Bursting with character and bound to excite visitors, Berlin is one of the most popular destinations in Germany. While that may not have always been the case, modern Berlin is an international city which caters to all interests. Whether it’s history, culture, nightlife, or an alternative side you’re looking for, Berlin has you covered. No wonder it’s widely considered one of the best places to visit in Europe.
So where do you start with a trip to Berlin? There’s so much to see in a city of this size and significance in just three days, and while it’s helpful to know what the best things to do in Berlin are, it’s even better to be fully prepared with a detailed Berlin itinerary. Inside our guide to this great German city, you’ll learn everything you need to know to have a truly memorable 3 days in Berlin.
Best Time to Visit Berlin
One of Germany’s most popular destinations, you’ll want to be careful about when you visit Berlin. You don’t want to plan a visit and end up having a bad time because the weather’s bad or the city is overcrowded with tourists. Not only does too many tourists mean more time spent waiting in line, but it can also mean you’ll pay more for accommodation due to the increased demand.
The high season months of July and August are far from ideal, especially with their hot and humid weather. The other incredibly busy time in Berlin is late September through early October when the city hosts its own Oktoberfest. You’ll find instead that the best time to visit Berlin is from mid-May to mid-June and the weeks either side of Oktoberfest in September and October. As shoulder season, these times of year benefit from good weather and lower prices.
Winters in Berlin are chilly, but the local Christmas markets in December will make you want to brave the cold. The many different Christmas markets around Berlin actually make it one of the best places in Germany to visit come winter. The rest of winter is low season for Berlin so if you don’t mind the cold this can also be a good time to visit.
How to Get Around Berlin
Even looking at a map it’s hard to gauge just how massive the city of Berlin is. Once you’re there you realize that this is a destination where public transport is your friend. You could walk for hours on end getting from one part of the city to another, but you’ll ultimately spend more time walking than sightseeing.
So when visiting Berlin, you’re going to want to become familiar with the city’s different public transport networks. With U-bahn metro, S-bahn rail, trams, and many bus routes, it’d be hard to find a spot in the city you can’t reach by public transport. The same tickets are used for each of these modes of transport which is helpful as you’ll often switch from one to the next to get where you’re going. The cheapest ticket is a Kurzstrecke short distance ticket which allows you to go 3 stops and costs €1.70. For more information on zones and fares check here, and a map of Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines can be found here.
Berlin is home to two airports, Berlin Tegel and Berlin Schönefeld, each on different sides of the city. Berlin Tegel is close to the city center, so getting from the airport isn’t too bad. Simply pay € €2.80 and hop aboard the TXL express bus to Alexanderplatz or the X9 bus to Zoologischer Garten, both stops connect you with Berlin’s public transport networks. Berlin Schönefeld sits in the outer zone of the public transport network. However, the train lines, S9, S45, or the airport express will get you into the city centre for €3.30.
Recommendation: To save time and money we recommend you purchase the Berlin WelcomeCard. The card not only allows you to travel for free with Berlin’s public transport (including to and from the airport) but also gives you up to 50% discount at more than 200 sights and attractions. Worth every penny!
Where to Stay in Berlin
As a large and spread out city, figuring out where to stay in Berlin can seem a little daunting for first time visitors. Much like the city’s attractions, available accommodation is scattered right across this major European capital. You’re bound to find somewhere to stay which suit your style of travel since Berlin attracts all types of tourists. While you may be able to score discount rates if you wait to book last minute, typically it’s best to book in advance to secure the city’s best options.
When it comes to the best places to stay in Berlin, picking the right neighborhoods can have a big impact on your enjoyment. After all, Berlin is huge and incredibly varied. It’s actually normal to find accommodation in the city that is over an hours walk from the city center. This is why the city’s public transport is so important. In terms of neighborhoods, Mitte is definitely the most central. Kreuzburg isn’t too far out either and is known for its nightlife, while both Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain are considered cool and creative neighborhoods.
To treat yourself during your time in Berlin, you’ll want to look at the luxurious Regent Berlin hotel. Situated on Gendarmenmarkt Square, this 5-star hotel boasts a classic, refined decor and huge rooms with plenty of space.
If balancing cost and comfort is important to you, look no further than the IntercityHotel Berlin Hauptbahnhof. With a clean and restrained design, this business-style hotel benefits from great public transport connections and even a complimentary Berlin transport card.
