Berlin is a city almost made for history lovers, especially if it comes to modern history. I was in Berlin several times, the first time just for one day. Later on for weekends. And there is a lot that you can do in Berlin as a history nerd. It is quite calming to see, how Berlin is now, relax and chill town with some hipster vibes – at least in some places. Overall I would say that if you are into the history of Germany, Berlin is a place to go. Even if you should visit Berlin just for one day. If you want more culture, Hamburg might be a better place.
Things to do in Berlin in one day
Even though Berlin and Germany got the most famous during the war, some things stayed from even earlier times. And should be on the list of every history lover in Berlin. But that is not all, Berlin also appeared in several movies about cold war as a city that was divided between two very different systems. There are many of these memorials that you can visit in Berlin in just one day.
Victory Column (Siegessaule)
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In the heart of Berlin, there is a Victory column – generally hard to miss. This 67-meter high sight is in the middle of Tiergarten park, surrounded by beautiful nature in the middle of the German capital. It’s a statue on the top, has 8 meters and it is from bronze, making this place shine any day of the year.
Victory column was supposed to celebrate Prussia’s victory over Denmark in the middle of the 19th century. When the column was finished, Prussia also celebrated a win against Austria and France. So it is victorious indeed. This column used to stand in front of the Reichstag parliament building. But in early 1930′ Hitler decided to transform Berlin to his view and move the column 1,5 km west, where it standstill now. Even during the war, the column stayed untouched.
Or Berlin cathedral if you will. This is a place not just for history lovers in Berlin, but also for people who love middle age architecture. Berliner Dom is now home of Berlin orchestra, however, it’s history goes back to 1454, when it was built as a Catholic cathedral. During centuries it was several times rebuild and changed. The last touch so far, it got in 1893 and it holds its style till now. And since the 80’s it is a popular place for weddings and baptism. And it isn’t the only place in Germany like that. You can find the park just outside of the dom, which is a very popular place to hang out especially in the summer.
You can also visit this building and book the ticket ahead. The ticket cost 7 euros. While purchasing the ticket, you can also choose whether you prefer a guided tour or just an audio guide.
The parliamentary building is a must in Berlin even if you should see only outside of it. Even though the building got renovated in 1874 as a celebration of the unification of Germany, it becomes a bigger part of history in 1933. In that year was seized by Nazis. Reichstag wasn’t used for parliamentary purposes during the Nazi era. However, it was used to get Hitler as a leader to the top.
Historians still don’t know the circumstances, but there is a theory that Nazis started a fire in the Reichstag, blaming communists for it. Because of that, people started to fear not just communists, but also western capitalism. This mood rolled in favor of Hitler who shortly after became a leader of Germany.
After the war, the building was ruined, but in the 1960s decision was made that Reichstag shouldn’t be torn down. And reconstruction started. Today we know it as the main parliamentary building.
As a tourist, you get to see here a history and art exposition and it is even possible to go all the way up to the dome, where you get a nice view of the city. Keep in mind that if you do want to get inside, you should register for the tour ahead. But you don’t need to be scared, that there won’t be any places, cause there is a tour going on every quoter hour. The last one is at 9.45 in the evening, so you would get a chance to see the night sky of Berlin.
The memorial was built in 2003 and become the most visited place in Berlin. And yet it is the newest attraction! The Holocaust memorial is in the center of Berlin. 2711 blocks of cement constantly reminding the horrors of war. The exhibition is reminding visitors of the terrible persecution and executions of Jews. Except for blocks of cement, you get to find here information center, with everything about the system and treating Jews during 1933-1945. It is quite scary.
One thing though: This place became so popular that people often forget that this is a memorial place. Please treat it with respect. There has been a couple of Instagrammers and other influencers who decided to take pictures while hopping on the stones, or doing yoga or something similar. That is not humble. So please don’t do it. This place was build because thousands of people died.
Topography of terror
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The exhibition is open since 1987 and it shows terrifying acts of Nazi police (SS). The place itself is located at the former headquarters of Secret state police. It is not a place for weak hearted as you will get to know, what secret state police did and their techniques. This place become one of the most frequently visited places in Berlin. Making hard not to visit it. Still, if you have just one day in Berlin, you should probably think about it twice because it will take some time to get through the whole exhibition. However, it is one of the cheap things to do in Berlin because there is no entry fee and it is great for educating other people about what can we do to each other.
