Hit the highlights of Berlin with this three-day itinerary in the German capital.
Start your Berlin exploration by seeing the city from above, preferably by booking ahead for an early lift ride up to the dome of the Reichstag. From here, stroll south past the Roma & Sinti Memorial to snap a picture of the Brandenburg Gate before exploring the maze of the Holocaust Denkmal (Holocaust Memorial). Head south to Potsdamer Platz, a new city quarter and showcase of contemporary architecture built in the 1990s. Peruse remnants of the Berlin Wall before taking the U2 to Stadtmitte station.
Hook south to Checkpoint Charlie to ponder Cold War history, then double back for a dose of retail therapy in the Friedrichstadtpassagen, a trio of dazzlingly designed shopping complexes anchored by the stylish Galeries Lafayette. Grab a quick bite in its gourmet food hall, then saunter over to the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt and drop by Rausch Schokoladenhaus for a sweet treat and to admire the giant chocolate replicas of Berlin landmarks.
Make your way north to Unter den Linden, a chic boulevard lined by imposing structures built under various Prussian kings. Head east to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), perhaps poking your head inside the frilly Berliner Dom and checking out the status of the Berlin City Palace reconstruction.
Leave the museums themselves for another day and save your energy for a leisurely meander through the winding lanes of the Scheunenviertel, Berlin’s old Jewish quarter. Check out the boutiques of the Hackesche Höfe courtyard ensemble as well as in the surrounding streets, then wind down the day with dinner, perhaps at Muret La Barba, Chèn Chè or the Michelin-starred Pauly Saal. If you’re not yet ready to go home hit the wooden dance floor amid hilarious retro decor at Clärchens Ballhaus.
Devote day two’s morning to time-travelling through ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon and the Middle East at the Pergamonmuseum before reporting to your audience with the Egyptian queen Nefertiti at the adjacent Neues Museum. Relax while letting the sights drift by on a one-hour river cruise around Museumsinsel.
Make your way to Hackescher Markt, hop on tram M1 and head north to the Eberswalder Strasse stop for a Currywurst (sausage drizzled with spicy tomato sauce and curry) at Konnopke’s Imbiss cult sausage kitchen. Thus fortified, embark on an aimless wander around the boho-chic and boutique- and cafe-filled Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood. Swing by the red-brick Kulturbrauerei, a 19th-century brewery turned culture centre, then stroll over to leafy Kollwitzplatz before resting over coffee and cake at Anna Blume.
For the evening head to Kreuzberg, Berlin’s bustling nightlife quarter. The area also teems with wonderful dinner options, including Cafe Jacques, Eins 44 and Defne. Follow up with a bar hop, perhaps popping into clandestine Fahimi Bar, the classy Otto Rink wine bar, the elegant Würgeengel cocktail cave or the deliciously campy Roses.
Kick off day three in western Berlin by heading to Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin’s best-preserved Prussian palace, where you should miss neither the Neuer Flügel (New Wing) nor a spin around the lovely palace gardens.
Assuming it’s not Sunday, the area’s ample shopping opportunities beckon. Take the U2 from Sophie-Charlotte-Platz to the Zoologischer Garten station and start by checking out Bikini Berlin, Berlin’s first concept mall with edgy 1950s design, great boutiques and a view of the monkey enclosure of the adjacent Berlin Zoo. Pop briefly into the landmark Gedächtniskirche, a former church turned war memorial, before hitting Kurfürstendamm, the city’s main shopping artery. Cap your shopping spree at the glorious KaDeWe department store and don’t skip the 6th floor with the mind-boggling food hall.
Spend the rest of the afternoon coming to grips with what life was like in Berlin when the Wall still stood by exploring the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer. Work your way along Bernauer Strasse from the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station to the Mauerpark, which was once bisected by the Berlin Wall and is now a hugely popular weekend gathering spot with a flea market, and picnics and outdoor karaoke in summer. Grab a coffee at Bonanza Coffee Heroes or head straight to Prater, Berlin’s oldest beer garden. If the weather doesn’t play along, Oderquelle is a good indoor dinner option.
This article was first published June 2010 and was updated by Andrea Schulte-Peevers in January 2015.