Berlin was waiting for me a long time ago. It was one of those trips I was continuously delaying because it was too close or because it was such a big city that I knew I needed more than a weekend. Finally in June 2017 we had 6 days to properly explore this amazing city.
We bought the plain tickets almost 6 months in advance since we got a great promotion from Ryanair directly from Madrid to Hamburg and then Berlin to Madrid. So, before Berlin we spent 2 days in Hamburg and then we caught the Deutsche Bahn train to Berlin. It took us less than 2 hours and we bought the tickets online beforehand.
Berlin is huge! It is the capital and largest city in Germany, and it is also the second most populous city in European Union (the metropolitan area has a population of 5 million). Berlin is not huge just because of its population but also geographically - it is 9 times the size of Paris. So, the first thing we have done was to buy the Berlin Welcome Card ABC 6 days (€46/person) that includes unlimited trips on metro, bus and train in the city centre, Potsdam and the trip to the airport. It also includes a lot of discount offers to visit most of the attractions both in Berlin and Potsdam.
Below you can find our itinerary for 6 full days in Berlin & Potsdam:
Day 1: Friedrichshain (East Side)
- Computerspielemuseum - This is a small museum about the history and evolution of computers and games from the 70s till 2001. We were not impressed, it was a bit expensive (€8/person) for the things you can actually see and try. Nonetheless it was funny to play some of the computer games from the 80s and the 90s.
- Karl-Marx-Allee & Cafe Sibylie - This is not a beautiful avenue, but it's impressive due to its size and lack of color. Karl-Marx-Allee was built in the 50s during the German Democratic Republic era (GDR) and it's considered a fabulous showcase of East German
- East Side Gallery - This is part of the Berlin Wall and it's considered the world's largest open-air mural collection with more than 100 paintings along 1.3km. We spent almost 2 hours discovering the mural, its paintings, river views and taking pictures. A place not to be missed, although a bit far way from the Historic Mitte.
Day 2: Kreuzberg & Historic Mitte
- Judisches Museum - A must see museum built in 3 axis: the Axis of Emigration, the Axis of the Holocaust and the Axis of Continuity. This museums is huge (like almost all museums in Berlin!) and we easily spent around 4 hours inside. It explores History through the eyes of the jews navigating all major periods since the Middle Ages.
- Mauermuseum and Checkpoint Charlie - Probably one of the most visited places in Berlin and completely full of tourists and tours (something we really don't like). Checkpoint Charlie was the principal gateway for foreigners and diplomats between Berlin East and West from the 60s to the 90s.The Mauermuseum has plenty of information regarding the Cold War and the Berlin Wall - it is very well documented but it has more information than anyone can absorve and it is a bit crowded too.
- Topographie des Terrors - A documentation center about the Nazi period. Full of pictures, official documentation, horror stories, letters, etc.
Day 3: Museumsinsel
- Pergamonmuseum | Neus Museum - At the Museumsinsel you can explore several museums, but since we just had 1 day for this area, we choose the 2 most famous: Pergamonmuseum and Neus Museum and we spent the all day between these 2 museums. It's a very touristic place so be prepared for the queues and crowds.
- Alexander-platz | Fernsehturm - Very close to the Museumsinsel, so we spent the late afternoon here and we bought tickets to go up in the Fernsehturm, the TV tower in central Berlin with 368m (the tallest structure in Germany). At the observation deck we enjoyed a 360º view of the city both during the day and the night.
Day 4: Historic Mitte
- Reichstag - One of Berlin's most iconic buildings and home of the Bundestag (Germany's parliament). We visited inside but we had to buy the tickets in the day before for a specific day and time (or you can register online here). From the dome (a giant glass cupola) we could better appreciate the city from above and also the plenary chamber, a metaphor for an open and transparent politics. Inside they offered us (for free) an audio guide which was very informative and interactive depending on your pace and where you are.
- Brandenburger Tor | Pariser Platz - A symbol of division during the Cold War and the East/West side division of the city. No much to see, just walk around, appreciate the buildings and take a few pictures.
- Holocaust Memorial - Inaugurated in 2005, this is a memorial dedicated to all murdered jews of Europe during the Third Reich. It has 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete stones of equal size but different heights. There's also an information centre in the subterranean (free entrance) not to be missed.
- Hitler's Bunker - Under a parking lot was once the entrance to Hitler's bunker, where he spent his last days. Nothing special to see here since it was completely destroyed.
- Potsdamer Platz | Berlin Wall Segments | Berlin Wall Watchtower Erna-Berger-Strasse - In a short walk we admired the famous and modern Potsdamer Platz, a few wall segments that exist around the plaza and one of the few remaining border watchtowers set up along the wall.
- Gedenkstatte Deutscher Widerstand - The German Resistance Memorial Centre is both a memorial and a museum opened in 1980. It has free entrance and it was one of the most empty places we were in Berlin, probably because it is a bit far way from the city centre. Nonetheless it has plenty of information about the german resistance, including pictures, letters, diaries, notes and videos. If you are a museum fan (like us!) save about 3 hours to visit this place.
- Tiergarten - Tiergarten is the most popular city park in Berlin. It is also huge so we only visited part of it while walking from the German Resistance Memorial Centre back to the city centre.
Day 5: Museumsinsel & Scheunenviertel
- DDR Museum - Although we left this for our last day in Berlin, it was one of our favorite museums. This is a small museum where we could experience the daily life of GDR, including driving a Trabi car, seeing communist TV, learning about teaching methods, etc. The worst part were the crowds, the best part the interaction and reality. Don't miss this place!
- Deutsches Historisches Museum - One of the biggest museums we saw, and since we only had 2-3 hours to see it we decided to be more focused in the first floor (from the 1st century to the end of first World War in 1918). The ground floor is about the 20th century from 1918 until German reunification - something we read/see more in other museums and that's why we decided to concentrate our time in the first floor.
- Neue Synagoge | Judische Madchenschule | Der Verlassene Raum | Jewish Boys' School | Alter Judischer Friedhof | Haus Schwarzenberg - All these places were based in a walk suggested by Lonely Planet Berlin's travel guide called "Traces of Jewish Life in the Scheunenviertel". It took us around 1.5 hours but only because we stopped to eat an ice cream in one of the many cool coffees in the area. As a neighborhood it was ou favorite. It is also a lesson of History with old jewish schools and coffees, buildings riddled with bullet holes and a cemetery.
Day 6: Postsdam
Potsdam is around 25 km from Berlin city centre and easily reached by train (S-Bahn). According to most of travel guides and blogues, it is the most popular day trip from Berlin. In 1990, Potsdam was considered an UNESCO World Heritage site due to its Prussian influences, royal History, palaces and gardens. We spent all day in the city and so we had time to visit several places, including the Schloss Sanssouci, the Orangerieschloss and the Neues Palais. We also spent a couple of hours around the city centre where we had opportunity to observe and join the rhythm and lifestyle of locals.
- Main costs: Flight Madrid-Hamburg (35€/person), Flight from Berlin-Madrid (26€/person), Train Hamburg-Berlin (28€/person), Hotel in Hamburg (136€/2 nights/2 people), Airbnb in Berlin (476€/6 nights/2 people), Berlin Welcome Card ABC 6 days (46€/person)
- Main attraction costs (most of them include a discount with the Berlin Welcome Card): Games Museum (9€/person), Jewish Museum Berlin (6€/person), Mauermuseum (10.9€/person), Museum Island (€18/person for the 5 museums), DDR Museum (7.2€/person), Deutsches Historisches Museum (6€/person)