Berlin in 4 Days: everything you need to know

Get the best of Berlin with a complete four-day tour, from classic to alternative.

Matteo Gramegna

Matteo Gramegna

11 min read

Berlin in 4 Days: everything you need to know

Berlin | ©Denislav Jeliazkov

Berlin is famous for its cold war monuments and vibrant music and art scene. However, the German capital hides places where time seems to have stopped and natural sites of great beauty. Our route tries to take the best of each facet to give you a round trip to get there without rushing. Read on and discover what to see and do in the German capital.

Day one: the must-see

Berlin has long been synonymous with the Berlin Wall. Its fall and the subsequent reunification of the country changed the course of the city, which regained its capital and enthusiasm. Today's tour cannot but begin at the East Side Gallery, the last section of the wall to survive the collapse.

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East Side Gallery and Alexanderplatz

East Side Gallery| ©Jeanne Menjoulet
East Side Gallery| ©Jeanne Menjoulet

The tour starts at a place linked to Berlin's recent history: the Berlin Wall. The largest section still standing is located in the East Side Gallery and is decorated by countless murals. It is a must on any trip to Berlin and is worth a visit to enjoy the street art. The graffiti date from 1989 but have been restored to mitigate the effects of atmospheric agents.

From this area it will not be difficult to reach the central Alexanderplatz, the vibrant heart of Berlin. You can opt for the bus (line 300), the train (line S5) or a twenty-minute walk.

In the latter case, it will be enough to follow the silhouette of the TV Tower, which is located a few meters from the square. During the Cold War, it was the epicenter of the East and the Soviets took the opportunity to transform it into a showcase of communism. The World Clock, the Peoples' Friendship Fountain (Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft) or the large mosaic in the Professor's House attest to this.

Book tickets to the Berlin TV Tower

Reach the Museum Island

Pergamon Museum,| ©Rob S
Pergamon Museum,| ©Rob S

The Museum Island is a must-see of the city. This islet in the middle of the river Spree hosts five cultural spaces and the most famous is undoubtedly the Pergamon Museum, the largest collection dedicated to the ancient world (although this museum is currently closed for works and will have to wait several years for its reopening). The treasures inside have been found by German archaeologists in the late nineteenth century. Inside you will see several masterpieces:

  • Pergamon Altar, the reconstruction of the original altar hosted in the homonymous city. Its bas-reliefs depict the struggle between Zeus and the giants. During the Second World War it was requisitioned as booty by the Soviets but returned to Germany a few years later.
  • Ishtar Gate. It embellished the temple of Marduk in the legendary city of Babylon. It is dedicated to the goddess of love and war and is notable for its beautiful tiles.
  • Hall of Aleppo, the reception room of the Christian merchant Isa ibn Butrus. It is splendidly preserved and its colors are still very bright.
  • Gate of the Roman market of Miletus. As far as we know, it dates from the 2nd century AD and was probably erected during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It is one of the best preserved pieces

Book a ticket to the Neues Museum

Visit the German Parliament

Exterior of the Reichstag| ©Bernt Rostad
Exterior of the Reichstag| ©Bernt Rostad

Take the subway and get off at the Bundestag stop, a few meters further you will find the Reichstag building. Like other buildings in the city also the German parliament was severely damaged during the Second World War. The original dome has been replaced by a glass roof and it is possible to climb to the top to admire the panorama. You can do so from 8:00 to 24:00.

Other alternatives are a guided tour or listening to a session of parliament. In both cases you must register on the official website. Don't worry, it has a page in English. The Bundestag has had a turbulent history and it is worth spending some time to discover the most important events, from the Weimar Republic to the period of the reunification of the country.

Stand and watch the sunset at the Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate| ©Giuseppe Milo
Brandenburg Gate| ©Giuseppe Milo

The imposing and famous monumental gate was built by the will of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and a man of great talents. It is a copy of the Acropolis of Athens and measures 26 meters high and 11 meters long. If I did not miscalculate, you will arrive at sunset, one of the best times to enjoy its charms. Before nightfall, the last rays of the sun shine on the sandstone that makes up the monument.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of the 10 monuments to see in Berlin at night. It is the icon of the city and the spotlights make it glow in the dark. Events, concerts or other events are often organized at its feet. If you visit the German capital in November you might run into some commemoration of the fall of the wall.

All Berlin sightseeing bus tours stop at this monument. Therefore, I recommend that you get a 24 or 48 hour pass to get on one of them and be able to comfortably discover this and other must-see places in the city.

