Whether your interests lean toward history or culture or shopping or out-all-night fun or, even better, a mix, Berlin is sure to become one of your essential vacation spots. The city is loaded with writers and artists who are driving the conversation about the history city forward. The once divided city has turned into one of Europe’s cultural hot spots, where the fun goes on into the early hours of the morning before kicking right back off again. But Berlin’s ultra-modern present sits side-by-side with Germany’s history—most notably the country’s role during the 20th century and World War II. The city doesn’t shy away from its past, with sites including the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Other worthwhile history stops include Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate.

Four people with big pints of beer cheersing

TTstudio / Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Berlin?

Berlin is famous for its summers—not that they’re especially warm, but there is just so much to do. The summer season can be wet, so it’s best to pack an umbrella—though rain doesn’t stop Berliners from enjoying their city. May is often considered the best time to visit, with good weather and plenty of festivals and events. Winters in Berlin are cold (below freezing in January and February), but the cultural events don’t disappear. Locals stay busy with seasonal festivities and quirky adventures like skiing on the grounds of the former Tempelhof Airport, which is now a giant city park.

How to get around Berlin

Berlin is served by two main airports. Tegel (TXL) is conveniently located within the city limits. Public buses (20 minutes) run from Tegel regularly to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and Alexanderplatz. Schonefeld Airport is connected to the city by S-Bahn and regional trains (30 minutes).

Berlin’s transportation system, the BVG, is reliable, convenient, and vast, and it includes buses, trains, and trams. As in many European countries, the BVG runs on the honor system, so make sure to validate your ticket before boarding. At random times, officers check the tickets of each passenger. The U-Bahn trains (underground lines) run until late and are round-the-clock on weekends; S-Bahn trains (commuter lines) traverse the city, making them best for fast connections. Taxis in Berlin are readily available, as are services like Uber.

Can’t miss things to do in Berlin

To really get a feel for Berlin’s cultural life, it’s best to visit one of the many parks and public spaces on a sunny afternoon or early in the evening. Görlitzer Park is one of the most popular hangouts, but you’ll find more locals at the Volkspark Friedrichshain. There’s a beer garden, a small hill for hiking, and even a fairy-tale fountain (the Märchenbrunnen). Museum goers should head straight to Museum Island, where five exquisite museums (all on one ticket) await.

For an overview of all that happened before, during, and since the Holocaust, seek out the Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum). The museum is a challenging but extremely worthwhile place to spend time.

Food and drink to try in Berlin

Food in Berlin runs the gamut—from cheap street foods (don’t miss the ubiquitous doner kebabs) to fine dining. Each Berlin neighborhood, or kiez, typically has its own food market. Fresh vegetables, produce, and bread can be bought at the markets, and many have small stands selling lunch or snacks.

Though, years ago, few people would have shouted “Berlin!” if asked for one of the world’s best food cities, things have changed. Trendy brunch spots, Vietnamese restaurants, and traditional German fare all play a role in today’s Berlin. Most tourists flock to the bars around Görlitzer Bahnhof and Schlesisches Tor, but there are plenty of other areas worth exploring. Branch out into Neukölln for the freshest crop of good bars. And rather than hitting the restaurants on Simon-Dach Strasse in Friedrichshain, go a few blocks east to Boxhagener Platz.

Culture in Berlin

With hundreds of independent galleries in addition to its many city-owned museums, Berlin has history and culture in spades. Museums cover everything from typography (Buchstabenmuseum) to film (Film and Television Museum). Art galleries in Berlin have a solid reputation among enthusiasts. Berlin was a hotbed for culture in the 1920s, and in recent years the city has again embraced its creative classes. Get some deep background on what life was like in Berlin during the Cold War by participating in Divided City, a private walking tour led by a local historian or architect from AFAR’s partner, Context Travel.

Artists, musicians, and innovators have made Berlin home in the past couple of decades, changing the very face of the city—sometimes quite literally. Street art and graffiti in Berlin is often ranked among the world’s best thanks to Berliners’ need to speak up and be heard.

In a city as diverse as Berlin, festivals and events happen all year long. Summertime sees an influx of music festivals: watch out for MyFest, Christopher Street Day gay pride, Carnival of Cultures, and Berlin Music Week. The winter has its fair share of festivals as well, most notably the star-studded Berlinale indepedent film festival.

