So you want to see all of Berlin in 24 hours ? You want the information about the sites in a comprehensive way without losing details and without reading a whole book on Berlin? You want to see the most important sites, but don’t know which ones they are and how to see them all in the little time you have? You want to stay fit while traveling? Aaand you don’t have much money to realize all of the above, meaning you’re traveling on a budget?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have the solution for you!
You could have answered yes to every one of them and there still wouldn’t be a problem with you visiting Berlin!!
Because I’ve gathered all the information in one place (here!!), all the necessary info and background knowledge you might lack (not any longer though!!). I’ve picked out the most important sites in an order you can easily bike from one to the other and see everything.(Let me put a Disclaimer here: It’s not possible to see and feel Berlin in just two days. Berlin is much to large for that and has so many places even locals have never been to. What you can do in one day is see the most iconic and important sites and get a feel of the city. That’s what this is for:-))
While you’re biking away, you’re getting the feel of the city, you can stop wherever you like aaaand you’re working out without noticing! Amazing, isn’t it!?
Before you say, it’s not feasible in 24 hours, I’m crazy and I just sat down and put them all together without a connection to reality, then I might add that I, myself, “invented” this tour, while riding a bike through Berlin.
Last year, when I went to visit Berlin with a very good friend, I said to her, that I wanted to see all of Berlin in one day (we only stayed for two and I wanted to go to a street fair the second day). I wanted to see everything. In the short time. The last time I’d been here was when I was still a child and I don’t remember too much of that. She said, all right and we got out a map and started putting crosses everywhere I wanted to go. Then we connected the dots and got our route. 30 minutes later we were on our bikes and we saw everything. In 6 hours. Afterwards we lay in bed for a good two hours, completely exhausted, but we’d seen Berlin in 6 hours.
Now you don’t have to set yourself a timer for six hours and see everything. You can split the tour in two, 11 stops each day and take two days to see everything. But you can also take a day and bike through town, seeing all 22 stops. However you like. I’m just saying it’s possible! We didn’t spend a dime that day, except for food – she had bikes at relatives of her so they were free as well:-)
But now, let me show you how you can visit and get to know all of Berlin in the shortest time, while staying fit! Just take this with you and you don’t even need a fancy book to guide you, because you have everything you need to know with you! (Except for a map, that might be of use;-))
But now let’s get biking
The 22 Stops
Starting off at the most famous place of Berlin, as you can find the Urania Weltzeituhr,
which is a huge clock that shows the time of 148 cities around the globe. It was designed by Erich John, who became world famous for it, and was erected at the Alex in honor of the 20th birthday of the GDR. In the Summertime the Alex is also a place for festivals and concerts, so keep an eye out if you’re visiting. Other than that there are huge stores at this place, like the Galleria Kaufhof. And various U-Bahn, S-Bahn and Trams stop here, making the place even more packed than it already is.
Next to the giant clock the Fernsehturm is also located at the Alex. This is Berlin’s most iconic sight. I would strongly encourage you to go up the tower in the evening, if you have enough energy after that day of biking ;-), as the view is just priceless!
If you reserve a ticket beforehand it costs you around 20 Euro per person, which is not cheap, but worth it and you don’t have to wait in those gigantic lines. Otherwise the entry costs 13 Euro, which is a lot cheaper, true, but consider the time you have in Berlin and make your choice accordingly.
This is the city hall of Berlin. The name has it’s origin in the red facade of the building. Architecturally, the Rotes Rathaus is quite interesting, as it can’t really be put into one box of an epoch style, but it has several different aspects from for example romanian circular arches, but details in the style of the renaissance. Practically a paradox in itself. I like that;-)
Right in front of the city hall on the huge place beneath the TV-Tower is a fountain with a lot of statues, the center being the roman god of water called Neptune. In 1891 it was inaugurated as a present from the municipal authorities of Berlin to the emperor Wilhelm II. In WW2 it was immured and therefore survived the bombing, later being resituated from before the Berlin Stadtschloss to where it is today.
