I hated Berlin the first time I visited but then I fell in love with it when I revisited.

The reason I hated Berlin the first time was because it was always super cold, gloomy, and dark. It was still cold when I revisited but I had accepted the weather and the dark vibes. Instead, I focused on the city’s uniqueness, amazing culture, and bohemian scene, so I ended up falling in love with it.

Somewhere in Freidrichshain-Kreuzberg, Berlin
Somewhere in Freidrichshain-Kreuzberg, Berlin

If you’re visiting Berlin for the first time, I don’t want you to have a bad experience like I did. I am writing this post because I hope my Berlin travel tips help you fall in love with this city too.

Planning a last-minute trip to Berlin and don’t have a lot of time to research? Here’s what to book in Berlin:

Berlin Hotels:

East Berlin and West Berlin

History buff or not, we all know about the division of Berlin into East Berlin and West Berlin. But in any case, here’s a quick history session for you.

The division of Berlin into East and West Berlin was a consequence of World War II. East Berlin emerged as the capital of East Germany (officially known as the German Democratic Republic or GDR) and was under Soviet control. It became a symbol of communism in the Eastern Bloc.

This was formerly East Berlin
This was formerly East Berlin

Similarly, West Berlin became the western enclave within East Germany, surrounded by the Berlin Wall. It was jointly administered by the United States, Great Britain, and France and served as a beacon of democracy and capitalism amidst the communist-controlled East.

The infamous Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 to prevent East Germans from fleeing to the West. The wall stood as a physical and ideological barrier for nearly three decades, symbolizing the division of Europe during the Cold War.

On November 9, 1989, it was announced that Berlin’s citizens could freely cross the border into West Berlin. This led to celebration as crowds of East and West Berliners gathered at the wall, tearing it down with hammers and pickaxes.

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War and paved the way for German reunification.

The struggle - East Side Gallery in Berlin
The struggle – East Side Gallery in Berlin

While much of the Berlin Wall was demolished in the years following reunification, several sections were preserved as memorials and historical sites. They are the East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall Memorial, and the Topography of Terror exhibit.

The East Side Gallery is one of the most famous sections of the Berlin Wall still standing today. It stretches for 1.3 kilometers along the Spree River and features over 100 murals painted by artists from around the world. The street art here expresses themes of freedom, unity, and hope, making the East Side Gallery a powerful symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over oppression.

Back in 2018 when I visited Berlin, I spent several hours exploring the East Side Gallery and was completely in awe.

English is Widely Spoken & International Culture

Having grown up in a city that’s big on international culture, that’s an aspect I miss while living in Germany because even the bit cities are very non-international. But in that case, Berlin wins in every way.

The river side - Behind the East side gallery, Berlin
The inside lane of the East Side Gallery leads to this – the River side

Berlin is one of the very few cities in Germany where you can get by without having to learn German. Yes, English is widely spoken but that’s not the whole point.

Internationalization isn’t just about ease of speaking in English but the presence of people from many different cultures and the city having adopted a diverse culture as its identity.

So, if you are visiting Germany from another country and you are worried about not being able to talk in German, then be happy that you most likely won’t encounter any language barriers in Berlin. I never did and I have so many expat friends living in Germany who still haven’t learned German.

Berlin’s Techno is on the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

On our way to a Techno Party in Berlin
On our way to a Techno Party in Berlin

If you’re into music then you probably know this already Berlin’s the birthing city for Techno culture, and the city’s party culture is one of a kind. It isn’t for the faint-hearted but it is an epic experience.

Believe it or not, Berlin’s Techno culture has joined the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2024. This list recognizes and safeguards important traditions, practices, and expressions that aren’t physical objects.

So that gives you a big reason to party because it’s all in the name of experiencing Berlin’s culture, right?

So what are the most famous techno clubs in Berlin? No doubt Berghain is the most famous one but that’s not the only one. Be prepared to stand in a line for hours to get in and be prepared you might get rejected because half of the people do.

So consider visiting places like About Blank, Club Ost, Anomalie Art Club (which turns into a club at night), Revier Südost – RSO (earlier Griessmuehle club), ELSE, Tresor, Sisyphos and the famous kinky KitKat club. I will write a post soon about Berlin’s party scene.

