As much as we’d like to believe that we fit in like locals everywhere we go, sometimes places faraway and foreign require a little touristing. Berlin is definitely no exception. Yes, you could easily spend all day moving from one coffeeshop to the next (check out our Berlin Craft Coffee Guide), but with a history so complex and chaotic, visiting Berlin’s cultural and historical landmarks is key to understanding the current vibe of the city. Shaped by over a century of wars and crazy governments, Berlin is still in the process of figuring out who it is and who it wants to be.
Leave the fanny pack out of the equation and we give you permission to round out your Berlin experience by flocking with the masses to these tourist hot spots.
You’ve definitely seen this one before. The Brandenburg Gate or Brandenburger Tor is one of the best-known landmarks in Germany. Commissioned by Prussian-era nobility, the gate has withstood over two centuries of tumultuous German history and now serves as a symbol of peace in the reunified city. Selfie Sticks abound.
Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin
Essentially a flexing of the socialist bicep, this icon of the Berlin skyline was built to demonstrate the GDR’s strength and efficiency – and to offer an ever-present reminder that big brother is watching. Now it serves as a defining landmark that allows visitors a three hundred and sixty degree view of the city from over three hundred and sixty meters up in the air. Book tickets in advance to avoid super long wait times.
Panoramastraße 1A, 10178 Berlin
Sun – Sat
9a – 12a
The home of the current German Parliament, the Reichstagsgebäude has seen almost one hundred and fifty years of chaos in the German capital. Housing German governments ranging from the Nazis to modern day German Parliament, the building’s exterior has seen updates just as extreme. The most recent renovation involved the construction of a massive glass dome and roof terrace open to the public. Admission is free, just register in advance here.
Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin
Sun – Sat
8a – 12a
The Berlin Wall embodies post-war Germany like nothing else. Much of it was dismantled after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the remaining stretch through Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg serves as a memorial to a divided city and reminder of a time plagued by Communist control.
Bernauer Straße 119, 13355 Berlin
Tues – Sun
10a – 6p
One of the best-known border crossings from East to West Berlin during the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie now attracts loads of tourists looking for a glimpse into Communist-era Berlin. Besides a recreated guardhouse and some American soldier stand-ins there’s not a whole lot to it, but it’s worth a visit nonetheless.
Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Honoring and remembering the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a must-see while you’re in Berlin. Visitors can meander through the labyrinthine grid of more than two thousand concrete slabs of varying heights designed by architect Peter Eisenman, as well as visit the underground exhibition beneath the memorial.
Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin
Tues – Sun
10a – 8p
Topography of Terror
Located at the site occupied by the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office during the Third Reich, Topographie des Terrors documents the institutions centrally responsible for carrying out crimes against the people of Europe during Hitler’s control. It’s quite a bit of reading, but well worth spending a few hours. Free admission.
Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin
Sun – Sat
10a – 8p
Thanks to two world wars, Berlin isn’t a city rich with extravagant old-world architecture. And while old church sightseeing might be standard fare for a European city, Berlin’s relative lack of timeworn buildings makes a visit to the Berliner Dom a more than worthwhile cliché. You won’t find much else like this in Berlin.
Am Lustgarten, 10178 Berlin
Mon – Sat
9a – 8p
Sundays & Holidays
12p – 8p
The imposing feature of Treptower Park is the Soviet War Memorial. Built by soviets for soviets, the memorial commemorates the eighty thousand soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin and ultimately saved the world from the villainous evils of Fascism. You can almost hear the booming roar of an all-male Russian choir as you enter. Soviet propaganda at its finest.
Puschkinallee, 12435 Berlin
East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery is a stretch of the preserved Berlin Wall bearing visual artwork by artists from all over the world. Its location along the Spree makes it a great spot to take a walk, enjoy the artwork and drink a beer by the river.
Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin
Probably the least touristy of any on this list, Tempelhofer Feld is a shining example of what makes this city so interesting. From the time it opened in 1927 until it closed in 2008, it was one of Europe’s iconic pre-World War II airports. It’s not operational anymore, but serves as a massive recreational space where locals spend long summer days and nights. Grab some beers and a blanket and enjoy a picnic in this historic spot.