Best of Berlin in a day

By Arif Khan, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on Berlin.

Overall rating:4.3 out of 5 (based on 4 votes)
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Recommended for:
Activity, Cultural, Short Break, Mid-range

Berlin is home to more than 150 museums and countless other landmarks. With so much to see and explore and only a day to spare, read on how to make the most of your stay in this historic city

Berlin, the capital city of Germany built around the Spree River is home to more than 150 museums and countless other landmarks. You need a week’s time to fully appreciate and admire this beautiful place. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification in 1989 have healed the scars of the past and helped Berlin emerge as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe.

Imagine arriving in a city as big and happening as Berlin with only a day to spare. With so much to see, experience and explore, you may want to fit in as much as possible but before you realize and ponder over what to see and how to move around, half of the day is probably gone. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your day in this historic city.

The first thing we did was to buy a Day card (Tageskarte) which allows unlimited travel on all public transportation - buses, trams, S Bahn and U Bahn. Priced at 6.10 Euros and valid until 3 am the following day, these Day cards are available at the vending machines located at most of the underground and urban rail stations. Children under 6 travel free with an adult ticket holder. Remember to validate the ticket before you start your first journey. Check their website for more details www.bvg.de

09:00

We had a filling breakfast at hotel, boarded Tram 4 just outside the hotel and reached the historic centre (Mitte) of Berlin. Most of Berlin’s famous landmarks are located in this area. We strolled along the Spree River to reach Museumsinsel about 15 minutes before the gates opened.

09:45

The northern part of Spree Island houses five of Berlin’s best museums filled with thousands of years of treasure from all over the world. This cluster of museums also referred to as Museumsinsel (http://www.smb.museum/smb/home/index.php)  has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Gates open at 10am, meaning you are not likely to be bothered by the hordes of tourist groups and school kids who throng the museums later during the day. Keeping in view the time constraint, we focused our attention on just two museums:

Pergamon Museum (Admission 10 Euro), further subdivided into antiquity collection, museum of Islamic art and the Middle East museum houses huge sized artifacts excavated mainly from various regions of Turkey. What impressed us the most was the Greek Pergamon Altar, Blue Babylonian Ishtar Gate and the Market gate of Miletus

Neues Museum or New Museum (Admission 10 Euro) reopened in 2009 mainly houses collection from the Egyptian and pre-historic era. The star attraction of this museum is the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

11:30

Finished with the museums, it was time now for some relaxation and visual treats. Under the bridge near the magnificent Berlin cathedral there are numerous tour companies which can take you on an hour long leisurely Spree river cruise (Tickets 10 Euro) passing through historic Berlin. A multilingual audio guide is available and included in the ticket price.
 

13:00

Refreshed by the Spree river cruise, we walked towards the Hackescher Market and had lunch in Weihenstephaner (Oberland Gaststätten Betriebs GmbH, Neue Promenade 5, Mitte; +49 (0)30 25 76 28 71; www.weihenstephaner-berlin.de).  Located in an old historic building this restaurant serves authentic Bavarian cuisine. We had a soup (Beef with liver dumplings) and grilled meat with potato-cucumber salad which cost us 12 Euro each.

13:45

We took the U-Bahn and got off at Kochstr to visit Checkpoint Charlie, a key Cold War site used as a crossing point in the Berlin Wall. Except for a small museum nothing much is to be seen here so we followed the Friedrichstrasse to reach Gendarmenmarkt, one of the most beautiful squares in entire Germany. The centre of the square has the statue of a famous German poet (I don’t remember the name). The square is also adorned by a Concert hall and German & French cathedrals facing each other.
Moving further ahead we reached Unter den Linden, Berlin’s grandest tree lined boulevard. Strolling along the street was an experience in itself as we passed by cathedrals, palaces, statues, Humboldt University and other heritage buildings. The end of the street led us to the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

16:00

Brandenburger Tor (Gate) built during 1788-1791 is Berlin’s only remaining gate and is one of Europe’s most famous landmarks. In the cold war era, the gate became a symbol of city’s separation and was situated in the no man’s land just behind the wall. The gate was reopened on December 22 1989 after the fall of the Wall. Spend some time here admiring the monument which has witnessed tumultuous periods of history.
Just south of the gate is the Holocaust Memorial in memory of the Jewish victims of the infamous Holocaust. We stood in silence at the site, even my son was silenced by the spiritually charged atmosphere of the site.

17:00

Just close to the Brandenburger gate is the Reichstag, which functions as the seat of German Parliament, the Bundestag (Platz der Republik 1; Tel: +49 30 227 32152; www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/index.html). The outer facade of the building is impressive but what attracts the attention of tourists is the glass dome designed by renowned architect Norman Foster.
The roof terrace and glass dome are open to public from 08.00 hrs to midnight daily (last admission: 22.00 hrs). Entry is free but you can expect a waiting time of 30-40 minutes during peak tourist periods. If you are traveling with kids under 7 years old or disabled people, you might be lucky as we were and get direct access from a side entrance, to the right of the main one.

A multilingual audio guide (free) takes you through the history of the German Parliament and the sights you will see during the ascent and descent. The top of the dome offers excellent views of the city and its surroundings.

