with history, museums and art, the central district of Mitte is your best option. Coffee lovers and foodies who like a trendy twist will prefer Neukölln and Friedrichshain. Prenzlauer Berg offers a cleaner and more serene stay while still having great access to the rest of the city, and Charlottenburg is the best bet if you’re here for shopping. Schöneberg is known as the city’s LGBT hub, where you’ll find many gay and queer-focused hotels and hostels.
How to get there
Berlin has two international airports, both with flights to major cities across the globe. A bus service (€2.80) is available from Tegel Airport in the northwest, and buses and trains (€3.40) to the city centre are available at Schönefeld Airport in the southeast.