LGBTQ+ Friendly

The Kiss - East Side Gallery in Berlin
The Kiss – East Side Gallery in Berlin

Berlin is often regarded as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the world. It has a vibrant and diverse queer community, LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and events, and an inclusive atmosphere. You don’t have to look for an LGBTQ bar because every single bar or club is LGBTQ-friendly.

The city hosts one of the largest Pride events in Europe, known as Christopher Street Day (CSD), which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Additionally, Berlin has strong anti-discrimination laws and policies in place to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Overall, Berlin is considered a welcoming and inclusive city for the LGBTQ+ community.

Green Spaces

One of the things I love to do while visiting busy cities is take a breather in public parks. Thankfully Berlin has loads of green spaces too.

My favorite park in Berlin is actually in a busy area, it is Spreebogenpark, right next to the central train station (Hauptbahnhof). This public park is built on one side of the curve of River Spree and there is a historical bridge that you can admire.

Capital Beach Strandbar in Spreebogenpark
Capital Beach Strandbar in Spreebogenpark

There is also a riverside bar (Capital Beach Strandbar) where you can sit if the weather permits to enjoy a few drinks. I did. There are loads of summer riverside events on the waterfront.

You can also visit the Zoologischer Garten if you are going with children. A few more parks are:

  • Tempelhofer Feld
  • James-Simon-Park
  • Volkspark Friedrichshain
  • Mauerpark
  • Körnerpark
  • Viktoriapark – with a national monument, waterfalls & viewpoints.
  • Rudolph-Wilde-Park
  • Schlossgarten Charlottenburg

Berlin is Budget Friendly Compared to Other German Cities

Having lived in Germany for 7 years, I think Berlin is one of the most affordable cities to visit. If you often travel to Europe, I will tell you that Berlin is cheaper than Amsterdam or Helsinki, but a bit more expensive than Zagreb, Prague, or Bucharest.

No doubt Berlin has expensive places too but you can always find a variety of budget-friendly options for places to stay and eat that are pretty decent.

For instance, if you stay in Mitte, everything is expensive but if you visit Berlin Ost (East Berlin), then everything is affordable, even nice hotel rooms, bars, and restaurants.

In comparison, the other cities of Germany like Hamburg, Munich or Frankfurt are more expensive to visit.

Moody Berlin Weather

Grey Skies and Berlin's moody weather
Grey Skies and Berlin’s moody weather

Just like the rest of Germany, the weather in Berlin is unpredictable and moody. One minute it is sunny and the next minute it rains.

Especially if you are visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. It happened in front of me that it was 25 degrees and warm but within the next 10 minutes, a hailstorm started.

So, even if you are visiting in summer, carry a jacket for warmth and a rain poncho. Needless to say winters are super cold and freezing and you should be prepared with your snow boots and jackets.

If you get lucky with warm and clear weather in summer, then Berlin is a lot of fun because there are a lot of open-air parties, cultural events, markets, and other interesting things. Or, one could just sit next to the River Spree in one of the parks.

Open Air Markets

Open Air Market in market in Berlin Friedrichshain
Open Air Market in Berlin Friedrichshain via Unsplash

Berlin’s open-air markets are a colorful tapestry of culture, offering everything from fresh produce and artisanal goods to vintage clothing and antiques. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from these vibrant marketplaces:

Some of Berlin’s markets have a long history dating back centuries. For example, the Turkish Market (Türkenmarkt) in Kreuzberg has been a fixture since the 19th century and offers a taste of Istanbul in the heart of Berlin.

