From the beer drinking stereotype to the rich history that surrounds this nation’s heritage, exploring any city throughout Germany will offer something uniquely beautiful and rewarding. What better place to start than the capital city itself, Berlin! Berlin in a day…how much can you see? Is it feasible? Both are valid questions and hopefully after reading this quick guide, you will have a few ideas of places you must experience if you only have a short time in this part of Germany.
By now, we have become experts (or at least we consider ourselves to be pretty good) at planning 24-hour guides of cities and destinations that we visit.
Given that much of our travels throughout Europe during this trip meant that we would only be spending a short time in each city, we had to have our itinerary fine-tuned and ready to go. Berlin was the first stop on our Eurail adventure so we were excited about getting our trip off to a great start!
Berlin in a Day
How much of Berlin can you feasibly experience in just 24 hours? Actually quite a lot, especially when you consider how good the public transportation is and also the fact that Berlin is yet another typical example of a great walking city like many of its fellow European counterparts.
Our first evening in Berlin consisted of a stroll around one of the many Christmas markets that Germany is famous for. From mulled wine to irresistible German delicacies waiting for you to indulge, visiting any German city in December or January is the ideal time to fully experience these charming markets.
Let’s take a look at ten reasons why you have to visit Berlin and why you may just fall in love with this German capital!
1. Modern vs Historic Germany
Arriving in Berlin at the Hauptbahnhof, we hopped on the S-Bahn and headed for our hotel in the Alexanderplatz district of the city. The first thing we noticed about Berlin echoed our feelings about Frankfurt, which was the only other German city we had spent time exploring.
The modern vs historic blend is definitely apparent as you pass through the various neighborhoods, but rather than having a disjointed look this actually makes Berlin a more attractive destination for visitors.
Our focus while exploring Berlin in a day was predominantly on the mainstream attractions that most have heard of but perhaps haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore. Learning about historical Berlin is undoubtedly an experience worth exploring but of course, you will need more than 24 hours to fully encapsulate everything this city has to offer.
In terms of modern Germany, well simply take a look at the some of the modern-day architecture here with the Berlin TV Tower and globally recognized universities and sports stadia. Mark Twain eloquently named Berlin as the “Chicago of Europe” due to its modernism and in many ways, Berlin is the most Americanized city in Europe.
2. German Beer Houses
Only a short walk from our hotel in the Alexanderplatz was the Hofbräu restaurant which immediately caught our attention. If you have ever seen the movie Beerfest or imagine stereotypical German restaurants during Oktoberfest, Hofbräu would certainly fit this image!
Full of wooden benches seating hundreds of dining and of course, drinking guests, along with live German performers singing traditional music makes this a perfect introduction to German nightlife.
A visit to Berlin wouldn’t be the same without sampling one of the local brews and when you see the size of the glasses, you know these local Germans are hardy folks when it comes to beer drinking.
I ordered the Curry Wurst and Heather opted for a traditional platter with sausage, potato salad and mustard. We also ordered a pretzel which was a nice addition to our typical German food.
If Hofbräu doesn’t particularly perk your interest, don’t worry there are plenty more similar local beer houses waiting to entice you through their doors. Our only recommendation is to try one and definitely have a beer to celebrate your time in Berlin.
3. Berlin Wall
When you think about the most iconic attractions throughout not only Berlin but Germany as a whole, the Berlin Wall is probably one of the top three landmarks in your mind. Of course, this is for good reason and with such a rich history and tragic stories surrounding this location, it goes without saying that any first-time trip to Berlin means paying a visit to the Berlin Wall is one of the first things to do.
Our hectic itinerary started early in the morning by leaving our hotel in Alexanderplatz and heading back on the S-Bahn to the Berlin Wall location. As we left the metro at the Nordbahnhof station, just a short walk from the Berlin Wall, we were a little unsure as to exactly where to go.
Expecting to see lots of visitors even at 8:30AM in the morning, we were surprised to see very few people and in fact, this had a more desolate feel to it. But perhaps this somber feeling surrounding the area and the lack of visitors was a perfect reflection on all the stories and history you can learn about here.
As we walked around the memorial site, we soon realized just how iconic this was in the battle between East and West Berlin.
You could literally spend hours here exploring all of the different artifacts in addition to the remains of the wall itself, but perhaps the most rewarding experience is listening to the stories from those that lived in the houses directly across from the ‘Berliner Mauer’.
It’s difficult to imagine trying to live a normal life only for local enforcements to frequently knock on your door telling you to pack your possessions and leave.
Visiting the Berlin Wall was the perfect way to start our visit to the German capital. Not only did it provide an in-depth history of the Berlin Wall, it also provided material that would be beneficial while exploring the rest of Berlin’s iconic landmarks, many of which are linked through the East vs West divide.
4. Brandenburg Gate
After an impressive start to our tour of Berlin, we headed to yet another of the city’s most famous landmarks. Hopping on the S-Bahn makes getting around Berlin quick and easy and if you are interested in seeing the towering sight of the neoclassical triumphal arch, known as the Brandenburg Gate, this is certainly one of the easiest attractions to access.
Dating back to its initial construction in the 18th century, it stands one block to the south of the German parliament – the Reichstag. The Brandenburg Gate is most famous for symbolizing freedom and unifying the city of Berlin between the former East and West divide.
