One day in Berlin

How to Visit Eclectic Berlin in One Day

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Overview

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is a multi-cultural hub for travelers. With a fascinating and dark recent history, a legendary nightlife scene and an eclectic vibe means you’ll find plenty of options for foodies, hipsters and historians alike. In short, no matter what you’re into, you’ll find something worth exploring with our Berlin one day itinerary and city guide.

When

Summers in Berlin, which are the most popular time to visit, are hot and dry. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have a room with AC during the summer. Prices will be higher than usual, but it’s worth being able to sit outside and enjoy a beer in one of Berlin’s many beer gardens and parks. 

In the winter, Berlin is cold and damp. Over the holidays, roughly between the end of November and Christmas Day, there are Christmas markets dotting the city. While it’s not the most pleasant time to be in Berlin in terms of weather, the atmospheric Christmas markets are well worth a visit in December, where you’ll sip gluhwein and shop for traditional and artisan Christmas-themed trinkets alongside locals and other tourists. 

Fall brings Oktoberfest to Berlin. It’s actually in September, not October, and it’s not nearly as much of a spectacle as the one in Munich, but it’s still an event worth exploring. Fall is cooler than summer, and towards the end it turns cold and drizzly as winter descends on the German capital. 

In the spring, Berlin is still cool and damp, with the occasional day of sun that is the perfect time to head out to one of Berlin’s many green spaces as local Berliners celebrate the arrival of warmer weather.

Are you traveling to Germany for the first time? 

Get the low-down on visiting Germany, with tips about packing, travel, money, staying safe and lots of great city itineraries for your trip.

Travel

Berlin has just one airport, with all others closing in 2020. Berlin Brandenburg Airport ‘Willy Brandt’ is the new, large international airport serving the city, opened in October 2020, and located 28km south of Berlin city.

You have several options to get into downtown Berlin from Brandenburg airport;

  • Transfer – the quickest and most convenient option, you can book in advance with Intui Travel.
  • Taxi – grab a cab which will cost around €50 and take about 40 minutes.
  • Bus – the Express X7 or X71 will take you to Rudow U-Bahn metro station in 10 minutes or so, from where you’ll need to get a u-bahn (metro/subway) train to the city centre. The bus runs every 10 minutes and tickets cost €3.40 for a one way journey.
  • Train – the Express trains RB14 and RE7 are the quickest, with a journey time of around 30 minutes, but only run twice an hour. The S9 on the s-bahn route (overland) runs every 5-10 minutes but the journey time is slightly longer at 40 minutes. Tickets cost €3.40 for a one way trip.

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1 day in Berlin
Berlin itinerary 1 day
Berlin 1 day itinerary

Stay

Situated at the northern end of the busy main shopping street of Kurfürstendamm, known as the Ku’damm, Hotel Zoo Berlin is perfectly placed for one day in Berlin. Featuring high end contemporary design, and nostalgic touches as a nod to its decadent past as one of the official VIP Berlin International Film Festival hotels, plus great service and comfortable rooms, this Berlin hotel makes for a great place to lay your head at the end of a busy day.

For a slightly more intimate and traditional feel, the Monbijou Hotel enjoys a fabulous central location in the Mitte district, right on the doorstep of the Hackescher Markt and the UNESCO heritage Museum Island, which is just 400 metres away. You’ll also find a warm welcome, elegant decor and compact but comfortable, rooms, perfect for one night in Berlin.

See & Do

Berlin is actually quite a compact city, and our one day in Berlin itinerary is easily manageable on foot. With this itinerary, you’ll cover all the Berlin bucket list sights, meaning you can leave knowing you have experienced the best of Berlin in your short timeframe.

Morning

The Brandenburg Gate

Start your time in Berlin with what is quite possibly the most iconic sight in Berlin, if not all of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate. Plan to get up early and be there first thing in the morning, before all the crowds show up and ruin the moment (and the pictures). 

The Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century, and shortly after it was requisitioned by Napoleon as he marched into the city following his military victory, before he took the ‘quadriga’ (the statue on top) off with him to Paris. Don’t worry, it was returned shortly thereafter when Napoleon was defeated. 

Today, the icon serves as the gateway to a couple of other top Berlin sights to see including the Tiergarten and the Reichstag Building, which are next up on your Berlin must see itinerary.

Brandedburg Gate lit up at dusk, a must see on a day trip in Berlin
The Brandenburg Gate at dusk | Photo by Tomas Sereda for Getty Images

Reichstag Building and Dome

Home to the German Parliament, the Reichstag building is a mainstay in Germany’s tumultuous history. Following the Reichstag fire in 1933, that served as a major plot point in Hitler’s rise to power, it was dormant until the reunification of Germany in the early 1990’s. It was rebuilt and unveiled in 1999. 

