24 Hours in Berlin

It may come as a surprised to you – and it certainly comes as a surprise to me – that Berlin, a city I have visited twice for 24 hours or less each time, is one of my favorite cities in the world. No other city has the same juxtaposition of rich history and rich modern alternative art culture that Berlin has. This guide primarily reflects my first 24 hours in Berlin, as my second trip there was more about visiting a friend and less about seeing the actual sights.

Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour

My first trip to Berlin was part of a layover I had traveling from Zurich back to my home in Chicago. I began my 24 hours in Berlin around 10:00am and was scheduled to depart early the next morning. Since I grew up a huge WWII history buff, I knew I wanted to see some of the WWII history in Berlin. I decided the easiest way for me to do so would be to join a free walking tour, so I booked a tour through Sandeman’s. It is free to book a tour online, and I would highly recommend doing so in advance of your visit so you may avoid the long lines. Some people who stood in line with me and who did not already have a ticket were asked to come back at a later time because the tour company was not able to accommodate so many people. As I only had 24 hours in Berlin, I was very glad I had reserved a spot in advance.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Pariser Plaza – where the Brandenburg Gate is located and where the free walking tour began

The tour took us through some of the major historical attractions in Berlin. We started at the Brandenburg Gate, walked over to the site of Hitler’s bunker, checked out the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Gendarmenmarkt, and the Berlin Wall. After seeing the Berlin Wall, I decided to split from the tour because there were some other attractions I was very interested in seeing and thought I wouldn’t have time to see them if I stayed through the entire tour. I made sure to find my tour guide to thank her and tip her before leaving and apologized for leaving her tour early. Please remember to tip your tour guide on these free walking tours even if you have to leave early, as these people work very hard, and for some of them, this is their main source of income!

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Holocaust Memorial

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Checkpoint Charlie

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Berlin Wall

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Berlin Wall Memorial

I don’t want to spoil anything for you in case you decide to take the same tour, but one of the most interesting facts I learned on this tour is that what was once Hitler’s Bunker is now covered by a parking lot (car park). We were all quite confused when our tour guide brought us to an empty parking lot and asked us if we knew the significance of where we were standing. Apparently the goal behind this strategic positioning of the parking lot is to prevent protests and gatherings from occurring. It’s also a slap in the face to Hitler – that his former place of abode has now been relegated to no more than an unsightly parking lot.

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The River Spree

After parting ways with my tour group, I walked over to the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall located in east Berlin on the River Spree. I would recommend taking public transportation there if you are coming from the Berlin Wall like I was, since it took me over an hour to walk the distance. However, if you have the time, the walk along the Spree was very nice, and you may see some more sights, such as the museums you’ll find below.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

The boardwalk along the river Spree

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Street art along the river Spree

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Berliner Dom (The Berlin Cathedral) a/k/a the Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church, located on Museum Island in the Mitte borough. The detailing on this church was incredible.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Altes Museum – houses the antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museums and, along with other museums on Museum Island, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Alte Nationalgalerie (The Old National Gallery) – houses the Neoclassical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist, and early Modernist artwork collections of the Berlin National Gallery, which is part of the Staatliche Museum zu Berlin.

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery was incredible. I love street art, and to stand in front of the largest and oldest open air gallery in the world was so cool to me. Although the East Side Gallery was originally intended to hold paintings by prominent artists that document a time of change and that express the euphoria and hopes for a better, more free future for all people, roughly 2/3 of it are now covered by graffiti and vandalism. Knowledge of this fact may take away from the history of the gallery, but I still enjoyed seeing the modern day renditions of art that have been painted over the original artists’ paintings.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

East Side Gallery

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

East Side Gallery

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

East Side Gallery

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

East Side Gallery

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

East Side Gallery

YAAM

After leaving the East Side Gallery, I started walking back toward the direction of my  hostel when I stumbled upon a community called YAAM. If any of you are familiar with this, please help me out here because I still am not sure what I came across. It appeared to resemble a mini-Christiania (Copenhagen), with lots of trailers and food, people hanging around in colorful clothing and interesting hair styles, music, etc. When I approached the entrance, I took a photo of the community and was immediately confronted by a few people from the community informing me that photos are prohibited and asking me to delete my photo right away (which I did not – sorry!). As I was a bit taken aback, I did not think to ask them what the community was all about before I walked away. The whole ordeal was interesting to me because Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen is such an open concept that I was surprised to see something at a much smaller scale (if it even is the same thing as Christiania) be so hush-hush about its operations.

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

Signs pointing to YAAM – looks like they change their location every so often as the signs say “NEW YAAM”

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

YAAM from outside the fence

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

The entrance to YAAM where I was asked to delete this photo

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

View of YAAM from the river Spree

Walking along the River Spree at night was such a beautiful and serene experience. I noticed a few bars/restaurants along the way too that I would have loved to grab a drink or meal at. Speaking of which, I know I said I’d keep this post to my first visit to Berlin, but I’ve got to mention a dessert place my friend took me to on Oderbergerstr the second time I visited called Kauf Dich Glucklich. They had delicious waffles that you could order with any ice cream flavor on top, and the vibe of the cafe was very homey and relaxing.

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24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

24 Hours in Berlin | MVMT Blog

32 Comments

  • Flo

    Wow – you got tons done in 24 hours! I was in Berlin for 3 days a few years ago, and I’m pretty sure I saw less than you guys did!