Berlin is also a popular backpacker destination, thanks to budget options like the Grand Hostel Berlin Classic. Located over in Kreuzburg, this hostel not only has a great vibe but also offers clean rooms and great all-you-can-eat breakfast. For more budget accommodation, be sure to take a look at our guide to hostels in Berlin.
For more accommodation options in Berlin check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Berlin Itinerary
Since Berlin is such a major city full of culture and character, you’ll have no problem finding things to do. In fact the real challenge will be in trying to fit everything into just 72 hours in Berlin. The good news is that you’re not alone in planning your trip. You have us to help you see the very best of Berlin.
As you explore the city of Berlin and all it has to offer, you’ll find this itinerary takes you through the city and shows you many of its different neighborhoods and it’s best attractions. Of course you’ll be spending a lot of time in Mitte, Berlin’s central district, but that’s not all, the sights of Berlin are very spread out so you’ll also be venturing over to Tiergarten, Kreuzburg, Charlottenburg, and beyond.
However, before we get to our Berlin itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
With that important note covered, it’s time to look at all the fun things to see and do which are included in this Berlin travel itinerary. Following our guide, you should have no worries about what to do in Berlin in 3 days.
Day 1 in Berlin
On your first day waste no time getting to some of the best places to visit in Berlin. To get your bearings a little, focus on the central district of Mitte.
Start with one of Berlin’s grandest spots, the Gendarmenmarkt square in the city center. Deep in the heart of Berlin, this square gives you a sense of how grand the city must have been back in the 18th century. On Gendarmenmarkt, you’re surrounded by historic buildings, with the elegant Konzerthaus Berlin concert hall taking pride of place in the middle.
Either side of the Konzerthaus sit two large churches which face each other, the French Cathedral and the New Church which is often referred to as the German Cathedral by locals. These names for the two mighty churches come from the native languages spoken by each church’s congregation, adding to the sense of rivalry between the two buildings. Both can be visited inside, with a panoramic tower in the French Cathedral and displays on Germany’s parliament inside the New Church.
An essential stop for visitors to Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie is also one of the city’s most touristy. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the most well-known border crossings between East and West Berlin. While there were other border crossings in the city, this checkpoint became a symbol of the divided city. Visiting today, you’ll see a replica of the guard house and border crossing signs, and plenty of tourists taking photos. Over on the corner you’ll find a small open air display with information boards which take you through the history of Checkpoint Charlie and the Cold War.
Topography of Terror
A short walk from Checkpoint Charlie, you’ll find another spot loaded with history in the Topography of Terror Museum. This time focused on the rise and actions of the Nazi Party in Germany, the Topography of Terror has indoor and outdoor exhibitions on the former site of some of the Nazi regime’s most horrific institutions.
Outside, along a remaining section of the Berlin Wall, you’ll find the “Berlin 1933–1945: Between Propaganda and Terror” exhibition. The informative displays here explore how the Nazis came to power and what Berlin was like during World War II. Indoor exhibits cover the different institutions like the Gestapo and SS which were used by the Nazis to terrorize German citizens. If you’d like to learn more about this dark period, this free museum is well worth it.
To see how much Berlin has changed in such a short time, you need only go across to Potsdamer Platz. To understand why this square is so significant you need to know that Potsdamer Platz, was once divided in two by the Berlin Wall and was a no man’s land of sorts. Left in limbo for decades, buildings here remained in the same devastated state that they were in after WWII. And yet, what was once a wasteland just 30 years ago is now a thriving commercial area with modern buildings and shops.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Still lingering in the troubled past of Berlin, we come to the most sobering sight in the city, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Its full name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and it is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Across a massive square which gently slopes, 2,711 concrete slabs symbolize the lives lost. The memorial is said to have been designed to create a sense of unease.
Head just up the road and you’ll arrive at one Berlin’s most enduring monuments, the Brandenburg Gate. This distinguished landmark has long been an icon of Berlin, ever since it was finished in 1791. The Prussian king Frederick William II had it built on the site of a former city gate and at one end of the grand Unter den Linden boulevard. Thanks to its impressive size and neoclassical design, it’s not only a popular tourist attraction but also seen as a European symbol of unity and peace.
