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Freiluftkino at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
Photograph: Arte Sommerkino Kulturforum/Potsdamer Platz

The 16 best things to do in Berlin right now

Not sure where to start in the German capital? We've got you covered with the absolute best things to eat, see and do in Berlin

Nathan Ma
Written by
Nathan Ma
&
Anna Geary-Meyer
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Is there anything Berlin can’t do? The German capital was the city of the twentieth century and has carried that momentum into the twenty-first. What are the best things to do in Berlin? The diversity at the heart of the city makes it a ‘something for everyone’ sort of place, with museums and galleries for the culture vultures next to 72-hour parties for the buzz-chasing, erm, buzzards. Not the best analogy, clearly, but you see the point.

If you want it, you’ll find it in Berlin. And that’s how we’ve curated our list the way we have: to show off each element of this fabulous city. In any case, a plan is a must, as this modern metropolis fills every inch of its territory with interest, so follow our guide to the best things to do in Berlin and get planning. You are in for one incredible trip.

One can easily spend weeks (or months) in this city, but if you’re only in town for a couple of days, check out our ultimate itinerary for a weekend in Berlin.

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Planning your next trip? Check out our latest travel guides, written by local experts.

Best things to do in Berlin

  • Attractions
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Mitte

There’s certainly a lot to like at this Berlin branch of the attractions dedicated to all things life aquatic. You'll be led through 13 themed aquaria offering fish in different habitats, with the 'Depths of the Ocean' zone particularly good fun. Excellent for all the family. 

The best way to get to know Berlin? Dig into its history as a political and cultural centre with a walking tour. Find your footing with operators like Sandemans, which provide great overviews of Berlin’s storied past – just be mindful that while many of these tours are advertised as ‘free’, you should bring cash to tip your guide at the end. Berlin is also home to a wide range of independent tour companies like Whitlam’s Berlin Tours and Alternative Berlin Tours. Revolutionary Tours Berlin is a local favourite; led by guide Nathaniel Flakin, his dig deeper into the histories of politics, activism and – of course – revolutions that have defined the German capital. 

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Tempelhofer Feld
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

3. Tempelhofer Feld

After Tempelhof airport ceased operation in 2008, the city opened the runways to the public. Now you can stroll down the runways where Second World War Stuka dive-bombers took off and where, during the Berlin Airlift of 1948 after the Soviets blockaded West Berlin, the Western Powers dropped supplies for the city’s 2.5 million residents. Today, the 368-hectare open space of runways and grasslands is much enjoyed by walkers, kite-surfers, cyclists, runners, skaters and goshawks. There are designated sections for dogs to run free, basketball courts, a baseball field, beer gardens and even small allotments where Berliners can grow their own veg.

Tiergarten
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

4. Tiergarten

Make like a Berliner and stretch your legs with a stroll, jog or cycle through the city’s most famous park, which comes into its own during spring and summer. Whether you’re hunting famous monuments, a beer and a sausage, or a spot to sunbathe naked, you’ll find what you’re looking for. This five-kilometre (three-mile) circuit will return you to your starting point for your next adventure within an hour or so. Don’t worry if you get lost – the park is full of maps with ‘you are here’ markers.

Time Out Tip: Hire out the beer bike! There are few greater ways to take in Tiergarten’s charms than beers in the fresh air. 

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Berlinale
Photograph: Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com

5. Berlinale

Founded in 1951, the Berlinale (officially called the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin) is the world’s most popular film festival in terms of sheer numbers in attendance. A major fixture on the global cultural calendar, it sees Potsdamer Platz transformed into a glittering stage that plays host to film-industry names each February. Screenings also take place in other parts of the city, including Alexanderplatz, at the Zoo Palast cinema in Tiergarten and in a renovated crematorium (silent green Kulturquartier) in Wedding.

Explore Berlin by bike
Photograph: Shutterstock.com

6. Explore Berlin by bike

Cycling through Berlin with the wind in your hair is an experience not to be missed. Flat, with lots of clear routes, parks and canal paths, the city is best explored by bike. That said, caution is required. Cobbles, tram lines, aimless pedestrians, other cyclists and careless drivers all pose hazards. Few locals wear helmets, but you’d be wise to get your hands on one, especially if you’re used to riding on the left.

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Freiluftkino
Photograph: Arte Sommerkino Kulturforum/Potsdamer Platz

7. Freiluftkino

During the summer months, the city’s largest public parks – including Volkspark Friedrichshain, Hasenheide in Neukölln and Rehberge in Wedding – unveil their freiluftkino (open-air cinemas). Grab a beer and some snacks, relax in the sun and enjoy the summer evening Berlin-style. Titles are mostly bigger hits from the previous season, so try the likes of Neues Off, Odeon Kino or Moviemento for a more arthouse experience.

