If you plan ahead you can be in the heart of the action within an hour of arriving in Berlin. Twelve hours is a great amount of time to get a sense of the city and decide what you will explore in more detail when you return next time! Here's some suggestions on how to make the best of your time and really get the best out of the city for the shortest of city breaks. Don't forget to allow travel time in between!
1. The City Tour: Up to 3 Hours
Yes they are for the tourists but there's a reason for that - people want to know as much as possible in a short period of time. The most popular are 2 to 3 hour walking or open topped bus tours, or river tours that start at 1.5 hours and go up to 3 hours. These give you a good idea of the layout of the city, the neighbourhoods and the tourist highlights. There are plenty of different walking tours and bus tours at a range of prices, but there are also bicycle, boat, segway, beer bikes, horse and carriage rides ... the list goes on.
2. Eat Local: Around 2 hours Berlin is the city that never sleeps so no matter what part of the day your 12 hours falls across, we promise you will find somewhere to eat that will be an experience if nothing else! On such a short city break though, it's best to find a place with great views or some local atmosphere so you can absorb some local life at the same time. Many of the river cruise boats offer lunch on board so you can eat on the upper deck as the sights drift gently by. You can also enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner as you gaze at the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Museum Island from any number of cafes facing James Simon Park near Hackescher Markt. Here you can see park life, river activity and the comings and goings on the island, all while you enjoy a coffee, cocktail or nightcap. For a true German experience, head to Schwarzes Cafe in Charlottenburg which is open 24 hours and has a great mix of local specialities and foreign favourites. Best of all it really feels like you're in Berlin here and the atmosphere is great at any time the day or night.
3. Free Museums: 2 to 6 hours depending on museum choice Berlin is the city of museums and many of them are free all the time, or on certain days at certain times. If you know this in advance and you have a favourite then you can plan ahead and enjoy an hour or more wandering at your leisure. Spending less than a day in a museum often makes no sense if you have to pay entry but some of the city's most famous sites are easily accessible and totally free. Few people think Berlin without thinking about the Berlin Wall so this is really a great subject to focus on in a short break. The Berlin Wall Memorial is just 3 stops from Alexanderplatz and mostly open air so you can walk around the whole memorial in under an hour. East Side Gallery is also free and the Tranenpalast Museum at Friedrichstrasse station is excellent, free and also takes only an hour or so. The Holocaust memorial is one of Berlin's biggest attractions but few know there is also a free museum underneath it. You can check out a full list of free museums at the museumsportal website.
4. Sauna Time: 2 to 3 hours German's love their saunas and anyone can get in on the action with a 2 hour card at one of Berlin's sauna and thermal bath centres. Liquidrom and Vabali Spa are both close to public transport and roughly 20 minutes travel time away, but both will make you feel like you have had a week in Scandinavia. A 2 hour pass can give you access to the saunas and thermal baths and most places have a sauna schedule on a 15 - 30 minute rotation, so you can try different saunas to suit your taste or mood. Check the fine print for their clothing requirements though - nudity is compulsory in most saunas but some of the thermal baths allow bathers to be worn.