After admiring the Brandenburg Gate you’ll notice the great big park which dominates its western side. That is the Berlin Tiergarten, an enormous park which covers 210 hectares right on the edge of the city center. Originally hunting grounds in the 16th century, today the Tiergarten is a gorgeous park with trails leading between forests and grass clearings. The Tiergarten is a great place to get a quick break from the city.
Another of Berlin’s most famous landmarks in this part of the city is the stately Reichstag. This vast building housed the nation’s parliament during the days of the German Empire. On 27 February 1933, this grand Neo-Renaissance building caught fire, an event that Hitler used to further his political goals. Through the years of the Nazi regime and the Cold War, the building was simply left as it was after that fire.
With reunification, the Reichstag was reconstructed and the parliament was brought back. With the work that finished in 1999 the building now has a large glass dome as part of its rooftop. If you visit the Reichstag Dome, you can actually walk up and be treated to some superb city views of Berlin. Be sure to book well in advance though as this free attraction is very popular.
Recommendation: If you can’t get a free slot for your travel dates but still want to visit the Reichstag, don’t worry, there is another way to get in. Käfer, the restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag, sells table reservations that not only include free unlimited coffee and tea, and one cake or torte, but also allow you to tour the Reichstag. Table reservations can be made here.
Day 2 in Berlin
We’ve barely scratched the surface after just one day in Berlin so today we head to the far side of Berlin Mitte, to see another piece of the German capital.
Flowing through the city of Berlin, the Spree river is a constant presence in the city center. Make your way to the Ebertbrücke and you’ll immediately see why this is one of the prettiest parts of Berlin. In front you should see the beautiful Bode Museum poised on a corner where the river splits, along with the TV Tower in the distance, and trees lining the riverbank below.
Now, there are two ways to enjoy the Spree river and the surrounding scenery. One is to simply walk along the banks of the river, taking in the scenery on foot. Depending on which side of the river you walk along you can stop in at the flea market by the Bode Museum or come back later to unwind with other locals at James Simon Park. Your other option is to hop aboard one of the frequent river cruises to see Berlin from a different perspective, the river. Tickets to the river cruise can be bought here.
Sitting on the Spree river, Museum Island may have one of the densest collections of Berlin attractions. As you’ve probably guessed by the name, there are quite a few museums on this island, five in fact. Here you’ll find the Old Museum, New Museum, Bode Museum, the Old National Gallery, and the Pergamon Museum. Even without setting foot in a museum, the island itself is a nice place to explore. Between several of its major sites you’ll find the beautiful Lustgarten, a park with fountains and plenty of grass which quickly fills up in good weather.
Recommendation: Depending on how many museums you plan to visit, it might be worth getting a Berlin Museum Pass. With the Museum Pass you get free 3-day entry to over 30 museums in Berlin. Definitely a must for any museum buff.
There are many museums to pick from at the Museum Island, but we recommend you start with the Pergamon Museum. This in-depth history museum was created to house only a select few exhibits, but once you see them you’ll understand why it was created to be so specific. One of the exhibits is the Pergamon Altar, a colossal 33 meter high section of the ancient Greek acropolis from Pergamon, Turkey.
Other highlights include the beautiful Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon and the giant Market Gate of Miletus, also out of Turkey. With countless other artifacts on display from ancient civilizations across Europe and the Middle East, you could easily spend much of your day here. Skip-the-line tickets to the Pergamon Museum can be bought here.
If you’re in the mood for more great historical exhibits, check out the Neues Museum. But if you want a change after exploring the Pergamon, the Alte Nationalgalerie can provide a nice change of pace. Inside this eye-catching art gallery, artwork from many periods including the Romanticism, Impressionist, and early modernist periods is on display. Exhibits here include works from renowned artists such as Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Edouard Manet.
One last landmark to see on Museum Island is the mighty Berlin Cathedral. The Neo-Renaissance architecture of the Cathedral makes quite a statement in its position on Lustgarten square. While different churches have been in this spot since the 15th century, the current Berlin Cathedral was only finished in 1905. Taking a guided tour inside the cathedral you’ll be shown not only the church interior, but also the Hohenzollern Crypt where many royals have been laid to rest along with the panoramic terrace around the exterior of the cathedral’s large dome.
