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13 Things You Don’t Want to Miss in Berlin

by Nolan Osborn
13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad

Before spending this semester in St. Petersburg, Russia, I spent my fall semester with AIFS in Berlin, Germany. In light of spring break and several friends going to Berlin, I thought I would share some of the best things to do while you are vacationing there. There isn’t a particular order, but these are all generally some of my favorite things to do!

1. Brandenburg Gate

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 30-45 minutes
S-U Bahn stop: Brandenburger Tor

This was a favorite for me while living in Berlin. I would often go and sit in front of the American Embassy in the evening and people watch. It is common to see horses, 3-4 bike tours and tourists with selfie sticks, all within a matter of 10 minutes. From time to time, there are lights that illuminate the columns. I would also recommend that you look at pictures of this structure immediately after the World War II, as well as from October 1989. It will really facilitate thinking!

2. Reichstag Building

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad

Time recommended: 15 minutes
S-U Bahn stop: Bundestag

This is another one of my favorites and a 5-minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate! This is where much of the German Politics takes place. In front of the building, you can sit and eat a snack or watch people lounging around. In a similar situation to the Gate, this building was nearly destroyed during the Second World War. If you take a tour of the inside (you need to sign up in advance online), take a look at the wall and see the same Russian writing that was left after the Red Army overran the building.

3. Chancellery Office

Time recommended: 10 minutes
S-U Bahn stop: Bundestag

If you turn your back away from the Reichstag, you can see the Chancellery Office where the Chancellor of Germany lives and works. Think of it as a German White House. This is a little more difficult to get into and even if you make plans in advance, it may be canceled due to a VIP visiting. I speak from experience (Thanks Obama…)!

4. Döner

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 30-45 minutes
S-U Bahn stop: Hallesches Tor

If you get hungry throughout the day, I would suggest you try the Döner. You can find this amazing food on any street corner in Berlin, but my personal favorite is at the Hallesches Tor U-bahn station on the street level.

5. Treptower Park

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 1.5 hours
S-U Bahn stop: Treptower Park

If you are interested in seeing Soviet Memorials, you should visit Treptower Park memorial. This is a very open space with two statues on each end. One is of a woman holding a child. About 350 meters away, you will find a Soviet Soldier holding a sabre and crushing a swastika beneath his feet.

6. East Side Gallery

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 2 hours
S-U Bahn stop: Warschauer Strasse

This is the most famous part of the Berlin wall that still stands. What once kept East Berliners from entering the West is now an open air art gallery, with graffiti that depicts one of Berlin’s darkest periods. *Do not bet on the street games that people play*

7. Neukölln Arkadaen Rooftop

Time recommended: 2-3 hours
S-U Bahn stop: Rathaus Neukölln

In the evening, you should go to Rathaus Neukölln U-bahn station and go into the Neukölln Arkaden. Take the elevator up to the top floor. When you get there, do not panic when the doors open to a parking garage! Walk to the platform that leads to the roof and you will be able to have a drink on the roof of the Mall. You will have a great view over the city and it is well worth it.

8. Grunewald

Time recommended: 3-4 hours
S-U Bahn stop: Heerstrasse

In terms of views, I would also suggest that you take the S-Bahn to Grunewald. This will bring you to the small tree covered hills in Berlin. Here, you can hike a little and atop one cleared hill, you can have a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline, with the Alex standing tall above any other building around it.

9. Sachsenhausen

Time recommended: 5 hours
S-U Bahn stop: Oranienburg Bhf

Another recommended destination is the Sachsenhausen concentration camp that is just outside of the City. It can be reached by s-bahn. Many of the buildings were destroyed after World War II, but the eerie and horrific feeling remains. Upon walking under the ‘Work makes you free’ sign, you will be facing a semi-circle where the buildings once stood. Above you, the position for an MG-42 and guards. In September when I went, I went into one of the few remaining buildings and quickly felt overheated.

10. Checkpoint Charlie

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 10 minutes
S-U Bahn stop: Kochstr./Checkpoint Charlie

This is a major tourist trap, but I think it is worth walking through. There are two museums to the right that show what the Cold War was like in Berlin and you can see one of the most famous checkpoint during it.

11. Potsdam

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: 6-10 hours
S-U bahn stop: Potsdam Hbf

Although Potsdam is part of Berlin, it could just as easily be its own large town. In the recent film Bridge of Spies, they depicted the spy handoffs in the dark on a bridge. This is that bridge! You can also see some castles and the building that Joseph Stalin stayed in after the World War while negotiating the future of Berlin with other allied leaders.

12. Temelhofer Field

Time recommended: 1.5 hours
S-U bahn stop: Tempelhof Berlin

This is an abandoned airfield near the center of Berlin. Built by Hitler and used during the Cold War’s infamous Berlin Airlift, this airport is now a park for the people. The pavement is subject to bicyclists and skateboarders, and even an occasional Segway rider. People picnic and fly kites and relax in the sun.

13. Anywhere

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad
Time recommended: A day, a month, a semester…
S-U bahn stop: Any

Berlin is one of the most interesting and historical cities in the world. Yes, this is my opinion, but if you are in Berlin and you take in the culture and the green scenery that very few cities offer, you will share this opinion. Take a U-bahn to a random stop, take a walk around and see what you see, hear what you hear. The city lacks a true “Center” so no matter which district you are in, you will find something interesting.

This post was contributed by Nolan Osborn, who is spending his spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in St. Petersburg, Russia after studying abroad with AIFS in Berlin, Germany the semester prior.

13 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Berlin | AIFS Study Abroad

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