When visiting Berlin for the first time, many people’s instinct is to head for ‘the city centre’. However in Berlin this can be challenging. Is it Alexanderplatz in East Berlin? Or is it Europaplatz in West Berlin? Maybe it’s Pariser Platz, at one of Germany’s most recognised landmarks – the Brandenburg Gate.
Once you know east from west you can then choose to see the city by bus, rail, boat, bike or on foot. Or a combination of all of these! Berlin has literally hundreds of options for guided and self guided tours - but if you like a bit more spontaneity, you can also navigate your way yourself quite easily.
Find Berlin by Bus
There are a number of companies offering 24 and 48 hour passes for sightseeing bus tours. These are a great way to cover the whole city, as well as offering great views from the rooftop for photos. Most of them have audio guides included, in multiple languages, to give you Berlin’s history ‘in a nutshell’. Alternatively, Berlin has two public buses – the 100 and the 200 - that also offer great vantage points to see the sights (especially if you get the front seats upstairs). The 100 bus was the first bus to connect East & West Berlin after reunification – it starts in the former East Berlin at Alexanderplatz and ends in the former West at Zoologischer station (and you can return by the same route). For the 200 bus, the route begins in the west of the city at Zoo station, like the 100 bus, but continues on from Alexanderplatz into the eastern parts of the city. This is a great way to see some of the impressive Soviet style architecture of the past as well as many Plattenbauten.
Find Berlin on Foot
If you prefer a slower pace, there are dozens of walking tours to choose from, but our recommendation would be Sandeman’s New Berlin Walking Tours. The tours start at the Brandenburg Gate and payment is by donation. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and at different locations they will also suggest other tours you can do to learn more about that particular site. You can also find Berlin's different neighbourhoods by simply jumping on a bus, train or tram to see where it takes you, then wander around to explore at your leisure. Berlin is also a great city for bicycle rides so keep your eye out as you wander around for bike hire. Deutsche Bahn has numerous city bikes stands around the city that you can rent with a credit card then return to one of their other stands around the city.
Find Berlin by Boat
As you walk along the river Spree in Berlin, you will at some point see a sign for boat tours. Unhelpfully, most of these are in German and the tour options tend to be confusing because there are so many to choose from! If the weather is nice and you have the time, the very best option is a tour that takes around three hours and travels along the Spree and the Landwehrkanal. Many of the boats have a roof deck and waiter service. Sitting in the sun, with all of Berlin drifting past you while enjoying a cold beer, ice cream, coffee or even a bratwurst is definitely one of the more relaxing ways to see the city (and get a tan at the same time)! Reederei and Stern Und Kreis are the biggest companies but once you find a tour to suit, you will see there are literally hundreds of boats in the water all day every day in Berlin. Most of the tours have a live audio guide in German, but many offer a translation via headset in your language so make sure you ask for your language options before buying tickets!
If you plan to stay a few days, and have museums and galleries on your wish list, the Berlin Welcome Card is a great investment. It can be bought in 2, 3, 4 or 5 day packages and prices start at €19.50. The Welcome Card gives you free transport on all buses, trams and trains during its validity as well as discounts at over 200 partners, including many of the major museums, galleries and restaurants.
For more information about things to do and see in Berlin, in your pursuit to find Berlin, check out some of our other posts in the blog.