An aerial view of the Berlin skyline

Three days in Berlin: an itinerary for first-time visitors

Planning a trip to Berlin? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Hotel Zoo Berlin

Walking tour: Discover Berlin

History tour: Full-day history tour

Food tour: Classic bites and culinary trends

Day trip: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

The capital of Germany is modern and free-spirited, yet still bound to its past, which is visible in both the city's buildings and its people's memories. At the same time, it is a city where you can breathe in the fresh air of independent personalities and a creative art scene.

Berlin gives you a warm embrace of community at the same time as it lets you be who you are without judgment. You can find a cultural scene here like no other, and whether you are a night owl, or prefer getting up early to uncover quirky museums and hidden gems, Berlin caters to everyone.

The city is also a culinary heaven with a wide range of local and international food, bold fusions, and abundant vegan options in comparison to many European destinations.

Here is how to spend a few days in this remarkable city.

Berlin cityscape and Spree River in summer

How long should I spend in Berlin?

As you can imagine, Berlin is a city you need to stay in for a while to uncover its sites, history, and culture. That said, you can get a whole lot of insight if you spend a long weekend in this vibrant city.

The minimum we recommend spending in Berlin is three days. This should give you enough time to explore the main sites, try a few different restaurants and have coffee at quirky cafes.

We will cover the must-see attractions in this three-day itinerary, and if you have the chance to extend your visit (or want to plan your next visit already), we have added some tips on what to do next at the end.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany

Day 1: Discover Central Berlin’s war memorials

Start your first day in Berlin by witnessing the majestic Brandenburg Gate. There is more symbolism to this triumph gate than any other. In 1806, Napoleon walked through the gate to celebrate the victory over the Prussians. In 1989, millions of people from the West and the East side of the Berlin Wall came together to celebrate freedom.

Close to the Brandenburg Gate, you can visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The enormous memorial commemorates the 6 million Jews that were murdered in the Holocaust through information signs showing the history of the killing events throughout the war and the names and stories of those who were killed. This is only one of many powerful and grim things to experience in Berlin.

Next, head to Potsdamer Platz, a seemingly modern square with contemporary buildings. But this site has a long history before it was divided by the Berlin Wall - a line that can still be viewed today.

In the 1600s, Potsdamer Platz was a trading post; in the 19th Century, there was a railway crossing it; and, finally, in the 1920s, it became part of the vibrant city centre. The main attraction of the square is to shoot up to the top of Kollhoff Tower in the most rapid elevator in Europe for sweeping views.

Aerial view of Potsdamer Platz area and gardens in Berlin, Germany

Getting back to the dreadful past of Berlin, head to the Topography of Terror which is situated where the offices of the Gestapo, SS, and Reich Security used to be. There, you can see parts of the Berlin Wall and explore the permanent exhibition, which depicts the history of the Third Reich, from its rise, committed crimes, and the subsequent consequences.

Not far from there, you can visit Checkpoint Charlie, which was the main crossing of the Berlin Wall.

One of the must-visit squares in Berlin's city centre is Gendarmenmarkt. With two stunning churches and one of the world’s most acoustical concert halls.

If you have the time, it is worth entering to witness the elegant balconies and opulent chandeliers. From there, it is only a 15-minute walk to the sumptuous Berlin Cathedral, which is also Germany’s biggest Protestant church.

The Bode Museum at Museum Island in Berlin, Germany

Day 2: Museum Island and Berlin TV Tower

Start day two by visiting Museum Island. Situated in the heart of the city, it houses five museums and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They all open at 10:00 AM, so you can enjoy a long, big breakfast before intensive sightseeing.

You probably won't have time to see all the museums in one day, so pick the ones which appeal to you the most.

  • Bode Museum: Situated in a beautiful neo-baroque building crowned by a majestic dome, the museum holds a remarkable collection of 3rd-15th century Byzantine Art, ivory carvings, mosaics, and antique sarcophagi.

