A few ideas to get you started:
The East Side Gallery
Reichstag & the Holocaust Memorial
Topography of Terror museum
A wander around Prenzlauer Berg
For refreshments try:
Tadshikische Teestube (amazing tea house in the museum district – relax on mounds of cushions around the low tables, and enjoy unusual snacks and huge samovars of tea – you might have to queue). www.tadshikische-teestube.de
Hasir in Kreuzberg for good Turkish food
Alison’s suggestions are pretty great.
It’s worth noting that you need to pre-book a slot for the Reichstag a few days in advance. I rocked up unprepared and was turned away on the spot. Unfortunately, my “don’t you know who I am?” routine didn’t quite work…
In what season? After May the outdoors are attractive again. I’d skip the Checkpoint Charlie Wall museum in favour of the Wall memorial on Bernauer Strasse (between S Nordbahnhof and U Eberswalder Strasse), with a free visitor center with view tower, a reconstructed stretch of Wall and a 2km strip with information panels and cool artworks. I also love wandering around Kreuzberg, especially the eastern end between the Engelbecken pond and Oberbaumbrucke.
Note that the Tadschikische Teestube has recently moved away from the museum district to Oranienburger Strasse 27 (still pretty central).
It’s indeed best to prebook your visit to the Reichstag online (allow 4-5 working days for them to process the request) but since last summer last-minute visits are possible too if it’s not too busy, queue at the kiosk across the road just to the southwest to be assigned a timeslot that day or any day of your liking. Admission free, bring IDs of all those intending to visit.
All of those things Alison mentions are well worth seeing, particularly on a first visit. My alternative top 5 might be:
1. If it’s warm a wander through the Tiergarten to the Cafe am Neuen See (should be open by late March/early April but you’ll have to check). Pizza (and beer) are fabulous there.
2. Tea dancing at Claerchens Ballhaus on Sunday afternoon is good fun. Lovely little ice cream shop just opposite too.
3. The Chipperfield-reworked architecture in the Neues Museum is pretty extraordinary.
4. It’s very touristy but I think the DDR Museum is fun (well, fun in the Ostalgie sense – serious when it needs to be).
5. A boat trip along the Spree (from just near the DDR Museum/Dom) is a good way to get an initial feel for the city – since it lacks a real centre it can seem strangely amorphous exploring by foot.
I’m with Jeroen on Bernauer Strasse being the best place to view the Wall. And the Reichstag is an essential as well.
And Prenzlauer Berg and eastern Kreuzberg (in that order) are for me the best areas for the restaurants and bars. But that’s a whole different top 5!
Checkpoint Charlie is dumb, and a fake at that.
Much of Berlin was rebuilt after the war, and again after reunification, so many parts of the city feel somewhat characterless. But take a stroll down Unter den Linden, to or from the Branderberg Tor (gate), for a dose of Prussian grandeur, and especially on a summer evening when you’re likely to encounter some outdoor events.
Ride the metro and experience the busking culture.
Take a bicycle tour — Berlin’s flat topography makes this an enjoyable activity, with easier access to many areas than is possible in a car or bus.
Don’t miss the Pergamon, it is an amazing museum and you can spend almost a day there. Brandenburg Gate, Bundestag and there is a work camp from WW II where many were put to death. I can’t remember the name of the place, but close to city and I was moved by the place and what took place there The Episcopal Cathedral is really a good place to stop and see and oftenn they have concerts on the weekend for cheap! Check-Point Charlie is not anything special at all, unless you want a photo op. Berlin is a wonderful city and the people are so friendly!!!!!!!!
Thanks for all the suggestions – I’m looking to visit either around late March/early April (Easter time) or late August, if that influences are recommendations.
I went here but it was hard to get in and probably isn’t cool anymore