This is part two of 24 Hours in Berlin series, a sample itinerary I would give someone who has never been to Berlin but wants to pack in as much of they can from the city in a limited amount of time. It allows you to see the most well-known and notable sights of Berlin like the Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, Alexanderplatz, Prenzlauerberg, Kreuzberg, Schöneberg, shopping…and, of course, currywurst. There’s so much to see and do here that it’s hard to pack everything into just one day and this is a VERY full schedule…but this should give you a really great crash course to Berlin without getting too deeply into any particular locations. If you missed the morning activities and bus tour, you can read part one of things to do in Berlin here.
Picking up where we left off at the currywurst stand Konnopke in Prenzlauerberg…
12:30pm – To help the food settle, take a stroll down Eberswalderstrasse toward the Mauerpark. This park was one of many old railroad stations in Berlin that has been converted into a public space. When the Berlin Wall was in place, it was also part of the “Death Zone” with high walls extending on both sides, where only those who didn’t value their lives dared to enter.
On your way back from the park to the Eberswalder station, have a look around the street and get a feel for Prenzlauerberg with it’s cafes and unique clothing stores.
1:15pm — Back to the Eberswalder stop and find the tram M10, direction Warschauerstrasse. You’re off to edgy and hipster-loving areas of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg!! Take the tram all the way to the end and get out at Warschauerstrasse. Now you’re off to see the East Side Gallery, the most famed parts of the Berlin Wall which have become an outdoor art gallery for all the peruse. Much of the art has political messages within in and the talent of the artists who have contributed to the project is really remarkable. When you get off the m10 tram, walk toward the Spree River and turn right on Mühlenstrasse. This will take you along the river and toward the 02 World arena.
2:00pm – Once you’ve seen it all, walk back along Mühlenstrasse and turn right at the end so that you can walk across the river on the Oberbaum Bridge. It’s probably the best bridge in all of Berlin, not only because of it’s wonderful architecture, but because it provides you with a beautiful view of the river and the TV Tower. The Oberbaum bridge is a double-decker bridge (trains on top and pedestrians and cars underneath) and links Friedrichshain (former East Germany) to Kreuzberg (former West Germany).
Keep on walking on the main road, which bends to the right, and and head to the Schlesisches Tor U1 station.
2:10pm — Take the “underground” train (which is actually elevated in this part of the city) u1 from Schlesisches Tor to Görlitzer Bahnhof. It’s time for a break!
Get off the train at Görlitzer Bahnhof, head downstairs, turn left and cross the street. Go left to the end of the block and you should be at Oranienstrasse. This is a really popular street of Kreuzberg to hang out on because of all the great restaurants and bars. If your sweet tooth is calling, go grab a latte and a crepe or waffle from Cassonade (Oranienstrasse 199). It’s a small little cafe with a French flair and delicious food. And the crepes are definitely big enough to split between two people. Or if you want something a little more substantial, try the flatbread pizza place across the street, Da Dante. It is the best in all the city — and we’ve tried a bunch of them!
3:00pm — Now that you’re refreshed, head back to the U1 train at Görlitzer Bahnhof and take the U1 (direction Uhlandstrasse) to Kurfürstendamm (not Kurfürstenstrasse). You’re backtracking to where you started with the bus now and could even stop at the hotel for a moment if you want (Wittenbergplatz). You can also walk from the hotel to these sights instead of taking the train if you prefer. This is the shopping part of the excursion with a bit of history thrown in.
3:30pm — Exit the station at Kurfürstendamm, and head toward Breitscheidplatz. Here you will find the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. It was built in 1891 but heavily bombed during WWII. So although much of it is currently covered up by scaffolding as they renovate, the building is still spectacular and a well-known landmark in Berlin. You can go inside the church during the day, but only if there is no service going on.
Also at this location is some of the best shopping in Berlin, with many major brands having their own flagship stores here, from Cartier to Adidas. As you walk along Taunentzienstrasse (direction of Wittenbergplatz and KaDeWe) you can do some window shopping (or even real shopping.) Some of the best deals can be found during the end of season sales for summer and winter, held late-July/August and February/March.
