All Articles The perfect 3 days in Berlin

The perfect 3 days in Berlin

Jess Swanson
By Jess Swanson02 Apr 2024 9 minutes read
Outdoor cafe with a view of Spree River and Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany
Outdoor cafe with a view of Spree River and Berliner Dom, Berlin, Germany
Image: ElOjoTorpe/Getty Images

Berlin is nothing if not resilient, having outlasted many turbulent periods in its history. Those scars still show today in the stark distinction felt between the east and west sides of the city even though it’s been decades since the Berlin Wall came down. And for a European capital city, it’s not conventionally beautiful like Paris or London. Instead, Berlin embraces its eccentric hodgepodge of grit and glamour.

This three-day itinerary explores Berlin’s unique attributes, pairing historical landmarks with popular street food, a magnificent palace with a trendy cocktail bar. We’ve also incorporated real Tripadvisor reviews and ratings of what other travelers have learned and loved so you can make the most of your trip, too.


Dining at Coccodrillo, Berlin
Dining at Coccodrillo, Berlin
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

MORNING: Exploring Berlin’s storied past

Make your way toward the Reichstag Building, which houses the German parliament or Bundestag (just make sure you make a reservation beforehand and bring your passport). Even if politics aren’t your thing, it’s still worth the trip to the glass dome at the very top for both a glimpse of the transparent, curvilinear architecture, and for a 360-degree view of the Berlin cityscape. History buffs should opt for the audio tour, which explains how it was once the seat of the Weimar Republic and how a fire in 1933 helped pave the way to the Nazi dictatorship. Head to the Kaefer - Dachgarten Restaurant on the Reichstag rooftop for a breakfast of coffee, juice, croissants, eggs, cheese and sliced meats that’s as sumptuous as the view.

Then take a quick, digestive stroll through the nearby Brandenburg Gate. It’s not so much the act (it will only take a few minutes) but the symbol of what crossing through this imposing 18th-century neoclassical monument has come to represent: unification of the city following the division between East and West Berlin.

AFTERNOON: Consuming Berlin’s culture

Continue east down Unter den Linden boulevard and cross the bridge to Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to a whopping five museums: the Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode Museum, and Pergamonmuseum. If the high museum density gets too overwhelming, you can always splay out in the park and take in the architecture and Spree River views.

However, one of the most popular museums in Berlin isn’t technically on Museum Island at all. The DDR Museum, located on the opposite side of the Spree, reveals what life was like in the former East Germany (also known as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) with retro furnishings and preserved propaganda and relics from all those decades ago.

For lunch, it’s a short walk to Curry 61, a no-frills shop whipping up Berlin’s classic dish: currywurst, which, for the uninitiated, is sausage drenched in curried ketchup with a side of fries. Order from the window, but be sure to catch a glimpse inside of the shop’s ridiculous take on the famous Fraternal Kiss mural on the Berlin Wall.

Wash down the sausage grease with a visit to the nearby Tadshikische Teestube (Tajikistan Tearoom), an ornate cafe with colorful art, intricate light fixtures, and, fortunately, very plush carpets and pillows because most customers prefer to be served sitting on the floor at a wooden coffee table.

Travelers say: “We bought the Museum Island pass which gives you access to all 5 museums plus the das panorama exhibit of the Pergamon museum, which is in a separate building…Overall, the museum island pass is great value, but please make sure to buy well in advance of your trip and book a time slot online separately to avoid disappointment. The architecture of the museums is worth 30-45 mins on its own, a stunning place to visit!” — alfiek1992

EVENING: Dinner, drinks, and a nightclub

There’s a lot of ground to cover at Volkspark am Weinbergsweg, an 11-acre public park in the Mitte neighborhood. Saunter past a lush rose garden, pond, and locals sprawled out on the green. Make your way to Coccodrillo, a stylish and whimsical trattoria in the park with bright red walls and neon lights serving Italian dishes like the truffle pasta and an ever-changing cocktail menu.

For those who want to explore Berlin’s infamous club scene look no further than Berghain, an abandoned power station in East Berlin with multiple rooms, each one with its own vibe and genre. It’s unclear if and when this place ever closes, so coming during the off-hours or midweek might improve your chances of getting in as the venue’s known for its strict door policy.

At the end of the night, there’s no need for hunger pangs, just partake in the Berlin tradition of devouring a late-night doner kebab, the city’s most popular street food, a Turkish handheld wrap filled with seasoned meat (beef, lamb, or chicken). You don’t need to look very far to spot a vendor, but you can’t go wrong at Imren Grill or Rueyam Gemuese Kebab.

