The German capital, if there is one, is the ideal place for a city break all year round. We put on our walking shoes and explored Berlin’s top ten sights on sunny winter days.

We walked most of the way and only took the subway where the distances were too great to walk.

This ticket explains our walking and metro tour through the extraordinary city of Berlin.

A walk through the top 10 sights of Berlin: Brandenburg Gate

Our trip was exceptional in every way.

It was exactly a year ago. The ITB Berlin Travel Show will be a large-scale travel fair that brings together travel experts and travellers from all over the world. Then, a few days earlier, it was cancelled as the first event of this magnitude in the world. A new type of virus from China has spread to northern Italy.

We know the rest of the story all too well. But Klas and I were in Berlin that day, and that’s not what we came for.

Fortunately, we had an apartment where we could live secluded. We had our hiking boots on and good luck with the weather – and luckily there was a lot to see.

Berlin is a city full of sights and history. So we left the apartment and started going day by day.

What to see in Berlin

The sights of Berlin: Alexanderplatz and Fernsturm

Berlin is a city full of sights and monuments, many of which reflect the city’s dramatic past.

The wall that divided the city in two and the former royal gate, the Brandenburg Gate. Checkpoint Charlie, where they examined access between different parts of the city, and the GDR’s iconic television tower that looks like a needle, to name a few.

These are the best places in Berlin that we have visited:

The top ten tourist attractions in Berlin

  1. The Berlin Wall
  2. Alexanderplatz
  3. Museum Island
  4. Unter den Linden: From the Berlin Cathedral to the Brandenburg Gate
  5. Reichstag
  6. Holocaust Remembrance
  7. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
  8. Checkpoint Charlie
  9. Kreuzberg
  10. East Side Gallery

I’ll show you all of them and the path that connects them. We will also put the landmarks on the map:

Berlin’s top ten: pedestrian walkway and metro line

The map shows our walking route, which connects the ten best locations in Berlin.

We usually walked, but since two rides were too long for us, we took the subway here:

  • the Potzdamer Platz in the Kurfürstendamm, where the memorial church of Kaiser Wilhelm stands, and
  • from the East Side Gallery to Hackescher Markt in the old town.

Map of our walking route through Berlin and the subway

We started in Mitte (north on the map), where our apartment was located. In Berlin Mitte, especially in Gartenstraße and Bernauer Straße, many walls still stand.

We walked south to Alexanderplatz and west to the Brandenburg Gate and the German Bundestag, the Reichstag.

From Potzdamer Platz we took the metro to Old West Berlin and back, before heading to Checkpoint Charlie and Kreuzberg in the southeast.

From Kreuzberg, we crossed the East Side Gallery bridge and eventually took the train to Hackescher Markt in the center of the city.

So, first of all, about the Berlin Wall:

1. Berlin Wall

Graffiti on the Berlin Wall

For almost thirty years the Berlin Wall stood here, dividing the city in two. It was built in 1961 to stem the influx of people from the east to the western parts of the city.

The wall had to be high enough to prevent people from crossing it. This meant a massive structure with watchtowers, moats, fences and so on.

The top ten sights of Berlin: Berlin Wall, Berlin Wall

So they built this wall right through their city, and the different parts were completely isolated from each other. For the next thirty years, East and West Berliners lived their lives without knowing each other.

Then came the ninth. December 1989, a day when the pressure from the peoples of the East became too strong to resist. Their government surrendered and allowed them to cross the wall and see their cousins on the other side.

The Berlin Wall as it was. Source : MAUERMuseum

Things changed quickly after that historic day, and most of the wall was literally ripped to shreds. Afterwards houses were built and green areas were created on the empty places where the wall stood.

In the garden street you can still walk over the wall and see that between the two walls were two parallel walls, and a wide elevation.

At the time, the area was super clean and empty, strictly guarded by the military. Everything is overgrown today:

The Berlin Wall Watchtower as it is now.

Hiking suggestion: After the Berlin Wall

You want to know exactly where the wall was? See the Berlin Wall map

Watch Tower of the Berlin Wall in a residential area

To give you another suggestion for a walk in Berlin: use the wall map of the place and follow the old border through the city. We also hiked when we were in Berylna and that helped us a lot.

Memorial Berlin Wall

Memorial Berlin Wall, Bernauer Strasse

Back to the walk: From Gartenstrasse, the wall changes into the most famous Bernauer Straße and Ackerstrasse. These streets were the scene of many dramatic events during the socialist period.

Berlin Wall memorial and Bernauer Strasse

To learn more about the history of the Wall, visit the Berlin Wall Documentation Centre around the corner.

Then check out the long row of brown pillars and other rusting monuments of the Berlin Wall Memorial and discover the remaining piece of Wall with authentic holes cut out by people who wanted to see what life was like on the other side.