Dome of Berlin + A view of the Spree
Located at the northern part of the Spreeinsel (island of the Spree), also called Museumsinsel, the Dome of Berlin pompously stands like a Monument. Which it practically is.
Built from 1894 to 1905 following the plans of J. Raschdorff who used inspiration from the Italian High Renaissance and the baroque, it now is a landmark and counts as the largest church in Berlin and one of largest protestant churches in Germany.
From here you also have a wonderful view over the Spree, which you can use to get off your bike and take a few photos!
Unter den Linden
This pompous street is probably the most iconic street in Berlin and it’s poetic name is used in various books. Commencing at the Pariser Platz, it connects a lot of different important buildings and monuments in Berlin, like the Brandenburger Tor, the Akademie der Künste, Hotel Adlon, Schlossbrücke, Madame Taussauds and where we came from – the Alex. We’ll be biking along here, taking a look at everything closely. Starting at the…
Like I just said, it’s part of Unter den Linden and connects the Spreeinsel and the Schlossplatz with the rest. Originally, it was a wooden bridge, which was replaced with a stone bridge in 1824 with the ideas of K.F. Schinkel.
As the oldest of the now four Universities in Berlin, it has gone through a lot of history, as it was founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin. It was part of the Women’s Movement for education, as a few of the first women got to study there at the beginning of the 20th century, like Alice Salomon. Elsa Neumann was the first female to do her doctorate in physics in Berlin. Between 1919 The Humboldt Uni was the Uni with the highest number of female lecturers in all of Germany. But the University doesn’t only have positive aspects in history as students and lecturers took part in the big book burning in 1933. There were also attacks and boycotts of jewish lecturers, like in most of Germany at that time. Later almost all of the jewish staff and students was expelled and a number of them even killed. After WW2 the University was completely rebuilt from the inside out, using the Programm of Humboldt, who around 1800 reformed all the Unis making them a place of research and education, rather than a place for only aristocrats. From that time it also got it’s present name, as the Humboldt University of Berlin. In the time of the GDR and West Germany it also experienced difficulties as some students and professors were in favor of communism and some weren’t.
Nevertheless, now it is part the elite of universities in Germany and counts 29 nobel prize winners to date.
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden was finished in 1743 as a royal opera for the King, following the plans of G. Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff who envisioned a Palladianism inspired building, which is part of the Classicist architecture. The Opera, also called Lindenoper by the people of Berlin is the biggest Opera in all of Europe.
Berlin is like almost every city in Germany at the moment under construction… just try to ignore it the best you can..or take fun pictures:-)
You’ve probably heard about the famous museum in London. Well guess what, there is also one in Berlin! A museum of wax figures, shockingly realistic, of famous people, like actors, politicians, singers and athletes. Ever wanted to take a selfie with Merkel? This is your chance;-)
Originally Marie Tussaud lived in 1767 in Paris being a teacher of the sister of King Ludwig XVI. During the French Revolution she crafted many heads out of wax of famous, decapitated heros of the Revolution. These heads were put on lances for people to look at. When her uncle died she inherited his wax figures collection and added hers to complete it. She started putting all of them on display in 1802, wandering around Ireland and Great Britain. A lot of her work got destroyed through bombings in WW2 and a fire, yet the later founded Tussauds Company was able to replicate or save a lot of her work and opened the museum in London. But there’s no need to go there as Berlin has also great figures, like Angela Merkel. Remember that selfie?;-)
Tipp: Buy and reserve tickets beforehand!
Built from Sandstone by the classicistic plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1789 till 1793, the Brandenburger Tor has lived through a lot of Germany’s eventful history. The Quadriga by Gottfried Schadow was put onto the Arch in 1793, a little later, in 1806 Napoleon took it to Paris after having defeated the Prussians. Eight years later however it could be retrieved after the victory of the alliance of Prussia, Austria, Russia and Germany in Leipzig.
