51+ Things to Do in Berlin
Berlin is a huge city that has a tonne to offer. When I was researching for my trip, I was astounded by how many museums Berlin has, nevermind all the places to eat, hang out, and shop. So it was easy to compile a list of 51+ things to do in the German capital.
Note that many museums cost money – and a decent amount of money. I highly recommend looking into the Berlin Welcome Card and the Berlin Museum Pass, and calculate which one will give you the most savings. Be sure to read the inclusions and exclusions carefully!
Places to See
- Go by Bradenburg Gate. Of course you can’t visit Berlin without visiting this iconic structure.
- Check out Charlottenburg Palace. I loved Charlottenburg Palace; it was so beautiful and had some interesting interior design elements. The full ticket includes a lot to see, including the gardens and a small art museum. You can spend a decent amount of time here.
- Stop by East Side Gallery. It’s also not a visit to Berlin without seeing the infamous Berlin Wall. If you like street art, it’s a great place to see.
- See the Oberbaum Bridge. Right by East Side Gallery is this a recreation of Berlin’s 19th-century bridge, which is a “double-deck bridge.”
- See Berlin Cathedral. Berlin Cathedral is absolutely gorgeous. You can also climb to the top to get great views of the city.
- See the Berlin Television Tower. You can see the Berlin TV Tower from almost anywhere in the city. You can also go in the tower for views.
- Visit Schönhausen Palace. It’s out of the way but for another palace fix, you can head up to Schönhausen Palace.
- Pay your respects at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial is quite fascinating in its form and really begs the viewers the contemplate the Holocaust.
- See the Siegesäule (victory column). You can also go to the top of the column for more views!
- Snap a photo of Bellevue Palace. Visitors aren’t allowed inside but you can still snap a good photo of the German Federal President’s residence.
- Stop by Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was a checkpoint between East and West Germany. Now it’s a popular photo spot.
- Stroll to the Gendarmenmarkt. This small square has a bunch of beautiful buildings, including the Concert Hall, French Cathedral and New Church. With so many modern buildings in Berlin, it’s like a small step back in time.
- Stroll down Bundesstrasse 2. This street is very tourist-y, no doubt. But particularly near the German History Museum, there are so many beautiful old-looking buildings. It’s also very open. If you avoid the souvenir shops and overpriced cafes, it’s a pleasant place to walk through.
Museum Island Museums:
- Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon Museum has a collection of antiquities, especially from the middle/near East. It’s the most visited museum in Berlin. Here you can see the famous Miletus Market Gate and even the Gates of Babylon! I highly recommend it. Note that you cannot buy a ticket just for this museum, but must gain entry by buying a museum island day ticket. So it’s a good idea to visit this museum earlier in the day or with a pass that grants you free access.
- Bode Museum. The Bode Museum is the beautiful rounded one you see in several Berlin photos. They have Byzantine and numismatic (currency) art.
- Old National Gallery. The Old National Gallery is an art museum. It’s actually medium-sized but has some nice gems inside.
- New Museum. The New Museum has a collection of Egyptian artefacts as well as other archaeological finds.
- Old Museum. The Old Museum is one that has artefacts from ancient Greece and Rome.
- German History Museum. I have to say that the German History Museum is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. It has a holistic yet easily understandable history of Germany from medieval times to the fall of the wall. It’s a must visit.
- Berlin Story Bunker. The Berlin Story Bunker is a museum on Berlin’s history housed in a WWII bunker. You need an audioguide but it’s an interesting museum that tells the story of Berlin through artefacts.
- The Story of Berlin Museum. Not to be confused with the above, the Story of Berlin Museum is currently under construction and closed. It’s on the list because it got such high praise that I was so bummed I couldn’t go. Be sure to see if it’s open when you visit Berlin.
- Topography of Terror. For something more awakening, you can visit the Topography of Terror, which documents Nazi atrocities.
- DDR Museum. The DDR Museum is an interactive museum where you can “live” in East Germany.
- The Wall Museum. If seeing the Wall itself isn’t enough, there’s a museum dedicated to it as well.
- German Resistance Memorial Center. For more information on the German Resistance during the Third Reich, there’s a museum you can visit.
