Berlin is a city rich with history and culture and was my 12 year-old’s absolute favorite stop on our trip. Definitely worth the drive in from port!
Berlin is a must-see destination if you’re traveling in the Baltic area of Europe. We heavily debated whether to take the three hour drive into the city from the cruise port since we were only visiting for a the day, but it was 100% worth the drive!
This article is published in partnership with Princess Cruises. All content and opinions belong to Mama Loves Food.
Table of Contents
I’ve tried to cover all the important points of visiting the city, but if you just need some quick info, feel free to use the table of contents below to jump around!
What to do | What we did | What to pack | What is the weather | Where is Berlin | What time is it | Shopping | Downtown | Where to eat | Local events | When is the best time to visit | What you should know before visiting | Fun Facts | Why you should visit | Major points of interest | Getting around town | Other ports on this trip | Where we’ve cruised with Princess | Recipes inspired by our travels | Must-read cruising tips
What to do in Berlin, Germany
- Bradenburg Gate – Bradenburg Gate is a quick stop, mostly just to view and take photos, but don’t miss it. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the iconic 18th-century neoclassical monument and grab a photo.
- Museum Island – Located on the northern half of an island in the Spree river, Museum Island houses several of the best museums and galleries in the city in one convenient location.
- Berliner Fernsehturm (aka Television Tower) – Centrally located in Alexanderplatz, this is a great stop to see the entire city from one fantastic view. Take the elevator up for a quick panoramic view, or stay for a meal in the 360-degree revolving restaurant
- Checkpoint Charlie – Head over to the infamous border crossing checkpoint that separated East and West Berlin during the Cold War. You can even get your passport stamped there when “crossing”
- Berlin Wall Memorial – The famous wall that divided Berlin is long gone, but a 60-meter section remains and is the centerpiece of this open air memorial along with the Chapel of Reconciliation, Documentation Center and a Window of Remembrance.
- Sanssouci Palace – Explore the opulence and luxury of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia’s summer palace. Tour the palace itself as well as multiple gardens and grounds.
- Reichstag Building – Built to house the early German Parliament (aka Reichstag) and later the new (Bundestag), the building is famous not only for its tumultuous history, but also its unique architecture.
What we did in Berlin
The city is a bit of a haul from the cruise port, but we all unanimously agreed the trip was worth it. We took a bus in and met a private tour guide when we arrived. He showed us all the must-see sites and had great stories and anecdotes that kept the kids super engaged.
My favorite parts were seeing the Berlin Wall, visiting the Holocaust Memorial, and eating some local currywurst. My children still talk about how cool it was to stand on Hitler’s bunker. (Just a heads up, it’s a parking lot now. But they thought it was cool nonetheless).
What to pack
Berlin weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. Being prepared with layers is recommended. Comfortable, casual clothing is ideal when touring. T-shirts (short or long sleeved depending on season) and a light sweater or jacket in summer, heavier sweater and/or coat in winter should give you the versatility needed.
Rain is also frequent, so if you have one, a weather resistant jacket is best. Casual bottoms such as jeans, light pants or skirts depending on season are best for touring (shorts, while they can be weather friendly, aren’t considered as fashionable there).
Late Autumn and Winter can get very cold, so also be prepared with leggings or other undergarments in your layers to stay warm.
Comfortable shoes are a must. The city has a great transportation system, but there is always walking, so sneakers, comfortable flats or boots are highly recommended.
Berlin also offers the opportunity for a variety of trendy restaurants, bars and clubs at night, so pack at least one nicer, but still fashion forward, outfit for a night out.
*Make sure to check out our comprehensive cruise packing guide, complete with a free printable checklist!*
What is the weather in Berlin
Berlin weather varies throughout the year. Summers are generally comfortable, though sometimes cloudy, while winters can be very cold and windy.
The recommended time to visit is late May through early September for best weather (avgerage high of 69F), with July/August being the hottest period (average high of 79F). November through March is considered the cold season and can average lows of 29F and highs of 45F.
Where is Berlin
Straddling the River Spree, Berlin Germany’s capital city and is found in the north eastern part of Germany.
