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This Innovative European Capital Is Full of UNESCO Sites to Discover

Berlin is a masterpiece of urban planning, from the Museum Island at the heart of its walkable center to groundbreaking Modernism Housing Estates, plus epic parks and forests waiting just a stone’s throw away.

A field of yellow flowers with trees and an elegant building in the background in Muskauer Park, Germany

The “painting with plants” of Muskauer Park

©Lookphotos/Günther Bayerl

With nearly 4 million inhabitants, Berlin is easily the largest city in the European Union, offering considerable appeal for explorers, urban or otherwise. Yet with its proud history of city planning, marked by green spaces, art, and culture at every turn, it offers more adventure than your average metropolis. From its walkable historic center full of cultural treasures to the innovative architecture at the outer fringes of town, Germany’s capital is a city built with convenience and quality of life very much in mind.

Even beyond the city limits, many treasures are easily accessible by public transportation, including biosphere reserves, protected forests, and manicured gardens, making for many types of UNESCO-designated experiences and adventures to keep you active and inspired.

Golden hour in Mitte

The Germans have a saying that roughly translates to “the morning hour has gold in its mouth,” and those early birds who like to rise with the sun are in for a special treat in Berlin. Staying at the Hilton Berlin, a typically modern, light-filled space found in Mitte (a neighborhood in the center of Berlin), you can spend a bit of time in the hotel gym, indoor pool, or spa, then enjoy a morning jog or walk along the nearby Spree River to get a view of the city before commuters start their day.

Pink lights shining on the facade of Mitte’s Hilton Berlin at dusk

Mitte’s Hilton Berlin by night

Courtesy of Hilton

Passing the medieval Stadtmauer (city wall) through Museum Island, amid the remains of the Berlin Wall, a route through Mitte allows you to peel back layers of the city’s history within a span of just a few miles. Be sure to also drop by the Lustgarten to enjoy the grass among the sunbathers and picnickers who congregate around the “Berlin soup bowl,” an impressive 70-ton structure carved from a single piece of granite.

Exploring Museum Island

A view of Museum Island in the middle of the Spree River in Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s majestic Museum Island lies in the middle of the Spree River

©GNTB/Dagmar Schwelle

Dating back to the 1830s, the collections of Berlin’s Museum Island are all within easy walking distance, making it invaluable to Berlin’s cultural identity and that of the world. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the island allows visitors to delve deeper into history throughout these five museums, from the famed bust of Nefertiti in the New Museum to the contemporary art on display at the James Simon Gallery, connected by the underground Archeological Promenade that gives visitors all-weather access to each site. Those visiting in summer might also consider taking in one of the six soccer matches for the UEFA EURO 2024 at Olympic Stadium Berlin or enjoying a concert at the House of World Cultures, a stunning multipurpose arts space originally donated by the American government in 1957.

If you prefer to stay in the western side of the city, home to popular attractions such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the Zoo Berlin, DoubleTree by Hilton Berlin Ku’damm is an excellent option that boasts a modern aesthetic with all the amenities. A short walk from the hotel, Kurfürstendamm is a popular boulevard for people watching, fine cuisine, and shopping, and is very much worth a visit.

A view overlooking West Berlin from one of the modern guest rooms at DoubleTree by Hilton Berlin Ku'damm

Overlooking West Berlin from one of the modern guest rooms at DoubleTree by Hilton Berlin Ku’damm

Courtesy of Hilton

Falkenberg Garden City, Housing Estate Siemensstadt, and more architectural masterpieces

The population of Berlin was booming at the dawn of the 1920s and like many cities, new suburbs were created to accommodate. In Berlin, however, architects were tasked with developing housing that would offer people a place to live and elevate the human experience, resulting in six districts. From Falkenberg Garden City to Housing Estate Siemensstadt, these surviving structures represent an important moment in modern history and are a must-visit for those who love architecture.

Bright blue and orange murals in Teufelsberg, Germany

The vibrant murals of Teufelsberg

©Stadt Donaueschingen/Michal Maj

About an hour west of Housing Estate Siemensstadt, urban explorers looking for a hike steeped in history might also consider a visit to Teufelsberg. The abandoned Cold War-era listening station originally built by American forces offers excellent street art and incredible views of Berlin from above.

Beech Forest Grumsin

For those wanting to slow things down from the buzz of Berlin, tranquility is just around the corner. Just over an hour northeast of the capital, a regional train will stop at the resort town of Angermünde, where travelers can enjoy a lovely lakeside lunch at one of the town’s many restaurants and cafes. From there, it’s a short bus ride into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Beech Forest Grumsin, where nature lovers can bask in the embrace of the delicate copper beech trees and hike forest trails among the prehistoric bogs and mires that innumerable animals call home.

Muskauer Park and the Spreewald Biosphere Reserve

Along the Neisse River, straddling the German and Polish border some three hours southeast of Berlin, Muskauer Park is a garden masterpiece from the mind of Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau. Considered the founder of modern landscape design, this “Green Prince” left behind 2,050 acres in the state of Brandenburg with his death in 1871. The Park is arguably his greatest legacy. Despite being built in the first half of the 19th century, this estate continues to serve as a model European garden today, earning itself the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Now, the grounds and their two castles can be explored by bike or on foot, as visitors can move freely between the two nations without need for border checks, representing an important example of cooperation and collaboration between nations.

On the return trip, only one hour from Berlin, travelers can also visit the Spreewald Biosphere Reserve. Navigate the many man-made waterways which connect a network of quaint villages. You can explore the UNESCO-protected forest by canoe or on a guided tour by traditional flat-bottomed punt boat that’s specific to a region settled by Slavic tribes over 1,000 years ago. Admire the undisturbed greenery and well-preserved villages which feel a world away from Berlin.

Where to stay in Berlin

A private dining room enclosed in a glass dome overlooking Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt at Restaurant Beletage in Hilton Berlin, Germany

A private dining room overlooking Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt at Restaurant Beletage in Hilton Berlin

Courtesy of Hilton

In a city as expansive as Berlin, there’s always something for all tastes. Stay in the Mitte district at the Hilton Berlin where you can have Reichstag dome views in select rooms. Soak up the Berlin vibe when you enjoy a meal in the glass-domed dining room of the onsite Restaurant Beletage, which overlooks the neighboring Gendarmenmarkt. Those looking for incomparable style and convenience can find it across the street from the Tiergarten at the Waldorf Astoria Berlin. Nearby, the Hampton by Hilton Berlin City West is a cozy, eclectic option; the riverside Hampton by Hilton Berlin City East Side is just steps from the famed Berliner Mauer murals; and the Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre Alexanderplatz offers value without compromise at the true center of the city.

To explore the eastern side of Germany even further, consider extending your stay with this 11-day itinerary, featuring eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread out between the cities of Berlin, Dessau, and Cottbus, making for a perfect trip for the active traveler.

Hilton and the German National Tourist Board
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