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12 Things To Do In Berlin You Might Not Have Thought Of

You don’t need me to tell you to visit Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, or to pay your respects at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (but apparently it does need to be said not to take selfies there). But Berlin being the international cosmopolitan European capital that it is, there are thousands of things to do in Berlin beyond the typical tourist wishlist.

So instead, I’m sharing with you the things to do in Berlin that I’ve both personally enjoyed and that, perhaps, you haven’t thought of or knew about. It makes for a shorter list, but hopefully a more digestible one. And speaking of digesting, I’m mostly looking at eating and drinking. Viel Spaß.

Tip: Leaving Berlin? Read 33 things to do in Germany, my off the beaten path travel guide, how to ride the German train system, and language tips. For something more literary, check out a chapter from my upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany.

Cycle The Berlin Wall Trail

Let’s start off with a unique take on the obvious. (This is the one that also made my things to do in Germany list.) Yes, you should make time to visit some of the Berlin Wall sites. But the wall being the wall, it wasn’t isolated to one area. Doing it by foot can be an exhausting affair, especially if you’re doing it in the summer when everyone else in the world is thinking of doing the same thing. By joining Sascha Möllering at Berlin on Bike, you can get a much more rewarding experience and you can even follow the trail outside of the city to see aspects of the Berlin Wall most tourists never do. Plus, you’re traveling with someone who lived on the East Berlin side of the wall and remembers the night it came down. Watching him light up as he talks about how much he still enjoys being able to freely cross Brandenburg Gate is worth the price of admission alone.

Tacos at Maria Bonita Mexican Bistro

Maria Bonita Mexican Bistro Berlin Burrito

Good Mexican food can be lacking in Europe, but you can see it getting better as time moves on and Americans and Mexicans moving overseas demand it. I found the glory that is Maria Bonita Mexican Bistro while in town for a conference. The day was over and I was with a group of hungry travelers on the verge of getting hangry. A quick search for Mexican food on Google Maps took us to Maria Bonita and its charming counter service shop. Now it’s an obvious stop every time I visit Berlin.

Drink German Craft Beer

Mikkeller Berlin Beer

Craft Beer in Germany is a bit behind its American and British cousins. They’ve got their Rheinheitsgebot or beer purity law which tells you how to make certain styles — and that’s that. Anything creative that stretches outside of the bounds of the law cannot technically be called a beer. Plus, German consumers seem to be happy with the way things are. You go to a town, you know you’ll get the local style no matter where you go with restaurants usually throwing in a Weizen for good measure. I have to say, I’ve come to appreciate the assurance German breweries offer.

That said, I still like my glass full of hops and to try something funky every now and again. Things are getting better and you can already start seeing German craft beer shops popping up. Hell, even the grocery store nearby is starting to stock some craft beer. But if you want a proper German craft beer tour, Berlin is the place to visit. I previously wrote about doing a craft beer tour in Berlin with stops at Mikkeler, Stone Brewing Tap Room, and Birra all within a short walk of one another. (There’s also BraufactuM, but that’s a bit outside of Prenzlauer Berg where the others are and closer to Alexanderplatz.)

If you don’t mind venturing a bit further from the city center, check out BRLO Brewhouse and Stone’s World Bistro &Gardens location pretty much at the edge of town. For craft beer bars, you can generally hop around in artsy-fartsy Kreuzberg and find places like Hopfenreich and The Pharmacy Bar.

Eat Up At Thaipark

This just might be the objectively coolest thing you can do in Berlin. In a country of Ordnung Muss Sein (there must be order) and general rule following, Berlin’s Thaipark gives a hearty Scheiß drauf! to all that. 

Take the U-Bahn to Hohenzollernplatz on the weekend and you’re just a short jaunt away from the best lunch you’ve had in a while. The park, as the name hints, is a mini-Thailand of sorts with cooks setting up shop in small stalls or tents, cooking on the ground like they would back home. That’s the not-so-German part. They’re technically violating all kinds of rules and regulations by being there and authorities have threatened to close them down in the past. But it seems to still be running, so plan to spend the afternoon grazing everything from a simple pad thai to, if you’re into it, crickets.