Located in the European Plain, the city’s climate and topography is ideal for the many forests, parks, gardens, rivers, canals and lakes that comprise a third of its area.
What time is it in Berlin
The city of Berlin operates on CET (Central European Time) and CEST (Central European Summer Time) in the summer.
CET (Central European Time) is six hours ahead of EST (Eastern Standard time), ten hours ahead of Alaska Standard Time (AKST), nine hours ahead of PTD time zone (Pacific time zone), and eight hours ahead of MST (Mountain Standard Time).
It is important to note that Berlin does observe daylight savings time (DST) and switches to CEST (Central European Summer Time) between the last Sunday in March and last Sunday of October.
Shopping in Berlin
Whether you are looking for the latest European designer fashion or vintage bargain buys, Berlin has it all. For name brands and department stores, head to Kurfurstendamm, the city’s “shopping street”.
Among the designer shops and boutiques, you will also find Berlin’s largest department store, KaDeWe. With it’s 6 stories of shopping, this store is almost as much of a tourist attraction as it is a place for shopping. As an added bonus, the 6th floor is the “gourmet” department where you can buy and eat already prepared items or shop for something to take home!
You can also hop the train to Potsdamer or Leipziger for a more shopping mall style experience. Looking for something less “branded” and more uniquely trendy? Heckesher Markt is the stop for you. If you’re in town on a Sunday, it’s worth a stop to Mauerpark for the weekly outdoor flea market, with stalls selling everything from old records to handmade clothes, household items and more.
If you happen to be in Berlin between end of November and early January, stop by one of the Christmas/Advent Markets. You can’t miss them, they will be found all over the city, pop up stalls forming a market selling new and traditional holiday items.
Berlin doesn’t have a traditional or specifically noted “downtown” area, but rather six popular boroughs/districts, each with their own unique style and areas of bars, restaurants, shopping and attractions that might comprise a traditional downtown area in another city.
Even on travel booking sites, you will see multiple hotels noted as “downtown” but their locations will vary between Mitte, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Friedrichstrasse and more.
The districts are Mitte, City West, East Central, North, East and South, and all have something different to offer. It is worth noting that with the extensive train system in the city, choosing to stay in or visit any of these districts would not prevent you from easy exploring the others with a quick train hop.
Where to eat in Berlin
- Curry at the Wall
- Zeit fur Brot
- Prater Garten
- Restaurant Tim Raue
- Ristorante Pizzeria Sapori di Casa
- Restaurant Buschbeck’s
- See more highly rated eateries in Berlin!
Events in Berlin
- Karneval der Kulteren – Similar to London’s Notting Hill Carnival, this celebration of the city’s cultural diversity takes place end of May, beginning of June. The weekend long event centers around a Sunday parade of dozens of floats, live music from hundreds of musicians and thousands of spectators. The parade runs from Hallesches Tor to Hermannplatz.
- Berlinale – One of the top three most prominent film festivals worldwide, this is one of the city’s biggest cultural events for more than 60 years. The festival is focused at Potsdamer Platz, but cinemas all over the city participate in hosting screenings. The festival is generally held end of February/beginning of March
- Weihnachtsmarkt – Or more popularly known as the Christmas Market, are a series of pop-up markets that fill the city during the month of December (some start as early as end of November and will run through the beginning of January). Find handmade toys, traditional German Christmas cookies, or stay warm with a nice glass of gluhwein as you tour the stands. Some are more elaborate than others, but with over 80 markets that set up throughout the city, you can’t miss them.
- Lange Nacht der Museen – At the end of August, for one night only, approximately 80 museums and multiple cultural institutions will participate in the Long Night of Museums. From 6pm until 2am, ticketed guests can us special shuttles to travel around to the various museums and tour the exhibits, including special concerts and live performances special only to the event.
When is the best time to visit Berlin
The best time to visit is in the late Spring and Summer months. Late May through early September gives the warmer, but still comfortable and pleasant, temperatures with average lows in the upper 50/60s and highs in the 70s.
What you should know before visiting
- Buy (and Validate) a train pass – Berlin has an extensive and very convenient train system. At some point, you will likely use it. If you are buying a multi day/location pass, but sure to validate the ticket before boarding (machines are found on platforms). Transportation officers will board randomly and check tickets, so be sure you “validated” your ticket for use on that trip.