Heading over the river, it’s now time to see another part of Berlin and explore Hackescher Markt. While the name refers to the square here, a visit to Hackescher Markt is just as much about the streets which surround the square. Taking a break from all the history you’ve absorbed so far, this area is known for its shopping boutiques, nightlife, and street art. The boutiques here are specifically unique and appeal to unusual tastes, there is something for everyone here.
Berlin may not have the most classic skyline but one building which helps define it is the Berlin TV Tower. Found just off of Alexanderplatz, this tower is the highest in all of Germany at 368 meters. Built in what was then East Germany, the tower is now one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. In fact, you’ll never get lost if you keep an eye on the tower. Just over 200 meters up the tower there is a panoramic deck and revolving restaurant, both of which you can visit to see all of Berlin below. While it may not be cheap, you won’t get a more complete view of the city. Make sure to buy your ticket in advance to skip the sometimes long lines.
Day 3 in Berlin
We still have plenty to do throughout Berlin on your last day here. To see everything is going to mean moving around the city quite a bit, but that means seeing even more of Berlin.
Off in the eastern end of the city lies one of Berlin’s most stunning palaces, the Charlottenburg Palace. Built in the late 17th century the castle and neighborhood were built and named posthumously for Queen consort Sophie Charlotte. Charlottenburg is the largest palace in the city, with many sights for visitors to take in.
Start a visit by touring the rooms inside the palace, two highlights are the Golden Gallery ballroom and Silver Vault. Afterwards, head outside into the Palace Park where you can appreciate the beautiful Baroque architecture of the palace while you stroll through the manicured gardens nearby. The Palace Park is huge, with lawns, lakes, and other attractions Wander through the park to find the lovely Belvedere Tea House and the Mausoleum where Queen Louise of Prussia was laid to rest.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
On the far side of the Charlottenburg district lies one of Berlin’s more curious churches, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Part church and part ruins, this striking sight is a relic of World War II’s impact on Berlin. The church was badly damaged by bombing in 1943, which left the spire of the church and the base a fractured mess. Rather than fully rebuilding the church, it was decided to incorporate the ruins into a new church and leave the broken spire as a memorial for peace.
German Historical Museum
While we’ve looked at several different museums so far, none have focused on German history quite like the German Historical Museum. One of the most important museums in the city, exhibits in the museum tell the story of Germany, all the way from the Stone Age to modern day. To fully appreciate the exhibits and artifacts on display, be sure to get an audio guide in English as translated information signs are limited.
East Side Gallery
Visitors to Berlin have an understandable interest in seeing the Berlin Wall, and one of the best places to see it is at the East Side Gallery. Stretching for over a kilometer, this long section of the Berlin Wall is covered in vivid and creative murals which provide a snapshot of the period surrounding the fall of the wall. You may be most familiar with the mural of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing, but there is loads more street art to be seen. It may get busy, but there’s a reason this attraction is so popular, so don’t let the crowds put you off.
Recommendation: Berlin has some amazing street art and we highly recommend taking a street art tour if you have the time. On this tour you not only get to experience the city’s amazing street art but also its city markets, café districts, artist quarters, multi-cultural neighborhoods, and much more.
Rather than experiencing specific attractions, it’s sometimes nice to soak up the atmosphere of an entire district. Kreuzberg is a hip corner of Berlin with loads of character, making it a perfect place to wander about. In Kreuzberg you won’t have to walk far to find street art, graffiti, and cafes. If you’re feeling peckish, duck into Markthalle Neun where you’ll be presented with food options from all over the world. Progressive and youthful, Kreuzberg is known for its LGBTQ community and inclusive atmosphere.
Berlin Tempelhof Airport
No, it’s not time to head home just yet, plus you won’t be taking any flights from this airport. This is the Tempelhof Airport, it was used by the American military and commercial airlines to fly in and out of West Berlin during the Cold War. With East Germany surrounding the city, Tempelhof Airport was a lifeline for West Berlin from 1948 to 49. On a guided tour you can visit this unused airport, learn its history, and get taken to parts of the airport you’d not normally get to see. Easily one of the best tours in Berlin!
Before you know it, your time in Berlin is up. You can see an awful lot of Berlin in 3 days as there’s just so much to see and do in this fun European city!