Today, it is an important symbol of German democracy, housing the Bundestag, which you can actually go and watch if you speak German and are interested in procedural politics. The more interesting thing for visitors to do is to climb to the dome of the Reichstag, which has an informative self-guided tour about the history of the building and Germany itself, and is a modern architectural marvel. 

To gain access to the dome, one of the most popular sights to see in Berlin, you need to register in advance. Several months in advance, if you can. There’s a chance you’ll find spots available a week or two out, but it’s not likely, especially in high season. If you’re booking at the last minute, the alternative would be to book a guided tour that includes admission, because they have a special allotment of entrances to the dome.

The Reichstag dome, one of the top sights to see in Berlin
Inside the Reichstag dome | Photo by Wheatless Wanderlust

Victory Column

Next, make your way through the Tiergarten, Berlin’s third largest park, to the Victory Column. This towering…tower was built in the mid-1800’s after a Prussian Victory, and is topped with a gold statue of the Greek Goddess of Victory. 

If you choose to buy a ticket to the observation deck, you’ll climb 270 steps to the top where you’ll have far-reaching views of the city and surrounding area.

Tiergarten

The Tiergarten is huge, and it’s actually not even Berlin’s biggest park. It is, however, Berlin’s most popular park to visit, with attractions like the Victory Column, Brandenburg Gate, and Reichstag Building all either in the park or on the border of it. It’s a lovely place to walk around, particularly in the summer when it’s warm and dry. 

At the southwest corner of the park, you’ll find the Berlin Zoo and the Aquarium, which make good stops for traveling families with kids. 

Top Tip
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If you find yourself craving a beer, head for Cafe am Neuen See, which is a gorgeous location for a beer garden. Sit alongside the pond sipping German beer with tourists and locals alike. The biergarten is closed from late fall to late spring, when it’s cool and drizzly in Berlin, but you can get a delish hot chocolate in the cafe.
Enjoy a beer in a biergarten on a day trip to Berlin
The biergarten at Cafe am Neuen See | Photo by Cafe am Neuen See

Afternoon

Potsdamer Platz

You can’t visit Berlin for the first time without standing where the Berlin Wall once did. Now a thriving and lively square, full of bars and restaurants and modern architecture, Potsdamer Platz was once brutally cut in two by the Berlin Wall. Between the inner and outer zones of the wall lay a desolate no-mans land, which those escaping over the wall from East Berlin would have to cross. Known as the ‘death zone’ the area was finally dismantled after the end of the cold war in 1990, in preparation for the Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ concert, which was held where no-man’s land had previously existed.

Top Tip
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For an unrivalled view of the Berlin cityscape, head to Potsdamer Platz 1, home to the Panoramapunkt viewing platform, 100m above the square and accessed by riding Europe’s fastest elevator, which shoots upwards at 8.65 metres per second.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

In the middle of the city is the important and very moving Holocaust memorial. This place of remembrance and contemplation is huge, with 2711 concrete slabs or ‘stelae’ of different heights placed on the 19,000 square metre site. Open to the skies, it can feel pretty grim here, but it’s an important place to stop and visit when you’re in Berlin.

Museum Island

Berlin’s Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Spreeinsel, or Spree Island, in the historic heart of the city. It is one of the most visited sights of Germany’s capital and one of the most important museum sites in Europe, so a must do in Berlin.

There are a bunch of different museums here built under the Prussian rulers that are worth coming back for if you find yourself with more time, but with only 24 hours in Berlin, you’ll want to head to the Pergamon Museum. It houses a collection of Roman, Greek, Byzantine, and Persian artefacts, including the supremely impressive Ishtar Gate. 

The eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon, the Ishtar Gate was constructed in about 575 BCE by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. When German archaeologists excavated Babylon in the 1930s, they dismantled the Ishtar Gate and took it back to Berlin to be meticulously reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum. 

Other museums on the island include Neues Museum for Egyptian history and artifacts, or the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which is focused on German history.

Berliner Dom

You’ll also find the Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral, on the island, overlooking the River Spree. The distinctive dome of the Cathedral is one of the main landmarks on Berlin’s skyline. With its elaborate ornamental and decorative interiors, the church is definitely worth visiting.

Not a centuries old church, the cathedral replaced the original 15th century building and was not consecrated until 1905. Severely damaged in World War II, the cathedral was unlucky enough to be in East Berlin after the division of Germany and full restoration was only completed in 1993, four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Take a Berlin one day trip and see the Cathedral
Berlin Cathedral at sunrise | Photo by turtix for Getty Images

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery in Berlin is well worth the journey over to Fredrichschain. It’s an open-air art gallery along the river Spree that has over one hundred pieces of political art on a 1.3km stretch of the original Berlin wall, one of the few piece still standing after the reunification of Germany in the 1990’s. 

