What comes to your mind when thinking about Berlin? The wall, WWII, techno clubs or maybe Currywurst? These are all sights which you should see and explore in Berlin. Most tourists visit the main sights such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate or the East Side Gallery. Of course you should also go out dancing and eat the famous Currywurst (which even has its own museum here in Berlin). But there is much more to see and explore. Mostly only visited by locals but definitely worth a go, we will show you some places which are not in every Berlin city guide.
Hackesche Höfe and Haus Schwarzenberg
Located very central in Berlin, Hackesche Höfe are probably the most famous and largest courtyards in Scheunenviertel. It was built in 1907 and got a total makover in the 1990s. Now you can visit all interlinked courtyards for free. You will find a beautiful ceramic tiled courtyard which has a variete theatre and an art-house cinema. In the other courtyards you find beautiful, small boutique shops, cafés and galleries.
Something totally different is in the alley of Haus Schwarzenberg. The entrance to this very hip and artistic alley is just after Central Café. It is the oldest café in the area of Hackescher Markt. While you enter you will see lots of different street art and graffiti. In these buildings they also have an Anne Frank Centre, a workshop for blind people, a cinema and a bar. At the end you will see a staircase which is full of stickers and colorful painting. These stairs leads up to a creative and art space with changing exhibitions. A non-profit organisation is running the gallery and it is definitely worth to have a look. Last year there was a tape exhibition which was a total surprise for us, because we never thought about what you could create by using only tape.
Once this neo-Renaissance building was the residence for Prussian ministers and high-ranking officials, but today it is open for visitors. When you visit this 18th-century country estate you will get an idea how it looked during this time. The well reconstructed rooms show the interior of the Gründerzeit era. It won´t take too long to go through the rooms, but you get a nice demonstration how glamorous it was at this time. After the castle you can enjoy some time in the extraordinary garden which is almost 300 years old. They have a huge amount of different plants and trees. Do not forget to find the “Milkmaid”, which is a copy of a sculpure in Tsarkoye Selo Place in Saint Petersburg, Russia, made by Pavel Sokolov. If you visit Schloss Britz in summer bring your own food for a picnic in this beautiful park. Check out their program for concerts.
Fischerinsel – a historic harbour in Berlin
The historic harbour in Berlin is not as spectacular as Nyhavn in Copenhagen or the canals in Amsterdam. Fischerinsel is still very charming. We do recommend a visit here as this is in the area where Berlin was founded. You can visit some of the boats there, learn about the history of ships and the harbour in Berlin. You also go on trips with some of these boats. For sure you can also get nice photos there which won´t show the typical sights of Berlin (except the TV tower:) ).
Former baby and children hospital Weißensee
In the beginning of the 20th century lots of babies and children died. The city of Berlin decided to build a hospital which specialized in diseases for babies and children. In 1911 this hospital opened. Later they even had a barn for cows to get their own milk for the babies. Once it was one of the best hospitals for babies and children. The hospital closed in 1997 after 86 years. Some Russian investors bought the buildings but nothing happened, it was still kind of a ruin. Some years ago the city of Berlin bought it back but still it keeps being a “lost place” in Berlin.
Broken windows, walls which falls apart and trees which start to grow in the buildings, is some of what you can expect here. You can see graffiti on the walls and that people damaged some parts. Entering the grounds is probably (officially) not allowed. The entrance is through the fence. It is really interesting and exciting to be there and explore in this former hospital. You might not be alone there either. While we were there we saw several teenagers who also took photos and played there. The best way to get there is with M4 from the city centre and get off in Hansastraße in Weißensee. Enjoy the spooky time in this former baby and children hospital but be careful. The stairs and walls have seen better days.
Rixdorf – a Bohemian village
Bohemian-Rixdorf was a small community of Protestant refugees from Bohemia, Czech Republic and founded 1737 in Berlin. Most of these people were craftsmen and farmers. Even today you can visit a blacksmith and a farmhouse, which are in the middle of Richardplatz, Neukölln. It doesn’t feel like your are in Berlin because some of these original houses still exist and you will feel like being in a tiny village. The Bethlehemskirche is also worth a short visit. Not far from Richardplatz is the Comenius-Garden. This garden was built after Comenius´ philosophical and educational imaginations. The historical village of Rixdorf is listed as a cultural heritage. If you are in Berlin for Christmas time, there is a also a nice, romantic Christmas market on Richardplatz. Go to Rixdorf and enjoy the total contrast to the other parts in Neukölln.
Zionskirche is located in the northern part of Berlin-Mitte and it has a 67m high tower. The church itself might not be the most beautiful or important one. The best part is going up in the tower and have a great views over Berlin for very little money. The entrance to the tower is only 1€ per person. Compared to the TV tower at Alexanderplatz, it is very cheap. You can do this only on Sundays in the afternoon. We would recommend this to everyone who likes to see a city from above and doesn’t wanna spent lots of money for the touristy towers and attractions. After the climb you can enjoy a drink in one of the bars or restaurants around the church or in nearby Kastanienallee.
