Top 10 Unusual Things to Do and See in Berlin. Exploring the city like a local
What do you know about Berlin? Brandenburg gates, Reichstag, Berlin wall, sausages…
You won’t discover the real spirit of the city if you visit just those typical tourist attractions.
To help you discover the German capital like a local, I’ve created a list of top 10 unusual things to do and see in Berlin.
Continue on reading to explore the behind-the-scenes of Berlin!
- 1 10 Typical Attractions of Berlin
- 2 Top 10 Unusual Things to Do and See in Berlin
- 2.1 Discover Charlottenburg
- 2.2 Find the Pieces of the Berlin Wall
- 2.3 Play Frisbee in the Treptower Park
- 2.4 Visit Berlin’s Flea Markets
- 2.5 Discover the Unusual Berlin Neighborhoods
- 2.6 Visit Some Crazy Berlin Nightclubs
- 2.7 Chill in a Späti
- 2.8 Ride a bike to Potsdam
- 2.9 Rent the Famous GDR Car
- 2.10 Visit the Largest Department Store in Europe
- 3 Other Unusual Things to Do in Berlin
- 4 General Information before Visiting Berlin
10 Typical Attractions of Berlin
If you decided to visit the capital of Germany, it is also worth to visit the most well-known attractions of the city. It is easy to cover the whole ‘typical’ Berlin within a walk through the touristy city center. The list of most popular attractions that most of the tourists tend to visit is the following (you can make a 3-5 hour walking route following this order):
- Alexanderplatz – former main square of the Eastern Berlin that you can often see in spy movies. It is always crowded, full of homeless people, and may be interesting only with its Christmas market in December. Still, you should spend at least a couple of minutes in such a mainstream place.
- Fernsehturm Berlin – TV tower built in the GDR to represent the communist power. It is still one of the symbols of Berlin being the second tallest structure in Europe, just 0,5 meters lower than the TV and Radio Tower in Riga, Latvia. From the top of it, you can view the whole city for 14-20 euros (there are cheaper places for that in Berlin).
Get your tour around Berlin here
- Rotes Rathaus, Nikolaikirche and the surrounding quarter – the only old part of Berlin that is left from the time before the Second World War. Surprisingly, less popular than most of the other typical attractions.
- Museums Island with the Berlin Cathedral – an island full of interesting museums with a beautiful and huge Berlin cathedral. I visited most of the museums before I was 18, when it was free for me (just some insider tip).
- Humboldt University – one of the most famous and oldest universities in Berlin also having an impressive look.
- Unter den Linden – probably, the most famous street in Berlin. Here, you can find several embassies, shops of world-renowned brands, souvenir stores and much more.
- The street leads to the Brandenburg Gates – another famous symbol of Berlin with a Quadriga on top of it.
- Reichstag is located surprisingly close to the famous Gates. Its glass cupola is accessible for visitors if you reserve your visit about 2-3 weeks in advance. You will also get a free audio guide, which automatically changes its tracks as you walk through the cupola.
- Next stop can be the Holocaust museum with the memorial of almost 3000 concrete slabs representing the Jews killed during the Nazi regime (millions were killed, not 3000).
- Potsdamer Platz – a modern business center of Berlin. All the buildings are new here, as they were built on the place of the Berlin wall that was destroyed in 1989. There are tall office buildings, two shopping centers, and the Sony Entertainment Center.
It was a list of the most typical places to visit in Berlin. Despite a large number of attractions, the whole route will be just about 5-6 km long. To discover the less touristy parts of the city, I will tell you about the top unusual places to visit in Berlin with insider tips and useful information in the end.
Top 10 Unusual Things to Do and See in Berlin
I didn’t create my travel blog to repeat what the Wikipedia and hundreds of other travel websites are saying, but to help you discover something different with my knowledge of the particular city or place and its lesser-known attractions.
Charlottenburg is a very nice district away from the city hustle. It used to be a heart of Western Berlin, but now is a great place for the quiet existence, while a bit too expensive for young people. It is full of bars and international shops. One famous attraction here is the Charlottenburg Palace built in the 17th century and its gardens.