19:00

If your legs have given up, don’t be disheartened, there is still something you can do without spending a penny. Just outside the Parliament catch Bus no100 going towards the Zoo. Sit back, relax and enjoy the sights on the way. From the Zoo station catch Bus no 200 which follows a different route and goes to Alexanderplatz passing through the beautiful area of Potsdamer Platz. No tickets are required to be purchased as your Day ticket is valid on these buses.

21:00

Back to Alexanderplatz we spent some time walking around and gazing at the towering TV tower. We didn’t have enough time to go to the top but those who have time can try the observation deck (Admission 10.50 Euro), which also has a bar and restaurant. Do check their website for more details http://www.tv-turm.de/en/index.php  
We were clueless about dinner, in our quest for food we landed up at a Spanish restaurant Las Olas (Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 29 10178 Berlin-Mitte, Alexanderplatz; Tel. +49 (0 30) 2 41 54 72; www.las-olas.de). The place had beautiful interiors and claimed to serve authentic cuisine from the southern region of Spain. We were not disappointed either, as the mixed ‘Paella’ (chicken & fish) we ordered was quite filling and delicious and cost us 13 euro each.
We were tired by now, decided to call it a day and boarded the tram to return back to the hotel. For those who want to carry on, there is a stylish club in the same area, Hit Weekend (Alexanderplatz 5; http://www.week-end-berlin.de/), to swing, groove and dance to the latest tunes.

Where to stay:

We stayed in Grand City Hotel Berlin East (Landsberger Allee 203, Lichtenberg, 13055 Berlin) and paid 60 Euros for a double room. Breakfast was charged extra at 13 Euro/per person/per day. We got a large room with comfortable beds and spotlessly clean bathroom. The only disadvantage was its location, being a bit far from the city centre. However there is a tram stop opposite the hotel which can help you reach the bustling Alexanderplatz square in 15-20 minutes.

Leonardo Royal Hotel (Otto-Braun-Strasse 90, D10249 Berlin) is another excellent hotel located in the heart of Mitte district, just 15 minutes' walk from Alexaderplatz. All the rooms are equipped with air-conditioning and include a minibar, safe and LCD TV. Double rooms are available at 130 Euros inclusive of breakfast. The huge terrace restaurant with more than 400 seats serving international cuisine is one of the highlights of this hotel.

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More information on Best of Berlin in a day:

Author:
Arif Khan
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4.25
Average: 4.3 (4 votes)
Total views:
447
First uploaded:
10 September 2010
Last updated:
3 years 18 weeks 4 days 15 hours 53 min 22 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Cultural, Short Break
Budget level:
Mid-range
Free tags / Keywords:
museums, cathedral, public transport, parliaments, river cruise

Arif recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Grand City Hotel Berlin East
£21
N/A
2. Leonardo Royal Hotel Berlin
£50
N/A

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Community comments (9)

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

A really useful guide Arif - I really liked the way you laid out an itinerary with timings to really make the most of one day in the city - this was a really good idea and very valuable for someone with time constraints.

Really good photos too. Thank you.

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Rating:
5
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Arif,

I wish that I would have read a guide like this when I last visited Europe in 2007 and actually had only 24 hours in hand to see Berlin. By the time I could figure out the complex metro network to travel around half of the day slipped out of my hands!
I would definitely refer to your guide if I happen to visit Berlin the next time to extract most of the city. I personally appreciate the time break-up style of writing which is very important for a guide higlighting "BEST OF THE CITY IN A DAY".
Keep it up !!

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Hi Runa,

Thanks for the positive comments! I am happy you liked the guide.

Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Berlin is certainly worth more than one day, but for visitors who can only afford a day this guide will help them to make the most of it.

I love the layout with the use of times as headings. I haven't seen that before on Simonseeks and it works very well.

It is packed with plenty of useful tips, like the travel card and visiting Museum Island first to avoid crowds later in the day.

I really like your photos, especially the glass dome in the Parliament and you have captured some lovely light on the building shots.

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Thanks Colin for the positive comments on the guide as well as the pictures !

Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Arif

I agree one of the great things about Berlin is how easy and cheap it is to get around. As with any city it's hard to encapsulate the whole place within 24 hours but I think you did pretty well. The only thing missing was one of the famous doner kebabs.

The poet was Schiller by the way.

Simon

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Hi Simon,

Thanks for your comments!

Rating:
4
1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Some very good time-saving tips here, as you are right that it is too much to see in a day. This guide will help people greatly. Berlin is not beautiful, but it is hugely interesting. The Reichstag is indeed quite stunning.

If visitors have more than a day, I would suggest a day trip to Potsdam, reachable by train: lots of grand, pointless fairytale buildings! Also, if you have never dined in complete darkness, try dinner at the Unsicht Bar (www.unsicht-bar.com), where blind waiting staff guide you to your tables and talk you through the menus. It might sound tacky, but it is an amazing experience.

Good guide, Arif, thank you.

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Hi Murray,

Thanks for your valuable feedback and comments. I had never imagined that dining in complete darkness is possible. I visited the link you provided and it was too hard to believe. They have outlets in Cologne and Hamburg too, i will try it out during my visit to any of these cities.