48 hours in Berlin: a must-see list when visiting the German capital


Are you planning a trip to Germany? Here’s where to go, what to see and what to eat if you only have 48 hours in the German capital, Berlin.

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Berlin has certainly lived through an eventful period. Decline, fall and rise have followed one another rapidly since the beginning of the 20th century. But since 1989, when the wall that crossed the heart of Berlin collapsed, the city has reinvented itself as a European hotspot.

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Less frenetic than London and cheaper than Paris, it’s the perfect place to discover quirky attractions, vibrant nightlife, chic boutiques and history at every turn. Here is what you can do in two days in the German capital of cool …

Day 1

• Morning: visit with a touch

Start your trip to Berlin by booking a Trabi Safari , a tourist experience with a difference. This enterprising venture breathed new life into the now almost extinct Trabant (or Trabi), an automobile produced in East Germany during the Communist era, and rents them out for self-guided tours. The popular 75-minute ‘Berlin Compact’ tour route takes you through the center and the old eastern part of the city along Karl-Marx Allee and the East Side Gallery and through the Kreuzberg district . The East Side Gallery is a true highlight, where hundreds of artists have redeveloped a 730-meter stretch of the Berlin Wall on the north bank of the River Spree to create the world’s largest open-air gallery with hundreds of airbrushed murals.

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Take a Trabi Safari to experience Berlin in a different way.
Take a Trabi Safari to experience Berlin in a different way. Photo by Paul Marshall /PNG

Afternoon: Go back in time

This is your chance to experience some of Berlin’s top attractions. Museum enthusiasts should cross the Spree River over the Monbijou Bridge to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to splendid museums and galleries. The Bode museum exhibits medieval sculptures and early Christian and Byzantine art; the Neues Museum (new museum) has collections of Egyptian art, prehistoric artefacts and classical antiques, and the Alte Nationalgalerie (former national gallery) displays works by 19th century impressionists such as Monet, Degas and Manet.

For an immersive glimpse into everyday life in the former German Democratic Republic, visit the DDR Museum , where you can put on headphones and listen to East German TV shows, see the typical living room found in a concrete slab apartment, and enter an interrogation room. A stimulating and moving experience is to walk among the 2,711 concrete columns rising in dark silence from the hilly ground, that make up the Holocaust-Denkmal, officially known as the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” .

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A stimulating and moving experience is to walk among the 2,711 concrete columns rising in dark silence from the hilly ground, which make up the Holocaust-Denkmal.
A stimulating and moving experience is to walk among the 2,711 concrete columns rising in dark silence from the hilly ground, which make up the Holocaust-Denkmal. Photo by Andrew Marshall /PNG

Evening: Eat like the locals

A foodie staple in Berlin is to taste the legendary currywurst. Costing a few dollars, this chubby pork sausage topped with tomato sauce and seasoned with spices is traditionally eaten on a paper plate with a small disposable fork while standing at chest-height snack tables on the sidewalks. The cult place to go is Imbiss of Konnopke located under the green beams of a metro in Prenzlauer Berg, which has served the hungry hordes of this place since 1930.

Mobile currywurst vendor.
Mobile currywurst vendor. Photo by Paul Marshall

Day 2

Morning: At the market for a good deal

After breakfast, maybe a shopping spree is the order of the day. A good place to start is the century-old Berlin institution of KaDeWe with a seemingly endless range of quality merchandise spread over several floors. For some surprising shopping, visit one of Berlin’s many flea markets selling antiques, retro furniture, second-hand clothes and vintage knick-knacks. Try the antique market on Georgenstrasse in the Mitte district under the S-Bahn or the Sunday flea market at Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg.

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Follow in the footsteps of artists like Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec (who were inspired by absinthe, a psychotropic drink), by visiting the Absinthe deposit . The expert owner of this unique piece in Berlin will guide you through 100 types of ‘green fairies’, ranging from 70cl bottles to the smallest the size of a gift. Accessories for absinthe (spoons, glasses and literature) and absinthe chocolate and gift boxes are also available.

The expert owner stands behind the counter of the “one-of-a-kind” absinthe depot offering around 100 types of absinthe.
The expert owner stands behind the counter of the “one-of-a-kind” absinthe depot offering around 100 types of absinthe. Photo by Paul Marshall

Afternoon: swimming

Take time for sightseeing and shopping while relaxing in one of Berlin’s many Strandbars (beach bars) made from construction sand placed on strips of brownfield along the River Spree, each with its own atmosphere. An interesting variant of the Strandbar is the Badeschiff (Bathing vessel) located in a sandy section of Berlin’s southeastern district of Treptow, this 30-meter barge-turned-swimming-pool anchored in the River Spree offers spectacular views of the city. A wooden walkway with hammocks connects the houseboat containing the pool to the river bank where the hipster crowd relaxes on beach chairs with chilled drinks, play volleyball or practice yoga.

Badeschiff or Bathing Ship is a former river barge converted into a swimming pool anchored in the River Spree with great views over the city.
Badeschiff or Bathing Ship is a former river barge converted into a swimming pool anchored in the River Spree with great views over the city. Photo by Paul Marshall /PNG

Evening: Dinner in the dark

For a different dining experience, book a table at unsicht-Bar “Dark restaurant” on Gormannstrasse. Blind or visually impaired waiters or waitresses guide you through the dark dining room to your table and explain the placement of utensils using a clock analogy (for example, the fork is located at 9 o’clock and the knife is at 3 clock), so you can eat in the dark. The theory behind the concept is that by willingly letting go of your sight, you will be able to experience the wonderful work of which your other senses are capable.

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