    • Diana Chen

      I guess I can thank my lack of vacation time at my job for the fast-travel skills I’ve picked up over the years! 🙂

  • Hannah (The Sunny Side of Things)

    The architecture and street art are both gorgeous in Berlin! I would LOVE to go there. Your pictures have inspired me 🙂 xx Hannah

    • Diana Chen

      So glad to hear that, Hannah! Please let us know how you like Berlin and if you discover anything else that should be on this list! Safe travels!

  • travelerettenyc

    I also love Berlin and I love YAAM! It’s not really like Christiania because it isn’t a commune. It’s more like an alternative cultural center with performances and even a little artificial beach inside. There are also many wonderful African food stands. I went during the day for lunch and took plenty of photos so I think those guys might not have wanted to get snapped.

    PS. The Sandemans guides actually have to pay the company about 2.5 euros for each person who goes on the tour whether or not they get a tip. That’s why they take the group photo-to show how many people went on the tour. So you are right to tell people not to stiff the guide because you will actually cost the guide money!

    • Diana Chen

      Thanks so much for all the helpful information on YAAM and Sandeman’s! I did not know any of that! I’ll have to check out YAAM again next time I visit – I would love to chat with some of the regulars there. And I can’t believe Sandeman’s guides not only do not get paid by the company but have to pay the company to be a guide! Everyone – please please please tip your tour guides!! Thank you again for all the helpful information!

  • sophiamdb

    I love this! I will be moving to Berlin in a little less than three weeks and will most definitely be using this guide as I explore the city! (That’s so interesting about Hitler’s bunker by the way)!

    • Diana Chen

      That’s awesome that you’ll be living in Berlin! You will love it! I thought that fact about Hitler’s bunker was so interesting as well – would definitely recommend taking a walking tour as there are lots of other interesting tidbits too that I didn’t want to spoil for you all. Hope you have a smooth move to Berlin, and hope you LOVE it there!!

  • livein10countries.com - Danni

    Love the significance of standing in an empty car park and knowing what truly lies beneath your feet! Definitely makes me want to give Berlin and thorough visit!

    • Diana Chen

      Yes please do! And please let us know if you discover anything else you think should be on this list! Safe travels!

  • Naomi

    I loved Berlin! The city has so many faces and history! I think 24h is a good start off, but I think people always long for more. great introduction guide

    • Diana Chen

      Absolutely! If I had more time there, I would’ve loved to take some day trips out to the concentration camps nearby. So much rich history there!

  • Denise Salcedo.

    I am also a huge WWII buff! I would so love to go to Berlin, great post.

    • Diana Chen

      Thank you! In that case, I’d recommend staying a couple extra days so you have a chance to check out the concentration camps nearby.

  • Andree-Anne

    I always try to go on Sandeman’s tours (and make sure to leave a decent tip)! The Berlin tour guides were great when I went, and it’s definitely the best way to learn about the city during a short stay!! And looks like you managed to fit quite a bit into one day! Awesome!

    • Diana Chen

      Completely agree! The free walking tours offered all around Europe are my favorite way to get to know the city in a short time. Plus, I’ve met some pretty cool people on the tours!

  • Anisa

    I’ve really enjoyed my time in Berlin too. I love the Holocaust Memorial and then seeing the wall everywhere. It is really hard to imagine what the city was like when they still had the wall.

    • Diana Chen

      It really is! And it’s crazy to think how recently the wall still existed and how much has changed in such a short time. Really cool stuff to think about!

  • Genevieve

    I’ve never been to Berlin, but I’ve been to Germany! I stayed in Nuremberg for a couple of weeks (technically it was a town just south of Nuremberg called Neuendettelsau) but I loved it! Germany was one of the most welcoming countries I’ve ever visited! Next time I’m there, I’ll definitely have to make it to Berlin. Sounds like you had a really great tour! And now I’ll know the significance of the parking lot!! 😉

    • Diana Chen

      I love Germany too! I’ve only been to Berlin and Munich, but my sister has visited a lot more cities in Germany, including Nuremberg, and loved it! I would love to road trip through Germany one day.

  • RosiEscapes

    That is cool . you spent 24 hours well. Never wasted a layover. i have not been to Berlin. but seems interesting. cool pics 🙂

    • Diana Chen

      Thank you! That’s my motto – never waste a layover!

  • Daniela Frendo

    I haven’t been to Berlin, but I’d love to go. I guess a couple of days in the city would be enough 🙂

    • Diana Chen

      It all depends on what you are interested in! For instance, if you are a history buff like myself, you might want to stay a few extra days so you can visit the concentration camps nearby. I could see myself easily spending a few days or a week there, but I am a little biased. (:

  • Evelina

    Berlin is such an interesting city. I’d love to visit some day and I believe I’ll need more than 24 hours.

    • Diana Chen

      Definitely go for more than 24 hours if you can! There is so much to see and do there. You could easily spend a few days or a week getting a feel for the city!

  • Mahdi A

    I really like the concept of 24 hours in a city.
    Your work is really nice.

    I’ve made some Street photography there.

  • Daisy

    Mauerpark would also be nice to visit especially in summer, where you can relax for a bit and maybe have a picnic. There’s a flea market, and you also get to see lots of artists perform for free.

    • Diana Chen

      Thanks for the tip, Daisy! Will check it out on my next visit to Berlin!

  • Katie

    The Berlin Wall has been on my bucket list for such a long time and this has made me want to go even more! So much history and culture in such a gorgeous city! Great post 🙂

  • Paula

    Great photos! Berlin is for surely our next travel destination.

  • Leah

    Great post Diana! I was on a hunt for an article about traveling to Germany, and came across your post. I especially liked how you named all the important attractions and provided some history about each one! I really enjoyed reading this!

    -Leah

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