Here are a few of Berlin’s notable open-air markets:

  • Markthalle Neun: Located in Kreuzberg, Markthalle Neun is a historic market hall hosting a variety of food-related events, including the popular Street Food Thursday. It features a diverse range of vendors offering everything from regional specialties to international cuisines.
  • Mauerpark Flohmarkt (Mauerpark Flea Market): Held every Sunday in Prenzlauer Berg, Mauerpark Flea Market is one of Berlin’s largest and most famous flea markets. Visitors can browse through a vast array of vintage clothing, antiques, artwork, and handmade crafts, as well as enjoy live music and street performances.
  • Turkish Market (Türkenmarkt): Taking place along Maybachufer in Kreuzberg, the Turkish Market is a bustling outdoor market held twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). It offers a vibrant mix of Turkish and Middle Eastern foods, spices, textiles, and household goods.
People walking through market in Berlin Friedrichshain, Germany
People walking through a market in Berlin Friedrichshain, Germany via Unsplash
  • Boxhagener Platz Flohmarkt (Boxhagener Platz Flea Market): Situated in Friedrichshain, this flea market takes place every Sunday and is known for its eclectic mix of vintage clothing, vinyl records, books, and retro furniture. It’s a popular spot for treasure hunting and people-watching.
  • Winterfeldtmarkt: Located in Schöneberg, Winterfeldtmarkt is one of Berlin’s oldest and most traditional food markets. It offers a wide selection of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, bread, pastries, and flowers, attracting both locals and tourists looking for high-quality, locally sourced goods.

Arriving at Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Berlin Brandenburg Airport is a busy but small international airport and is nicer than many other German airports. It is newly built and has new automated check-in kiosks.

When you arrive here, be aware that you don’t need to take an overpriced taxi because Berlin’s public transport is amazing and everything connects well with the airport. Read the public transportation section in this post for more details about tickets and tips.

At the arrival hall, just follow the signs for “S-Bahn” or bus. Airport Express buses, regional trains, S-Bahns – S9 and S45 run from here to Berlin Hauptbahnhof every 15 minutes.

It is good to know that you have to go to Terminal 1 on level U2 for the railway station. The bus stops are also located on T1. Terminal 1 and 2 are just a few minutes of walk apart and the direction signs are easy to find.

Public Transportation

Fun fact: In 2023 CNN named Berlin’s public transportation the best in the world.

Berlin's S-Bahn and U-Bahns are awesome
Berlin’s S-Bahn and U-Bahns are awesome

Berlin’s public transportation system is really easy and makes it affordable to navigate the city. There’s the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, and trams. The S-Bahns are the subway trains and U-Bahns are the underground trains. Trams run on the streets and so do the buses.

When you arrive in Berlin by train, you will most likely arrive at Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Ostbahnoff. You can get single-journey public transportation tickets or longer. Get yourself a public transportation card based on the duration of your stay. You can get a card for a day, two days, or even a week. The public transportation card for a day costs 9.90 Euros in 2024.

Berlin Public Transport card for one day
Berlin Public Transport card for one day

The ticket machines are on all the stations and you can use cash or card. Before you get on to your S-Bahn or U-Bahn, make sure you validate your ticket in one of the small yellow box-like machines right next to the ticket machines. If you fail to do so, your ticket isn’t valid and you may have to pay a fine if caught.

When catching an S-Bahn or a U-Bahn, look at the direction they are going – the end destination is displayed on top.

What I love about Berlin is that the city is bike-friendly and there are dedicated lanes for bicycles. You can also use app-based E-Scooters like Tier or Bolt. Tip: If you are walking on the sidewalk in Berlin, stay clear of the bike paths.

Berlin Welcome Card

The Berlin WelcomeCard is a popular tourist pass that offers visitors a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city’s attractions, public transportation network, and discounts at various establishments.

One of the key features of the Berlin Welcome Card is unlimited travel on Berlin’s public transportation system, including buses, trams, S-Bahn (suburban trains), U-Bahn (subway), and regional trains within the city’s AB fare zone. This makes it easy for visitors to navigate the city and reach popular tourist destinations.

The card provides discounts and special offers at over 200 attractions, museums, tours, restaurants, and shops across the city.

The Berlin Welcome Card is available for different durations, ranging from 2 to 6 days, allowing visitors to choose the option that best fits their itinerary. It can also be purchased for individuals or groups, making it suitable for solo travelers, couples, families, and friends.

What to See in Berlin

Brandenburger tor in Berlin
Brandenburger tor in Berlin via Unsplash

Berlin has loads of tourist attractions for every kind of traveler. There are places to admire art, churches, historical sites, contemporary things to see, and war memorials.