4:00pm – Once you reach KaDeWe or Kaufhaus des Westens, you owe it to yourself to go inside. It’s like the Harrod’s or the flagship Macy’s store, but the Berlin version. The name literally translates to the “Department Store of the West” and it is the second-largest department store in Europe.
Each of the 8 floors is devoted to a different shopping need (men’s clothes, women’s clothes, housewares, etc) — but the absolute best floor is #6 which is all sorts of food. It’s set up like a huge delicatessen — and they claim to have two football fields worth of food. To be honest, the amount of different types of foods they have up there makes me a bit overwhelmed and I could never shop there on a regular basis. But if you are looking for something in particular…anything…they are bound to have it here. And by the way, if you’re an American expat looking for junk food from home — they have you covered! And if you love chocolate truffles, it’s like heaven up there!
5:00pm — It’s time to hop back on the train, but this time you will be taking the U2 (direction Pankow) to Stadtmitte. Go upstairs and you will be on Mohrenstrasse. Go one block north to Friedrichstrasse and take a right toward the open square. Friedrichstrasse is another major shopping street in Berlin but you’re going to be checking out some of the more historical sites; Gendarmenmarkt which has the German Cathedral, Concert House and the French Cathedral. The Gendarmenmarkt is named after the cuirassier regiment Gens d’Armes, which was deployed at this square until 1773.
5:30pm – Return back to Friedrichstrasse and head south (left) and walk about 5 blocks to Checkpoint Charlie. You can do some window shopping along the way, and will also notice the
Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. It is currently one of Berlin’s biggest tourist attractions and there is an entire info center built up around it. An open-air exhibit was opened during the summer of 2006. Gallery walls along the Friedrichstraße and the Zimmerstraße inform on escape attempts, how the checkpoint was expanded, and its significance during the Cold War, in particular the confrontation of Soviet and American tanks in 1961. You can have your photo taken with actors dressed up like allied military policemen standing in front of the guard house, but you’re going to have to pay them. There are lots of stands with fake military hats and so forth as well.
6:30pm – On your way back from Checkpoint Charlie, make a quick detour down Zimmerstrasse (to the left) until it becomes Niederkirchnerstrasse. There you will find the Topography of Terror indoor/outdoor museum. From 1933 to 1945, the Nazi regime had their headquarters for the Gestapo and the SS at this location. The museum takes a look at the methods of torture used during the Nazi regime and you can see a large portion of the Berlin wall with it’s original barbed wire construction.
7:30pm – By now you’ve probably worked up a good appetite — so it’s time to head to Lutter & Wegner for Wiener Schnitzel (the NY Times said it was even better than a schnitzel in Vienna)! It’s back at Gendarmenmarkt, so head back down Zimmerstrasse and take a left on Friedrichstrasse. Walk down to Taubenstrasse, turn right and when you deadend at Gendarmenmarkt, you should see Lutter & Wegner to your left. You can also try out Augustiner (a Bavarian classic) if the wait at L&W is too extreme.
9:00 pm – With your stomach full and you legs tired, there’s just enough time for a nightcap (or two) before you pass out. Head back over to the U2 station at Stadtmitte and take the U2 towards Theodore-Heuss-Platz or Ruhleben. You’ll want get out at Nollendorfplatz and head down Maasenstrasse, toward the bars and restaurants. There’s a lot of nightlife going on here and several of the most well known cocktail bars in Berlin. One of which is Stagger Lee.
At Stagger Lee the cocktails are practically works of art and truly perfectly balanced. In fact, it was voted Bar of the Year 2012 by Mixology, which really takes cocktails seriously. The vodka sour has fresh pressed lemon juice in it and the alcohol is at least middle shelf quality. Although you may not always feel that the drinks are heavy, they will fit you fast…and the prices reflect the quality of the drinks.
The Ibis Hotel is within walking distance from here (about 4 blocks) or you can go back to Nollendorfplatz and take the U2 train one stop to Wittenbergplatz.
I hope you’ve had a great time exploring Berlin and if your favorite city tip isn’t here, please share it below!