The gate too has been the center of a lot of history. It had to be restored several times: after WW2 in the reconstruction period, since the arch had been partly destructed by bombs. Later in 1989 when Germany was reunited, the arch was opened finally to let the two separated parts of Germany unite and flood through. The celebrations were cause of the grave destruction of the Quadriga. The arch remained mostly untouched. However, later in 2002 the arch had to undergo restoration due to damages of environmental problems.
The gate and the Pariser Platz are a great place for a short break with a little photo session, so get your lens out and click away!
This is where to magic of German politics happens: The meetings of the Bundestag, plus Angela Merkel. This is where the press conferences take place, where talks among the members of parliament are held and laws are discussed and voted upon.
The building itself was built by Paul Wallot in the style of the Historism, with emphasis on the Neorenaissance. Long after the destruction in 1933, when the so called Reichtagsbrand took place – the whole building burned, it was renovated and reconstructed in the 1960s. It had been arson, but the whole circumstances of who exactly was responsible were never 100% settled. If you’re interested, there are pages upon pages of reports and analysis of the case.;-)
The famous Cupola has it’s own story as well. When the constructions had already started the plans of Paul Wallot of building a cupola on the top weren’t quite feasible. Only after a back and forth in positioning the cupola, another architect Hermann Zimmermann found the solution. He suggested building it where Paul Wallot wanted it to be: over the Plenarsaal, but shortening it ten meters, constructing it of glass and a complicated steel construction.
In Germany, especially Berlin, the building where Angela Merkel works is called Waschmaschine, which means nothing else than washing machine. You might think this is crazy, but when you look closely, you see that the look of the building has similarities to that of a giant washing machine.
We owe this building to the architects Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank, who won the international competition for this matter, because they suggested a construction to connect both sides of the Spree in an effort also to connect the East and the West again. The building was finished in 4 years, which is a time record.
Now it’s time for a short break from all the biking you’re doing. Just look for a place and enjoy the view and don’t forget to smile and wave at the passing boats!
If you want a nice place to get creative with another round of photos, there is a tiny little park or rather green space behind a restaurant opposite the great train station. From where you are at the moment, just go a little more towards the DB train station and a little park should be at your right. There are not many places to eat, so you won’t miss it!
Street of the 17th June
This street is part of the grand East-West axis in Berlin. It’s part of the districts Tiergarten and Charlottenburg, where in the latter part the Technical University is situated, as well as the University of Arts, the Ernst Reuter Haus and the Charlottenburger Tor. At the Charlottenburger Brücke you can go thrift shopping on weekends – just a quick tipp;-)
The name of the street is in memory of the civic riot of 1953 in the GDR.
If you take this street straight down, you will not miss a giant pillar.
Built from 1864 till 1973 by the sketches of Heinrich Strack, the giant bronze pillar is a memorial of the Einigungskriege, the settlement wars (ironic, isn’t it?), from 1964-1971, when Prussia wanted to rule a giant Germany. Which wasn’t easy as Germany was ruled by many different countries and was split into many tiny states as well. In the end Prussia won all three wars and ruled over Germany as it’s territory.
This is the Memorial for all the Jews who were killed in WW2. After two years of construction the Mahnmal was finished and opened in 2005. The architect was Peter Eisenman from New York.
Consisting of 2711 steles, all of different size, waves can be seen, when one looks for a specific point of view. Aim is to provoke thoughts, especially when one is walking through the stones in their different height… it’s quite striking. All in all the memorial covers 19.000 square meters of ground under which a museum exists. So it won’t happen again.
The architect Helmut Jahn is responsible for the Sony Center, which is a steel and glass construction, uniting seven individual buildings. Offices, Apartments, cinemas, places to eat and the European Central of Sony can be found here. But I recommend just taking a look into the middle of the Sony Center, standing there and marvelling at the incredible architecture.