- Purchase Reichstag tickets in advance – One of the few attractions that has limited availability (and does sell out in busy months) is the Reichstag Building. If you want to see this attraction while there (and you do) make sure to secure tickets in advance.
- Berlin has more canals than Amsterdam or Venice. Split by the River Spree and covered with over 180 kilometers of various waterways, Berlin has many beautiful water views, even though it’s not nearly as famous for it.
- Berlin consumes 70 million curried sausages a year. While you may think of schnitzel and beer, curried sausages, or currywurst, are one of the most popular dishes, primarily sold as a street food, but also popular on restaurant menus. Be sure to try one while you’re there!
- There are more museums than rainy days per year. Berlin hosts 180 museums and experiences, on average, 106 rainy days a year. So tour those museums knowing you will most likely have good weather to do so.
- The Berlin Zoo is the most visited in the world. The zoo hosts 1,380 different animal species and over 18,662 animals total, one of the largest stock of animals in the world.
- Germany’s Greenest City. With over a third of its area (44% to be exact) made up of forests, parks, waterways, woods and green areas, it is easy to see how Berlin, even though it is the capital city and full of commerce, it still able to tout this title. So even though it’s almost 9 times the size of Paris, it’s only 1/5th as dense when it comes to inhabitants/sq km.
Why you should visit Berlin
Berlin is a melting pot of international culture and diversity. Consider yourself a foodie? There isn’t a cuisine type you can’t find here and chances are it might even be better than when you had it in its original locale.
Like to shop? Whether you are a bargain hunter, looking for a can’t find anywhere else trend, or want designer labels all the way, Berlin has the store for you.
History and Culture more your thing? If you can’t find something to pique your interest in the 180 museums, multiple art galleries, 3 opera houses, palaces, war memorials and more, I’m not sure you will find it anywhere. Berlin has something for everyone, or if you want to experience it all, everything for someone!
Major Points of Interest
In 1894 this building opened to house the first of many German Parliaments. The Reichstag of the German Empire being the first occupants, hence the name. Over the next 125 years, this building would go on to host government representatives through various wars, political unrest, country division, country reunification, and much more.
The structure itself would sustain severe damage, be set on fire and at one point fall into disuse. In 1990, however, it would undergo a full reconstruction, led by architect Norman Foster, and become the historic and architectural site, as well as still active Parliament building, you can visit today.
An iconic landmark of the city, the Bradenburg Gate is an 18th century neoclassical monument that has withstood over 200 years of turmoil, transition and rebirth of the city. Commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia, the Gate was built to replace former entrance guardhouses and represent a new time of peace in the city.
It would go on to be the site of triumphal processions of various leaders, a gathering spot for political rallies and announcements, any many other historical events that would take place in front of its columns. Today it is a site open to all to visit anytime, day or night.
Getting around Berlin
The best way to get around the city is via the underground trains (U-Bahn) or the regional, elevated trains (S-Bahn), which are both a part of the Berlin’s extensive public transportation system.
German also has taxis and Uber available.
Ports on this trip
- Copenhagen, Denmark – Copenhagen was the starting point on our Baltic Sea cruise, and what a fabulous way to start. The capital of Denmark totally stole our hearts!
- Berlin, Germany – Berlin is a city rich with history and culture and was my 12 year-old’s absolute favorite stop on our trip. Definitely worth the drive in from port!
- Tallinn, Estonia – If you’re looking for a cobble-stoned storybook style European town, Tallinn is where you want to set your sights. I left thoroughly enamored with this magical town.
- St. Petersburg, Russia – St. Petersburg was a wonderful surprise to me! I had no idea how beautiful and rich with history the city is, and the food was so delicious too!
- Helsinki, Finland – We love Helsinki! The bright and vibrant colors along with the fun and quirky building shapes and super friendly people in Finland made it an absolute joy to tour!
- Stockholm, Sweden – Stockholm is a beautiful walkable city filled with gorgeous architecture, canals, and brightly colored buildings. I could easily have spent a week wandering around and soaking in the sites.