Berlin is one of the great European destinations for a city break. It’s steeped in history, but offers an exciting mix of old and new and is packed with things to see and do.
It has world-class museums and art galleries, a vibrant nightlife and great shopping.
Escape to one of Berlin’s parks
It may be a major European metropolis, but on your holidays in Berlin you’ll never be far from Mother Nature. There are over 2,500 parks and gardens, so whenever you feel the need to slip the crowds and find some quiet, you can do. Here are some of the best.
Pfaueninsel, or Peacock Island, on the River Haver, was created by Friedrich Wilhelm II in the 18th century as a retreat for his mistress. This idyllic spot offers a Gothic-style ‘ruined’ castle, woodlands and peacocks. The island is reached via a ferry.
Or take a wander in the Tiergarten, once the royal hunting grounds and now the largest urban park in the world with 600 acres of open space and 19 miles of paths.
Attractions include a lake, café, the 226-ft Victory Column, which offers panoramic views over the city, and the Soviet Cenotaph that features two of the first Soviet tanks to reach the capital in 1945 and Berlin Zoo.
You could also pack a picnic and go to the Grunewald, the largest forested area in Berlin. Hire a bike or, if the weather allows, have a dip in the clean waters of the Schlachtensee, or Wannsee.
Explore the former East German republic
Another fascinating option on your city break in Berlin is finding out more about what life was like in East Germany before the end of the Soviet occupation of East Berlin in 1990. Step back in time at the DDR Museum, which aims to bring these days back to life with interactive exhibits, lots of everyday memorabilia and sound effects.
Learn about life on both sides of the Berlin Wall on a guided walking tour. The Original Berlin Tours company offers a three-hour tour; this includes some use of public transport. Walks take place daily at 10am, 11:30am and 1pm. Alternatively, take a tour in a classic Trabant car. Trabi Safari offers tours of the unexplored ‘Wild East’.
Take in some art at the Bauhaus Museum
Berlin is home to a number of world-class art galleries, several of which are conveniently co-located on Museum Island. But a less-visited attraction is Bauhaus Museum, which presents exhibitions on the history and impact of the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture.
Although it only operated for a comparatively short period of time–from 1919 until 1933 when it was closed by the Nazis–the school had a massive impact worldwide.
Its teachers included Mies van der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy. Housed in a striking building designed by Walter Gropius, the museum is located in the Tiergarten. An audio tour is available, plus there’s a shop that stocks iconic Bauhaus items and cafeteria on site.
Grab a bargain at one of the city’s flea markets
One of the city’s biggest flea markets takes place every Sunday in Mauer Park where you can buy everything from GDR memorabilia, or vintage and new clothing to antiques and LPs.
Or browse Arkonoplatz Flea Market (Sundays) for 1970s lamps and lounge accessories, while Heidestrasse Flea Market (also Sundays) offers mainly antiques and collectables such as furniture, books, LPs, model cars and porcelain.
Finally, it’s worth checking out Nowkoelln Flea Market (twice monthly) for handmade clothes and jewellery.
Berlin at night
Berlin is famed for its vibrant nightlife and there’s no shortage of first-class restaurants, bars, clubs, theatres and concert halls.
One interesting Berlin holiday activity is seeing a film at KulturforumPotsdamerPlatz, or Friedrichshain Open Air Cinema, which shows films in their original language, including English, during July and August. You can bring food, but make sure you arrive early.
Book your Berlin trip to coincide with the Long Night of the Museums. For one night every year, more than 100 museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions throw open their doors into the early hours.
Not only do you get to see the collections, you can also watch concerts and performances by artists and dancers.