The Berlin Wall
In front of the Sony Center, a piece of the old wall is left, which once separated East Berlin from West Berlin. The wall was giant in it’s size and length and crossing it was deadly. You’d be shot dead or mines would do the job. It were very brutal times. Many people escaped while the wall was still being built, once it stood there, hope was mostly lost. Still the people in East Berlin tried to dig holes to get to the other side. Or they went on vacation and never came back. There were a few that managed to flee, the vast majority was stuck in a horrible regime. If you want to know more about it, I can write a whole post just about the Berlin wall.
When you’ve seen the Sony Center and the part of the Berlin Wall, you’ve seen a part of the Potsdamer Platz. Originally it was planned to be a district of it’s own with shopping opportunities, cinemas and restaurants, that goal was reached, as now the huge glass towers make up a picture of the part of the city where you can amuse yourself, when you’ve had enough of Germany’s depressing history;-)
We’re almost done!! Just one more stop to go. I know you’re legs are probably hurting by now and you need food. To counteract the latter, just get yourself a snack and we’ll finish the tour!
The most touristy thing to see in Berlin is Checkpoint Charlie, right after the Brandenburger Tor. Don’t be appalled by the word touristy – it’s an important sight.
Here during the time when Berlin and Germany were separated this was the point controlled by the Americans, where visitors could come in. The sight was quite horrific, as on both sides tanks were positioned against each other. On the one side by the GDR on the other by the Americans with the FRG. Many scenes of escape happened here, which almost all ended deadly. Furthermore during the cold war, the tensions were felt extremely strong here and a third World War was not very unlikely.
If you want to get a feel of how it was then, the movie „Bridge of Spies“ is amazing. It illustrates not only the extreme tensions, the aggression and the hopelessness, but the suspicion everyone had against everyone. No one could be trusted. No one trusted. It’s a brilliant movie, go watch it anyways:-)
Till now the biking you did was not that far from one place to another, but the Bernauer Straße is a little bit further away, so you’ll have to gather all your energy for this last part.
On your way, rest a little at the Gandarmenmarkt and take a look at the Konzerthaus. This classicist masterpiece is by the architect Karl Friendrich Schinkel. If you didn’t remember the names of the other architects got to know today, remember this one! He made a significant contribution to classicist and historicism architecture, and as he was the highest architect in ranking of the King he could realize a lot of his visions. This building you’re looking at, was opened in 1821 as a concert hall for the King. From 1919 to 1945 it served as the prussian state theater, getting damaged a lot during WW2. After restorations it was reopened in 1984.
Bernauer Straße and the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
This is the official Memorial of the Berlin Wall. The exact course of it is recreated with large steel sticks in the ground. This is not that spectacular, only when you stand there and think back it is. When you think about the families, the friends, the loves the neighbors it separated. Without mercy. From one day to the other, the wall was being built. The 13th August 1961 was the start date.
What is even more shocking and this is why you should really come here, is the little part of the original wall left with it’s Todesstreifen. There is a tower next to it from which you can see the whole thing (as well as a lot of berlin:-)), with additional original pictures and more information about the cruelties that took place here. Absolutely devestating.
Take your time to rest your legs from all the biking and just imagine life back then. Stand there and think. Let it affect you.
Then please when you come home, educate people about the wall. Tell them. And my last word here:
Please let us not repeat history! Let us learn from it and avoid the mistakes we already made.
Let us not take unity and peace for granted, but let us keep standing up for it: for unity and peace. For understanding.
Now you really deserve a large dinner and a lot of rest from all the biking and especially to digest what you learned and saw today.
For all you, who aren’t in Berlin right now, I hope I succeeded in taking you along as well on a rather visual and educating journey through Berlin!
Tell me in the comments if you’ve ever been in Berlin or are planning to go!
Also tell me if this was a format you enjoyed, or you prefer the one of my Leipzig post! Should I do a follow-up post with a whole guide to Berlin? Food, Fitness included? Let me know!!
Other than that, I hope you learned something and until next time!