Originally next to the Berlin Wall, in 1989 the West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl walked through the archway and was greeted by the East German Prime Minister, Hans Modrow. This signified the start of reunification of Germany.
Understandably this is one of the most popular attractions and unlike our experience at the Berlin Wall, it was incredibly busy here especially with preparations for New Year’s Eve taking place here. But it’s not a landmark you will want to miss and on a gorgeous winter’s day, it is definitely one of my favorite ‘photogenic’ landmarks!
5. The Reichstag
The Reichstag is home to the German parliament and given its close proximity to the Brandenburg Gate, it makes sense to take a quick stroll over and take a look at this gorgeous building.
If you would like to take the free tour of the Reichstag and climb to the summit of the imperious dome that stands proudly atop this building, you are strongly encouraged to book in advance otherwise you will either be left disappointed or you may have to queue for quite some time to get a reservation later in the day or possibly the next day.
Regardless of your intentions, just taking a walk around the grounds of the Reichstag provide gorgeous views of this iconic piece of architecture. One of the most interesting designs of the Reichstag is the inscription of ‘Dem Deutschen Volke’ which literally means ‘To The German People’. The bronze letters used to design this date back to the early 20th century when Emperor William II requested that this was added.
6. Checkpoint Charlie
Although the Berlin Wall may be a clear dividing line between the former East and West Berlin, the one location that epitomizes the separation between the two is Checkpoint Charlie.
Soon after the Berlin Wall was completed, President John F. Kennedy ordered US forces to construct three different checkpoints for diplomats and allied forces to get through – Checkpoint Charlie was undoubtedly the most famous By 1962, this checkpoint was the only place where visitors could cross between the East and West.
This checkpoint, much like the rest of the Berlin Wall was far from secure, and as we explored this today we read stories of the successful escape attempts from the East to the West.
Of course, there were many more unsuccessful attempts but there are always one or two that escape the watchful eye of troops either side of the divide.
7. French Cathedral
Located in the Gendarmenmarkt square in the heart of Berlin, the French Cathedral was constructed in the first part of the 18th century. Known as the Französischer Dom, this is a beautiful building that fits perfectly with the rest of Berlin’s historical architecture.
As we walked around the Gendarmenmarkt district, we noticed this cathedral was the counterpart to the German Cathedral.
The most impressive feature of this cathedral is the towering dome that stands 70 meters tall and offers visitors the opportunity to climb a spiral staircase and enjoy panoramic views across the city.
If you want the ultimate experience, wait until the hour to climb the tower and enjoy the beautiful sounds of the bronze bells.
8. Neue Kirche
A short walk from the French Cathedral is the German Cathedral. The impressive architecture is unquestionable but this church is best known for being part of the spectacular ‘trinity ensemble’ alongside the French counterpart and Concert Hall.
This cathedral was seriously damaged during the war and it took several decades before this was restored to full working order. It’s interesting to note that no religious services take place, rather it is now used as a museum since 1992 with a German Parliament exhibition on display.
9. Berlin Cathedral
Having visited two gorgeous cathedrals, you may be forgiven for thinking that Berlin can’t have anything else that surpasses either of the aforementioned churches. If you did think this, you would be wrong because as you continue walking around Berlin, you would be hard pressed not to stumble across the majestic sight of the Berlin Cathedral.
Located on Museum Island in the Mitte district of the city, Berlin Cathedral is an incredible building that you won’t want to miss (by now you should have realized that trying to explore Berlin in a day is pretty optimistic).
Surprisingly, the history of this church only dates back to the late 19th century when construction was initially started before the inauguration ceremony took place in 1905.
Even though this is a relatively new build in comparison to the many 15th century buildings in the surrounding neighborhood, it is the Berlin Cathedral that attracts tourists from all corners of the globe. The nearby Altes Museum is equally as impressive and provides a perfect accompaniment for the Cathedral.
The views are breathtaking from all angles, whether you are looking across the river or perhaps you head inside and climb to the top of the dome to take in the views across the city.
10. Fassbender & Rausch Chocolate
What better way to end your day exploring Berlin than paying a visit to one of the best chocolate shops in the city.
Fassbender and Rausch is more than just a chocolate shop, it is an experience that all the family will love.
As we walked around this store without unbelievable amounts of chocolate available for purchase, we noticed a number of iconic Berlin attractions (many of which described above) on display, all of which were made out of chocolate!
The hardest part about visiting a shop like this is figuring out what to buy. With so much to choose from you have no idea where to begin. We finally agreed on a selection of truffles that offered a nice variation, though with so many flavors to select from, it was difficult to know where to stop!
We will let you figure out which German chocolates you want to sample, but we definitely encourage you to visit this shop which is located directly across from the German and French Cathedrals in the Gendarmenmarkt square.
Berlin is a vibrant yet historic city with so much culture to be discovered as you explore the German capital. If you are limited to only 24 hours in Berlin, perhaps you will follow our lead and check out some of the city’s most rewarding landmarks, plus of course, taking some time to sample the fine cuisine and delicacies on offer here.
Hopefully, our guide to discovering Berlin in a day will be beneficial but we are always intrigued to hear what experiences you have had while spending time in this beautiful part of Germany.