Brandenburg Gate is a symbol both of unification. In the middle of the 19th century, it was built to celebrate the unification of Germany. But it is mostly known from the cold war. In the early era of East and West Germany, this was known as the neutral area and place for crossing. Both countries even made an effort to renovate the gate after the second world war. However, in the early 1960s, the crossing point was closed by raising the Berlin wall.
Yes, it exists up till now! And it is a must in Berlin, whether you are a history lover or not. Even though most of the wall was torn down in the 1990s, there is still a mile-long strip of it. It becomes more of a gallery of street art and graffiti, rather than a historical place. But even then, you get to see here a history art. Possibly the kiss between two presidents is the most famous place. And since it is in the center, it is just nice to walk around it and see what the new generation did with the place.
Is one day in Berlin worth it?
Short answer: It depends. Long answer: Here is the thing about Berlin. There is a lot to do for the whole three days. But if you have only one day, this is doable. And I would say that in this case is better to see just a little bit better than nothing at all.
I previously mentioned, that there are certain places, where you can go inside. That is something that you will need to think twice. If you have only one day in Berlin, I would get, that you will want to see most of the city. So there is a chance that if you go to a museum, you might miss something different.
But all in all, even one day in Berlin is a good idea. This way you can see what the city has to offer and can always come back for more.
When is a good idea to visit Berlin?
Berlin can be charming at any time of the year. In winter, you can see here the amazing Christmas markets. Besides that, there is a magical winter atmosphere. And sometimes you can see here even snow. But keep in mind, that if you are planning to be in Berlin just for one day, you won’t manage to see much of other things or you will have to trade some sights for hanging out at the Christmas markets, which can be also fine, to be honest.
Spring and autumn are the same, it can be very nice but it can be also very rainy. During these times, there aren’t too many people and a lot of places are almost free of tourists. But if you are planning to come here during these dates, you should probably research if there are any school holidays in Germany or the Czech Republic, since Berlin is a day trip from Prague.
And finally summer. I would say that it might be one of the best times to visit Berlin. Most of the summers it is warm and rain is usually just an exception. At the same time, there is a lot of nice parks, that you can visit on your way around all of these sights.
What to pack for one day in Berlin?
I’m thinking you are probably traveling lightly. But either way, if you are coming in winter, don’t forget your winter or rain jacket. In any case, something that is windproof because even in Berlin, wind can be an issue.
The summer is quite the opposite and the possibility, that the weather will be terrible are very low, so prepare some shorts or a skirt. But definitely, something that is comfortable.
Regardless of the season, you should probably bring comfortable shoes. One day in Berlin kind of means, that there isn’t a place for a slow kind of travel and you will have to walk a lot to see a lot. Luckily the center of Berlin is not that big, but still, it is quite a walk.
Bottle of water. Believe me, you will need it from all that walking. But here is good news, you can drink water from a cap, so it is not necessary to keep buying new bottles. Just use a reusable one.
How to get to Berlin?
Generally, there are three main ways of how to get to Berlin. By plane, train and of course the bus. Alternatively, if you have a car, I guess you can use the car as well. But you should keep in mind that it might be hard to park in the city center or it can cost quite a bit of money.
I’m not sure if coming to Berlin just for one plane is the best idea, but you can also use this itinerary as an idea for a layover. So here is some basic information about it. Berlin airport is relatively far from the city center. But you can get to the Alexander Platz (the heart of Berlin) in 45 minutes. The easiest way would be to jump on S-Bahn, which should come every 10 minutes. You can also use Airport express, which is regional trains and those are in the city center a little bit faster – just in 30 minutes.
Either way, you will need to buy a ticket. If you are planning to go around the city center by walk, you can buy a single ticket, which is valid for 2 hours. Otherwise, consider buying a day ticket.
The train is perhaps the most ideal for one day in Berlin. The central station is directly in the city center and you will have a great opportunity to just jump out of the train and see Brandenburg tower in 10 minutes. Everything is close.
Besides, from the central station, you will get trains to all German destination including the distant ones like Frankfurt or Munich. At the same time, you can get to Prague, Warsaw or Copenhagen. My advice is to book the tickets ahead so they won’t be too expensive or sold out.
Yey, there is also a lot of bus companies that come to Berlin. Including the very well known as Flixbus or some other ones. But if you are planning to arrive via those, check, where exactly is the station in Berlin. Because it is only tourists buses that can go to the city center. All the rest of them have rather distant stations.
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