10 Best Things to Do in Berlin: Tips from a Local

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10 Best Things to Do in Berlin: Tips from a Local
Traveling to Berlin? Well that's where I live and nothing's better than tips from a local. Here are the best things to do in Berlin for planning a trip with friends!
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Known as the cultural center of Germany, Berlin is a popular destination for travelers. Whether you're a history buff, a party animal or simply backpacking through Europe with friends, Berlin has something for everyone.

The city attracts creative minds, entrepreneurs and digital nomads because of its strong sense of inclusivity, progressive values and limitless attractions!

If you're staying in Berlin, heading there soon or looking for the best hostels in Berlin for a trip to Germany, I'll break down all of the cool things to do! And there's nothing better than a local guiding you through the city's best attractions to help you minimize stress and maximize fun.

Planning a trip with friends is frustrating and stressful. So I'm summarizing all my experiences to help you discover the best things to do in Berlin. Ready to uncover all things Berlin?

What is Berlin Best Known For?

Berlin is iconic for historic buildings contrasting with modern architecture, its renowned museums and famed landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate.

Over 170 museums dot the region, but that doesn't mean it's just for history buffs or museum enthusiasts!

Berlin is the top party city in the world, home to hundreds of spätis (Berlin-style convenience stores), nightclubs and bars. From getting a true German beer to dancing the night away, you'll never get tired of a Berlin night!

With so many fun attractions to experience, Berlin is the perfect city to escape to with friends when exploring Europe, so let's hit the town and find out the best things to do in Berlin right from a local!

10 Best Things to Do in Berlin with Friends

1. Party at Some of the Coolest Clubs in the World

While every big city has its fair share of awesome clubs, Berlin's nightlife is in its own category. 

For instance, you might have heard about Berghain, the nightclub known as the "world capital of techno" popular for its politically progressive aesthetic of decadence.

While partying at Berghain is on many tourists' Berlin to-do lists, the notoriously strict door policy isn't a joke as visitors often queue for hours.

So, if you're only in Berlin for a short time, the city offers many other cool clubs to check out, like Anomalie which also doubles as an arthouse or Fitzroy which is known for its diverse sets from avant-garde pop to trance music.

Lady Gaga partying at Berghain Nightclub in Berlin.
Lady Gaga partying at Berghain Nightclub in Berlin in 2013.

Travel tip: Berlin isn't a city where you need full party attire for a night out, so feel free to leave your heels at home!

2. Discover Berlin on a Walking Tour!

If you want to dive into the city with friends, there are tons of unique and interesting Berlin walking tours for you and your crew to fall in love with the architecture and local landmarks.

Exploring a city through a walking tour is much more immersive than hitting famous landmarks on your own. Local guides are prepared with fun personal stories and unique facts to provide an authentic local history and lifestyle perspective.

One of the most popular walking tours in Berlin is the historical tour of the city center. You'll journey through iconic sites like Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall!

Consider a hop-on, hop-off Berlin adventure if you're not one for walking. Soak in the city vibes and enjoy scenic views without the swollen ankles from walking.

3. Soak in Modern Art at the Boros Collection in a Converted Bunker 

The Boros Collection might just be the most remarkable art exhibition you'll ever visit!

This private selection of contemporary art from German art collectors Karen & Christian Boros is displayed in a restored World War II-era bunker called the Reichsbahnbunker in the Berlin borough of Mitte.

Some of the bunker's rooms have been transformed into white-cubed exhibition spaces and other parts retain remnants of the building's past as a prison, storage facility and techno club.

The art collection contains works of artists dating from 1990 to the present, but you can only visit on a guided tour led by art historians, artists and cultural scientists, so book in advance to reserve your spot. Tours are offered multiple times a day in both English and German.

An exhibit from the Boros Collection in Berlin, Germany.
A piece by artist Ólafur Elíasson from a former exhibit at the Boros Collection in Berlin. Photo courtesy of the Boros Collection.

4. Go Flea-Market Shopping at Mauerpark

Mauerpark is home to one of Berlin's biggest and busiest flea markets. A large public park located in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district, its name translates to "Wall Park" because it is on land that formerly separated the two parallel structures of the infamous Berlin Wall.

The flea market at the park occurs on Sundays when you can hunt for unique vintage finds or clothes from local designers.

One of the main attractions is the outdoor singing session, Bearpit Karaoke, which has become one of the most fun things to do in Berlin during summer. Thousands of people flock to the market to crowd around this mobile sound system to channel their inner artists.

If listening to karaoke or thrift shopping isn't your thing, the park is still a great place to hang out during the warmer months as a people-busy leisure spot with musicians, jugglers, picnickers and graffiti artists usually mulling around.

5. Catch an Outdoor Film at the Freiluftkino

Europeans love to spend summers soaking in the sunlight, which means summer activities galore!

