72 Hours in Berlin
Welcome to our 3 days in Berlin itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this Berlin Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in Berlin. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
Berlin is a city not to be missed. With a long and tumultuous history, vibrant and eclectic mix of architecture, art, inhabitants, cultures, food and events, it’s truly a city for everyone: no matter what your interests, you will find something fascinating, eye-opening or shocking in Berlin.
Despite having been split into two cities for almost 30 years, it is hard to tell just from walking around whether you are in the former East or West with some neighbourhoods in the former East having been gentrified long ago into middle-class oases and others in the former West having been left behind and only now showing the first signs of becoming popular places to live among yuppies, hipsters and families. As the largest city in Germany and second largest in the EU, hitting the highlights of Berlin in 72 hours will definitely require some planning so let’s get started!
Day 1: Mitte, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg
Start your first day in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate. This iconic symbol of Berlin is the perfect place to start your introduction to the city. Layered in history going back to the late 18th century, this gate that used to form the border of the city has seen many of the changes in the city’s tumultuous history. Perhaps most notably of them all, the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened right in front of the gate. At the time, the gate was actually in a no-man’s land between East and West Berlin while nowadays, the square around the gate is a lively and visited as any large city square throughout Europe, full of street performers, buskers and selfie-taking tourists.
Head next just round the corner to the nearby Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. Opposite the US Embassy, one of Berlin’s most important memorials takes up an entire city block. The stelae of various sizes form a kind of labyrinth, which can transport you to a very still, grey and quiet place if you enter right into the middle. There is also an information centre (closed on Mondays) underneath it, which displays all the known names of the Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Opposite the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe inside Tiergarten is a relatively new memorial formed of a single concrete block with a window inside of which video of same sex couples kissing plays on a loop. This is the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism.
What Central Park is to New York, Tiergarten is to Berlin. The park is the second largest city park in Germany, and is home to a surprising amount of bird life and it’s definitely worth taking some time to admire on warm summer days, or an autumn morning as the leaves change colour.
If it’s cold or raining, head instead to the nearby Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz which resembles a huge tent. Have a coffee and check out the German Film Museum, which focuses on the actress Marlene Dietrich, but also shows retrospectives on the previous years Berlinale film festival.
The Bauhaus Archiv houses an important, documenting the history of the Bauhaus design movement from the 1920s and ’30s. It includes teaching materials, models, plans, photographs and a library and is a must for anyone interested in history of design and architecture.
As the largest department store in Europe, KaDeWe (an abbreviation for Kaufhaus des Westens) is the place in Berlin to indulge your inner shopper. Not only does it boast eight stories, each with a different focus of retail and two of which are dedicated entirely to food, but is also of significant historical importance. Originally Jewish owned, subsequently largely destroyed by bombing and then rebuilt and stood as a symbol for West German economic prosperity in the post war period.
Just down the road at the centre of Kurfürstendamm’s shopping hub, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is the remains of a church from the late 19th century that was severely damaged during the Second World War. Nowadays the ground floor serves as a memorial, while the spire is merely decorative.
By now, you are right by one of the most famous theatres in Berlin for musicals, Theater des Westens. If this is your thing and you’ve had the chance to reserve tickets to a show in advance, you can look forward to an evening of entertainment inside this opulent 19th century building.
Otherwise, head over to A Trane, a jazz bar which hosts a wide range of jazz acts in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere. For a place to eat, wander around Savignyplatz and the streets immediately next to it and you’ll soon find something you like as the area is full of every kind of restaurant from traditional German, Mediterranean, South and South East Asian and more.
Day 2: Mitte and Prenzlauerberg
Sitting on an attractive square, the current Berlin Cathedral was completed in 1905. Start off your second day by catching the famous view of this Historicist style piece of architecture with the GDR-built TV Tower in the background for the perfect juxtaposition of Berlin’s mix of old and new.
Just to your left when standing in front of the Cathedral is the start of Museum Insel, which is home to many of Berlin’s most important museums. You could easily spend an entire day just visiting this handful of museums but instead pick one or two based on your interests. Head to the Altes Museum for antiques collected by Prussian royals, the Neues Museum for Egyptian and prehistoric artefacts, the AlteNationalgalerie for art from the 18th to 20th centuries, the Bode Museum for sculpture and Byzantine art and the Pergamon Museum for Middle Eastern and Islamic art.
If you are not so much a museum person, head across the river to Alexanderplatz to see the famous TV Tower, and take the elevator up to the viewing deck for a view of the city from the highest point, and indeed Europe’s highest building. If on the other hand, you’re interested in even more museums, the German Historical Museum and the GDR Museum are also very close by and worth visiting if you have the time.
