Berlin for Beginners
Visiting Berlin for the first time? You can get to know the capital even if you're only here for a short trip. In just half a day, this tour will take you to the city's most famous sights. All you need are comfortable shoes and an AB ticket
for public transport.
Our tour starts at Zoologischer Garten station, which is easily reached by subway
. From the platforms of the train station you have a good view of the tower ruin of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
, the landmark of Berlin's City West. Now, leave the station in the direction of the church and walk to Breitscheidplatz.
During the Second World War, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was severely destroyed by bombing. Since then, the ruins stand as a memorial against the war in the middle of Berlin.
After visiting the church and the surrounding square, head west along the famous Kurfürstendamm
for a few hundred meters toward Joachimtaler Straße. Ku'damm, as Berliners call it, is a traditional shopping boulevard that celebrated its 110th birthday in 2021. Towards it's lower end, you will find fast fashion giants, whereas the upper end is home to many luxury brands' stores.
After a shopping spree or some window shopping on Kurfürstendamm, walk back to Zoologischer Garten station and board one of the many eastbound S-Bahn trains. It is worth taking a seat on the right side in the direction of travel. Shortly after the Berlin Zoo, the train's route crosses Straße des 17. Juni and you get a great view of the Victory Column
with the goddess Victoria at its top. The landmark was inaugurated in front of the Reichstag in 1873 as a national monument to Prussian victories. In 1938, it stood in the way of Nazi urban planning and was moved to its present location. The gilding of the sculpture earned it the name "Goldelse".
After a few stops, the S-Bahn reaches Berlin Hauptbahnhof
, the city's main station. Here, leave the S-Bahn and head for the south exit. The station's numerous shops on several levels, its open view of the train tracks and the modern architecture make it worth a visit. Once you reach the south exit, you can already see the government district with the Chancellery (right) and Reichstag (left). You first cross the Spree River and walk towards the Chancellery.
The new Chancellery
was completed in 2001. It houses the offices and workrooms of the Federal Chancellor. The property, which included a helicopter landing pad and the Chancellor's Park, is 7000 square meters in size. What you wouldn't guess from the front is that the Chancellery is one of the largest government headquarters in the world and, according to Wikipedia, eight times larger than the White House in Washington.
Diagonally opposite the Chancellery, at some distance, stands the Reichstag
, its glass dome clearly visible from afar. A spontaneous visit to the dome is unfortunately not possible because you have to book in advance. However, anyone can snap a photo under the gable with the famous dedication "Dem deutschen Volke" ("To the German People") without registration. The Reichstag was built from 1884 to 1894 as the seat of government of the German Empire. During the German division, the building lay as if in a slumber. Since the reunification in 1989, the Reichstag has been the seat of the German Bundestag.
After circling the Reichstag once, our tour continues to the Brandenburg Gate
, which is just a few walking minutes away. The Brandenburg Gate, built from 1788 to 1791, is a symbol of German unity and the city's most famous landmark. You should make time for a photo here as well.
Perched atop the Brandenburg Gate is a sculpture of a four-horse chariot, known as a quadriga. At the reins stands the goddess of peace, Eirene. The sculpture was dismantled by Napoleon's troops in 1806 and taken to Paris. Eight years later, the Prussian army managed to recapture it. The original goddess of peace was thus changed to the goddess of victory, Victoria.
From the Brandenburg Gate, the tour now continues south to Potsdamer Platz. You will pass the Embassy of the United States of America (USA) before reaching the Holocaust Memorial.
The Holocaust Memorial
, consisting of 2711 concrete steles, was inaugurated in 2005. Its impressive architecture and unique atmosphere invites visitors to confront the darkest chapter of German history, the period of National Socialism. Entering the 13,100-square-meter area and walking along the narrow paths between the steles, a feeling of being lost, abandoned and threatened quickly sets in - feelings that many people had during the time of National Socialism. German Jews were particularly affected, and the memorial is also intended to commemorate their mass murder. The "Place of Information", located under the field of steles, documents the persecution and extermination of European Jews during the Nazi regime.
Across the street from the memorial, the large Tiergarten
park offers a good opportunity for a break in the shade of the trees or in one of the nearby cafés. The Tiergarten is the green lung of Berlin and is ideal for walking, jogging, cycling or relaxing on the extensive lawns.
From Tiergarten, walk toward the skyline of Potsdamer Platz
. In just ten years, a modern metropolitan neighborhood was built here on a huge wasteland left behind by the war and the construction of the Berlin Wall. Potsdamer Platz is the location of the annual international film festival, the Berlinale
. You can get breathtaking views from the observation deck of the Kollhoff Tower
. Europe's fastest elevator takes you to the roof terrace in just 20 seconds.
When walking toward Potsdamer Platz from the direction of the Brandenburg Gate, you almost stumble over the remains of the Berlin Wall
on display in front of the S-Bahn entrance. Information panels explain the history of the Wall and Potsdamer Platz during GDR times and in the years after the fall of the Wall.
Standing in front of the remains of the Wall, the next stop on our the tour is already visible: the Sony Center
with its tent-like roof. The steel structure floats like a giant umbrella over a "piazza" with a fountain and various restaurants.
From the Sony Center, walk back to Potsdamer Platz station and board the U2 subway line in the direction of Pankow. After about 10 minutes, the subway reaches the famous Alexanderplatz
. Alexanderplatz was one of Berlin's liveliest squares in the 1920s, during GDR times, and still is today. At its eastern end is the famous World Clock
, a popular meeting place. The 24-cornered prism shows all the world's time zones. It has been powered by the same engine, manufactured in the GDR, since 1969.
On Alexanderplatz, one famous landmark simply cannot be overlooked: the 368-meter television tower
. It is the tallest structure in Germany and still serves as a transmission tower today. When the weather is nice, it's worth taking a trip up to the viewing platform, from where you can get a sweeping view of Berlin all the way to the surrounding countryside.
With a last look in the direction of the TV tower, you now say goodbye to Alexanderplatz and take one of the eastbound S-Bahn trains to the station Warschauer Straße. From here, you walk for about 5 minutes towards the Spree River. Here, on the right, begins the East Side Gallery
, an open-air gallery on remnants of the Berlin Wall. On a length of 1.3 kilometers, murals were painted by artists from all over the world. Be sure to take a photo in front of world-famous paintings such as the "Bruderkuss" or the heads of Thierry Noir.
You have now completed the tour. For the return trip to the city center, take the S-Bahn from the Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station. The S-Bahn lines S3, S5, S7, S75 all go to Zoologischer Garten via Alexanderplatz, Friedrichstraße and Hauptbahnhof. If you still have energy, head to neighboring districts of Friedrichshain
. On the way there, you will cross the well-known Oberbaum Bridge
Explore Berlin on foot: Our self-guided walking tours take you to all of the best places in the capital.
Guided tours and organized city tours in Berlin: for visitors, tourists and students.
© visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle
Experience the extraordinary side of Berlin: from sights and history, to hidden oases and a bustling restaurant scene, the capital has a lot to offer.
Last edited: 3 March 2023