Hey I am Swathi Rai (aka @en_tourist) from India. In this guide I will outline some of the best experiences in Berlin, the cultural capital of Germany. I am a software developer by profession. I am also passionate about travel and capturing the special moments I come across on my travels.
India is a diverse country and I was born in Southern India. However, my father used to work in Gujarat which is located on the western side of India. I spent my childhood there. I have lived and travelled across different parts of India since childhood because my parents were always passionate about travel. They made sure we had at least one good family vacation every year.
As I grew up, my love for travel also started to grow. When I moved out of my parents home to start working, I began travelling with other groups of friends as well as taking solo trips. I have always loved capturing moments but it wasn’t until recently that I took my passion for photography seriously.
It was only a year and a half ago when I used to take photos using my phone. Then I bought a DSLR camera and started learning and exploring the territory of photography with each day. I just love the process. Photography gives you the power to show the world your perspective.
A Fascinating Week in Germany
I took my first international solo trip across Europe last year and decided on four countries to visit: Czech Republic, Italy, France and Germany. The main purpose of choosing Germany in this itinerary was to visit my friends based here and travel with them. I had one of my close friends in Dusseldorf, my childhood best friend in Leipzig and another school friend in Berlin.
So I decided to visit Dusseldorf, Cologne, Munich, Leipzig and Berlin in order to visit my friends as well as explore the country. I was in Germany for about a week. I know it’s not a lot of time but I will definitely visit again!
Catching up with Friends in Berlin
Munich and Berlin have always been on my bucket list. Berlin mainly because of its diversity and history. I was there for only a day. Me and my best friend took a day trip to Berlin from Leipzig to meet another friend from school, catch up on memories and explore this wonderful city.
We met after ten years of not seeing each other but it was amazing to catch up in this city. I wish we had more time in Berlin but, as I mentioned earlier, I am a software developer by profession and had a limited number of vacation days. Again, this gives me an excuse to come back!
Favourite Place in Berlin: The Reichstag
The Reichstag surprisingly turned out to be my favourite spot. I had no intention of visiting it but my friend suggested it would be fun so I said: let’s go! This is a perk of travelling with locals as they always have suggestions. Believe me, the guided tour of the Reichstag is worth it.
Not only does the Reichstag educate you about the dark history of Berlin but also about how you can rise above it all and progress through dark chapters. Also, for photographers, the Reichstag dome is an architectural marvel and has some amazing views of the city. You need to pre-book the guided tour with 60-90 days notice and I totally recommend doing that.
Another landmark that I enjoyed was the Brandenburg Gate. Not only is it photogenic but the vibes there are so much fun. You can see the tourists as well as locals all hanging out together and enjoying the atmosphere.
Top 10 Things To Do in Berlin
I was only in Berlin for a day but still, based on my experiences and research, I do have a list of places that I recommend. It would be hard to fit all these experiences in a day but two or three days might be doable.
1. Join a Guided Tour of the Reichstag in Berlin
The Reichstag is the German Parliament and has so much history to it. If you are a history-buff, I recommend you go on this tour. And if you are not into history, you can still make the visit to the Reichstag dome for its unique architecture, amazing rooftop views and beautiful pictures.
2. Take Photos at the Incredible Brandenburg Gate
This place is a landmark in itself and I am sure it needs no introduction or second thoughts. It’s the perfect place where you can mix with both tourists and locals, and all chill together. When in Berlin, a photo with the Brandenburg Gate is a must! So get your cameras and selfie sticks ready!
3. Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Jewish Memorial is a comparatively new place in Berlin in the memory of the murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a chilling place where you can pay your respects and reflect on one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
4. Check out the Views from Berlin Cathedral
Berlin Cathedral is located on the museum island along with other important museums. But this place stands out among all of them and if you are short on time then this is the place which you should be covering. The best view of the cathedral can be seen from the park in front of it. You can also buy a ticket to go up the cathedral for a brilliant view of Berlin city.
5. See the Attractions of Alexanderplatz
This place has two major landmarks – the world clock and the TV Tower. Also, there are various options to just look around and chill. You can head up to the observation deck of the TV Tower for 360-degree views or enjoy a culinary experience at the revolving restaurant. I suggest going up the TV Tower during sunset so you can enjoy views of Berlin lighting up at night.