View through the Berlin Wall, Germany

Where Bernauer Strasse ends the wall and then turns north. Instead, we go south. See what Alexanderplatz looks like in the former GDR.

2. Alexanderplatz

The top ten sights of Berlin: Alexanderplatz

During the division of Germany, Bonn was the capital of West Germany and Berlin the capital of the GDR. And Alexanderplatz was the emblematic main square of the eastern capital.

The huge square was completely rebuilt in the socialist style – because nothing was left of the old square after the war.

Alexanderplatz, Berlin in pictures

The television tower and the world clock were symbols of the GDR, and of course Marx and Engels had their statue there too.

Find out more about the TV Tower and buy lift tickets.

The top ten sights of Berlin: World clock Alexanderplatz

Alexanderplatz is breathtaking. I had never been to Berlin and wanted to see this place the most.

Fortunately, not all of Berlin was destroyed during the war. The museum island next to Alexanderplatz has been preserved, as has a large part of the main street Unter den Linden.

The ten biggest attractions of Berlin 3. Museum island

The former National Gallery on Berlin’s Museum Island

Because Berlin is so steeped in history, it has many museums. Some of the best are located on an island in the Spree, the island of museums.

The museum island is filled with fantastic treasures from Germany, the whole of Europe and from distant continents.

The island has a beautiful courtyard with many columns, and the list of museums is exhaustive: Pergamon Museum, Neis Museum, Epitype Museum, James Simon Gallery, Bode Museum, Altes Museum, just to name a few.

Garden and columns in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie:

The top ten sights of Berlin: Museum Island

Spend time on the island and in the museums. Even UNESCO has placed Berlin’s Museum Island on its World Heritage List.

Discover the collections on Berlin’s Museum Island.

But museums don’t stop when you leave the island. They are everywhere in Berlin, old and new, art and history.

Art in Berlin: A walk from Alexanderplatz to the Museum Island

4. Unter den Linden: Cathedral at the Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Cathedral, Unter den Linden.

Unter den Linden is the historic main street of Berlin. It begins at Alexanderplatz and leads through the beautiful Old Town district to the Brandenburg Gate.

There is a name change on the old west side and 17th Street. The university is taking you to the zoo.

The top ten sights of Berlin: Unter den Linden

Unter den Linden is known for the linden trees that adorn both sides of the street. But if you come in the winter, you won’t see any trees. Because they have no leaves, trees are invisible. Either way, it makes beautiful buildings all the more visible.

It’s true, Unter den Linden is dotted with historic buildings. The German Historical Museum, the State Opera, the Kronprinzenpalle, the Humboldt University, the Berlin Scholz, statues, monuments, theatres, etc. are just a few examples. And not to forget Berlin Cathedral.

As one approaches the Brandenburg Gate on the other side, Unter den Linden becomes a shopping street.

There it is, the door to freedom:

Brandenburg Gate

The top ten sights of Berlin: Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden.

For centuries it has been an icon of Berlin, a gate built around 1790 and modeled after the appearance of the Acropolis.

One hundred years later the German Empire was born here, and less than one hundred years later the Soviet flag was raised here.

The Acropolis Gate was thus given a new life as part of the border of the divided city. The Brandenburg Gate was a piece of the Berlin Wall – until the Wall fell here in 1989. It happened here.

Berlin’s most famous landmark is the Brandenburg Gate.

Oddly enough, the huge green statue at the top is a symbol of the room.

Nevertheless, Unter den Linden stops at this point and becomes the main road to Tiergarten, Bellevue and Charlottenburg. You can take a long walk in old West Berlin.

We have chosen a different path. One of the Tiergarten’s pedestrian zones leads to the Reichstag building, where the German Parliament meets.

The Brandenburg Gate separates the two parts of the city.

5. Reichstag building

The Reichstag building, where the German parliament meets.

When the German Empire was born in 1871, the Reichstag was built as the country’s parliament. A building that should be a symbol of national unity.

Then the country split in two and they ruled Germany from two different places. And now a united country rules from this building again.

In 1933, a fire broke out and destroyed large parts of the building, including the dome. The new dome was built of glass, the dome we see today.

Berlin’s ten most important monuments: the Bundestag dome.

You are free to visit the building and the glass dome, but you must book one hour in advance. To do so, go to the small booth outside and show your passport.

At the beginning of the tour, a guide will take your group to the roof.

The former German Reichstag building and its dome

The glass dome under which you can see the members of the Bundestag at work is a magical sight.

The dome offers a bird’s eye view of the entire city and its surroundings. For a better view, climb the slope that takes you to the top.

I don’t know what the old dome looked like, but at least this modern one is super cute!

German Bundestag : Visit the Bundestag

6. Holocaust Remembrance Service

Holocaust Memorial: Sea of boulders

The next place is not very nice, it’s more like a nightmare. The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is located a few steps south of the parliament building.