Fun Fact: There are bees up in the tower. They make honey from the nectar which they get from the trees and flowers around the church. When you visit the tower you could also purchase Zions-honey 🙂
Karl-Marx-Allee (former named Stalin-Allee) is a great boulevard between Berlin Mitte and Friedrichshain district. The monumental buildings are in socialist style and it was a project of the former East German reconstruction program. The buildings should contain luxurious apartments, cafés, restaurants and shops. Unfortunately it is not so pretty anymore, but still impressive. You can find several places to sit down for a drink or some food. During the GDR time they used this boulevard as a show-off with military parades on May-Day. Today you can go for a walk and see how communism showed their power with monumental buildings. Every summer there is also the worlds “longest beer garden” at Karl-Marx-Allee, an international beer festival which is along this boulevard and where you can try beer from all over the world.
Platz des 9. November 1989
Berlin will always confront you with the past of the city and the wall between East and West. The East Side Gallery is cool for the art and Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer gives you lots of information about the seperation and the wall.
But this square at Bornholmer Straße is very special because here was the first border opening when the wall fell on 9 November 1989. This memorial is only around 200m long and has a photo gallery with information about that day next to some leftover parts of the wall. On the ground you can find rusty metal strips giving information in a chronological order about the events of the 9 November 1989. We were very suprised to have found this memorial square because it is not so well known as the other ones. But it shows you how important it was for the people in East Berlin to leave their home and go over to West Berlin.
The cherry blossoms – a bonus at the same place
In the spring you can also enjoy the amazing cherry blossom season here. As a gift from Japan, lots of cherry trees were planted here after the wall fell. These cherry trees should bring calm and peace to Berlin. Every year the cherry season attracts numerous of people in Berlin to look forward for summer after a long winter.
In Berlin there are lots of sights about WWII but this memorial sight is (unfortunately) not so well know and also not very touristy. It tells a very interesting history about Germany during GDR time.
The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial is located in the area of Alt-Hohenschönhausen (Berlin-Lichtenberg) and is very easy to reach by tram. It opend for public in 1994.
The main building was used as a manufactury for soup kitchen supplies before WWII. In June 1945 the Sovjets took the building over as a transit point and prison and called it “Special Camp No. 3”. During this time probably over 3000 people died in the camp due to bad conditions, such as cold or diseases. After the camp closed in 1946, it served as a Sovjet prison in winter 1946/47. In 1951 it was reopned by the Stasi (East German Ministry of State Security) who also built another building next to it using prisoner labour. It included 200 rooms for interrogation and prison cells. It was mostly in use for people who wished/planned/attempted to leave/escape GDR. The prison got closed when the wall fell.
You can now visit all buildings on a guided tour. It might happen that your guide is a former prisoner, because this is where most of the information and knowledge got to this memorial documentation centre. You will learn a lot about the life in GDR, the treatments in this prison and how the Stasi opperated with their security system.
It is open every day and several guided tours then. Check out the webpage for the times. You can take tram M5 to get there with public transport.
Käthe Kollwitz Museum
Käthe Kollwitz (1867 – 1945) was a German artist associated to Realism and Expressionism. She worked with painting, printmaking, etching, lithography, woodcuts and sculptures. Her art shows the life in poverty, hunger or war but also the happy and positive sides. The museum is located in a charming villa in City West and it exhibits the art on four floors. You can learn a lot about this extraordinary woman and see some of her most famous pieces e.g. “Brot!”, “Krieg” and “Peasant War”. You can visit the museum daily and also get an audioguide in German or English. In 2022 the museum will move to the theatre building next to Schloss Charlottenburg. Until then you can still visit Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum in Fasanenstraße in City West of Berlin.
Art Park Tegel
Berlin is a well known city for street art and murals but these murals in Tegel are super huge and special. Tegel is maybe not a tourist hotspot and probably only known by some for Berlin’s “city-airport”. A lot of tourists land at Airport Tegel. But there are actually the largest murals in Berlin. These high-rise buildings, which got painted, are usually very grey and very common in East Germany. But in 2016 there was a big change and chance for a more attractive living in these hood of “skyscrapers”. The housing cooperative from Berlin “Gewobag” and the art network “Urban Nation” cooperated together and painted six walls, but now you can find already eight artworks. Some people like it, some not but that’s art and at least it attracts more visitors to the district of Tegel. Now these eight gigantic murals are one of Berlin’s largest outdoor galleries and makes Tegel a bit more colorful too. It is free to go there and you’ll also get an introduction to each wall. If you’re done with the murals, you could enjoy the rest of your time at Lake Tegel. Go for a walk, a swim or book a boat tour on the lake.
After a long day of exploring Berlin you might look for a nice place for excellent coffee or maybe you prefer a beer garden? We have found the places you are looking for! Read here some tips to leave the big city and discover new places in Brandenburg or the city of Cottbus.