  • Pergamon Museum: The most eye-catching artefacts in this extraordinary archaeological museum are the turquoise Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus. The 2600-year-old Processional Way of Babylon is also sure to impress, along with a range of other Islamic and Middle East artwork.

  • Neues Museum: Another museum focusing on the history of ancient civilizations and antiquities. There is a great collection of items and history from Nordic Mythology, Troy, Cyprus, and the early Christian era.

  • Altes Museum: You will find Berlin’s antiquity collection here, which is said to be the world’s largest.

  • Alte Nationalgalerie: The museum holds a collection of 1500 sculptures and 1800 paintings, mainly of impressionist and Romantic work. You can see a large number of art pieces by German artists, but the museum also holds pieces by world-famous artists like Monet.

After browsing the museums, there is a short walk to Fernsehturm Berlin TV Tower on Alexanderplatz. The 200-meter-high viewing platform offers the most epic 360 views of Berlin and is one of the top attractions in the city.

You can splurge at the restaurant on the top, which rotates once an hour to give you the best views of Berlin.

To round off the day, take a sunset river cruise over the picturesque Spree River.

Sunset at Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin

Day 3: Parks and memorials with a fresh sense of the future

Start the day by strolling through Treptower Park and see the Soviet War Memorial that commemorates the 80,000 Soviet soldiers that lost their lives during the Battle of Berlin. Then cross the impressive double-decker Oberbaum Bridge to continue to the East Side Gallery.

This is the most famous part of the Berlin Wall, where more than 100 artists from 21 countries have painted powerful artwork and messages of freedom. While you are in the area, you might find it enjoyable to stroll around the Friedrichshain neighbourhood. There are also good options for lunch there.

After lunch, you can go to the Reichstag Building. The impressive building houses the German Parliament, but it is possible to visit the glass dome on the top with a prior online booking.

People relaxing in Mauerpark, Berlin on a sunny day

Nearby, you will find the interesting interactive Futurium Museum, which showcases possible scenarios for the future. Continue to the Berlin Wall Memorial, where you will find documentation on the period from the Berlin Wall was built until it was finally torn down in 1989.

The outdoor exhibition and site also include a 70-meter-long stretch of the Berlin Wall and a watch tower. This is yet another powerful reminder of the horrors the Berlin people went through.

Lastly, take a stroll through Mauerpark on one of the stretches where the Berlin Wall spanned - known as the Death Strip. This part of the wall was full of watch towers with guards and deadly traps to prevent people from escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin.

Restaurants with outdoor dining at Hackescher Market in Berlin

If you have more time in Berlin

  • St. Hedwig’s Catholic Cathedral: An impressive building resembling the Pantheon in Rome, built between 1747 and 1887. It was an important centre for resistance during the Second World War, and the head of the movement, Father Bernard Lichtenberg, is buried in the church.

  • Hackescher Market: Every Thursday and Saturday, there is a vibrant outdoor market on the square worth visiting. The rest of the week, you can sit down at any of the restaurants or cafes to take a rest or go shopping in the chic boutique shops.

  • Nature Park Schöneberger Südgelände: An old railyard from the late 1800s that has been left alone to nature since the mid-1900s. This is a unique park which is well worth visiting and where you can see an original railyard turntable and the engine of a 1940s train, among other relics.

  • Tempelhofer Feld Park: As a former airport, the park has turned into one of the most popular recreation areas in the city. It is a wonderful place to walk around, enjoy a picnic among locals, or people-watch.

  • Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church: Yet another one of Berlin’s most outstanding landmarks, the original church was built in the late 1800s but was partly destroyed during the Second World War. It was planned for the remains to be demolished in favour of a new building, but instead, it was decided to leave it and make it a memorial church.

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Linn Haglund

Author - Linn Haglund

Originally from Norway, Linn is an avid traveller and freelance travel writer that has a passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and responsible travel. She is currently living the van life in southern Europe with her fiancé and their dog.

Having travelled in 50+ countries and lived in five countries, she has developed a fervour for helping people to travel more responsibly and leave a positive impact on their destinations through her blog, Brainy Backpackers.

Last Updated 9 October 2023

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