Berlin is a city that is popular on most “euro trip” itineraries, which is why it might be a bit surprising to hear that I just visited the German capital for the first time this past August. A city full of grit and history, it has been on my radar forever. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get there, but I am glad I did because as a more immature traveller I am not sure I would have really appreciated it. I always knew I would like Berlin, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Berlin is incredibly unique – like no other city in the world – which means that there are so so many unusual things to do in Berlin. And while we only scratched the surface of things to do during our three days in Berlin, it just means I have a really good excuse to go back.
If you only have three days in Berlin like us and are looking to eat and see the city beyond touristy spots like Checkpoint Charlie, this list of unusual things to do in Berlin will help you dive a bit deeper in this quirky city.
a few quick facts about berlin:
language | german
currency | euro
population | 3.76 million
diversity | over 190 nationalities are represented in berlin
size | 891.8 km² (that's 9 times the size of paris!)
15 unusual things to do in Berlin
Pay your respects at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Pay your respects to the murdered Jews of Europe at this important monument.
Constructed from 2003-2004, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a massive 19,000 square metre memorial. It is located on a piece of land where part of the Berlin wall used to stand right in the centre of Mitte, Berlin. When choosing the location and size, it was important for the city that the memorial be noticeable – this is not a part of history the German’s wanted to hide. So, it sits in the city centre as a constant reminder of the past.
The artist never revealed the meaning behind the monument, as he wanted to leave it up to interpretation of visitors. We heard a few different interpretations while we were in Berlin, however I’ll let you to visit and reflect on the meaning behind the design of the memorial.
Visit the world's Longest open air gallery: East Side Gallery
While most of the former Berlin wall was torn down, a portion of the wall still remains to be visited. Alongside this portion of the wall you’ll find an urban art project filled with paintings and murals. What used to be a divisive barrier between East and West Berlin is now the longest open-air art gallery in the world. 1.3 kilometres to be exact along the east side of the wall.
It is also one of the most popular tourists spots in the city. But still, it can’t be missed.
Take a historical Berlin bike tour
Think you know a lot about Berlin? Think again…
If you want to check off a few of the “must sees” in Berlin and hear stories about Berlin’s past of war and communism, the best way to do this is on a Berlin bike tour.
Berlin is a huge city and it would be almost impossible to see everything you would want to on a walking tour. That’s why a bike tour is the way to go! Stop by tourist favourites like Brandenburger Tor, Museum island, and the parking lot where Hilter’s bunker used to be. Hear about the untold stories of Berlin’s past, including lots of communism tales.
We did this tour with Berlin on Bike and I could not recommend it enough. The 3.5 hours “Highlights Bike Tour – Berlin’s Best” was the highlight of our time in Berlin. We left the tour in awe of the legacy of Berlin, and with a better understanding of why the city is the way it is – and what makes quirky Berlin unlike any other city in the world.
Snap a Quick Photo of Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) ... And then move on
Is it touristy? Yep! Will you need to be on the look out for giant stuffed animals trying guilt you into taking photos with them? Mhmm.
But it’s also the most iconic symbol of Berlin and has been a part of many historical moments in the city, including being closed in connection to the Berlin wall. So go ahead – don’t be ashamed to have your touristy moment under the gate.
On the note of touristy, if you’re looking for things to skip in Berlin – skip Checkpoint Charlie. Sure it is a historically relevant spot, but the attraction has been recreated, is mega-touristy, and is surrounded by fast food restaurants. Plus, you have to pay to take photos with actors dressed up as soldiers…
Bar-Hop at the best bars in Kreuzberg
It’s no secret that Berlin is known for its nightlife. I am not much of a nightlife-seeker personally (I’m more of a “in bed by 10pm” kinda person). Even still, given the global disruptions in August 2020, all night clubs were closed.
However, the Berlin nightlife scene is more than its famous nightclubs. I really appreciated the cosy hole-in-the-wall bars and speakeasy cocktail scene in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Here’s a few of my favourite spots!
Café Luzia: In the heart of Kreuzberg, this minimalist hipster Berlin bar was a great spot for a beer or cocktail. They often have live music, too.