Book a seat on the Berlin sightseeing bus

Second day: Kreuzberg and a signature cocktail

Kreuzberg has the reputation of being the coolest neighborhood in Berlin. The graffiti and cosmopolitan atmosphere make it a must-see stop. Today we will explore this area of the capital.

Stroll through the Turkish quarter

Streets of the Turkish Quarter| ©Jeanne Menjoulet
Streets of the Turkish Quarter| ©Jeanne Menjoulet

During the cold war, Kreuzberg was the poorest neighborhood in the western part of the city. Gradually, low housing costs attracted a mix of hippies, squatters, artists and Turkish immigrants. The first arrived in the 1960s and many of them decided to stay in the capital. Today, Kreuzberg is a multicultural district and it is worth spending a morning to explore its nooks and crannies. Below you will find the main attractions of the district:

  • Oranienstraße and Bergmannstraße, two streets where you can go shopping. Among the most popular stores are Hammett Krimibuchhandlung (a bookstore specializing in crime novels, Friesenstraße 27), Coy Art To Wear (hat paradise, Sophienstraße 6), Picknweight (a classic vintage store, Bergmannstraße 102) and Prinzessinnengärten, an ecological and social garden that sells its harvests (Hermannstraße 99-105).
  • Engelbecken, a park where once there was a canal. In the 20th century, the king of Prussia had an irrigation canal built and named it Louisenstadt in honor of Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Unfortunately, this waterway was short-lived and was drained at the beginning of the 21st century. Today, a small lake reminds us of the neighborhood's "watery" past.
  • Berlinische Galerie, the museum of modernist art, photography and architecture. The ticket costs about 10 €. Open Wednesday to Monday, 10:00 to 18:00 (Alte Jakobstraße 124/128) - Beach bars, the establishments overlooking the river Spree. The best are Club der Visionӓre ( very busy on Sunday afternoon, Am Flutgraben) and Badeschiff, a floating pool with deck chairs and sun loungers (Eichenstraße 4).
  • Topography of terror, the building that housed the Gestapo. It is now a museum dedicated to the dark years of the Nazi era. Open daily from 10:00 to 20:00 (Niederkirchnerstraße 8).
  • Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin's most beautiful bridge. During the cold war it was one of the few borders between east and west.

Doing one of the cruises through Berlin you will be able to know this beautiful neighborhood and many of its charms. You can also take advantage of the boat trips that offer dinner on board to enjoy a complete experience sailing on the river Spree.

Book a dinner cruise in Berlin

Order a cocktail in Limonadier

At Limonadier| ©Lavanki
At Limonadier| ©Lavanki

In Kreuzberg there is no lack of options when it comes to finding a bar and yet my choice is easy: Limonadier. The gin, some liqueurs and lemonade are homegrown and leave their mark on every creation. You'll see a few original drinks and the staff is always available to guide you in your decision.

It is located at Nostitzstraße 12 and is open from 19:00 to 2:00 (Monday to Thursday) and from 19:00 to 3:00 (Friday and Saturday). It also offers a happy hour from 19:00 to 20:00. I assure you it is worth it.

Third day: the surroundings

If the first days have been dedicated to visiting Berlin, on the third day we will leave the city to reach Wansee, a town in the Berlin district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. It is located a short distance from Potsdam.

Explore the Großer Wannsee

At Großer Wannsee| ©Nodder
At Großer Wannsee| ©Nodder

If you visit the German capital in summer you can escape the heat at the Großer Wannsee, an inlet of the Havel River. It is about 20 kilometers southwest of Berlin and has a very large beach (strandbad) with white sand imported from the Baltic coast. You can rent sun loungers and swim in Europe's largest open-air bathing area.

It also has water slides, changing rooms, children's playground, bars and restaurants. The beach (strandbad) opens at the end of March and closes in mid-September while the daily opening hours are from 9:00 to 20:00 (Friday and Saturday until 21:00). The entrance fee is around 5 €. Getting here is very easy, from Berlin Central Station you just take the train S7 or S1 and get off at Wannsee. The trip takes about 45 minutes.