I want to mention loads of things but this post is just about Berlin travel tips and I don’t want to get into details of too many things to do, but this is just for your information if you’re going.

Palaces and Parks of Potsdam & Berlin (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

  • Babelsberg Palace
  • Schloss Charlottenburg
  • Schloss Caputh
  • Charlottenburg Palace
  • Glienicke Villa and Casino
  • Cecilienhof Country House
  • Schloss Köpenick (Water Palace)

A Few Other Important Landmarks:

  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Victory Column (Siegessäule)
  • Alexanderplatz TV Tower / Berliner Fernsehturm
  • Reichstag building (with a spectacular glass dome)

Art:

  • East Side Gallery
  • Galerie Eigen & Art
  • Loop – raum fur aktuelle kunst

Churches and Religious Buildings:

Berlin Cathedral : Berliner Dom in Berlin
Berlin Cathedral : Berliner Dom in Berlin
  • Berliner Dom / Berlin Cathedral
  • Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
  • Marienkirche
  • Twintowers of the Deutscher Dom or Neue Kirche
  • Nikolaikirche
  • New Synagogue /Neue Synagoge

Historical and War Memorials:

  • Checkpoint Charlie
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
  • Berliner Mauer

Museums:

  • Berlin Wall Memorial
  • DDR Museum
  • Berlinische Galeri
  • Museumsinsel / Museum Island with Pergamon Museum (UNESCO World Heritage Site with 5 world-class museums)
  • Topography of Terror

Contemporary things to see in Berlin:

  • Dark Matter
  • Dead Chicken Valley

Berlin’s Backyards

Berlin's Hinterhöfe are interesting
Berlin’s Interesting Hinterhöfe via Unsplash

One of the best free things to do in Berlin is explore the Hinteröfe. Just like Amsterdam has its Hofjes, Berlin has its HinterHöfes, which are backyards.

The Hinterhöfe are the inner courtyards which are hidden behind the facades of the city’s apartment buildings. They have a rich history and play an important role in the city’s urban fabric.

Today, many Hinterhöfe have been repurposed for contemporary uses, such as artist studios, co-working spaces, cafes, galleries, and small businesses. These spaces contribute to Berlin’s reputation as a creative and entrepreneurial hub.

I’d mention a few Höfe that you can see in Berlin:

Heckmann-Höfe – Heckmann-Höfe is a backyard of a former factory building. This inner courtyard has an entrance with colorful lighting in Mitte, Berlin.

This courtyard provides a tranquil escape from the bustling city streets. The courtyards are often adorned with greenery, sculptures, and seating areas, creating inviting spaces for relaxation and socializing.

Hackesche Höfe in Berlin
Hackesche Höfe in Berlin via Unsplash

Hackesche Höfe – Hackesche Höfe is located in Hackescher Markt, which is a popular shopping area situated in the Mitte district of Berlin, close to Alexanderplatz and within walking distance of major attractions like Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom).

One of the highlights of Hackescher Markt is the Hackesche Höfe, a series of interconnected courtyards featuring beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, cafes, shops, and theaters. It’s a popular destination for visitors looking to explore Berlin’s architectural heritage and vibrant urban spaces.

Haus Schwarzenberg – Haus Schwarzenberg is a historic building complex located in the Mitte district of Berlin, Germany. It is renowned for its Hinterhöfe with vibrant street art, cultural initiatives, and an alternative atmosphere.

Berlin’s Neighborhoods

Berlin isn’t tiny, so the city has lots of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character, history, and atmosphere. An easy way to understand Berlin’s neighborhoods is by dividing them into three groups based on geography:

  • Berlin’s center: Mitte, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.
  • East Berlin: Pankow, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Lichtenberg, Prenzlauer Berg, and Treptow-Köpenick.
  • West Berlin: Spandau, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Reinickendorf.

I won’t talk about all the neighborhoods, but just a few of them for you.