The city block of old Berlin known as Nikolaiviertel surrounded by the Soviet architecture of nearby Alexanderplatz can be quite a surreal place to stumble upon at first. Though much of it was rebuilt after the Second World War according to original city plans, you wouldn’t necessarily know to look at it. Wandering around the cobbled streets will temporarily transport you away from the recent history of the German capital and give you the feeling of being in an old German city, untouched by the war.
If you’re hungry and craving some down time (with wifi) before continuing, head back along Unter den Linden to The Digital Eatery (Unter den Linden 17, 10117 Berlin), a café serving light meals, snacks and drinks where you can also use Microsoft tablets for free, charge your phone and connect to their super fast wifi.
The Berlin Wall Memorial is a park along Bernauer strasse on the site of where the Berlin Wall used to run with part of the wall still standing. There are various smaller memorials scattered throughout the park, most notably to those people who tried to escape to West Berlin over the wall and were killed in the process. Across the street, there is an information centre with photography and historical information on display as well as a viewing platform from which you can see a preserved section of the no-man’s-land that used to exist between East and West Berlin.
With dinosaurs skeletons, minerals and meteors aplenty, the Museum of Natural History is housed in a beautiful early 19th century building and is a great place for an educational afternoon. Here you can see the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton and the largest piece of amber in the world, as well as several stuffed examples of now extinct species.
You need to book in advance to get a free time slot to visit the Bundestag Dome, which sits atop of the German Parliamentary building. Unfortunately, it can be booked out for a long while in advance, but evenings are often your best chance if looking for a last minute appointment. You can take an optional (free) audio guide that explains some of the features of the design as well as the landmarks visible around the city as you walk up to the top of the dome.
If you’re hungry after that, head over to Friedrichstrasse for excellent burgers at Hans imGlück (Friedrichstrasse 101, 10117 Berlin) from classic beef, but with many vegetarian and vegan options too.
Day 3: Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Neukölln
No visit to Berlin would be complete without a walk along the East Side Gallery, so start off your last day here. At 1.3km, it is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, and in 1990 was covered in commissioned art on the theme of “peace”, much of which has been renewed since then to cover up graffiti. Ideally, take a calm walk along the entire length of the wall taking it all in.
Head over the river by U-bahn to another iconic landmark in the German capital: Checkpoint Charlie. This is the only checkpoint on the border between East and West Berlin whose presence is still visible today. Get your picture taken with the actors dressed as soldiers wielding British and American flags and check out the outdoor exhibit which, among other things, goes in to some detail on the significance of this particular checkpoint during the Cold War.
Close by is the Topography of Terror, a museum housed in the former headquarters of the Gestapo and SS. Both indoors and outdoors, the permanent exhibitions offer insight into the various groups of victims of the Nazis as well as the use of the building during and after the Second World War. There is also a short preserved section of the Berlin Wall on display.
For a quick bite before carrying on, head to Belegschaft (Zimmerstrasse 23, 10969 Berlin), an all organic café serving soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee and cakes with plenty of vegetarian options, indoor and outdoor seating and wifi.
The largest in Europe, the Jewish Museum, is worth a visit both for the exhibits and for its unique architectural design. Inside it presents 2000 years of German-Jewish history starting in medieval times using various forms of media, much of it told from first person accounts.
The stretch of the Landwehr canal by Baerwaldbrücke, where the canal widens and the green banks either side of it extend out forming a park, is a lovely area to take a walk on a sunny afternoon and soak up the alternative atmosphere of Kreuzberg.
By now, it’ll be time for lunch so stop by A.horn (Carl-Herz-Ufer 9, 10961) for contemporary German cuisine, cakes and light snacks such as bagels served up in a hip, friendly environment on the south side of the canal.
Once an airport, now Berlin’s second largest green space, Tempelhof is more than just a park and is a great place to see how Berliners live. There is a small area reserved for locals to grow vegetables as well as several areas designated for barbecuing, plus several sport grounds. Berliners use open space to run, cycle, rollerblade, windsurf or just hang out with friends and watch the sun set.
If it’s a warm afternoon in summer, pop by Mos Eisley (Herrfurthplatz 6, 12049) in Schillerkiez, directly to the east of Tempelhof for some delicious ice cream with an interesting range of flavours (and some vegan options).
Head back north of the river to Friedrichshain to visit Neue Heimat, a former industrial area that has been transformed into a complex of bars, street food stalls and, in the day-time, flea markets and second hand shops with a very alternative vibe. Come for a drink or two and stay a while for the vibrant atmosphere.
If you’re hungry after this, you’re in luck because there is an abundance of excellent places to eat nearby. Head to Boxhagener Platz just three streets north and browse the many eateries surrounding the square.
If you’re feeling up to it and you want to experience the debauchery of Berlin’s best known party institution on your last night, brave the queue at Berghain and pray you get in. Dress with style (but not over the top) and don’t turn up drunk or in a large group for your best chance. Once in, expect techno beats, minimalist industrial design and unapologetic hedonism!