Check the best photo spots in Berlin
Find the Pieces of the Berlin Wall
The famous Berlin Wall that separated the West and East Berlin fell in 1989, and the Cold War was over. Still, you can view some parts of this historically important wall in several places of the city. Here is where:
- East Side Gallery. A long part of wall covered by beautiful graffiti including the famous painting of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing. Here, you will also find the Berlin Wall Museum and a beautiful Oberbaum bridge
- Checkpoint Charlie and surroundings. This checkpoint was the main one on the border between the Western and Eastern Berlin. If the Third World War started, it would be the first battlefield. Fortunately, it didn’t, and now thousands of tourists take funny selfies with the men dressed like soldiers (that may have never served in the army) without realizing, how dangerous this place was less than 30 years ago. Some small pieces of the wall can be found along the route, where it was standing. This place is extremely touristy, but also worth visiting.
- Bernauer Street. The only place in Berlin, where you can see how the wall originally looked without all the fancy paintings. There are several memorials on the street with a visitors center (free to visit), from where you can see the ‘dead zone’ between the two walls. If somebody managed to climb to the wall, they would have no chances to cross the zone with mines, fighting dogs, sharp spikes, and numerous watchtowers with snipers not mentioning various deadly machines.
Play Frisbee in the Treptower Park
Time to step away from the history and relax a bit. Berlin has a lot of places for that. I will start with several parks in the capital.
Berlin has a very extensive area, although its population is not that big. There are lakes big enough for sailing and parks of a forest size on the territory of the city. Here are the three that are (in my opinion) most interesting to visit:
- Mauer Park. This one is relatively small, but thanks to its location close to the city center, it is one of the favorite places among young people to spend time on a weekend. Nearby, there is a flea market working every day. On the weekend, you can see some performances and play basketball in here.
- Tiergarten. Second largest park in Berlin right in the heart of the city behind the Brandenburg Gates. Even if you have just one day in Berlin, you can visit it on the way between the city’s attractions.
- Treptower Park. Another great place to relax in the city is the Treptower park. It has some nice views of the Spree river and is less crowded then the two previous parks. When I travel, I often use Couchsurfing app to meet some locals and other travelers. So, during my last visit to Berlin I met some great people that I played Frisbee with at a weekly Couchsurfing event. You will also find a huge Soviet War monument on its territory (on the picture above).
Visit Berlin’s Flea Markets
I don’t know any city that would be as famous for its flea markets as Berlin. Here, you can find a wide variety of them, in every district. I will only state the ones I visited and can recommend, here are some more flea markets to check.
- Book Market at Bode Museum. Great place to get some antiques and books in German right under the bridge on the Spree River with a view on the Museums Island.
- A very wide choice of goods can be found at the Boxhagener Platz flea market. If you are looking for something special or just want to visit an interesting flea market, visit this one.
- SO36 Flea Market is actually a nightclub that becomes a flea market once a month. It is a place, where you can buy some weird clothes and CDs (just for collection, who uses CDs nowadays?).
Check Veronika’s 3-day guide to Berlin.
Discover the Unusual Berlin Neighborhoods
Berlin is a very free city; it is very different from all the rest of Germany. Nowhere else in Germany, and maybe in the whole world you will find so many freaks in one place. If you use S-Bahn in Berlin, you will have a general overview of them. Still, I strongly recommend you visiting some of the hipster boroughs with all the special bars and restaurants.
Here are 2 unusual and interesting places to visit in Berlin especially for young people (if you’re under 40, it will still be interesting for you):
- One of them is the area around the Schlesisches Tor train station. It has lots of colorful cafes and bars, some electronic clubs and stages with lesser-known bands playing, as well as an interesting indoor market called Markthalle Neun.
- Not far from it is the other area that I recommend visiting. It is located near the Revaler street and the Urban Spree Art Center. Also, lots of hipster places, unusual bars and techno clubs.
Visit Some Crazy Berlin Nightclubs
Well, I already mentioned some areas with nightclubs. It is time to tell about the most interesting ones to visit. If you like techno music, Berlin is a city for you. If you don’t, or even if you don’t like nightclubs at all, you should visit at least one here.
Most of the city’s clubs were opened after the reunification of the two parts of Berlin. The young people suddenly gained freedom that they started to express in very unusual nightclubs in the abandoned factories and houses mostly in East Berlin (also the rent is much cheaper there). So, here we go, the top Berlin nightclubs.
- Berghain. One of the most popular nightclubs in Berlin. It is the heart of the capital’s techno scene in the same building with another club called Panorama bar with some house music. Lots of local clubbers and foreigners are try to get in, which made it more difficult for an individual to get in.
- Sisyphos. This club is has a huge outdoor area and is open only in summer. Sisyphos is easier to get in, but standing the line make take a while. It works through all the weekend, you can buy some food, and even toothbrushes here, so you can even stay here instead of a hotel.