6. Wander through the East Side Gallery of Berlin
If you are a fan of graffiti then this place is bound to fascinate you. It’s part of the Berlin Wall and also has some political paintings on it. The East Side Gallery displays paintings and murals by artists from all over the world.
7. Relax with a Couple of Beers at Tiergarten
Tiergarten is one of the biggest parks in Berlin spread over 500 acres in the middle of the city. This is the best place to relax with a couple of beers and observe the locals going about their business. Inside the park you can also find the Berlin Zoo and Victory Column with its winged statue.
8. Enjoy a Day of Shopping in Berlin
Berlin is a great place to go shopping and Hackescher Markt is one of the best spots in the city. If you are looking out for local flea markets then head down to Mauerpark on Sundays where you can find vintage items.
9. Go Nightclubbing until the Early Hours
You can’t visit Berlin without enjoying the variety of bars and nightclubs that the city offers. Discover underground techno clubs, candle-lit bars and electro-music dance halls where you can party until the early hours.
10. Take a River Cruise across the Spree River
River cruise across the Spree to enjoy the city from a different perspective. Travel past some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks and see them from the water. Most tours take you through the centre of old and new Berlin.
Incredibly Diverse Culture of Berlin
Berlin is a diverse city. Berliners are friendly, laid-back and open-minded. Now, you might say: “Swathi you were only there for a day and with your friends too – so how could you be so sure about the locals?” My reply would be: “when a traveller says they know, then they definitely know”.
It sounds cliche but being a traveller who has visited different cities across the globe, I can safely say that this is one of the traits I have picked up. I can easily detect the vibe of local cultures. I was also there during the Berlin Festival of Lights and saw many locals around the city bonding and chilling over beers, enjoying the festival in the streets. It was such a cheerful vibe.
Where to Eat & Sleep in Berlin
Berlin has a lot of Turkish people hence the kebab and pitta are famous. Also, the currywurst is a must try when in Berlin. A few of the famous drinks of Berlin are Fritz-Kola, Club Mate and Moscow Mule. Also, the beers from local breweries are worth a try. Berlin is known for its unique bars and nightlife. It’s famous especially for its techno and electro clubs.
The city is massive and it can get overwhelming at times but the transport system is amazing which really helps. If you are on a quick trip and intend to visit major tourist spots only, then Mitte or Alexanderplatz are the best areas to stay in Berlin. I do not have any personal recommendations on hotels or other accommodation as I stayed at my friend’s place.
Favourite Memory from Berlin
When I visited the Brandenburg Gate, I loved the vibes. We got a group photo taken by a stranger and realised while looking at the photos that we met ten years ago which was crazy! Also, the stranger was so sweet that he took multiple photos without me telling him (this is such a rare trait).
Also, while scrolling through those pictures I found out that another stranger photobombed a few of them which was so funny to look at! So, all in all, the memory of catching up with friends after ten years and looking at how helpful, friendly and funny the people were made that memory one of my favourite ones in Berlin. See that exact picture below.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Berlin is a huge city. To get around it’s best to buy the Berlin Pass. It provides unlimited free travel on S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries. But if you are only there for a day, then I suggest a day ticket for €8.60. There is also a seven-day transport ticket if you are staying longer. Another option to get around the city is renting bicycles.
- Stay in the areas like Mitte or Alexanderplatz which are close to major attractions. There are plenty of great accommodation options here.
- When in Berlin, make sure you take photos at those vintage photo booths or Photo-automat. They are a perfect souvenir and fun.
- If you plan to visit Berlin in Fall make sure you visit during the Festival of Lights. All the famous monuments are lit up at night during this time and it looks spectacular. It usually happens during late September or early October. Make sure to check the dates before you visit.
- If you love rooftops, then you will definitely have a ball in Berlin as it has multiple places to catch the different views of the city.
- Visit the breweries and also the night clubs if you are a party animal!
To finish, don’t just be a tourist but explore like a local to soak in the real vibes of this amazing city. For more information on Berlin you can check out my Instagram Berlin guide or read my blog. Happy Exploring!