Rick Steves Berlin


By Rick Steves

With Cameron Hewitt

With Gene Openshaw

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Now more than ever, you can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling through Berlin. Marvel at the Brandenburg Gate, climb the Reichstag's dome, and check out Checkpoint Charlie with Rick Steves Berlin! Inside you'll find:
  • Fully updated, comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Berlin
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from the colorful East Side Gallery and the Memorial of the Berlin Wall to cozy corner biergartens
  • How toconnect with local culture: Raise a pint with the locals and sample schnitzel, stroll through hip Prenzlauer Berg, or cruise down the Spree River
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods and incredible museums
  • Detailed neighborhood maps for exploring on the go
  • Over 400 bible-thin pages include everything worth seeing without weighing you down
  • Complete, up-to-date information on every neighborhood in Berlin, as well as day trips to Potsdam, Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, and Wittenberg
  • Covid-related travel info and resources for a smooth trip
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Berlin.

Expanding your trip? Try Rick Steves Germany.







Before You Go

Travel Smart

Berlin is a city of leafy boulevards, grand Neoclassical buildings, world-class art, glitzy shopping arcades, and funky graffitied neighborhoods with gourmet street food. It’s big and bombastic—the showcase city of kings and kaisers, of the Führer and 21st-century commerce.

Huge names have left their mark here, from the 18th-century King Frederick the Great, who turned Prussia from a purely militaristic state to a cultural hotspot, to Otto von Bismarck, whose over-the-top egotism unified modern Germany, then drove it—and all of Europe—into a devastating Great War.

Of course, Berlin is still largely defined by its tumultuous 20th century. The city was Europe’s counterculture capital during the cabaret years, but drastically changed course when Hitler came to power in 1933—ultimately leaving Berlin (and much of Europe) in ruins. In the post-WWII years, Berlin became the front line of a new global conflict, the Cold War between Soviet-style communism and American-style capitalism. The East-West division was set in stone in 1961, when the East German government surrounded West Berlin with the Berlin Wall.

Since the fall of the Wall in 1989, Berlin has been a constant construction zone. Standing on ripped-up streets and under a canopy of cranes, visitors have witnessed the city’s reunification and rebirth. Today Berlin is a world capital once again—the nuclear fuel rod of a great nation. Berliners joke that they don’t need to travel anywhere because their city’s always changing. A 10-year-old guidebook on Berlin covers a different place.

As one of Europe’s top destinations, Berlin welcomes more visitors annually than Rome. There’s no shortage of diversions. In the city’s top-notch museums, you can walk through an enormous Babylonian gate amid rough-and-tumble ancient statuary, fondle a chunk of the concrete-and-rebar Berlin Wall, and peruse canvases by Dürer and Rembrandt. A series of thought-provoking memorials directly confront some of Germany’s most difficult past of the last century. And some of the best history exhibits anywhere—covering everything from Prussian princes to Nazi atrocities to life under communism—have a knack for turning even those who claim to hate history into armchair experts.

Beyond its tangible sights and its enthralling history, Berlin is simply a pleasurable place to hang out. It’s captivating, lively, fun-loving—and easy on the budget. The city vibrates with an anything’s-possible buzz. It’s a magnet for young expats from around the world who want to live in a dynamic and trendy city, but can’t afford London rents. Entire neighborhoods have been overtaken by Americans, Brits, and Aussies—many of whom get by just fine without ever bothering to learn German.

Spend a day here...or a week. Go for a pedal in a park, or a lazy cruise along the delightful Spree riverfront. Step across what was the Berlin Wall and through the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Nurse a stein of brew in a rollicking beer hall, slurp a bowl of ramen at a foodie hotspot, or do like the Berliners do, and dive into a cheap Currywurst. Ponder present-day “street art” (a.k.a. graffiti) on your way to see the famous bust of Nefertiti or a serene Vermeer. Grab a drink from a sidewalk vendor, find a bench along the river, watch the sun set over a skyline of domes and cranes...and simply bask in Berlin.


