9 Best Activities to Try Around Berlin

Whether you’re in Berlin for a week or have decided to make Berlin your new home, you can't deny that the city of two halves really does have everything.

Apr 4, 2023
A biker driving around BerlinA biker driving around Berlin

Berlin is Germany’s top tourist destination by miles, gettin almost twice as many visitors each year as Munich in second place. Its history is not just fascinating, it’s unique. Only a few decades ago the city was still carved in two by the wall. The contrasting cultures that lived side by side have contributed to Berlin’s modern, multi-faceted personality. You often hear both Germans and non-Germans refer to the city as “not real Germany”, as a positive or a negative. One thing you can say for sure is that its blend of arts, history, and nightlife, of conservatism and rebellion, has helped make Berlin such a huge draw.

If you’re coming to Germany’s capital for a short vacation, to live here for a few months, or make it your permanent home- you might be wondering what to do while you’re here. The city has everything, so we can’t write about it all, but we’ve done our best to narrow it down to 10 things you really must fit in while you’re here.

1. A boat or bike ride

The river Spree offers a great way to see Berlin, and get your bearings when you first arrive. Many of Berlin’s most famous landmarks are on the river, such as Museum Island, the TV tower, and the East Side Gallery. You can also head further out to Müggelsee lake (more on those later). If you’d rather go at your own pace, you can rent boats or kayaks. There is also a midnight cruise available, a choice better for romance than orientation.

River of Berlin

Bicycles are another fantastic way to find your way around. Berlin is flat, and has loads of cycle routes, which take you through the city center, the parks, and along the canals. If you don’t have your own, there are numerous bike sharing options available.

2. A landmark building

Berlin has loads to choose from. Brandenburg Gate might be the most famous image in Berlin, the TV Tower is iconic, and offers spectacular views of the city. Charlottenburg Palace is probably the most beautiful building in the city, with amazing gardens. Hopefully you have enough time here to go and see them all, but if you’re pushed for time- go and see the Reichstag.

Berlin dome

The neo-Baroque German parliament building has survived arson, world wars, bombings, and losing half its city. Now it’s symbol of a new era, thanks to the stunning glass dome on top of the building, which offers a 360º view of Berlin. If you book in advance you can visit, walk around the roof, and even sit in on a parliamentary session if you wish. Free to enter.

3. A whirlwind museum tour

Berlin has so many museums to see that you might never fit them all in. Fortunately, they’ve put five of them on an island so you can cross a few off your list in one day. UNESCO heritage site Museum Island is home to:

  • Altes Museum (Old Museum): Houses a collection of ancient Greek and Roman art, including sculptures, pottery, and jewelry.

  • Neues Museum (New Museum): Home to a wide range of ancient Egyptian and prehistoric artifacts, including the famous bust of Nefertiti.

  • Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery): A museum of 19th-century art, with a focus on German Romanticism, Impressionism, and the Biedermeier period.

  • Pergamon Museum: The most visited museum in Berlin, containing three major collections: the antiquities collection, the Islamic art collection, and the Middle Eastern museum. The north wing, which includes the Pergamon Alter, is closed for renovations at present.

  • Bode Museum: The Bode Museum houses a collection of sculpture and decorative arts from the Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance periods.

Also on the island is the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), a beautiful church both inside and out. Check there’s no religious service on while you’re there and you’ll be able to see the stunning interior, and climb to the top of the dome for some great views of the city.

Berlin Cathedral

Of all the other museums in the city, I must mention one, Topographie des Terrors (Topography of Terror). It’s dedicated to the horrors of the Third Reich, and if you’ve any interest in history, is absolutely fascinating.

4. An important wall

The best known thing about Berlin is surely the wall. Most of it was famously torn down, but what remains has become a spectacular display of artwork, by artists from all over the world. The largest remaining stretch is at the East Side Gallery, which includes the iconic “Fraternal Kiss”.

For more history on the wall you can visit Checkpoint Charlie. The most famous crossing between East and West Berlin is now a kind of open-air museum exhibit, and replica of the original crossing. It’s very touristy, but worth passing through. There is also a museum, which isn’t bad, but isn’t as good as the aforementioned Topography of Terror, which is close by.

Military soldiers by the Berlin wall

The third-longest remaining stretch of wall, at Bernauer Strasse, also features the only remaining area of “death strip”. The area between the two sides of Berlin saw the deaths of over 100 Berliners trying to switch sides. The official ceremony for victims of the wall takes place here in November.

