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Best things to do in Berlin

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Germany  /  Berlin
Things to do in Berlin include visits to many cafes, clubs, bars, museums, art galleries, shops, and historic sites. Reichstag Building and its new glass dome--offering panoramic views of the city--is a perfect example of the fusion of renovation and innovation so typical for today's Berlin. Museums like Topography of Terror and Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie speak of the city's not so glorious past, while the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate epitomizes European unification and continued peace. Once trapped in the no man's land dividing East and West Germany, Potsdamer Platz now attracts visitors with its ultra-modern architecture and ample shopping opportunities.

Berlin is best known for its Monuments, Historic Sites, and Specialty Museums.

Top 15 things to do in Berlin

1. Reichstag Building

The country's center of political power, Reichstag Building houses the German Parliament. This grand building, designed by architect Paul Wallot in 1894, was renovated and reopened in 1999. Its glass dome, designed by architect Norman Foster, offers panoramic views of the city and is accessible by elevator. You'll almost always encounter a long line waiting for the elevator, especially on sunny days, so plan lots of extra time when visiting this site. Once on top, enjoy 360-degree views and listen to a free audio guide about the building and the surrounding city sites. You can visit the dome and get guided tours of the building only with confirmed reservations secured well in advance. Check the website for details on registering online or in person.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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2. Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century as a defining symbol of the city, but it ended up in the middle of the no-man’s land separating East and West Germany for the better part of the 20th century. Today, this impressive monument epitomizes European unification and continued peace. It often serves as an attractive backdrop for special events, such as concerts. Architect Carl Gotthard Langhans designed the triumphal arch, finding inspiration in classical Greek architecture. He chose this spot to serve as the entry into the city’s renowned boulevard of linden trees. Artist Johan Gottfried Schadow’s sculpture of a winged goddess commanding a chariot crowns the gate.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. The Holocaust Memorial - Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

One of the most moving and controversial sites in the world, The Holocaust Memorial - Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a massive artwork, covering an entire city block. Designed by architect Peter Eisenman, it features nearly 3,000 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The work is meant to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and many liken it to an abstract representation of a cemetery. The slabs are approximately 2.4 m (7 ft) long, 1 m (3 ft) wide, and vary in height from 20 cm to 5 m (8 in to 16 ft). They start out at ground level on the outer edges of the memorial and grow taller towards the middle, where the ground slopes downwards. Look for the underground museum, which offers extensive details on the Holocaust and the people who died during it. The site attracts nearly 4 million visitors each year.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. Pergamonmuseum

Offering visitors a rare look into the ancient world, Pergamonmuseum attracts nearly 2 million people each year, making it the most-visited museum in Germany. It features an extensive collection of ancient Greek, Middle-Eastern, and Islamic art and architecture. Located on Museum Island in the heart of the city, this site was designed by architect Alfred Messel and built from 1910 to 1930. The museum contains reconstructed monumental buildings from around the world, including the giant Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus. Be sure to see the Pergamon Altar, a massive marble shrine after which the museum is named. Save time by booking your tickets online. Pick up a free audio guide at the entrance.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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5. Walking tours

Suggested duration: 3 hours
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6. Charlottenburg Palace

Discover fine Baroque and Rococo architecture at Charlottenburg Palace, the largest palace in Berlin. One of the city's most iconic landmarks, the 17th-century palace sits on an estate framed by large formal gardens, a belvedere, and mausoleum. Tour the palace's royal apartments to view an extensive collection of 18th-century French paintings and fine porcelain. Outside, you can wander through the Baroque-style landscaped courtyards. You may only take photographs inside the palace if you purchase of a permit at the entrance.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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7. Topography of Terror

Often chilling and always thought-provoking, Topography of Terror is an indoor and outdoor museum documenting the terror tactics used by the Nazi regime. You'll receive sobering insights into the Gestapo and SS activities that kept the city in a permanent state of terror and repression between 1933 and 1945. If visiting between spring and fall, don't miss the most striking of the site's features: an excavated cellar directly under the remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. Many political prisoners were tortured and executed here (confirm on the website that the exhibit is open during your visit). You can visit three permanent exhibits about the Nazi years at the site's prize-winning documentation center, which opened in 2010. Explore the site on your own, or join a guided walking tour to learn about the Nazi policies at home and the Cold War tensions felt around the world.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. East Side Gallery