Rick Steves Berlin is a personal tour guide in your pocket. The book divides Berlin into convenient neighborhoods (shown on the “Berlin Sightseeing Modules” map on here). Inside, you’ll find the following chapters:

Orientation to Berlin has specifics on public transportation, helpful hints, local tour options, easy-to-read maps, and tourist information. The “Planning Your Time” section suggests a schedule for how to best use your limited time.

Sights in Berlin describes the top attractions and includes their cost and hours.

The Self-Guided Walks cover Berlin’s main historic and touristy zones—the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, the communist sights of the former East Berlin, and Fascism and Berlin Wall sights south of downtown—as well as two of its most enjoyable-to-explore residential neighborhoods, Prenzlauer Berg and the Scheunenviertel.

The Self-Guided Tours lead you through Berlin’s most fascinating museums and sights: the museums of Museum Island, including the Pergamon Museum; the German History Museum; the Berlin Wall Memorial; and the Gemäldegalerie and Kulturforum.

Sleeping in Berlin describes my favorite hotels in appealing neighborhoods, from good-value deals to cushy splurges.

Eating in Berlin serves up a buffet of options, from street food to inexpensive cafés to upscale splurges, arranged by neighborhood.

Shopping in Berlin gives you tips for shopping painlessly and enjoyably, without letting it overwhelm your vacation or ruin your budget.

Entertainment in Berlin is your guide to fun, including live music, cabaret, and more—from tango dancing in the park to swing dancing in a century-old ballroom.

Berlin Connections lays the groundwork for your arrival and departure, covering transportation by train and plane, with detailed information on Berlin’s airports and main train station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof).

Day Trips from Berlin include the opulent palaces and lush parks at Potsdam, the sobering concentration camp memorial at Sachsenhausen, and Martin Luther’s hometown, Wittenberg—each within an hour’s train ride of downtown Berlin.

Germany: Past & Present gives you a quick overview of the country’s tumultuous history and contemporary challenges.

The Practicalities chapter near the end of this book is a traveler’s tool kit, with my best advice about money, sightseeing, sleeping, eating, staying connected, and transportation.

The appendix has the nuts and bolts: useful phone numbers and websites, a holiday and festival list, recommended books and films, a climate chart, a handy packing checklist, and German survival phrases.

Throughout this book, you’ll find money- and time-saving tips for sightseeing, transportation, and more. Some businesses—especially hotels and walking tour companies—offer special discounts to my readers, indicated in their listings.

Browse through this book and select your favorite sights. Then have a wunderbar trip! Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar. As you visit places I know and love, I’m happy that you’ll be meeting my favorite Berliners.


This section will help you get started planning your trip—with advice on trip costs, when to go, and what you should know before you take off.


Five components make up your trip costs: airfare to Europe, transportation in Europe, room and board, sightseeing and entertainment, and shopping and miscellany.

Airfare to Europe: A basic round-trip flight from the US to Berlin can cost, on average, about $1,000-2,000 total, depending on where you fly from and when (cheaper in winter). If Berlin is part of a longer European trip, consider saving time and money by flying into one city and out of another; for instance, into Berlin and out of Munich. Overall, Kayak.com> is the best place to start searching for flights on a combination of mainstream and budget carriers.

Transportation in Europe: For a typical one-week visit, allow about $30 for transit tickets and a couple of day trips by train. To get between Berlin and the airport, figure around $4 per trip by bus, or closer to $30-40 for a taxi.

Room and Board: You can thrive in Berlin on $100 a day per person for room and board. This allows $10 for lunch, $20 for dinner, $5 for beer and Eis (ice cream), and $65 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a $130 double room). Students and tightwads can enjoy Germany for as little as $65 a day ($35 for a bed in a hostel, $30 for cheap meals and picnics).