Das Hotel Bar: Around the corner from the popular Paul-Lincke-Ufer Street, this was perhaps my favourite Kreuzberg bar. In fact, we loved it so much we went back two nights in a row to sit at one of the tiny sidewalk-side tables. Inside, you’ll find a small living room style bar area with a great drink menu.
Schwarze Traube: Looking for a cocktail bar in Kreuzberg? This low key speakeasy is known around the city for its outstanding cocktails. The menu changes every day, and the bartender will explain in details the daily options – which come served in the most perfectly paired antique glasses to round out the whole experience.
Berlin Food Guide: Experience Berlin’s trendy food scene
On the tail end of our trip through Bavaria, we were so over Germany food. Luckily, Berlin set us up to end our trip on a high note culinary-wise.
Choosing the best restaurants to visit in Berlin in only three days is a tough task. Especially since there are loads and load – and I mean LOADS – of amazing food options. And while donar kebab from a hole-in-the-wall shop may be the most “popular dish” in the city, Berlin is a in reality a city made for foodies.
Which meant, I was a happy girl. Here’s my mini Berlin food guide:
Mogg: Located in a former predominatly Jewish neighbourhood, Spandauer Vorstadt, Mogg is a must-visit. This NYC Jewish Deli-inspired joint is your spot for traditional matzah ball soup, massive pastrami sandwiches, and authentic New York-style cheesecake. Located in a historical brick building, this space used to be a Jewish girls school. Make sure you make a reservation at this tiny spot to guarantee a table.
Santa Maria: Located in Kreuzberg, this is a popular local spot for Mexican-style tacos and some insanely good margaritas. You’ll probably see a long queue out front but don’t be alarmed. The line moves pretty quick, so give them your name and head across the street to Luzia Cafe for a drink while you wait.
Ilsebill: We stumbled across Ilsebill while we were wandering the Kollwitzkiez area looking for a beer garden that suggested to us after a long bike tour in the sun. We were so starving and the beer, burgers, and cute interior looked too good to pass by. So, I did a quick search to make sure the reviews looked ok and we popped in. I opted for the veggie burger, and paired with an ice cold beer on the patio it was the perfect lunch spot in Berlin.
Kulturbrauerei: Around the corner from Ilsebill, you’ll find this former brewery turned arts space with restaurants, patios, and other exhibits. It’s a great spot to grab lunch in the sun.
Zola: This popular Kreuzberg pizza restaurant was another stumble-upon. With a range of pizzas options, topped with tons of unique ingredients, this is a great spot to go to if you’re into trendy pizzas.
Eismanufactuktur: Looking for the best ice cream in Berlin? I’m convinced that this Graefekiez ice cream shop is it. They have a huge range of delicious vegan ice cream flavours (and non-vegan, too). Take one to go and walk around the Graefekiez neighbourhood. This area ended up being one of my absolute favourites in Berlin. (Tip: Take a look at the location on my map below, because there are a few spots with similar names in Berlin).
A Never Ever Ending Love Story: Looking for the best brunch in Berlin? I loved this spot. I can especially recommend their chai latte (with oat milk), Mexican Breakfast Bowl, and pancakes.
NENI Berlin: Full disclosure, we didn’t eat here. However, we did eat the location in Munich (with an almost-identical menu) and it was great. Most of the dishes are Middle Eastern and Israeli-inspired. And as a bonus, the restaurant is located at the top of Bikini Berlin with optional outdoor seating and incredible views of the city.
Snap a photo at one of the most instagrammable Places in Berlin (and then grab dinner!)
Adding to my Berlin food guide, House of Small Wonder deserves its own spot because not only is it an amazing restaurant, but it also one of the most instagrammable spots in Berlin.
Tourists and locals alike flock to the spiral staircase to snap photos. So you’d think that the restaurant must be a tourist trap right? Wrong!
The House of Small Wonder menu offers a number of unique Asian-influenced dishes. The owners used to work in the NYC restaurant scene and brought their innovative food concepts to Berlin.
Make sure you make a reservation here for lunch or dinner – it’s very popular.
Admire the best berlin street art at RAW Berlin and Urban Spree Berlin
RAW Berlin is a formal industrial site, used throughout the late 1800s and through the 1900s. Many of the historical industrial buildings remain, and you can see the old train tracks running through the property.