Practical Information

  • The first language of Berlin is German. There’s a good chance you’ll run into English speakers in the city but a translation app or German language guide is definitely helpful.
  • Germany is a member of the European Union and uses the Euro as its currency.
  • The country’s standard voltage is 230v. Power sockets throughout the country require a type F adapter (though type C and E plugs will also work).

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Friedrichshain, once part of East Berlin, is now a popular neighborhood filled with flea markets, nightclubs, cool cafes, and restaurants. Stick near Boxhagener Platz to discover many of the hot spots.
When you head to Berlin, ditch the guidebook and don your horn-rimmed glasses. Famously described as “poor but sexy” by a former mayor, Berlin will inspire you to venture beyond the classic sights in search of emerging cultural hotspots, fantastic food, and unexpected spaces. Follow this guide, and you’ll be acquainted with the Grey City from the perspective of its hippest residents.
Berlin, the capital of European start-ups, sometimes seems fueled entirely on caffeine. Club Mate, a caffeinated soda beverage, is the popular drink of choice for many Berliners, but when something hot is needed, it’s all about the coffee. Berliners tend to have their favorites for coffee and will defend their local café against others.
Berlin, the urban center of Germany, caters to anyone’s interests. If you’re a history buff, visit Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the River Spree consisting of five museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art. If there’s time, take a tour of Brandenburg Gate, the city’s most famous landmark. For art lovers, the East Side Gallery can’t be missed. If you’re traveling with family, be sure to spend time in Prenzlauer Berg, which has children-friendly cafes, shops, and playgrounds. There’s also a popular flea market there on Sundays.
Whether or not you consider yourself a museum goer, Berlin’s 170 (or so) museums are sure to serve up at least one or two collections that pull you in. History, culture, art, food, and more: it’s all inside (or, at the East Side Gallery, painted directly on) the walls of Berlin’s museums. Art lovers should head directly to the Hamburger Banhof Museum or the Bauhaus Archive. Want to look at the wall that once divided the city you’re exploring? It’s the open air East Side Gallery for you. For those who want to explore the history of WWII, the Holocaust, and of the history of the Jewish people in Germany, Berlin offers several incredible institutions, including the Jewish Museum and the German Resistance Memorial Center.
For a perfect day in Berlin, delve into the city’s myriad historic sites. The Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag are essential Berlin stops. If you don’t have time to tour the Jewish Museum, consider a visit to the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, a good place to contemplate the world past and present. Then you’re off to the nearby Potsdamer Platz. In between you can squeeze in a coffee or a beer in one of the cafes and bars scattered throughout Berlin’s central neighborhoods.
The neighborhoods north of the River Spree—Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte—have long been the hub of Berlin’s cultural and commercial scene. Today, they’re great areas to explore for every type of dining, incredible shopping, and iconic sights.
A weekend trip to visit Berlin offers just enough time to explore some of the city’s history and cultural hotspots, and, of course, tuck into some German cuisine and street food (hello currywurst). If it’s a meet the locals sort of weekend you’re after, pick a few neighborhoods to focus on: perhaps the restaurants, street art, and galleries of Mitte and Friedrichshain? Don’t miss the East Side Gallery. And, on Sunday, Prenzlauer Berg for its open air flea market. A perfect weekend indeed.
Berlin has long had a reputation as one of the world’s best cities for nightlife. If anything, the scene gets better with every passing year. Whether you prefer a relaxed evening at a high-end dimly-lit cocktail bar; a craft beer in a club that includes a top-notch grungy backyard hangout; live music, a dance floor, and shots shots shots; or the ever-so-Berlin combination of a trippy art installation, beer garden, and dance club, the city serves up the good times.
Though Berlin’s late nights make sleeping in the next day all too tempting, the city’s shops and farmers markets are very good reason to get up and out. If you need a clothing store for your next out-to-the-clubs outfit, bikini berlin is definitely worth a visit--it’s the go-to department store for fashion-forward and design-minded types. A more traditional but equally stunning shopping center is the century-old Kaufhaus des Westens. But if you really want to mix with locals, the city’s outdoor markets of both the flea and farmers varieties are truly memorable stops. Shopping local culture your thing? The city’s record and book shops provide hours of entertainment.
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.