Sightseeing and Entertainment: Consider the Museum Pass Berlin, which covers many sights in the city (for more information, see here). You’ll pay about $30 for a three-day pass. Without a Museum Pass, figure about $10-15 per major sight, and $5-10 for minor ones. Add $20-60 for bus tours and splurge experiences (such as walking tours and concerts). An overall average of $40 a day works for most people. Don’t skimp here. After all, this category is the driving force behind your trip—you came to sightsee, enjoy, and experience Berlin.

Shopping and Miscellany: Figure $3 per ice cream cone, coffee, or soft drink. Shopping can vary in cost from nearly nothing to a small fortune. Good budget travelers find that this category has little to do with assembling a trip full of lifelong memories.


May, June, September, and October are my favorite months for Berlin—most likely to be not too hot, not too cold. However, these are also the most crowded months; there can be lines at sights and higher prices at hotels.

Summers (July and August) are lively—Berliners love to hang out in parks and along riverbanks, as if enjoying a continuous open-air party. Be aware that the city can get unpleasantly hot and humid. If you wilt in the heat, look for a room with air-conditioning (which can be scarce).

Berlin is a decent winter getaway—its museums are ample and offer an escape from bad weather. However, many of the important historical sights are outdoors. And in general, Berlin is an exuberantly outdoor-oriented city—a scene that wintertime visitors miss out on. Night draws the shades on your sightseeing early, and you’ll want to dress warmly, with layers. Expect cold (even freezing lows) and rain (hats, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, and thick-soled shoes are essential). For specific temperatures, see the climate chart in the appendix.

Before You Go

You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more information on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter (and www.ricksteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks).

Make sure your passport is valid. If it’s due to expire within six months of your ticketed date of return, you need to renew it. Allow up to six weeks to renew or get a passport (www.travel.state.gov).

Arrange your transportation. Book your international flights. You won’t want a car in congested Berlin, but if you’ll be touring the countryside beyond, figure out your main form of transportation: You can buy train tickets as you go, get a rail pass, rent a car, or book a cheap flight. (You can wing it in Europe, but it may cost more.)

Book rooms well in advance, especially if your trip falls during peak season or any major holidays or festivals.

Reserve or buy tickets ahead for major sights, saving you from long ticket-buying lines. To visit the Reichstag dome, reserve a free entry slot online a week or so in advance (see here); if you don’t reserve ahead, you’ll have to line up for tickets, then go back later to enter. The Pergamon Museum also accepts reservations, which can be a good idea to avoid lines (see here).

Consider travel insurance. Compare the cost of the insurance to the cost of your potential loss. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas.

Call your bank. Alert your bank that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards in Europe. Ask about transaction fees, and get the PIN number for your credit card. You don’t need to bring euros for your trip; you can withdraw euros from cash machines in Europe.

Use your smartphone smartly. Sign up for an international service plan to reduce your costs, or rely on Wi-Fi in Europe instead. Download any apps you’ll want on the road, such as maps, translation, transit schedules, and Rick Steves Audio Europe (see sidebar).

Pack light. You’ll walk with your luggage more than you think. I travel for weeks with a single carry-on bag and a daypack. Use the packing checklist in the appendix as a guide.

Travel Smart

If you have a positive attitude, equip yourself with good information (this book), and expect to travel smart, you will.

Read—and reread—this book. To have an “A” trip, be an “A” student. As you study up on sights, note opening hours, closed days, crowd-beating tips, and whether reservations are required or advisable. Check the latest at www.ricksteves.com/update.

Be your own tour guide. As you travel, get up-to-date info on sights, reserve tickets and tours, reconfirm hotels and travel arrangements, and check transit connections. Visit local tourist information offices (TIs). Upon arrival, lay the groundwork for a smooth departure; confirm the train, bus, or road you’ll take when you leave.

Outsmart thieves. Pickpockets abound in crowded places where tourists congregate. Treat commotions as smokescreens for theft. Keep your cash, credit cards, and passport secure in a money belt tucked under your clothes; carry only a day’s spending money in your front pocket. Don’t set valuable items down on counters or café tabletops, where they can be quickly stolen or easily forgotten.