Today, RAW Berlin is a cultural hub full of street art, music venues, galleries, restaurants, clubs, and bars. While it is known to be a pretty wild party scene in the evenings, it is a really fun place to roam and admire the pure grittiness of Berlin.
Next door to RAW, you’ll find Urban Spree. Urban spree is a similar open space hosting concerts, restaurants, art exhibits, and a biergarten. Similar to RAW, it is known to be a popular nightlife attraction in the evening, but during the day you can find lots of fun exhibits or visit the Urban Spree Galerie to admire some urban art.
Visit the best photoautomat Berlin locations to snap a photo
These vintage photobooths, called Photoautomats, are scattered all over the city. They are a fun little throwback and the perfect spot to get a photo souvenir from Berlin.
If you’re looking for the best Photoautomat Berlin locations, you’ll find several of them scattered around Kruzberg. Here’s the Photoautomat Berlin locations of a few of my favourite ones:
Kulturbrauerei Photoautomat: This one is bright pink and is located in the Frannz Biergarten.
RAW Berlin Photoautomat: You’ll actually find two photobooths in RAW Berlin. One outside “Pizza Dealer” at the entrance of RAW Berlin. And the other one is inside RAW Berlin, out front of Cassiopeia.
Urban Spree Photoautomat: This double photobooth is close to the entrance of Urban Spree along Waschaurer Street.
Kottbusser Tor Photoautomat: This one is located next to Supermarket Kaisers at the popular Kottbusser Tor station (which you will likely get off it when visiting Kreuzberg).
Visit the iconic Reischtag Dome
The Reischtag Dome offers an incredible 360-degree-view of surrounding Berlin. It sits atop the Resichtag and you can see the parliament hall below.
I was so eager to visit the Reischtag Dome, but was so sad to find out that the tickets were sold out. I guess it just gives me a great excuse to get back to Berlin soon (not that I needed one).
So, my biggest tip for this hotspot: Make sure you get your Resichtag Dome tickets way ahead of time.
Learn about berlin's history at the Berlin Wall memorial
The Berlin Wall Memorial shows a section of the Berlin wall in its original construction. You aren’t totally able to grasp the concept of this wall, and how it was constructed, until you visit this memorial. Here, you can see the inner and outer wall, as well the construction of mounts, spikes, and electrical fences between them that made it nearly impossible for people to escape East Berlin.
If you take a tour, like the Berlin on Bike one I recommended, they will likely take you hear and explain this in depth. Either way, it’s worth a visit.
Visit Berlin’s most beautiful book store: Umbras Kuriositatenkabinett
Direct translation: Umbras Cabinet of Curiosities.
And I truly don’t think I have ever come across a shop more perfectly named.
This spot was a complete stumble upon in the Graefekiez neighbourhood and I’m so excited to share this secret spot with you! If you’re a fan of books, or book stores, Umbras Kuriositatenkabinett has books stacked floor to ceiling. The books were almost exclusively in German, but that doesn’t take away from just how cool this space was.
Stay at the coolest Hotel in Berlin – with views of the Berlin Zoo
Visit Berlin’s Quirkiest Neighbourhoods: Kreuzberg and Graefekiez (the ultimate Berlin Photography Spots!)
If you’re looking for the best neighbourhoods in Berlin to roam, Kreuzberg and Graefekiez are located right next to each other and are a great spot to do this.
Kreuzberg is Berlin’s hipster haven, full of vintage clothing shops, antique stores, cafes, bars, restaurants – and so much more. It’s gritty and artsy and weird and so quintessentially Berlin in every way. Roam around long enough and you’re bound to come home with a cheap and unnecessary trinkets that you just “had to have.”
Technically part of the Kreuzberg neighbourhood, you’ll find Graefekiez on the south side of the Landwehr canal. A bit more polished and posh, but really cool in a totally different way. This was my favourite neighbourhood in Berlin and the one I would want to live in (anyone else do this when they are travelling, or just me??). It’s filled with unique sustainability-minded shops, florists, cafes, and restaurants.
Grab a bite to eat at Markthalle Neun Erste (Market Hall Nine)
You’ll find tons of food vendors in this historical 120-year-old Kreuzberg Markthalle Neun. This is a great spot to grab a quick lunch or snack, or an afternoon coffee. Keep in mind when planning your visit that the market is closed on Sundays.