Berlin Food Tour Options:

Worthy detours along the way


People walking and biking past the East Side Gallery, Berlin
People walking and biking past the East Side Gallery, Berlin
Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

MORNING: Embracing Unification Kreuzberg/Frederichshain

Start the morning at East Side Gallery, a mile-long remnant of the Berlin Wall. The wall was once a symbol of division, but has since been reimagined as free exhibition space with kaleidoscopic murals for everyone to enjoy. Once you’ve perused the public art, you’ll find the Oberbaum Bridge, a brick double-deck bridge with twin gothic towers that connects the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain neighborhoods above the Spree River. Cross the bridge into Kreuzberg, where you can grab breakfast at 19 Grams, a sleek cafe with croissants and specialty beans and, and, if you’re lucky enough to stop by during brunch, the inimitable chimichurri benedict served with local sausage.

AFTERNOON: Celebrating Kreuzberg’s and Neukolln’s Middle Eastern Flair

Take in Kreuzberg’s renown graffiti and get lost wandering the streets filled with a diverse mix of students, artists, and Turkish immigrants. If it’s a Tuesday or a Friday, be sure to stop by the Turkish Market where scores of Turkish vendors sell fresh produce, cheeses, artisanal dips, kebabs, and baklava.

It’s easy to lose an afternoon at KINDL, a former brewery-turned-massive contemporary art museum housed inside a historic art-deco building nearby in Neukolln. Alternatively, you can stop by Körnerpark, a charming public park that feels more like a palace garden with its neo-baroque fountains and cherubic statues. It’s a great spot to sit, people watch, and rest your feet.

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head to lunch at Azzam, a casual Middle Eastern counter whipping up labneh, hummus, falafel, tabouleh, and shawarma. You can take your lunch to-go for an impromptu picnic at Tempelhofer Park, a 953-acre swath of land that was once a Nazi-era airport and has now been reclaimed into the city’s most popular park with basketball courts, pedestrian trails, and a beer garden.

Traveler’s say: “We went up and down the old runway several times and the sense of freedom (from traffic, from people and from the world!) was fabulous. We were there on a Monday and it was quiet, never any problems with any other users and it was fun to watch the serious cyclists doing their laps, and the roller blades strutting their stuff.” — nicdigby

Berlin Tour Options on Wheels

  • Secure your helmet to tour around Potsdamer Platz, Berlin Wall, and Brandenburg Gate in a curious-looking hot rod car.
  • Hop inside an iconic Trabant “Trabi” car on a two-hour convoy past the city’s must-see sights.
  • Pedal past Mauerpark, the GDR Watch Tower, Checkpoint Charlie, and more on this guided Berlin Wall and Cold War bike tour.

EVENING: Hip dinner and drinks in Neukolln

Make a reservation for dinner at Cafe Botanico, an urban eatery with a farm-to-table menu inspired by whatever is growing in the garden nestled outside. Take a seat outside amongst the edible sprouts and enjoy fresh, beautifully plated dishes like the mushroom pasta and fennel and citrus salad. There’s an impressive wine list, too.

End the night at Klunkerkranich, a spacious rooftop bar on top of the four-story Neukolln Arcaden shopping center with picnic tables and sweeping views of the neighborhood. There’s a full bar and regular live music performances here, too.


Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin
Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin
Image: benedek/Getty Images

MORNING: A luxurious castle in Charlottenburg

Charlottenburg was only incorporated into Berlin in 1920, which explains why it looks and feels so different from the rest of the city with its trendy shops, lush greenery, historical charm, and lack of graffiti. Get a jolt of caffeine and calories at Cafe KuchenZeit, an adorable little spot with coffee, smoothies, and homemade desserts, before venturing toward Charlottenburg Palace looming in the distance.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the sprawling 17th century Baroque and Rococo palace. It was built as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, who became the first Queen of Prussia in 1701. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of vibe: History buffs should opt for the audio tour to learn about the royal family’s history and the many renovations throughout the wars; art aficionados can meander through the rooms reading the placards about the portraits, porcelain, and silver; and nature lovers can stroll the immaculate gardens past the resident family of swans.