Minimize potential loss. Keep expensive gear to a minimum. Bring photocopies of important documents (passport and cards) to aid in replacement if they’re lost or stolen.

Guard your time and energy. Taking a taxi can be a good value if it saves you a long wait for a cheap bus or an exhausting walk across town. To avoid long lines, follow my crowd-beating tips, such as making advance reservations, or sightseeing early or late. Before taking day-trips, check the hours and closed days for the sights you plan to visit.

Be flexible. Even if you have a well-planned itinerary, expect changes, strikes, closures, sore feet, bad weather, and so on. Your Plan B could turn out to be even better.

Attempt the language. Many Germans—especially in the tourist trade and in cities—speak English, but if you learn some German, even just a few phrases, you’ll get more smiles and make more friends. Practice the survival phrases near the end of this book, and even better, bring a phrase book.

Connect with the culture. Interacting with locals carbonates your experience. Enjoy the friendliness of the German people. Ask questions; most locals are happy to point you in their idea of the right direction. Set up your own quest for the best Currywurst, microbrew, or jazz club. When an opportunity pops up, make it a habit to say “yes.”

Berlin...here you come!



Map: Berlin Sightseeing Modules






Map: Berlin Overview


Map: Berlin Public Transportation

Tours in Berlin






Berlin is a sprawling city (pop. 3.4 million), built on a huge scale. Take a deep breath, then use this orientation to prepare for your trip. The day plans—for visits of one to seven days—will help you prioritize the many sights. You’ll tap into Berlin’s information sources for current events. Most important, you’ll learn to navigate Berlin by subway, bus, taxi, bicycle, or on foot. With the proper approach and a measure of patience, you’ll have Berlin by the tail.


Berlin is huge. Though it’s a major metropolis, it’s not a city of skyscrapers packed into a single, dense urban core. Rather, Berlin is spread out—a series of pleasant neighborhoods, with broad boulevards, long blocks, and low five-story buildings.

Berlin’s “downtown” alone stretches five miles, following the west-to-east flow of the Spree River. In the center sits the vast park called Tiergarten. Most tourist sights lie east of the park, in the central zone known as “Mitte.” To make sprawling Berlin easier to digest, this book’s coverage is organized by compass direction, radiating out from the historic core. (This organization has nothing to do with the old, Cold War-era “East Berlin” and “West Berlin” designations; in fact, virtually everything mentioned here other than “Western Berlin” was in the former East.)

Historic Core: Berlin’s one-mile sightseeing axis runs west-to-east along Unter den Linden boulevard—the city’s “Champs-Élysées”—with a mix of 19th-century Neoclassical grandeur and 21st-century glitz. At the western edge, you’ll find the historic Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (Germany’s domed parliament), and a scattering of poignant memorials. Unter den Linden passes the grand squares called Gendarmenmarkt and Bebelplatz before it terminates at Museum Island—the birthplace of Berlin and today home to a cluster of the city’s top museums: the ancient wonders of the Pergamon and Neues museums, and German paintings in the Old National Gallery.

Besides art, within this core are Berlin’s towering Cathedral, the German History and DDR museums, and the re-creation of Berlin’s former royal palace. While this area is where most tourists spend their time, there’s little local life here; for that, venture to the areas described next.

Northern Berlin: The trendy Scheunenviertel (“Barn Quarter”) neighborhood, near the Hackescher Markt transit hub, is a short walk north of Unter den Linden; here you’ll find eateries, shopping, and Jewish history. Farther out is the even hipper Prenzlauer Berg residential area, with recommended hotels, restaurants, and shopping. Also in this zone are the Berlin Wall Memorial—the best place in town to learn more about the Wall—and the Hauptbahnhof (main train station).