- Jewish Museum. Learn about Jewish history at the Jewish Museum.
- Märkisches Museum. The Märkisches Museum is another museum dedicated to the history of Berlin.
- Gemäldegalerie. The Gemäldegalerie is a museum with European paintings from the 13th-18th centuries.
- Museum Berggruen. This one isn’t spoken about much but it’s actually the State’s museum of modern art.
- Museum of Photography. The State also has a museum for photography.
- Bauhaus Archive. You can see a museum on Bauhaus (the school, not the band) in Berlin. Learn about German architecture in the German capital!
- Bröhan Museum. The Bröhan Museum is another modern art museum. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to one day return to see their Art Nouveau collection.
- Museum of Decorative Arts. The State has yet another museum, this one on decorative arts. Germany has some great porcelain and other decorative art objects.
- German Spy Museum. Sounds like fun right? In Berlin you can go to the interactive German Spy Museum.
- Berlin Botanical Gardens. It’s a trip to the outskirts of the city but if you’re interest and have time, you can also see the Berlin Botanical Gardens.
- Computer Game Museum. The name Computerspielemuseum sounds cooler. If you’re looking for something different, you can head to this museum.
- Game Science Center. Similarly, Berlin also has a Game Science Centre. It focuses on interactive technology.
- Deutsche Kinematek. If you’re into film, this offbeat museum of cinema is something to put on your bucket list.
- Natural History Museum. A lot of major cities have a natural history museum and Berlin is no exception.
- Museum for Communication. Another offbeat place to visit is the Museum for Communication, where you can learn how people communicate with one another.
- German Museum of Technology. As Germany has earned its title as a country of technology, a museum of technology is highly appropriate for its capital.
- Drink hot chocolate at Rausch Schokoladenhaus. I don’t normally recommend places to eat, but people were raving about Rausch Schokoladenhaus (“chocolate house”). I went. I had what is probably the best hot chocolate I’ve had to date! The chocolate mousse was amazing as well. You can get both and more delicious treats on their top floor cafe. Remember to buy a box of chocolate for your friends back home.
- See the Berlin Zoo. If you like zoos, the Berlin Zoo says it has the most species in any zoo worldwide.
- & also see the Aquarium. Get a combined ticket to see the Berlin Aquarium as well.
- Or alternatively go to the AquaDom. Berlin also has a place called AquaDom & SEA LIFE which hosts sea creatures as well.
- Stroll through the Tiergarten. The “Tiergarten” is the name of a large park in the centre of Berlin, much like Central Park in NYC. However this place is so much more reminiscent of an actual forest and is so charming and relaxing, especially since Berlin is such a huge city.
- Take a river tour. Go along the River Spree in a boat to get some views from the water.
- Visit the Reichstag Dome. The Reichstag Building is where German Parliament meets, and you can visit it if you register in advance. The dome on the building is another place where you can get some good city views.
- Go Base Flying. “Base Flying” is like bungee jumping – so it’s a no for me! But if you like the adrenaline, you can do such a thing in the middle of Berlin.
- Shop at KaDeWe. KaDeWe is a luxury shopping mall in Berlin. I normally wouldn’t recommend such a thing but so many Berlin and German natives say it’s worth a visit.
- Go architecture hunting. Berlin is a such a huge city, and one thing I learned is that even though beautiful buildings aren’t everywhere, they certainly are scattered everywhere. The same can be said for cute neighbourhoods. Just take your time, walk around, and see what you’re able to come across.
I usually put a section here about the different areas in each city to see, but honestly Berlin is so spread out and aside from some places I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to grasp an area/neighbourhood in the amount of time I was there.
So that’s an exhaustive list of 51+ things to do in Berlin, Germany. How many have you done?Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: berlin, europe, germany
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A Tale of Two Free Cities: London and Paris
A lot of people like to experience London and Paris in the same trip due to the proximity of the capital cities, and both cities are known for being quite expensive. However, that’s not always the case. Both cities also have a tonne of things to do that are absolutely free, so you can enjoy your vacation on a budget and not sacrifice the quality of your visit.
