Know before you go:
Berlin, the capital of Germany, is a city full of culture and history. Do some research before you visit in order to familiarize yourself with Berlin’s complex history, and delve into its culture by researching which museums and landmarks you want to visit. You will not be able to do everything in just a few days, but you can customize your trip to fit your interests. Keep in mind that some of the city's history is very difficult to digest. But overall, Berlin is a very fun city that is full of energy and excitement!
Where to stay:
Try to book your hotel in advance, as some hotels that are usually very expensive in other cities may be surprisingly “reasonable” in Berlin. Stay near Potsdamer Platz square, which is very central. A good option is The Marriott, located on Inge-Beisheim-Platz 1.
Museums and sites to visit:
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe- While in Berlin, you must visit this unique memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Start with the underground museum before walking through the concrete slabs, or “stelae,” outside. Admission is free. The memorial is incredibly presented, familiarizing its visitors both with general information and also with specific anecdotes about Jewish individuals and families. You must get the audio guide and listen to as much of it as possible. After you walk through the museum, exit and walk outside through the uneven stelae to experience Peter Eisenman’s design. Walking through the stelae creates both a disorienting and beautiful experience.
Topography of Terror- This museum is located on the site of the former official headquarters of the Nazi regime. The exhibitions take you through the history of the Nazi regime, from its conception to its downfall, in immense detail. Throughout the exhibit, panels describe the horrific crimes that the Nazis committed and the aftermath of these terrors.
Checkpoint Charlie Museum- During the Cold War, this location was a crossing point between East and West Berlin. This museum documents this crossing point—both the ways it was enforced and the ways in which people escaped.
Jewish Museum- This museum is one of the largest Jewish Museums in Europe and includes permanent exhibitions about Jewish history as well as changing exhibitions. Both the content and the design of the museum are intriguing.
The Wall- What remains of the wall that was constructed in 1961 to divide East and West Berlin during the Cold War is now covered in graffiti, which is both full of political and social commentary and aesthetically interesting graphics. Consider the wall a huge public canvas—a work of art that anyone can participate in.
Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design- If you are interested in art, design, and architecture, especially in the modern era, visit this museum, which was conceived in typical Bauhaus style. It houses items relating to the Bauhaus School—a school that has significantly influenced modern art, design, and architecture.
Neue Nationalgalerie- This museum is currently closed for renovation, but if you are in Berlin when it re-opens and are interested in early 20th century art, it is a must see. Its collection includes works by Picasso, Miró, and Kandinsky, just to name a few.
Hamburger Bahnhof- Housed in a former railway station, this museum has many pieces by renowned Modern and Contemporary artists, such as Beuys, Kiefer, Warhol, Holzer, and Rauschenberg. Currently, this museum is partially under renovation, limiting the collection on show. Still, it is worth visiting.
Berlinische Galerie- Its collection, dating from 1870, documents the history of Berlin through art and architecture. Visit this museum if you are interested in art and architecture and want to gain a greater perspective of the history of Berlin.
Reichstag Building- Book this far in advance, as you will not be able to make a last minute reservation. Visit this building to gain a greater understanding of Berlin’s political history and to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
Where to shop:
Bikini Berlin Concept Mall- This mall offers an unconventional shopping experience. You will not find any big name designer stores here. Instead, this mall is filled with quirky and edgy stores, which mostly sell clothing and other items from Berlin-based designers.
KaDeWe- This is the largest department store in Continental Europe, featuring many high-end designers. There are eight floors, two of which are devoted to food. If you want to refuel while shopping or sit down for lunch, visit the massive food hall on the 6th floor.
Mitte- Walk around this area to shop for items both from Berlin designers and from big name international labels.
Where to eat:
Café Einstein Stammhaus- This café, with a charming exterior and interior, has healthy and delicious breakfast options.
Cabslam- The California Breakfast Slam- You must eat here for breakfast or lunch. Their menu is quirky and witty—poking fun at American brunch culture. The eggs and pancakes are insanely delicious.
White Trash Fast Food- You will undoubtedly have a truly unique dining experience in this space that encompasses a restaurant, a lounge, and a tattoo parlor. Don’t go here looking for healthy options but do go looking for a good time. Enjoy a burger bigger than your face while listening to the live performers and DJs.
Leibniz-Klause- If you’re looking for authentic German food and want to take a break from the otherwise extremely energetic Berlin nightlife, check out this spot. It’s a little quiet, but the food is good.
There are cool bars and clubs all over Berlin. If you’re down for an adventure and want to take a risk, you can try getting into one of the highly exclusive nightclubs. This sense of exclusivity is not comparable to anything in America. Among the most well known is Berghain, a club that looks like a massive factory where you might wait on line only to get rejected by multiple bouncers shaking their heads, which you should rightfully assume means “no chance.” Watergate and Chalet offer a similar experience but aren’t as hard to get into. Dress casually, wearing mostly black clothing, and go in very small groups. Avoid acting like tourists. You might not be allowed to use your phones inside, which definitely sets this experience apart from any club in America.