Berlin Mitte near Hauptbahnhof
Berlin Mitte near Hauptbahnhof

Mitte: Mitte translates to “middle” and is considered the heart of Berlin. It’s home to many of the city’s major landmarks, such as the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, and Alexanderplatz. Mitte combines historic sites with modern architecture and is a bustling hub of culture, commerce, and government.

FriedrichshainKreuzberg: This is my favorite neighborhood in Berlin and I usually stay here. Known for its alternative and multicultural vibe, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has long been a center for artists, activists, and immigrants.

It’s famous for its vibrant street art, eclectic nightlife scene, and diverse culinary offerings. It’s renowned for its lively nightlife, with clubs like Berghain and Watergate drawing partygoers from around the world. Friedrichshain also has a thriving arts scene, trendy cafes, and a bustling flea market at Boxhagener Platz.

A man making music with plumbing pipes - East Side Gallery in Berlin
A man making music with plumbing pipes – East Side Gallery in Berlin

Prenzlauer Berg: Once a working-class neighborhood in East Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg has undergone gentrification in recent decades. It’s now known for its picturesque streets lined with cafes, boutiques, and renovated 19th-century buildings. Prenzlauer Berg is popular with young families and has a relaxed, hipster vibe.

Neukölln: Located in the southeastern part of the city, Neukölln has a diverse population and is known for its multicultural atmosphere. It’s an area of contrasts, with trendy cafes and galleries coexisting alongside traditional Turkish markets and Middle Eastern eateries. Neukölln is rapidly changing, attracting young professionals and artists seeking affordable living spaces.

Neukölln Arcaden, Karl-Marx-Straße, Berlin, Germany
Neukölln Arcaden, Karl-Marx-Straße, Berlin, Germany via Unsplash

Charlottenburg: In contrast to the hip neighborhoods of the east, Charlottenburg exudes an air of elegance and sophistication. It’s home to upscale shops along Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s premier shopping street, as well as historic landmarks like Charlottenburg Palace. Charlottenburg offers a quieter pace of life and is popular with families and affluent residents.

Schöneberg: Schöneberg has a rich cultural history and was once the center of Berlin’s LGBTQ+ community. It’s known for its vibrant nightlife, particularly around Nollendorfplatz, as well as its diverse culinary scene. Schöneberg also has leafy residential streets and green spaces like Viktoria-Luise-Platz.

Eating Out in Berlin

Berlin has an amazing food scene
Berlin has an amazing food scene

What’s the most famous food in Berlin? Döner Kebab! Yes, it is Turkish but it was created with this name for the first time in Berlin and you can try it at one of the many roadside Imbisses in the city.

Having lived in Germany, I’m bored of eating Döner and Currywurst – two things that Berlin is famous for so I always eat other things.

In my opinion, Berlin has an amazing food scene and I love trying new restaurants here. Once you have had your quota of these things, I recommend you try some fun restaurants – so many open every year.

Vegan or meat eater – you would find plenty of options for all kinds of flavorful fusion meals.

Free Wifi in Berlin

The city of Berlin provides free Wi-Fi access at various locations through its “Berlin Free Wi-Fi” initiative. This service covers many public squares, parks, libraries, and government buildings throughout the city. Users can connect to the network named “Free WiFi Berlin” and access the internet for free for a limited time each day.

Moreover, there are some areas where you will always find free WiFi, such as Alexanderplatz, Mauerpark, and many public libraries.

Where to Stay in Berlin?

Our bedroom in Habyt - The Waterfront, Berlin
Our bedroom in Habyt – The Waterfront, Berlin

I love the East part of Berlin and that’s where I always stay because of its amazing character, bohemian vibe, and international scene. I stayed in a newly constructed hotel called Habyt – The Waterfront in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that’s super close to Ostkreuz station.

My room was super affordable and had large windows, a small kitchenette, and a nice toilet. The bed was comfortable. This hotel also had meeting rooms and a nice sitting area near the reception.

The lobby area in Habyt - The Waterfront
The lobby area in Habyt – The Waterfront

My visit to Berlin was just for the purpose of clubbing, and for that, I found the location of this hotel perfect because it is within walking distance from Club Ost and About Blank. Berghain is 15 minutes away on the S-Bahn from this hotel.


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