Another recommended option is to rent a bike and ride the Wannsee-Babelsberg route. Please note that, in general, it is allowed to take bicycles on trains, while on subways and streetcars you can get on only where the doors are marked and as long as there is enough space. Therefore, you can rent your two-wheelers in the center of Berlin. The route is 14 kilometers long and touches the points of interest in the area:

  • Liebermann-Villa, the former summer house of the painter Max Liebermann. It is now an art museum dedicated to its former owner and houses some 150 engravings, oil paintings, pastels and drawings. If you feel like it, you can hire a guided tour that will reveal the history behind the works and the charms of the garden surrounding the residence.
  • House of the Wannsee Conference, the residence where the final solution of the Jews was planned. Today it houses a permanent exhibition ("The Wannsee Conference and the Extermination of the European Jews") with photographs, newspaper clippings, copies of documents, propaganda and other documents accompanied by descriptive texts.
  • Pfaueninsel, a small island hiding a romantic palace. At the end of the 18th century, Frederick William II of Prussia built this place for himself and his favorite mistress, Wilhelmine Enke. To get here you must take a ferry that does not accept bicycles. However, you can leave your bike at the stands near the pier.
  • Glienicker Brücke, the bridge that crosses the Havel River. It is a crucial axis of the road between Potsdam and Berlin and during the cold war marked the border between West and East - Babelsberg Palace, the summer residence of Emperor Wilhelm I. The architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel was inspired by English Tudor mansions and the result is a very fascinating neo-Gothic building. Unfortunately, it is open only during exhibitions and special events.

Book your Berlin bike tour

Taste the local delicacies

German Gastronomy| ©Jonathan
German Gastronomy| ©Jonathan

After such an intense day, you should recharge your batteries with a classic of German cuisine: the Königsberger Klopse. If you are not familiar with the local recipes, you will be pleased to know that they are delicious meatballs and anchovies accompanied by a caper cream. The recipe originates from Königsberg, today's Kaliningrad and is very popular throughout the country. It is said that Kant himself could not say no to Königsberger Klopse.

If you want to try the best ones, I recommend Berlin Beef Balls, a newcomer to the city that has managed to carve a niche for itself in the capital's gastronomic scene. In addition to the traditional recipes it has both modern and vegetarian versions. It is located in the covered market Markthalle Neun (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43).

Day 4: Tradition

Reach the historic district of Spandau

St. Nicholas Church| ©Adam Brown
St. Nicholas Church| ©Adam Brown

For the fourth and last day, you can take a walk through Spandau, a neighborhood with a lot of charm. It is located on the banks of the Havel River and is known mainly for the Citadel, a 13th century fortification later converted into a Renaissance building. To start the route you can visit the permanent exhibition that illustrates the history of this place. It is located in the former commandery.

The Spandau Citadel is an imposing red brick construction. Its front is embellished by a large coat of arms with the royal crown that was added during the reign of Frederick III. Another unique attraction is the Queen's Bastion. Hidden in its bowels is a cave inhabited by a colony of bats and excursions are organized to visit it. However, Spandau has much more to offer:

  • Nikolaikirche, the church of St. Nicholas. It played an important role in the founding of the German capital: at the beginning of the 19th century, the first Berlin assembly was held here. Open from Thursday to Sunday, from 10.00 to 18.00 (Reformationsplatz).
  • Gotisches Haus, a late Gothic building dating back to the second half of the 15th century. Not much is known about it but two things are certain: it is the oldest house in Berlin and it belonged to a merchant family. Today it hosts some temporary exhibitions (Breite Straße 32).
  • Lindenufer, a wonderful park surrounded by water. Take some time to walk along its paths. Two rivers, the Havel and the Spree, meet at this point. If you feel like it, you can walk to the batardeau, a 19th century structure used to regulate water levels.

Discover the noble face of Berlin

Charlottenburg Palace| ©Karen Blaha
Charlottenburg Palace| ©Karen Blaha

After a break for a bite to eat and recharge your batteries, head to Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg), the royal residence of the House of Hohenzollern. Frederick I of Prussia had this summer residence built as a gift for his wife Sophie-Carlotte. It is an artistic gem with a rococo ballroom, a porcelain collection (Porzellankabinett) and dozens of period objects.

Charlottenburg Palace is open all year round from Tuesday to Sunday although the opening hours change with the season. From April to October it operates from 10:00 to 17:30 while during the winter it closes with an hour's notice. As for the price, the standard rate is around 17 € and includes the rental of an audio guide available in several languages. To travel lighter, you can leave your backpack or bag in the free checkroom.

Before returning to the hotel, I recommend a stroll through the gardens. The green area was designed by the French landscape designer Siméon Godeau who brought to Germany the aesthetic criteria of the gardens of Versailles. Its most famous landmarks are the mausoleum dedicated to the king's wife, the Belvedere tea house and the Neuer Pavillon, a neoclassical building inspired by a Neapolitan villa.

Is it worth visiting Berlin in 4 days?

In my opinion, a four-day trip is ideal. You will have enough time to see the main attractions of the capital without having too tight an agenda. If you have five or seven days you should consider visiting a nearby town. By train you can easily reach Dresden, Lipsia, or Hamburg. The palaces and gardens of Potsdam and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp are even closer.