- Neighboring several other clubs, Watergate is probably the best one of them. No wonder that it is also a techno club.
Chill in a Späti
Germany is one of the few countries, where drinking on the streets is allowed. It really changed the lifestyle of young people. There is no need to go to somebody’s house or spend all your pocket money for 2 beers in a bar. That is why, in most of the German cities there are streets, where young people sit drinking beer with empty bars nearby.
As most of the supermarkets close around 9 pm if not earlier, there have appeared lots of night shops, in German called Spätkauf, or simply Spätis. They are open until late. For the convenience of their guests, most of the Spätis have benches and tables. So, it is another kind of bars, where many Germans tend to spend their time on the weekend evenings.
Ride a bike to Potsdam
Many Berliners have their own bikes, as a convenient and inexpensive means of transportation, comparing to a slightly expensive public transport (regular tickets for A+B zone costs about 2,5 Euros). Renting a bike is also a great way to visit some unusual attractions in Berlin, because, as I already mentioned, the city is very extensive.
Potsdam is a city located at a distance of about 30 km from the center of Berlin. Getting there by bike may be difficult, but possible. Another option would be to go there by train and rent a bike in Potsdam. The Berlin neighbor is very interesting for its beautiful parks and gardens, as well as several castles and palaces. Highly recommended!
Rent the Famous GDR Car
If you need some more comfort, you can rent the famous GDR (Eastern Germany) car called Trabant, which also became one of the symbols of Berlin. At some companies, you can rent a Trabant or buy a ticket to a ‘Trabi’ city tour. Here is a list of companies’ websites that allow you to do that:
If you like shopping, the last point of the unusual things to do in Berlin list will be interesting for you!
Visit the Largest Department Store in Europe
Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West), or KaDeWe, has the area of 60,000 square metres of selling space. Here, you can find almost anything. Hundreds of clothing brands, unusual goods that you won’t find in any supermarket in Germany. Around 50000 people visit this largest department store on European continent every day.
Most of items in the KaDeWe are of the well-known luxury brands, so for most of the people it is more of the museum than a department store.
Other Unusual Things to Do in Berlin
It was very difficult to find the top 10 unusual things to do in Berlin. I could easily name 20 or 30, but I didn’t want this article to be too long. I will simply mention several other great lesser-known attractions in Berlin that are worth visiting.
- Karl-Marx-Allee – a long and broad boulevard with monumental Stalinist buildings that used to be one of the main streets in Eastern Berlin. Especially when the weather is gloomy (which happens often in Berlin), the avenue looks like from the old pictures.
- Grunewald – The largest park in Berlin. It is so big so that you can even see some wild animals there.
- Wannsee lake – a nice lake not far from the border with Potsdam in a beautiful and quiet residential area with some old timers driving around.
- Tempelhof – area that used to be an airport. There is nothing much to see here, but the locals love it.
- Hauptbahnhof – the main train station. Even if you don’t come to Berlin by train, you should definitely visit this huge multi-story train station.
Well, now you have a total of 25 typical and unusual things to do in Berlin. There is still something more that you need to know – general information before your visit.
General Information before Visiting Berlin
- They almost never accept cards. Supermarket chains do, but most of the cafes, bars and restaurants don’t or charge a high fee for paying with a card.
- You can drink beer on the street. I already mentioned this one. You can even take a beer to the train on the way home.
- They do speak English. It seems that only a small part of people living in Berlin are Germans. There are lots of Polish, Turkish, Russians, Americans and other people living here. Moreover, it is one of the most visited cities in Europe, so people do speak English pretty well.
- Public transport is relatively expensive and not very intuitive. Regular price for A+B zones (unless you visit Potsdam, you won’t need more) is 2,8 euros. But, you better pay that, as the fine is 60 for traveling without a ticket. There is U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Trams, Regional trains and Buses, so it may be difficult to understand the whole transportation system in Berlin.
- Riding a bike is convenient. Average daily bike rental price is 12 euros. It may be the most convenient way to get anywhere in Berlin.
- You can get to the Schoenefeld and Tegel airports by public transport. You can also get a transfer to the aiport for the convenience
Find the best hostel for your stay in Berlin
It was an overview of the top 10 (and some more) unusual things to do and see in Berlin. The city has a lot to offer, but by making this list you will really explore Berlin like a local. Read also about the way to spend a weekend in Amsterdam. Travel more!