Berlin is no exception, hosting many "open-air cinemas," known as freiluftkino, during the summer months. These outdoor-cinema showings are spread throughout the capital in parks, historic courtyards and old warehouses.l

From romance to horror, there is an outdoor cinema that can soothe your movie cravings. One Berliner favorite is the open-air cinema Volkspark Friedrichshain.

If you don't speak German, some of these outdoor cinemas show German-dubbed movies, so look for films either in English or with English subtitles. And double-check which cinemas require admission tickets.

Browse the list of well-known Berlin open-air cinemas to start planning your summer nights in the city for a relaxing evening out with you and your friends during your Berlin trip!

Photo of a crowd watching a film at an outdoor cinema, one of the great things to do in Berlin.
Crowds indulge in a showing of a film at an outdoor cinema, one of the fun things to do in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Freiluftkino Friedrichshain.

6. Live Your Spy Dreams at the German Spy Museum

What can be cooler than living out your childhood spy fantasies with laser beams and matrix settings? The whole jazz of espionage!

It took me a while to find this hidden gem, but it instantly became one of my top picks for crazy things to do in Berlin once I did. The German Spy Museum is a mix of adrenaline-inducing fun and interactive learning. 

The museum introduces the history of espionage, state security and surveillance in an interactive display.

Experience decoding & encoding messages and take actual lie-detector & intelligence tests. There's even a laser maze, which is just as exciting as it is difficult. The best part? You can take home a thermal video of yourself going through the laser beams and show it off to your friends!

The German Spy Museum is open daily from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and is located in Potsdamer Platz, a public square in central Berlin, just a short walk from the Mohrenstraße subway station. You can buy a flex-ticket in advance to avoid the lines!

The building features relics from German, Russian and American spy activity from the 20th century, plus props from James Bond movies! The German Spy Museum in Berlin is worth a visit if you're a history nerd who loves the Cold War, the two World Wars and espionage stories.

7. Indulge in History on Museum Island

If you're a museum gal like me, museum hopping is one of those things to do in Berlin that you just have to commit to!

"Museum Island," or Museumsinsel in German, is the name for the northern half of Spree Island in the center of Berlin, dedicated almost entirely to one awe-inspiring museum after another—there's five in total!

One great thing about Museum Island is that it simplifies your itinerary because all of Berlin's major museums are in one walkable area.

The museums are so special, the U.N. even declared Museum Island as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, proclaiming that "Museumsinsel is a unique ensemble of museum buildings, which illustrates the evolution of modern museum design over more than a century."

If you and your friends seek fun things to do in Berlin and want to immerse yourself in historic art & culture, consider booking a museum package to visit all five museums on Museum Island!

What are the five museums and other attractions on Museum Island in Berlin? Below are the main ones:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery): Dedicated mostly to European art from the "long 19th century" (the late 1700s to the early 1900s), the Alte Nationalgalerie features works of Caspar David Friedrich, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin.
  • Altes Museum (Old Museum): The Altes Museum displays artifacts and sculptures from classical antiquity, from the helmets of Ancient Greek soldiers to hundreds of Ancient Roman coins in one of the world's oldest coin collections.
  • Bode-Museum (named after founding director Wilhelm van Bolde): True to van Bolde's vision for establishing a diverse collection of art pieces, the Bolde-Museum is dotted with Byzantine art and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the 18th century.
  • Neues Museum (New Museum): Originally built as an extension to the Altes Museum (Old Museum)—hence the name New Museum—the Neues Museum is best known for its range of prehistoric, early historical and Egyptian artifacts like Queen Nefertiti's bust.
  • Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum): Named after its most famous artifact, the ancient Pergamon Altar excavated from modern-day Turkey, the Pergamonmuseum houses ancient Middle Eastern, Greek and Islamic art. Most of the Pergamonmuseum is closed for major renovations that will take 15–20 years, but its breathtaking exhibit Pergamonmuseum. Das Panorama, a panoramic display of the Ancient Greek city of Pergamon, remains open. Plus, it's one of the great museums with virtual tours so you can view all the exhibits from your Berlin hostel or hotel!
  • BERLIN GLOBAL: Part of the Humboldt Forum building on Museum Island, an art & culture center, BERLIN GLOBAL is a dedicated exhibit exclusively of local art to showcase the city's history and politics in a global context.
  • Kolonnadenhof: The Kolonnadenhof (Colonnade Courtyard) is the courtyard around the Alte Nationalgalerie. Its column-lined geometric garden that connects the island within itself is stunningly beautiful to explore when on a trip with friends in Berlin.
  • James-Simon-Galerie: The James-Simon-Galerie, the entrance building to Museum Island, resembles the Neues Museum's impressive architecture and is the reception building for the Archaeological Promenade walkway that connects the museums to each other. It features an auditorium, a cafe and a museum shop for visitors.
The Pergamon Altar at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The famous Pergamon Altar excavated from the Ancient Greek city of Pergamon in modern-day Turkey, at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Photo courtesy of Daniel Mennerich.