Climb Up Teufelsberg

I first got wind of Teufelsberg when it made an appearance on the television show, Berlin Station. My first thought was — I must go there. Why? Because this is what I love about Berlin. They take their objectively awful history and turn it on its head with art. The man-made hill west of the city started off as a Nazi military-technical college before turning into a U.S. monitoring facility throughout the Cold War. Nowadays, you can wander up into the “Devil’s Tower” freely to admire the general creepiness of it all.

Chill in a Park

Church-Of-Germany-JoeBaur-1024x683

Berlin has a pretty solid park game. I’m not just talking about the behemoth that is Tiergarten on the edge of Brandenburg Gate. You’ve also got Friedrichshain, Mauerpark, and Treptower Park to name a few personal favorites. (At Mauerpark, you can see where artists are still painting on the wall.) You’ve also got Lustgarten in front of the Church of Berlin (Berliner Dom) and Platz der Republik facing the Bundestag (it blends right into Tiergarten).

Eat Currywurst

Currywurst became the food of Berlin thanks to one Herta Heuwer who mixed ketchup with curry powder from occupying British soldiers. Her cheap snack became an instant hit with construction workers rebuilding the city. Today, a visit to Berlin is not complete without a paper container of sliced pork sausage drowning in curry sauce with a side of fries.

Prevent A Hangover With Döner Kebab

Herta Heuwer brought currywurst into the world in 1949. Germany, most especially Berlin, has changed drastically since then. Immigrants, Turkish most obviously, have become as integral to the framework of the city as Mexican immigrants to the United States. Many will even argue that the Turkish döner kebab has since become the true food of Berlin, replacing currywurst. I’m not here to pick a winner, but I’m more than happy to celebrate the greatness that is the döner and its hangover prevention abilities. Case in point, if you find yourself out late and more than a few drinks deep, you’ll also find a döner stand waiting to fill you up outside your U-Bahn stop on the way back to your hotel room. You haven’t felt so culinarily satisfied since those late-night chicken fingers in college.

Run Along The East Side Gallery

Maybe I’m cheating because this is technically another Berlin Wall site, but hell, it’s something I like doing. Get up in the morning and go for a run along the East Side Gallery (where the famous Gorbachev kiss mural is). If you do it early enough, you’ll have the stretch mostly for yourself. And depending on your endurance, you can stretch this into the aforementioned Treptower Park with its commanding Soviet War Memorial.

Boutique Shopping In Prenzlauer Berg

I’m sure some Berliners will roll their eyes at the mention of Prenzlauer Berg, the formerly cool neighborhood that’s not as cool anymore because the artists and anarchists who once lived there got older and started families. But ignore that nonsense. It’s a great neighborhood, especially as a visitor looking to walk around on a nice day. You’re likely to stumble across festivals and markets if you visit during a summer weekend. Boutique shopping isn’t exclusive to this corner of Berlin, but it’s a pretty safe bet.

Go Clubbing

Clubbing is not my thing. Putting me in a crowded room with relentless house music is pretty much my worst nightmare. That said, if it’s your thing, then you really can’t beat Berlin. I’m not going to pretend to be knowledgeable about the scene, but check out this site for everything from Berghain to spots you might not know as much about.

Walk Across The Bridge Of Spies To Potsdam

Berlin is great. You can find thousands of different things to do in Berlin. But something most visitors seem to either overlook or simply not be aware of is just how close Potsdam is to Berlin. By train, you’re there in just over 20 minutes or so (depending on where in the city you’re coming from). It’s also where the infamous “bridge of spies” is, fresh in the imagination of American readers thanks to the Tom Hanks film of the same name. Plus, Potsdam is a gorgeous little city that feels considerably different from Berlin with its Romanesque plaza anchoring St. Nikolai Church and the state government building. It’s more than worth an afternoon of your time if you’re already in Berlin.

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