To see some truly one-of-a-kind art, take a stroll along East Side Gallery. This 1.3 km (0.8 mi) long stretch of the Berlin Wall is near the center of the city. One of the largest remaining portions of the former border between East and West Germany, this now serves as an international memorial of freedom. You'll see that the remains of the wall are painted with provocative and thought-provoking murals, political and otherwise. This open-air art gallery is a work in progress, so you'll find that creative local artists constantly add new images. Stop by to have your picture taken in front of a living piece of history.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Zoo Berlin

See one of the most comprehensive collections of wild animals in the entire world--nearly 20,000 animals--at Zoo Berlin. The country's oldest and best-known zoo opened in 1844 and covers more than 34 hectares (84 acres). More than 3 million visitors each year come to the zoo and its adjoining aquarium, making it the most-visited site of its kind in all of Europe. The zoo is known worldwide for sheltering endangered animals, such as polar bears and giant pandas. Check the website for feeding times and other special events. You can save a lot of time by purchasing your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 3h 30 min
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10. Großer Tiergarten

Covering more than 210 hectares (520 acres) through the center of the city, Großer Tiergarten is one of Germany's largest urban parks. Its beginnings trace back to the 16th century, when the area was designated as a royal hunting zone. Later, as the city expanded and the hunting grounds shrank, the park became a popular relaxation area for the general public. Today, the Spree river and a number of important architectural landmarks border the sprawling park grounds. Look in the middle of the park for a large square with a tall column that the locals the Great Star. It was placed here in 1864 to celebrate Prussia's victory over Denmark. Stop by the park to take a stroll, picnic, cycle, jog, or play soccer with the local crowd.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Memorial of the Berlin Wall

Touch a piece of history at Memorial of the Berlin Wall, the central memorial site of German division and reunification. At this open-air exhibit created in 1998, you'll learn why the country and the city were forcibly split for nearly three decades. The memorial incorporates a 60 m (200 ft) stretch of the original Berlin Wall, as well as the remains of several border installations and escape tunnels. At the visitors' center, you can pick up lots of materials detailing how the wall was created in the 1960s and dismantled in 1989. For a good view of the entire memorial grounds, climb up to the observation tower of the adjacent documentation center.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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12. Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie

Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie was German's only Cold War border crossing that permitted foreigners to pass through between 1961 and 1990. Though it once represented the separation of East and West Germany, this spot is now just one of the city's many tourist attractions. The checkpoint achieved mythological status because residents of the city were not allowed to use it. Look for the famous "You Are Now Leaving the American Sector" sign. This iconic marker of the past is one of the most photographed spots in the city. Nearby, you can explore the exhibits of a private museum dedicated to the checkpoint and various Berlin Wall memorabilia.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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13. Berliner Dom

Don't miss a chance to see the city from the dome of Berliner Dom, one of the region's major landmarks. This imposing structure stands as if frozen in time centuries ago. But the building actually suffered massive damage during World War II and underwent extensive renovation in 1994. The biggest church in the city, this Renaissance building serves not only as a Protestant house of worship but also as a concert hall and a museum. Inside, you can see a lavish marble altar and royal tombs. The organ, with more than 7,000 pipes, often plays a starring role in concerts. Pick up an audio guide at the entrance, or arrange for a private tour of the cathedral before you make the trip.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. The Dresden Zwinger, Dresden

Explore one of eastern Germany's most impressive examples of Rococo architecture at The Dresden Zwinger. Originally part of the Dresden fortress, the palace is one of the city's most important historical landmarks. It now houses several museums and galleries. Visit the Old Master's Gallery to admire fine works by artists like Rafael and Van Dyck. Or head to the complex's historical museum to peruse weaponry and military artifacts from the 15th through 18th centuries. You can pick up an audio guide at the entrance for full information on each collection, as well as the history of the grounds.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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15. Neues Museum

For a rare look at the iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, visit Neues Museum on the city's famous Museum Island. The museum houses vast collections of prehistoric and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The building itself draws both art and architecture enthusiasts with its award-winning use of modern iron construction and original Neoclassical design. Originally built between 1843 and 1855, it was designed by architect Friedrich August Stuler. The museum was closed in 1939 and was heavily damaged during the bombing raids of the city. Architect David Chipperfield spearheaded the post-war rebuilding efforts, and the museum finally reopened in 2009. Skip the long lines by booking your tickets online.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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