Please note that the lists below include free entry fees, not anything that you would walk by and see. Walking around a city and seeing its sights are great ways to explore and get to know a place, but there’d be way too much to list if this article included those walk-bys.
Even though London is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, there’s a sizable amount to do for free, and a lot of the great attractions don’t have a charge. You can easily make your vacation completely free of event charges by visiting the places below.
Get your tour fix with a free* walking tour group, many of which have fun themes such as Harry Potter and Jack the Ripper tours. *Free tours usually expect a little bit of payment so as not to be rude. Expect to donate about £4 per person, which is still much cheaper than any other tour you would get.
Get your art fix with one of London’s many free art museums:
- The British Museum is hands-down one of my favourite museums, and it is free. There’s so much to see there.
- The Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) is another one of my favourites, and it is also free.
- The National Gallery is always free.
- The National Portrait Gallery is always free, as well.
- The Tate Museums both have free collections. You can visit the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, or both! You can also get a great city view from the Tate Modern.
- Sir John Soane’s Museum is an art collection in a beautiful home, and it’s also free.
- The Queen’s House is a small art museum which is free.
- The Wallace Collection is another fine art museum that can be accessed for free.
- The Serpentine Galleries are free modern art displays.
- The Whitechapel Gallery is a free space to view current artists’ work.
Get your museum fix with one of London’s many free museums on other topics:
- I consider the Museum of London a must-see for those visiting London, and it is free.
- The Natural History Museum of London is a famous museum and it’s also free.
- The Imperial War Museum is also free.
- The Wellcome Collection is a free museum for medicine and health.
- The Science Museum is a high-rated museum that is free of charge.
- You can see a Roman temple at the London Mithraeum for free, though advance reservations are requested.
- The aforementioned V&A also has a Museum of Childhood that is free of charge.
- It’s not technically a museum, but the British Library has a lot of interesting artefacts you can view – and it’s free.
Get your culture fix with different free activities the city has to offer:
- Watch debates in Parliament. Yes, this is an actual thing you can do for free!
- Go to a ceremony, which England prides itself on. You can go to the Changing of the Keys at London Tower, the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard, or any other Changing of the Guard event – they’re free!
- You can attend a service at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral for free, but note that you can’t meander from the services to go see the rest of those buildings during those times.
- You can attend a free event at one of London’s several parks.
- While at Hyde Park, you can check out Speaker’s Corner to see some speeches and possibly give one of your own.
- This is different: Gresham College has free lectures on a variety of subjects. Great for peoople who have some more free time in the city and a lot to learn!
- St. Martin in the Fields has a lot of free performances.
- The Southbank Centre is another place that offers free events and performances.
Paris is filled with lots of things to do, and many are available at no cost to you if you know when to go. Though it may be less free than London, many of Paris’s main attractions are on the list below. Of course, the biggest appeal to Paris is its several sights, which can all be seen by walking by.
Get your tour fix with a free* tour of Paris. *Note that many free tours expect a tip so as not to be rude, and 2€ per person should be enough. This is still drastically cheaper than other tours.
The city is absolutely filled with art museums that are always or often free.
- The Musée de Cluny is free the first Sunday of the month, and it’s an excellent place to see art from the middle ages.
- The Musée d’Orsday is one of my favourites and is also free the first Sunday of the month.
- The world’s most famous art museum, the Louvre, won’t cost you anything if you go the first Sunday of the month, October-March. The same goes for the Musée Rodin.
- The Petit Palais is a small art museum which is free.
- The Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris is always free, though donations are requested.
- The Centre Georges Pompidou, Orangerie Museum and Musée de Quai-Branly are three more art museums free the first Sunday of every month.
Sounds like a good time to get your calendars out and plan your trip accordingly!
You can also get in more of Paris by visiting these free sights:
It’s free to go inside Notre-Dame Cathedral, one of the most iconic buildings in Paris, and one of my personal favourites. There is a fee to go up in the towers but not directly inside the cathedral. You can also see the Crown of Thorns for free the first Sunday of every month.
Hopefully Notre-Dame will take visitors again in the near future.
- Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre is also free, though there is a fee to go into the tower. However, the entrance boasts of great views north of Paris, and the basilica is gorgeous and unique nonetheless.
- Go to one of Paris’s several famous cemeteries. You can go to Père-Lachaise, Montparnasse, Montmartre, or Passy to see the graves of many famous people. It’s also a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
- See Paris’s Roman amphitheatre at Arènes de Lutèce, which is off the beaten track and free.
There is also a page on Paris’s tourist website dedicated to free cultural events in Paris, which was very helpful when I studied abroad there.
I hope this guide helped you discover the free things to do in two of Europe’s top cities, and it makes your vacation budget a lot.
What’s your favourite free thing to do in London/Paris?Posted on Thursday, June 13, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: england, europe, france, london, paris, united kingdom
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Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan and now it’s one of the country’s largest and most visited cities. Since it wasn’t destroyed during WWII, it still retains a lot of its historic Japanese character, which draws people in from around the world. It’s a great city to visit in Japan and it is huge, with a tonne of things to see and do.
A little about Kyoto: Even though Tokyo is now the capital of Japan, it’s only been that way since 1868. For over a thousand years before, it was Kyoto, starting in 794. Yes, Kyoto’s history goes back very far. The shrines and temples there today were built at various points in time and today, Kyoto is still one of Japan’s largest cities.
Kyoto has a tonne of different shrines to see. I have a very full list of things to see in Kyoto. However there are some highlights, and many of them are grouped together in the Gion (old town) district. Kiyomizu-dera is a beautiful temple with fantastic views of Kyoto. You can then head up to the beautiful Kodai-ji temple and further north to Maruyama park. Then you can head up to Chion-in temple and further to Shoren-in. I recommend taking this path (south to north or north to south) because Kyoto has so many shrines, and this makes it much easier to navigate. You can spend hours walking around each area and seeing numerous shrines and temples.
And there’s more! The Heian Shrine is somewhat nearby if you keep going north from Shoren-in. It’s very large and colourful and worth checking out. The most popular temple in Kyoto is Kinkaku-ji, which is otherwise known as the Golden Pavilion. It’s very crowded but a unique place. I also recommend the somewhat hidden gem of Sanjusangendo Temple, which has 1000 statues of canons. They’re carved from wood and gilt with gold leaf. It is so amazing!
You will need to take a short train ride but Fushimi Inari Taisha is also worth checking out – it’s the shrine with all the torrii gates that you’ve probably seen in photographs. Those gates actually extend up a 2-hour climb up a mountain, but many people take a shot for Instagram and leave. When you get closer to the top, it’s less crowded and more beautiful, what with all the gates leading you through the woods.
Kyoto has a lot more than shrines and temples. I really enjoyed visiting Nijo Castle, which is a 17th-century shogun residence. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is also a popular destination but I found it super boring – Nijo Castle is way better. You can also check out the Nishijin Textile Museum to see some small exhibits on textile creation, a staple of Japanese culture. We spent our time looking at sites rather than visiting museums but Kyoto does have a few more museums you can visit as well.
You can also head to Arashiyama and go to the bamboo forest and monkey park. My brother and I felt the bamboo forest was a let-down. The monkey park requires a lot of walking up a mountain but it was a super unique thing to do, plus you get great views of the city. Seeing the monkeys was great, and be sure to buy some snacks there to feed them. You’ll probably cross the Togetsukyo Bridge to get there, which is a centuries-old bridge that’s a significant Kyoto landmark.
Some tips for Kyoto: Kyoto is huge! It’s so much bigger than it looks on a map. I recommend taking advantage of public transport. There’s also a JR bus that runs through parts of the city, but you need to look for it. I couldn’t find any information online.
I also recommend renting a kimono at some point in your trip to Japan. It’s another staple of Japanese culture and kimonos are so pretty, so why not?
I had a great time in Kyoto and there’s no way you can miss it if you’re a history buff in Japan. It’s such a great city with a lot of history and a large selection of things to see and do.
Have you ever been to Kyoto? What did you think?Posted on Sunday, June 9, 2019 in Destinations
Tags: asia, japan, kyoto
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