Many terrible things happened in Berlin, but nothing surpasses what the Jews had to endure during World War II.

These grey blocks are the perfect place to stop, sit and remember Europe’s darkest moments. Because of the different sizes and heights, the massive blocks look like the sea:

The Holocaust Memorial, one of the ten most important sights in Berlin.

Potsdam Square

Potsdamer Platz skyscraper

Not far from the memorial is Berlin’s modern business centre, Potsdamer Platz. Full of new designs in all forms. Lots of drinks, lots of business and entertainment for all tastes.

Berlin’s new business center, Potsdamer Platz

There is a big train station at the Potzdamer Platz, so we went there and took the train to the old states.

7. Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

And we went to the main attraction in West Berlin, a church dating back to Hohenzollern times. Unfortunately, during the Second World War, only the bell tower, or rather parts of it, remained.

So they built a new modern church and a bell tower.

From the outside the church looks very simple. As you enter, you will first see what made this church famous. The small windows that appear grey on the outside are blue glass that makes the inside shine blue, which is fantastic.

The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is one of the most inspiring church interiors I have ever seen in the world. You can’t imagine it if you only see it from the outside.

Pictures of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche

In the base of the former bell tower there are original mosaics and cult objects from the Hohenzollern period.

For more information about the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, visit Berlin

The nearby Kurfurstendamm was Berlin’s most famous street in the 1920s and later became the exclusive shopping street on the West Side, a major blow to the East.

The Kurfurstendamm is still a busy shopping street and is full of shops and luxury hotels. But shopping streets don’t interest us when we travel, so we took the next train home.

Shopping paradise in Kurfürstendamm

We took the subway to go into the history of Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie.

8. The ten biggest attractions of Berlin Tick Charlie

Charlie’s Checkpoint booth

Checkpoint Charlie was the main border crossing between East and West, constantly guarded by the military. A very moving place that makes you think about how Europe has been divided during a long period, 28 years.

Marsh Museum, Trabis and Topography of Terror.

The nearby Haus Am checkpoint has witnessed many events over the past 28 years.

Today it’s the Wall Museum, which explains what the Cold War was like in Berlin and what happened to those who tried to escape. Tunnel with their traps, on foot or by hand.

Former GDR border

Checkpoint Charlie is located south of the old city. Kreuzberg starts there.

9. Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg, a mixed and multicultural city

Kreuzberg is a kind of alternative, mixed and multicultural Berlin. An unusual and colorful neighborhood, with walls full of street art, perhaps the largest on the East Side.

Bars, pubs, small shops, nightlife. Very quiet during the day, Kreuzberg wakes up at night. A place you must see to understand what Berlin is. Whether you feel at home here or not, you have to see this place.

Kreuzberg street art in pictures

After a long, long walk through Kreuzberg, there was a bridge to cross the river – to find more street art on the other side. Where is the longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall.

Crossing the Spree: Oberbaumbrucke

East Side Gallery: The fall of the Berlin Wall

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, 118 artists from 21 countries came to fill a 1.3km stretch of the wall with their art and paintings. All the paintings here contain the symbolism or story of their respective dramatic years.

Painting of the East Side Gallery near the Berlin Wall

These emotional images show the strong feelings of people on both sides during these extraordinary days.

The East Side Gallery in Berlin is a very moving exhibition. You can see more behind the link.

The return of strong emotions: East Side Gallery in Berlin

The closest station to the East Side Gallery is Ostbahnhof, from where we took the train to the last Berlin attraction I showed you – Hackescher Markt and Hackesche Höfe.

Vision bonus: Hackescher Markt

House Schwarzenberg, Hackescher Hof

What’s the best place to end a day in Berlin? Do it in German: Sauerkraut and sausage for dinner and a pint of Berlin beer. Or perhaps a light dinner with a fresh German white wine? It’s hard to choose.

Hackesche Höfe is a true Berlin hotspot, one of many in the region. Eight interconnected courtyards in a row of historic buildings that are not crowded in the early evening, but will be just as crowded in the evening.

The end of the walk in Berlin: Hackesche Höfe and Hackescher Markt, Berlin

No Berlin this year

Thus we spent our time in Berlin in a situation where what we had come for did not exist. We did our best, and I think we did.

It was kind of a surprise to see all that Berlin has to offer and how pleasant it is to walk around the city. Since we already knew about the coronavirus, we wanted to walk and avoid people and crowds. Walking is probably the safest way to do sightseeing.

Next week the NOW convention of ITB Berlin will be held again. This year it will be a completely virtual event and reserved for professional visitors. Nevertheless, it will be the biggest event of its kind for the tourism sector.

So when I attend presentations by leading tourism professionals and participate in meetings from home, I will think of what it was like in Berlin. I’m very glad we went there last year.

More information on travelling in Europe

Under this link you will find all our contributions about Europe:

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