If you’re limited on time and want to hit all of the landmarks of Berlin and learn (or be reminded of) its rich history, then look no further!
Step 1: Pick a day when you plan to travel to Berlin and confirm all your travel companions.
Step 2: (It’s important that this is step 2) Go to http://www.bundestag.de/ to see if there is a time available for you visit the Reichstag Dome (German Parliament Building). It’s free, but fills up quickly. So as soon as you confirm your travel dates, check for availability! When we went, we looked 4 days in advance, but were unable to get in 😦 So, I haven’t seen it for myself, but there are supposed to be great views of the city, and the building itself is architecturally lovely.
Step 3: Determine how you will arrive to Berlin – by car, by train, or by plane – and navigate to Brandenburg Gate (“Brandenburger Tor”).
By Car – Set your GPS to direct you to Brandenburg Gate. As you approach the gate, you should be in the middle of the “Tiergarten,” a large public park that looks like a forest. Avoiding the designated bus areas, parallel park your car for free next to the Tiergarten! Disclaimer: always check the signs before parking. If you get there early enough, you should easily be within walking distance of Brandenburg Gate. If there is no more parking available, the nearest parking garage is €35 per day.
By Train – Depending on your departure location, find a route that lands you at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof via the U-Bahn (a 20 minute walk to the gate) or to Berlin Brandengurger Tor via the S-Bahn (just steps away from the gate).
By Plane –
Tegel Airport – Jump on the TXL bus and for €2.30 it will take you straight there! Details here.
Schönefeld Airport – The fastest way to get to Brandenburg is to take the Airport Express trains RB-14 (to Nauen) or RE-7 (to Dessau) and arrive at the Berlin Haupfbahnhof (Berlin Hbf). Once there, walk approximately 20 minutes to the gate (see map above)
Step 4: Once your travel day has arrived, use you favorite transportation method to get yourself and your companions to Brandenburg Gate. Once in Pariser Platz, there are several tour groups to choose from. There are Segway tour groups, biking tours, horse-driven carriage rides…and probably many more. My personal recommendation is Sandeman’s New Europe Tours. You can find the tour guides waiting outside of Starbucks. Don’t worry – they speak English (and German, and Spanish)! They will ask you if you want to join the free tour that runs at 11 am or 2 pm (so schedule your Bundestag tour accordingly!).
Step 5: Enjoy the tour! You will start at Brandenburg Gate, and weave your way around the city learning all about Pariser Platz, how an unfortunate series of events gave Hitler too much power, the conspiracy theories surrounding Hitler’s death, the interpretations of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the history of the Berlin Wall, the stories of successful escapes from East Germany, the significance of the TV tower and “The Pope’s Revenge,” and, if your tour guide is as good as ours (Alex Z), the heroic tale of how Leipzig’s peaceful protests led to the fall of the Berlin Wall!
All in all, the tour will take about 2.5-3 hours, so bring your walking shoes! And, fair warning, the tour isn’t exactly free, but you determine the value of the tour at the end and are asked to tip your guide fairly. Usually around €10 per person will do, but I’ve seen people give up to €50! But really, they’re happy to take whatever you offer.
Step 6: Walk back to the Bundestag and tour the Parliament Building at your scheduled time!
Still looking for more to do?
- Visit a museum that you walked past on the tour
- Try some currywurst from a street vendor
- See a performance of the famous Berlin Philharmonic
- Adore the artistry at Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery
- Do as we did and visit on a Sunday to catch the Market at Mauerpark and listen to some karaoke!
A note on Sandeman’s New Europe:
I am not paid by Sandeman’s New Europe, but I fully endorse their tours as a highly satisfied customer. I’ve been on their free tours in Paris, London, Dublin, and Berlin, as well as a pre-paid tour about Jack the Ripper (London), and have learned something new on every one. Their staff are mostly history buffs (often students) looking to earn some money by sharing what they love. They do a phenomenal job making history fun and engaging for a general audience. And, since they’re working for tips, they try extra hard to make sure you enjoy yourself!
What’s your favorite part about Berlin? Have another recommendation? Leave a comment!
Like what you see? Share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!