If you are anything like me, when you visit a new city you want to see as much of it as possible and get a real feel for it; for it’s people, it’s atmosphere and for what it has to offer. There is no doubt that Berlin is a city that has something of everything going on – there are several great museums, theatre shows, concerts and one-off style events, such as Ted Talks, happening all the time, and I can promise that you will never get bored there! The only problem is, there is SO much on offer in Berlin that sometimes choosing what you want to do can be overwhelming. On looking into events going on in Berlin recently, when I was visiting the city for a weekend, something like 800 different options for events and things to do came up in the search! I thought therefore, for this last post in my Berlin Trilogy series (check out my favourite restaurants post and drinks post too!), that I would feature a few things that I particularly love doing when I visit Berlin. I have included a couple of my favourite museums, some really cool places to shop and a few other ideas for how you can spend your time in this amazing city.
1. DDR Museum
Berlin has one of the most fascinating histories out of any city in Europe, and if you are interested in diving right into this then I definitely recommend visiting the DDR museum. This museum tells the story of when Berlin was divided in two, and particularly focuses on life in East Berlin, on the communist side of the wall. For me, although I sort of knew vaguely about what happened and what it was like, this museum really opened my eyes and I found it absolutely incredible. There are lots of interactive displays, which make you feel as if you are actually there and living it for yourself, and even real artifacts from the time, including an East German car which you can sit in! The DDR museum brings Berlin’s story to life and your experience there will stay with you as you walk around the city afterwards.
2. Pergamon Museum
In Europe, and indeed all over the world, we have so much access to incredible western art and culture. Each city holds it’s own masterpieces and wherever you go there will be another similar art gallery to visit. However, if you want to see something a bit different, or are looking for a gallery with some other kinds of art, try the Pergamon Museum. It showcases some wonderful Islamic and Middle Eastern art, as well as surviving pieces of the monumental Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Pergamon Alter and the Market Gate from Miletus. I have to say that it really is a stunning collection, not just because everything you see is SO old and historical, but because there is also so much beauty in it. After my visit to this museum, I felt that I had really leaned something about the history of humanity and culture; it is a very enriching experience, especially in these times that we live in, and I definitely recommend seeing this museum.
3. Independent Cinemas
Going to see a movie is not always near the top of our lists when we are visiting a new city. However, Berlin has a plethora of independent cinemas with some brilliant, less well-known films showing, and if you happen to have an evening with nothing planned, I definitely suggest checking them out! The atmosphere at these cinemas is always fantastic, with lots of Bohemian people joining you in the theatre, beers and wine available to take to your seat and a wonderful buzz about movies filling the building. To give you an idea of what’s on, when investigating some movie options in Berlin recently, I found one cinema showing a midnight screening of Casablanca! Whether you love the old classics, or want to see something fresh and new, the independent cinema scene in Berlin is worth investigating.
4. Shopping at Hackesher Markt
There are lots of good shopping spots in Berlin, but my personal favourite is around Hackescher Markt! Only a couple of stops from the main station, it is really convenient to get to, and there are loads of cool little independent shops to browse in, as well as some of the bigger named ones too. What I really like to do is walk along the road that takes you from Hackescher Markt to Rosa-Luxemburg Platz, and window shop or take a look in the small arty shops that are all along there. On Saturdays there is also a great street market at Hackescher Markt, with lots of food stalls, jewellery and accessory stalls and artists, from whom I have bought a couple of prints which I love. There are lots of little bars and restaurants around there too, so it is, all in all, a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
If you are a book nerd like me, check out Dussmann on Friedrichstrasse. It is a huge store for books, records, CDs, DVDs, stationary and more. AND they have a fantastic English bookshop located in store too! It’s one of those places where you can spend a couple of hours browsing and reading on the comfy seats. They have also recently expanded it to include a foreign language section and a kids section too, so there is something for everyone here!
6. The School of Life
I have talked about my experience of visiting the School of Life in Berlin on my blog before, but I had to mention it here as well because I feel like it’s one of those amazing places that you need to know about to be able to find. It is firstly a really cool shop, selling interesting books and objects, things to think about or help you in your thoughts and daily life. But they also have some great events going on all the time, in German and English; there are workshops, lectures, breakfast discussions and more. Tickets to these events aren’t cheap, around 35 – 40 Euros each, but they are SO worth it if you find one that really suits you. I definitely recommend taking a little excursion to this part of town, where you will also find some of the restaurants and bars that I mentioned in my other posts in this trilogy!
7. Concerts at the Philharmonie or the Opera
Being a musician, I absolutely had to include one music option in this list, as Berlin is a city so rich in music and steeped in music history. If you are a music lover and want to catch a concert, there is all sorts going on, from big fancy concerts, to smaller underground gigs. But I can honestly say that the concerts that I have seen at the wonderful Philharmonie hall and at the opera, have been some of the best concerts I have ever seen EVER. A couple of times I managed to get great tickets for a hugely discounted price from the box office on the day, so if you are flexible in your plans I definitely recommend trying that, or researching what’s on at these halls and booking tickets before they sell out is a good idea too. Seeing a concert or an opera here will certainly be a memorable experience and absolutely worth it.