Know before you go: Berlin was developed with regulations that prevented buildings from exceeding a certain height. Since they couldn’t build upward, they built outward. Because of this, it can take upwards of 45-60 minutes to get just halfway across the city using public transportation. Also be prepared to walk some distance to get where you want to go.
First, the basics.
Currency. Berlin uses the Euro. For more info, see our post on currency exchange.
Plugs and Adapters. Berlin uses Type F adapters, with Type C still in use in some areas (read: in some AirBnB apartments!). See our tips on which adapters and converters you will need.
Getting Around. Using the Deutsch Bahn train system was very easy and cheap. You can purchase tickets using one of the most reliable and trusted train sites in all of Europe. Truly, we relied on the DB for much of our train scheduling and ticket purchases. It includes up-to-date schedules and station info for much of Europe, even outside Germany where DB lines do not run.
Hot tip: We highly recommend downloading the DB’s smartphone app “DB Navigator” to make your train-travel life even easier while traveling abroad.
We also found it handy to have a paper map to supplement using our phones to navigate, as cell service can be spotty and wi-fi not always handy. Luckily with an international travel plan, using our cell phones in Vienna was super easy. Find out more about using your cell phone overseas in our post
After suffering the ravages of World War II and the Cold War, Berlin is full of new architecture. If you’re traveling in from the east (Hungary, Poland, etc.) you will notice a stark contrast in the architecture and much new development. Berlin will feel shiny and new compared to the old-world style of more ancient European cities.
One exception to this remains: Berlin was once divided by the Berlin wall into East and West Berlin. There was very little development in East Berlin while the wall was standing. Since the wall has come down, progress has occurred but not at a rate commensurate with West Berlin or other larger European cities. Head to the neighborhoods of former East Berlin and you will see some traditional prototypical residential architecture still remains. Perhaps most iconic are the crossing signs, which in East Berlin were traditionally stylized with Ampelmännchen, or “little traffic light men.” Now these can occasionally be found in other parts of Berlin.
Things to See and Do
Brandenburger Tor. Brandenburg Gate, built in the 18th century, stands at the former site of the city gate. Located in Mitte, it’s massive size and formidable architecture are pretty epic. Note that one will be hard-pressed to get a photo of this structure without massive crowds of tourists around it. Because it’s near the city center, rush hour and occupational foot- and car-traffic also abound on weekdays. Still, with a little planning, it’s worth it to see this massive structure.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Located right next to Tiergarten and close to Brandenburg Gate in Cora-Berliner-Straße (pronounced “strah-seh”), this memorial is a humbling and unforgettable reminder of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Walk through the concrete monoliths and you quickly realize that the uneven ground and rising walls have you trapped in a disorienting maze where the sights and sounds of the bustling surrounding city disappear. Not to be missed.
KaDeWe. Pronounced “kah-duh-way,” this place has everything. Abbreviated from Kaufhaus des Westens (“Department Store of the West”), KaDeWe is the second largest department store in Europe. Located in Schöneberg on Tauentzienstraße, it has eight floors, each devoted to a different merchandise. To be sure, there are tons of souvenirs on the 5th floor. But our fave? The 6th and 7th floors, with more than two football fields of food vendors, the Winter Garden dining hall, and candy for daaaaaaays…
Updates for other neighborhoods coming soon!
The Amazing Food
Berlin has so many restaurants, it’s hard to try them all. From authentic Russian to old-world Italian, to perfect French croissants and espresso in the cafés, everything is delicious. Spend an afternoon shopping at KaDeWe to work up an appetite for their abundant, exotic dining options. Also don’t miss the currywurst, sold at street vendors everywhere, a sliced bratwurst with fries and curried ketchup.
While we typically don’t recommend most guided tours, as they tend to stick to the in-authentic, over-priced touristy areas, there are a few options that stand out above the rest in Berlin. You will find abundant options for River Boat Tours. There are so many to choose from! These vary in price, location, length, and quality. We recommend checking customer reviews and choosing a tour that suits your schedule. Also be on the lookout for weather-flexible options, as many boats offer the best views from chairs placed on the upper deck, where there is no protection from wind or rain (and the occasional low-height bridge. When the captain says to duck, he means it!)
Kayak Berlin. This is a unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the city. With several companies offering a variety of locations and kayak, canoe, or paddle-boarding options, we recommend doing some research and reading the reviews. When the temperature drops (which can happen quickly in Berlin), the cold water and constant breeze on the Spree and other waterways can make these tours quite chilly. Also be prepared to cooperate with other members on your kayak or canoe, as steering and paddling in sync can get tricky. Still worth the photo ops and experience, especially on a sunny day when the view on the water is gorgeous!
We have presented information here that compiles tidbits from several different sites and from our own experience. Our hope is that our work will save others countless hours of searching to find the answers they need. Please remember that we cannot make any guarantees or promises regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information. This website is for informational purposes only, and not a substitute for professional advice. Travel safely!