5. A beer crawl

You’ll probably need a drink after all that history and culture. Fortunately you’re in Germany, so there are options, with varying levels of sophistication. Exploring on your own is great fun, Hackescher Markt and Oranienburger Strasse are good places to start. There are also organised bar crawls. These include both the connoisseur’s, beer tasting kind, and the wild, party kind. The city really comes alive once the weather get’s warm in the spring and summer. Everyone flocks to the terraces, plazas and parks to enjoy a drink, and the special atmosphere. If you’re here in October, Berlin’s Oktoberfest takes place in Alexanderplatz.

6. A plethora of parks

Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe. There are over 20 notable parks, and there are over 2,500 green spaces in total. What they do better than anyone else, is know how to use them. Parks in Berlin are for running, cycling, swimming, and relaxing. For meeting with friends, picnics, and barbecues. For sports, boating lakes, and playing with the kids. They are also for concerts, protests, markets, karaoke, and all day raves. Making the most of your park life in Berlin will play a key role in your stay. Parks are also the best example of the city springing to life when the weather warms up.

Tiergarten is the largest park in Berlin, located in the heart of the city, and has everything. There are various walking and cycling paths, several lakes, picnic areas, bars, and restaurants. It's a great place to relax and unwind, and there are plenty of benches and shady spots to sit and enjoy the scenery. There is a beautiful lake in the middle, and the park connects to Berlin Zoo.

A person cycling in a Berlin park

Treptower Park, in southeastern Berlin, features an impressive Soviet War Memorial. As well as the usual amenities, there's also a beach area along the river Spree, where you can swim, rent canoes, or sunbathe. Britzer Garten is the most picturesque in the city. The perfect place to meander through, either on foot or the miniature railway, and marvel at the beautiful flowers and themed gardens.

For a more lively park experience, go to Mauerpark - This park in Prenzlauer Berg is known for its Sunday flea market and open-air karaoke sessions. The best for hanging out with friends and partying, it’s the iconic image of Berlin summers. If you want to go one step further and have an all day rave, Hasenheide is the the number one spot.

For a more rural atmosphere, Grunewald is a 30 square kilometer forest on Berlin’s southwest edge. Has enough walking and cycling trails to last a lifetime, and is also the way to the highly recommendable Teufelsberg.

7. A film festival

Berlinale is Berlin’s annual, international film festival. It may not be as famous a name as Cannes, but in terms of pure attendance it is even more popular. Held each February, the festival showcases around 400 movies in locations across Berlin, but mostly in Potsdamer Platz. A great opportunity to catch a screening, or just spot some of the big names in attendance.

Film festival in Marlenefestival

Another fantastic way to catch a movie in Berlin is through their open air cinemas (freiluftkino), in the summer. Hasenheide and Volkspark Friedrichshain are two such parks where you can grab a drink and some popcorn, and make the most of the balmy summer evenings. For a more conventional experience- the Astor Film lounge is a stylish, glamorous venue that shows international blockbusters alongside special, more niche performances.

8. A hipster fix

If you’re coming to Berlin, there’s a good chance you’re into at least some things hipster. Fortunately you can find everything you need in Kreuzberg- Berlin’s bohemian capital of counterculture. Delicious brunches in eclectic cafes. Niche, artisan shops, and edgy street art. A spectacular food hall- Markethalle Neun, where you can taste incredible food from all over the world, or sample the offerings of their on-site brewery. You may well decide Kreuzberg is where you want to stay, but if not, you at least need to spend some time there. Check out the guide for more info.

A weekend market

9. A lakeside escape

People don’t associate Berlin with beaches, for obvious reasons. There are several though, the surrounding lakes offer summer escapes from the city where you can relax, swim, picnic, and do watersports.

Strandbad Wannsee has the feel of a proper beach resort. The mile-long beach of imported sand is packed with deckchairs, parasols, and beachgoers in the summer. There are volleyball nets, a playground, and even a water slide. It costs €5.50 to get in, but is well worth it to feel like you’re on a summer vacation on the Mediterranean, not half an hour from central Berlin.

People enjoying the lake

Müggelsee is Berlin’s largest lake. Aside from the beaches and numerous restaurants, it’s the best place for watersports. You can take it easy with paddle boarding or canoeing, go windsurfing or rent a speedboat, in the designated areas. Müggelsee is an hour away by car, you can also get there via a Spree boat cruise.

For a more peaceful day out, Weissensee is a picturesque lake surrounded by a park. The clear blue water is ideal for a dip, and there is a playground along with bars and restaurants. If you’re there in winter you can ice skate on the lake instead. Remarkably, Weissensee is within the city limits.

There are various other excellent options for countryside escapes while you’re in Berlin- enough to keep you busy for years.


That should take care of your first week then, but if you’re here for longer there is plenty more to be done in this remarkable city. Whether you’re here for a week, or have decided to make Berlin your new home- I challenge you to deny that the city of two halves really does have everything.