Brandenburg Lakes
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Brandenburg Lakes

Brandenburg, the north-eastern state surrounding Berlin, is known as the land of 3,000 lakes. Starkly beautiful in winter and especially appealing in the warmer months, many lakes are easily accessible by public transport, and each has its own character. While some may be better for swimming and others for sunbathing, you’ll certainly be able to find one that’s right for you (just like the locals). Such idyllic scenes offer the perfect antidote to a hard night’s partying in the centre.

Discover the best bathing lakes in Berlin.

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Sanssouci
Photograph: umut rosa / Shutterstock.com

9. Sanssouci

Frederick the Great’s summer grounds make for an unforgettable day out in Potsdam, the state capital of Brandenburg, just an S-Bahn ride southwest from central Berlin. As well as touring the palace itself, guests can spend hours getting lost in its gardens and the ornate Bildergalerie and Neue Kammern (‘new chambers’). A trip to the lush grounds is welcome after a few days of pavement-pounding in urban Berlin.

There’s a lot to love about Kino International. Originally built and operated under the GDR, the cinema was then home to unmatched technical equipment, and it remains a popular choice for film festival premieres. The beauty of Kino International, however, is in its status as both a cultural and architectural landmark. Drop by to take in the breathtaking cantilevered show windows that appear to float weightlessly, then take in the gorgeous interiors before catching up on Hollywood’s latest offerings. If you’re not in the mood for a film, continue walking Karl-Marx-Allee towards Frankfurter Tor to see some of East Berlin’s most memorable buildings: Café Moskau, the Mokka-Milch-Eisbar and the broad residential housing complexes that line the avenue are must-see attractions for architecture fanatics. 

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In recent years, many Berliners have said goodbye to the traditional German breakfast of cold cuts and bread rolls, and welcomed a legion of top-tier eateries with exciting culinary delights. But while brunch in Berlin may have taken off, making way for some mouth-watering hangover cures, that doesn’t mean that every café serving avocado toast is worth your while. Try House of Small Wonder in Mitte for a gorgeous breakfast with a Japanese twist, or swing by any of the six Brammibal’s Vegan Donuts locations in the city to see what the buzz is about. Other favourites include Isla, Sorrel and Sfera.

  • Clubs
  • Friedrichshain

When it comes to Berghain, forget everything you know about clubbing and go with an open mind and comfortable shoes. The queue can last for hours, the door staff can be intimidating, and the general attitude is bolshy, but brave it all and you’re in for the night (and morning) of your life. This dystopian legend is a techno temple. Don’t show up too drunk or be disheartened if you’re turned away: the club is immensely popular, and the bouncers limit how many partygoers are allowed to comply with fire safety regulations. There’s no shortage of excellent clubs nearby, either.

Time Out Tip: Study internet messageboards for the best and most up-to-date tips on getting in.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs

During the late-nineteenth century, 14 covered markets were opened to replace traditional outdoor ones and improve hygiene standards. Local residents saved this one from closure in 2009, filling it with stalls serving locally sourced veg and meats. It’s also home to the excellent Heidenpeters microbrewery and the Sironi bakery from Milan. The themed events, including the hugely popular Street Food Thursday, get crowded but are well worth the trip.

Take to the streets
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Take to the streets

Political demonstration or street festival? In Berlin, it’s often hard to tell. Whether lighting firecrackers on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) or swarming Görlitzer park on May Day, Berliners love to exercise their right to drink in public, demonstrate and hawk homemade shots to tourists. Beware of patchy cell service and defunct ATMs on big holidays, and be mindful of police activity at protests to stay safe.

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Germany is the international capital of avant-garde theatre, and the most renowned of its many lavishly state-funded theatres is the striking Schaübuhne am Lehniner Platz. A former cinema – built in 1928 in a Bauhaus style – it became home to the radical Schaübuhne ensemble in the late ’70s, and has been run since 1999 by influential director Thomas Ostermeier. The Schaübuhne plays host to first-rate leftfield names from Germany and beyond – Switzerland’s Milo Rau and Britain’s Katie Mitchell are notable regulars. As with most German theatres, it operates a rep system, with productions from years back frequently popping back into circulation – Ostermeier’s gloriously anarchic 2008 ‘Hamlet’ is a regularly-revived oldie well worth catching. Performances are mostly in German, but every month a solid smattering are subtitled in English or French.

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