We did not spend much time in Berlin, but we packed in a lot in a short period of time. One day was a little more leisurely with shopping and the second was full of sightseeing. I will outline for you below our schedule for the two days and my recommendations.
Day one: We spent most of the first day doing some shopping. Something to keep in mind is that no stores are open on Sunday. All of the shopping malls, boutiques, department stores, etc. are closed. On Saturday, the stores close at 8pm. I first visited the Bikini House Berlin, which was a small shopping mall within walking distance of our hotel. It had well known stores such as Scotch and Soda, but my main interest in this mall was its independent designers and pop up shops. I love unique things that I cannot find in the US. This mall is easily managed and not overwhelming. I had a couple of good finds at clothing boutique address and some jewelry at an independent pop up. I still love and wear these pieces.
There are a couple of great department stores in Berlin as well. One is Galeries Lafayette. I did not visit this store on our trip due to time constraints, but I can speak to how amazing their outpost in Paris is. The second department store is KaDaWe. As I mentioned in another post, this is the largest department store in Europe outside of Harrods in London. The food hall here is a must see at the minimum for a walk through. Something will entice you in! Another thing worth mentioning is Torstrasse Street (near the bar Buck and Breuk) seemed to be a fantastic street to stroll and do some window shopping. We passed by on Sunday when everything was closed, and I was sad I wasn’t going to be able to go inside.
Day Two: This day was devoted entirely to sightseeing. I will number the sights we visited below with recommendations.
1. Victory Column – this is on the edge of the Tiergarten. You pay to enter the small “museum” at the bottom and then can climb many stairs to the top for views over the park and Berlin. The climb to the top is strenuous and not advised for those that are not physically fit. Compared to other viewpoints in Prague and Berlin, I do not feel that the climb to the top was particularly worth it. My advise would be to take photos and not go inside for the climb.
2. Reichstag – this is part of the government quarter in Berlin. The centerpiece of Reichstag is the glass dome roof. You have to purchase timed entry tickets online in advance. We looked for tickets one week prior to arrival and they were sold out. If you do not have a timed entry ticket, you can check the nearby visitors center for last minute cancellations. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the dome. It looked gorgeous and definitely worth the visit. Check well in advance if this is something you would like to see!
3. Brandenburger gate – a famous and highly photographed landmark in Berlin. It is in close proximity to the Reichstag. Lighting is best in the early morning and at sunset. We arrived in the morning hours, and it was quite crowded!
4. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – this Holocaust Memorial also has a museum to visit as well. We stayed outside and did not visit the museum. It is a very sobering stop.
5. Checkpoint Charlie – the gateway between the two Berlins. It is literally in the middle of the road. We walked by for a photo opportunity, and I also purchased some very touristy souvenirs in their museum store such as a piece of the Berlin wall. It does come with its own authenticity certificate! I also really love my T shirt from there that states “You are entering the American sector”.
6. Gendarmenmarkt – a beautiful square in Berlin with the concert hall in the center. We went into one of the twin bookended buildings and explored for free. Deutscher Dom was the name of it and inside was an exhibit on the history of German Parliament. The middle part of the square was closed due to a concert the previous evening. It was blocked off for cleaning unfortunately. There is a public bathroom inside Deutscher Dom. It was a beautiful place for a photograph.
7. Berlin Cathedral. On our walk to the cathedral, there was a market on the other side of the bridge. It was a great place to stroll through and not overly touristy. There were vendors selling paintings, jewelry, and other miscellaneous goods. I really enjoyed this market. If it is open, I encourage a stroll through before visiting the Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is worth paying to enter. Outside they were doing some structural work, so there was scaffolding in place. Inside, the cathedral itself has a lot to offer. There are tombs of royalty dating back to the 1600s. The inside is beautiful and different in appearance compared to many cathedrals I have seen. There is the opportunity for a climb to the top for panoramic views. It is worth the climb in my opinion. Again, you do have to have some degree of physical fitness to make the climb. Before leaving, there is a bathroom available here as well.
8. DDR Museum – illustrates the daily life in socialist East Germany. The museum is relatively small in size and not too overwhelming. It is very close to the “museum island” area. Due to our time constraints, this was a good stop for us. The more famous Pergamonmuseum we felt would take much longer to traverse. It was an interesting and eye opening stop.
9. Walk by television tower/park – as you leave the DDR museum you will see the television tower not too far in the distance. We walked by the park and took photos. I read that a trip to the top was not particularly worth it so we enjoyed the views from below.
10. East Side Gallery – this is the largest remaining portion of the Berlin wall turned into an art gallery. It is actually quite long with beautiful murals. You will be walking for a long time to see all of the murals. The “fraternal kiss” was the one you will see on many touristy items. It was also the portion with the largest crowds. To get a picture alone would be difficult. Everyone wanted their Instagram moment in front of this mural. This is not to discount the remainder of the wall and other murals. There are many unique and interesting murals. We took our time to walk the entire wall.
11. Tophography of Terror – outdoor and indoor history museum. Berlin is certainly a city filled with history. We happened upon this museum on our walk back to the hotel. The outdoor portion details the repression under the Nazi regime. Directly adjacent is the largest piece of exterior wall. The East Side Gallery is part of the inner wall.
Warning! This is a heavy day. Speaking from experience, we were exhausted at the end of the day. We walked in total about 12 miles. On the way back to the hotel, it was difficult to hail a cab. In the future, I would have looked into a hop on hop off bus tour since we were somewhat pressed for time. This would allow us to easily see as much as possible without the hassle of navigating and taking the time to get between locations. The worldwide city sightseeing hop on hop off Berlin seemed to cover almost all of these major highlights. Berlin is so spread out that, if I returned, I would buy the bus tickets in a heartbeat.