Shaped by the likes of Marx, Einstein, Hitler and Bowie, the capital of Germany is incredibly rich in culture and history, yet simultaneously one of the most effortlessly cool and edgy places I’ve visited.
The city has some beautiful landmark buildings and gardens, although it’s not what I’d call a “pretty city”. For me the allure came from wondering around on foot and discovering the cafes, vintage stores, murals, graffiti and generally chilled vibe of Mitte and the Barn district. I’d recommend staying centrally so you can easily wander on foot- saving money and the environment.
Here are 10 sites you can walk to from central Berlin and explore for free!
1. Walk up the dome of the Reichstag
Germany’s parliament building expertly combines old and new architecture, with the 19th century main building contrasting elegantly with the new dome. Constructed in the 1990s during the building’s restoration, the glass dome was designed by Norman Foster and features a mirror-lined central column which allows natural light to filter down to the parliament below. While entry is free you need to book ahead and bring your passport for security purposes. Make sure you click through on the multiple email confirmations to secure your spot. The view from the top is well worth the small hassle and the audio guide explains the buildings you see in the 360-degree vista with just the right amount of information.
Afterwards wander the nearby Tiergarten and visit the famous Brandenburg Gate.
2. Get lost in Mitte- especially the Barn Quarter
Scheunenviertel, also known as the Barn Quarter is the historic Jewish neighborhood, and home to the beautiful Neue Synagoge, a belle epoque ballroom– turned into a restaurant and dance school, and a bunch of edgy galleries and eating spots. Some of delicious bakeries and restaurants include; Five Elephant, Zeit für Brot and Tinman.
As with many places I travel to, I loved wandering around aimlessly and taking in the pretty vintage stores amid graffiti coloured walls and locals cycling to work. I listed my favorite 10 eco-friendly and vintage stores that I stumbled on here. Another of the more popular sites is Hackescher Markt and Hackesche Hofe– a complex of eight interlinked courtyards with shops, restaurants and theaters.
3. Wander Gendarmenmarkt
The most elegant square in Berlin, Gendarmenmarkt is boarded on two sides by twin French and German churches and a third side by the Konzertaus (Concert Hall). The beautiful square is also home to an enchanting Christmas Market in December.
4. Visit Museum Island
With over 6,000 years of history, the five museums on this small UNESCO World Heritage listed island contain no modern art! If you’re interested in art and architecture it would be worth purchasing a 3-day Museum Pass for 29€. While some museums in Berlin offer free entry one a week or month, this does not include any on museum island. However, if you’re on a tight budget or time frame the buildings are stunning to observe from the outside, by wandering along the river banks or the island itself.
5. Take a step back in history at the Berlin Wall
There are several sites to view the Berlin Wall and learn about the history of the era, including Checkpoint Charlie– the main gateway for foreigners and diplomats between 1961- 1990, the Gedenkstatte Berliner Mauer (the Berlin Wall Memorial) and my favorite- the East Side Gallery, a 1.4km stretch of the wall with murals and street art. I walked here from Mitte but it’s also close the Schöneberg metro stop.