Southern Berlin: South of Unter den Linden, fascism and Cold War sights dominate, anchored by Checkpoint Charlie (the former border crossing through the Wall) and the Topography of Terror (documenting Nazi atrocities). Further south and east is the sprawling, diverse, and fun-to-explore Kreuzberg neighborhood with characteristic mini-neighborhoods known as Kieze; the main sight here is the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Eastern Berlin: East of Museum Island, Unter den Linden changes its name to Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse and leads to Alexanderplatz—formerly the hub of communist East Berlin, still marinated in brutal architecture, and marked by its impossible-to-miss TV Tower. Farther east sits the gentrifying Friedrichshain neighborhood, with the East Side Gallery (a mile-long stretch of surviving Berlin Wall, now slathered in graffiti).

Western Berlin: Just west of the Brandenburg gate is the entrance to Berlin’s huge central park, Tiergarten. South of the park, Potsdamer Platz is home to Berlin’s 21st-century glitz, with skyscrapers and shopping plazas. Down the street, the Kulturforum is a cluster of museums dedicated to painting (starring Rembrandt, Dürer, and more), decorative-arts treasures, and classic musical instruments.

West of the park is City West—the former heart of communist-era West Berlin, lined up along the boulevard named Kurfürstendamm (“Ku’damm” for short). Today this modern area feels more like a classy suburb, with a few sights (including the Berlin Zoological Garden) and several recommended hotels. Finally, to the north is Charlottenburg Palace, with a mediocre royal interior but excellent 20th-century art museums nearby.


While most European capitals have a handful of clear-cut “must-see” sights, Berlin is more of a “choose your own adventure” destination. There’s plenty to see and do here. Art lovers could spend days museum-hopping, never once thinking about Hitler or the Berlin Wall. History buffs could be on cloud nine without ever looking at a single canvas. And plenty of visitors have a blast just hanging out in Berlin’s funky neighborhoods and leafy parks, never stepping through a turnstile. My suggested plans incorporate a bit of everything. Though jam-packed, they work if you’re energetic and well-organized. If you have more time, spread out these priorities to give yourself some breathing room.

Berlin in One Insane Day
9:00 Ascend the Reichstag dome (reserve in advance).
10:00 Follow my Reichstag & Brandenburg Gate Walk.
11:30 Follow my Unter den Linden Walk.
13:00 Grab a quick Currywurst lunch near Museum Island.
13:30 Do an “express tour” of the Pergamon, Neues Museum, and Old National Gallery; or, if you prefer history, tour the German History Museum and/or DDR Museum.
16:00 Follow my Communist East Berlin Walk.
17:00 Ride the S-Bahn from Alexanderplatz to Nordbahnhof and take my Berlin Wall Memorial Tour.
18:30 Ride tram #M10 to Prenzlauer Berg for dinner.
20:00 Explore Prenzlauer Berg before collapsing at your hotel.
Berlin in Two Days
Day 1
9:00 Ascend the Reichstag dome (reserve in advance).
10:00 Follow my Reichstag & Brandenburg Gate Walk.
11:30 Follow my Unter den Linden Walk.
13:00 Grab a takeaway lunch to enjoy on a Spree River cruise.
14:30 Choose from these Museum Island area sights: Pergamon, Neues Museum, Old National Gallery, German History Museum, or DDR Museum.
17:00 Follow my Communist East Berlin Walk (or stretch your museum time).
18:00 Head to Hackescher Markt (take the S-Bahn from Alexanderplatz, or walk from Museum Island) for my Scheunenviertel Walk.
19:00 Have dinner in the Scheunenviertel.
Day 2
9:00 Follow my Fascism & Cold War Walk from Checkpoint Charlie to Potsdamer Platz.
11:00 Take my Gemäldegalerie & Kulturforum Tour; have lunch at a museum café or on Potsdamer Platz.


  • "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
  • "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
  • “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
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  • "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
  • "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
  • "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
  • "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
  • “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
  • "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."
     —The New York Times
  • "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
  • "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News

On Sale
Dec 27, 2022
Page Count
448 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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