Travel tip: Plan a trip to the Museum Island on the first Sunday of every month to get into state museums for free!

8. Explore Tempelhof Airport (No, Really!)

If you want to see what locals get up to, head to one of the city's former major airports, Flughafen Tempelhof (in English: Tempelhof Airport). It may sound like a strange attraction, but visiting Tempelhof is one of the most unique things to do in Berlin.

You see, the airport ceased operations as an airport back in 2008. Its massive outside areas are currently public spaces where locals jog, picnic, play and walk their dogs.

And the airport building isn't just old and deserted! You can visit it on an English-guided tour. The Flughafen Tempelhof has been at the center of some of Berlin's most defining moments; the guided tour provides an in-depth look into key historical events. 

During its construction from 1936 to 1941, the building served as a propaganda display for the National Socialists, but by 1949, the airport became a symbol of freedom because of the Berlin Airlift.

9. Feel Ethereal in the Berliner Dom

Of course, I can't end this list without the Berliner Dom, a majestic Neo-Renaissance cathedral situated on Museum Island that was constructed from 1894–1905 to replace previous versions of the building that existed since the 1400s as a castle chapel for the Berlin Palace.

Featuring a stunning blend of Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements. I have to say the Berliner Dom is a sight worth getting your eyes on and is a must-see for any architect lover. I was enthralled the first time I visited it. 

Not only does it make for the most drop-dead gorgeous photographs and portraits, but it's also where you can catch a panoramic view of the city. All you have to do is climb the steps up to the dome and admire the view of Berlin and River Spree before you!

If you want more than just a view and architecture, visit the Hohenzollern Crypt, the resting place for many members of the Prussian royal family. It's the perfect spot to indulge in Prussian history.

Of course, when you're done with the interior, come out and relax in Lustgarten. As one of the most beautiful gardens in the city, it conveniently wraps itself around the Berliner Dom.

Photo of the Berlin Dom, one of the great things to visit in Berlin.
The Berlin Cathedral, overlooked in the background by the iconic Fernsehturm Tower in the background, one of the tallest structures in Europe. The Berlin Cathedral is one of the top attractions to visit in when you're traveling to Berlin with friends! Photo courtesy of Alexander van Loon.

10. Wine and Dine at the Kaufhaus des Westens

The Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe as the locals call it, is an eight-story department housing everything you can possibly ever need in the fanciest setting possible. I'm talking rich ambiance, glass ceilings…the whole nine yards.

The second-largest department store in all of Europe, KaDeWe is worth an afternoon visit as a fun thing to do in Berlin if you and your friends want to experience the ultimate shopping day when exploring the city on your trip to Germany.

KaDeWe offers luxury-apparel goods, electronics & books and beauty salons. But the real star of KaDeWe resides on floors 6–7, the food court and buffet. The food is mouthwatering and there's even a champagne bar! These floors have two football fields worth of food!

And the top floor has a 1,000-seat restaurant in a winter garden surrounded by glass walls for a spectacular view of Wittenbergplatz, a public square in central Berlin. So even if you have nothing to shop for, you can head to the top floors for a memorable wine-and-dine experience.

Tips for Exploring Berlin if You're Traveling

Except for the same precautions you'd take in any other city, below are a few things to keep in mind if you're planning a trip to Berlin with friends. Trust me, as a local who moved to this city from outside of Germany as an adult, these are tips I've personally learnt over the years.

  • Always carry cash. Many small businesses and restaurants in Berlin only accept cash, so don't be caught unprepared. Make sure to carry lots of euros on you.
  • Follow traffic rules. This one may seem a no-brainer, but we all sometimes cross when there's no oncoming traffic or find a gap somewhere. Given how free-spirited Berlin is, you may think it's okay to do it here. But be warned, you can be fined for jaywalking and locals will most likely reprimand you. Berlin's culture frowns upon jaywalking and it's also more dangerous than in other cities.
  • Validate your train ticket. This is a common oversight a lot of tourists in Berlin make. When taking public transit, whether the subway, trains or buses, just buying a ticket doesn't automatically make it valid; you need to validate it by stamping it. Look for the small yellow-and-white machines located on platforms.

Explore the Best Things to Do in Berlin with the Pilot Trip Planner

I've lived in Berlin for a few years now and although I wasn't sure if I would stay in Germany long when I first moved here, I can now say without a doubt that this city has captured my heart!

With attractions like breathtaking cathedrals, historic museums and outdoor cinemas, Europe's hottest nightlife scene for you partygoers and opportunities for fun Berlin day trips, there are lots of amazing things to do in Berlin if you're traveling or planning a backpacking trip

If you're figuring out how to plan a trip with friends to Berlin, use a trip planner like Pilot. Pilot helps you find the best activities in Berlin and makes it easy for you to create & share travel itineraries with your friends.

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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Laiba Tariq Blog
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Laiba Tariq
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