You can walk the length of the fascinating and moving gallery and check each of the pieces out; some of the art reflects on life in East Germany, while other pieces are more hopeful and forward looking, imagining a new Germany in the future.

The Berlin Wall and graffiti, one of the top things to see in Berlin
Berlin Wall graffiti, East Side Gallery | Photo by Franky242

Evening

Enjoy a Beer Tasting

The Germans love their beer and a great way to experience Berlin is through their beer culture. You don’t have to visit during Oktoberfest to enjoy the beer, but join a craft beer and brewery tour to discover some of Berlin’s finest beers.

This highly rated tour has you meeting your guide to visit three local craft beer bars or craft microbreweries to sample some fantastic German beers and traditional snacks. The tour is perfect for learning all about Berlin’s rich brewing history with an expert guide.

Take in a Show

A cultural hotspot, Berlin enjoys a vibrant theatre and arts scene which caters to all tastes. From comedy, to live shows and classical music, there’s something here for everyone.

Eat

Curry 36

When you’re in Berlin for a day, you have to try currywurst, which is a local delicacy that consists of pork sausage, often cut into coins, on top of a bed of fries and topped with curried ketchup and a sprinkle of curry powder. The invention of currywurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer in Berlin in 1949, after she obtained ketchup (or maybe Worcestershire sauce) and curry powder from British soldiers in Germany. She mixed these ingredients with other spices and poured it over grilled pork sausage.

Currywurst is delicious, and cheap, making it a perfect lunch to fuel your Berlin exploration. The best place to get currywurst according to locals and tourists alike is Curry 36, who have locations around the city.

Mustafas Gemüse Kebab

In a show of the diversity of Berlin and the impact of immigrants on its culture, some of the best foods to eat in Berlin were brought to the cosmopolitan German capital from other countries. You’ll find döner kebab all over Berlin, a fitting nod to Berlin’s large Turkish population. It’s a combination of juicy lamb, beef, veal or chicken (never pork) sliced from a vertical rotisserie onto pita bread, and topped with all sorts of goodies from fresh salad, tomatoes, slaw and kebab sauce, usually made from garlic, mayonnaise, yoghurt, and lemon zest. It’s quick, filling, and handheld, which makes it a great on-the-go meal for exploring Berlin. Mustafas Gemüse Kebap is  widely regarded as one of the best spots in Berlin – although you might have to queue.

Top Tip
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If you have a bit of extra time, avoid the queues and head for Rüya Gemüse Kebap, an off grid place that serves a chicken döner kebab that is as good, if not better, that Mustafa’s version.

Top Five Berlin Travel Tips

  1. The 3-day Berlin Museum Pass is a great deal for travellers who are planning on visiting two or more museums in Berlin, but if you’re only in town for 24 hours, it doesn’t make sense to purchase it.
  2. Get yourself a Tageskarte one day ticket to make traveling around the city seamless. It costs €8.80, and covers all forms of public transportation from the time it is validated until 3am the following morning. Single rides cost over €3, so if you’re planning on taking more than a couple of trips, it’s worth getting.
  3. Bring a rain jacket and layers with you in the fall, winter, and spring. Weather can be cold and drizzly, but it shouldn’t stop you from getting out and exploring.
  4. You can drink in public in Berlin, which means that a picnic in the park with currywurst and a bottle of local beer is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Berlin. As long as it’s sunny and warm, anyway.
  5. Checkpoint Charlie is super touristy, and hardly worth seeing. Skip it, and spend your time elsewhere.

Do you have just a little longer to spend in Berlin?

If you’re wondering what to do in Berlin for half a day more, check out these day trips from Berlin top attractions;

  • The Berlin Wall Memorial is place of remembrance and where the Berlin Wall one stood as it snaked south from Prenzlauer Berg through the city, creating a border between East and West Germany. Today, there is a 70m stretch of the original Berlin Wall with border strip and watchtower directly on Bernauer Straße, in this open air museum. 
  • If you’re fascinated by the the rish of the Third Reich, the Soviet occupation and life behind the Iron Curtain during the cold war in Berlin, then take an in depth walking tour to learn more about this dark part of Berlin’s past.
  • One of the best day trips from Berlin is to the Nazi run Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the closest camp to the capital. Sombre rather than uplifting, this is nevertheless an important part of Berlin’s, and Germany’s, recent history.
  • Head to the Topography of Terror Museum, where you’ll learn about the Nazi regime in the former Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin.
  • Just west of the city center is Schloss Charlottenburg, a baroque palace in, you guessed it, Charlottenburg. It’s beautiful, and it’s worth walking around the grounds, but probably not worth going inside to the museums.

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