Traveler’s say: “An excellent museum with many works of art. You can buy the ticket on the spot and there are no crowds. A real thing to visit on a rainy day. The only complaint is that the facts about the pictures, for example, are not written under the picture itself, but on the board at the entrance to that room, so it's a bit confusing to navigate.” — Filipr65

AFTERNOON: Shopping in Charlottenberg

Lunch is at The Dawn, a cheery rooftop eatery serving brunch staples, salads, and sandwiches overlooking Zoo Berlin, which has the largest variety of species of any zoo in the world.

After brunch, head down Kurfürstendamm (or Ku’damm), a popular tree-lined boulevard with sidewalk cafes, trendy designer shops, and Kaufhaus des Westens (the second-largest department store in the world after Harrods in London). On the western end, don’t miss Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Built in the late 19th century, this neo-Romanesque church was largely destroyed in a bombing raid by Allied Forces during WWII. In the mid-20th century, an architect designed a new church around the ruins but damaged spire remains and the ground floor of the original church has been converted into a memorial, a powerful symbol of post-war reconstruction.

EVENING: Dinner and a show in Charlottenburg

Dinner is at Restaurant Deutsche Oper, a convenient eatery with a nice wine list and hearty German staples like schnitzel and Bürgermeisterstück steak. It’s in the shadow of the German State Opera, which has enjoyable performances even if you can’t actually understand the production’s language. The venue itself is a majestic time capsule to behold. Built in the mid-18th century, it still retains its classicist style and rich, Rococo interiors from when it was the Royal Prussian Opera House.

Grab a nightcap is at Monkey Bar, a chic little joint on the 10th floor of the Monkey Hotel with craft cocktails and views of the West Berlin skyline. If you’re in the mood for live music you won’t have to wander far: NENI, another restaurant on the 10th floor of the Monkey Hotel, often hosts DJs and bands on the weekends.

River Cruise Tour Options

Worthy detours along the way

Know Before You Go

The weather peaks from May to September. The whole city comes alive, parks fill with people, and there are so many things to do. By fall, there are less crowds and temperatures are still pretty mild. That being said, fans of the Christmas Markets should not miss the winter holiday season in Berlin.

Any day of the week is fine to visit Berlin. Just note that many shops and supermarkets are closed on Sunday. Make reservations for popular restaurants in advance and book time slots for the museums you would like to visit, especially during the busy summer months.

Most shops stay open daily until 7 p.m. Restaurants typically stop serving food around 10 p.m., though there are plenty of late-night food counters and street vendors. Most bars and lounges stay open until last call at 3 or 4 a.m.

Mitte: If Berlin were a wheel, Mitte would be its hub: It’s in the middle (or mitte) of the city, home to top landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, and TV Tower, and offers easy access on public transportation to other neighborhoods. Stay in the historic Bebelplatz off Berlin’s grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, at Hotel de Rome. The property is an architectural marvel in itself; the building was once a grand 19th century bank.

Charlottenburg: Berlin might be known for its grit but it’s all glamour in Charlottenburg, the West Berlin neighborhood with tree-lined cobblestone streets, trendy designer shops, and a palace fit for the Queen of Prussia. Steep in the opulence at The Provocateur, a burlesque-themed property with ornate chandeliers, mood lightning, and rich velvet drapes.

Kreuzberg: The eclectic murals might’ve given it away but Kreuzberg is considered the “hip” neighborhood. It’s home to a diverse mix of students, artist types, and Turkish immigrants, giving the area a sort of edgy, come-as-you-are vibe. For anyone looking to experience Kreuzberg’s nightlife, the Orania.Berlin offers upscale rooms in an Art Nouveau building from the early 19th century walking distance from the neighborhood’s most-happening bars and clubs.

Public transportation: There are 30 bus routes that service the entire San Juan metro area (75-cent fare). A light rail line connects San Juan, Guaynabo and Bayamón ($1.50 fare).

Public transportation: Berlin offers a robust public transportation system. There is the U-bahn (subway), S-bahn (overhead train), tram, and buses to get around. Fares in Berlin's A and B zones are €3,50 for a two-hour journey.

By bike: Biking is one of the most popular forms of transportation in Berlin. There are no shortage of bike rentals, bike lanes, and bike racks across the city.

By rideshare: Uber, Bolt, and Freenow are all available in Berlin.

By taxi: Though ridesharing is much cheaper, you can still hail cabs from the airport and more popular and densely populated areas.

Jess Swanson
Jess Swanson is a Miami-based freelance writer and journalist drawn to interesting people and unusual experiences. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Intercept, Vox, Cultured, Hyperallergic, and the Village Voice.