I got the opportunity to spend a year in Berlin studying at the Freie Universitӓt Berlin. Berlin is an amazing city with tons of stuff to do – here are some of my favourite places that I’ve found that you have to check out if you too find yourself in Berlin!
1. Curry 61, Oranienburger Straße
If you’re out exploring central Berlin, you have to stop off at Curry 61 for an authentic German Bratwurst or Currywurst and freshly cooked homemade fries. A family run business, Curry 61 is well known in Berlin for serving some of the best food. And it even has options for vegetarians and vegans – the vegan currywurst is probably one of the best dishes I’ve ever tried.
2. The Digital Lighthouse, Warschauer Straße.
The Lighthouse is a modern art museum, close to the East Side Gallery. Tickets are required before entry, so make sure to book a day or two in advance, but it’s well worth trying to get tickets for. The Lighthouse is truly a unique experience; once you enter, you can choose to relax in deck chairs or lie on the floor on beanbags – once everyone is seated the moving art exhibition is projected on all the walls around you. It’s a super tranquil experience that is hard to describe – so make sure you get plenty of pictures!
3. DDR Museum, Karl-Liebknecht Straße
If you’re into German history, you’ll love the DDR Museum. It’s in the very centre of Berlin and is next to a bunch of other great and well-known tourist attractions like the Fernsehturm and the Berliner Dom, so you could check those out after. The DDR Museum is in English and German, and truly transports you back to communist East Germany for a few hours. Much of the museum is interactive, including an entire replica flat, where you can sit in the living room watching old broadcasts, listen to the most popular East German music tracks, or search through cupboards for information about the apartment’s residents.
4. Mall of Berlin, Leipziger Platz.
The Mall of Berlin is definitely one of the most well-known shopping centres in Berlin, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth mentioning, particularly for its food court on the top level (I personally recommend Vedang Burger Place, an entirely vegan restaurant – you have to try their cheesy fries! – but there are a ton of options and cuisines from all over the world to choose from). Even better is if you can plan to go on a day when the slide is open. The slide goes from the top floor to the bottom floor, and you’ll see people of all ages queuing to have a go.
5. Flea Markets, all over Berlin
My favourite flea market is the Weekly Hackescher Markt, open Thursdays and Saturdays, but there are flea markets all over Berlin, especially on the weekends. You can find vintage clothing, books, antiques, records, and cool trinkets for a great price.
6. Bernauer Straße memorial, Bernauer Straße
In the 1960s, Bernauer Straße was divided by the Berlin wall. Today, a memorial park stands in the place where the wall and the death strip stood. You can find information about the construction of the wall, flee attempts (many of the famous escapes from the East, such as Tunnel 57, occurred at the Bernauer Straße section of the wall), and a memorial to those who died trying to escape the regime. Bernauer Straße is one of the last places left where a section of the wall, death strip, and guard towers remain completely untouched. A little up from the memorial park you’ll also find the Church of Reconciliation, which has a deep history and is free to enter. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth visiting, too.
7. Schlachtensee, Steglitz-Zehlendorf borough
Maybe one to save for the summer – unless you’re braver than I am – because Schlachtensee is a lake in Berlin. In warm weather, there’s nothing better than to grab some friends and take the bus to the lakes for the day. The lakes are safe to swim in, you’ll find plenty of other people there doing the same. Grab some snacks from Kaufland or Edeka and have a picnic!
8. Stolpersteine, all over Berlin
One of my favourite things to do is hop on the U-Bahn or S-Bahn and pick a random stop to get off at, and then go for a walk around the area to explore. Sometimes, you’ll see these small plaques embedded into the ground outside houses and some buildings. If you read them, you realise they’re all unique memorials dedicated to those who were deported during the Third Reich. They are located outside the former residencies or workplaces of those persecuted. You can search the name of the person on the plaque – the Stolpersteine website should come up and tell you a little more about the person who lived there.
9. Christmas Markets
If you’re in Germany around the wintertime, you’re probably already planning on visiting the Christmas markets for some ice-skating and Glühwein. My favourite was the one in Rotes-Rathaus, where you can try white Glühwein and a bunch of other Christmas cuisines from around the world!
Living in a capital city can be expensive – if it wasn’t for the Turing Grant, I know I would not have been able to experience many of the things I have been able to. If you’re also heading to Berlin and are lucky enough to have also received the Turing Grant, make the most of it. Berlin is a remarkable city rich with history, new experiences, a plethora of cultures, and exciting things to do. Definitely try to visit some of the places mentioned on this list!