A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Berlin’s Famous Sights

Before I start getting into the real meat of our travels in Berlin (aka the posts where I chatter on unnecessarily and include far too many pictures), I thought for today I’d just touch on some of the places we saw on our self-guided walking tour of Berlin’s famous sights. There is a free walking tour of Berlin that came highly recommended to us, but the times for that tour never matched up with our schedule, so we simply made our own that included most of what we would have seen on the free tour, plus a few other things that interested us.

As long as you’re in good shape, you can cover all of the sights on our walking tour of Berlin easily in one day. I suggest plotting the locations out on Google Maps before you head out, though, just in case – the distance does come to around 9km. Wear comfy shoes!

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Our tour begins at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. Here, over 2,700 concrete slabs of varying heights, arranged in rows on uneven ground, memorialize the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. I’m not entirely sure what the artist’s intention here was, but to me, it looked a lot like a cemetery with over-sized gravestones. (A very cold, sterile cemetery at that.) When we visited, a light rain had just passed through leaving water droplets on the concrete, resembling tears. If you’d like to explore deeper, there is a free exhibition center beneath the field of concrete slabs, but since we hoped to complete our walking tour by the day’s end, we didn’t pay it a visit.

Address: Cora-Berliner-Straße 1, 10117 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

Brandenburg Gate

Walking just a block or so north from the Holocaust Memorial, you’ll quickly hit Pariser Platz where the famous Brandenburg Gate stands. Brandenburg Gate has been a prominent landmark in the city since it was built in the 18th century, but it took on even more meaning after the wall came down in 1989 as it came to symbolize the freedom and reunification of Berlin. Other popular sights to visit here or come back to later are the Tiergarten, one of Berlin’s prettiest public parks, and the Reichstag Dome where German Parliament meets.

Address: Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

DZ Bank Designed by Frank Gehry

If you’re not into architecture then you can probably skip this one, but if you are, while you’re in Pariser Platz, make a stop into the DZ Bank building. Designed by Frank Gehry, this is the most unusual entrance to a bank I’ve ever seen. Unless you’ve got business to conduct inside or are part of a tour, you won’t be allowed in any further than the front, though, no matter how sweetly you smile at the security guards.

Address: Pariser Platz 3, 10117 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

Museum Island and the Berliner Dom

Museum Island, a UNESCO world heritage sight, is an island in the middle of the Spree River. Five world-renowned museums are here, as well as Berlin’s most famous cathedral, the Berliner Dom. Truthfully, this is a place where you really need to spend a whole day, or days even, but even though we knew we wouldn’t have time to go in anywhere, we still wanted to see the museum complex and the outside of the church. If we were to return to Berlin, I’d definitely set aside a full day to explore more here, particularly in the Pergamon. (Museum Island is a good distance from everything else on this list, so if you intend on visiting another day when you have time to enter the museums, I’d leave it off of the walking tour!)

Address: Am Lustgarten, 10178 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

The TV Tower

Unless you plan on going up inside of it, you really needn’t walk all the way to the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) to see it. Standing tall at over 1,200 feet, it is the highest structure in Germany and easily seen from practically anywhere in central Berlin. Funny story – this was unintended by the architect, but when the sun shines a certain way on the dome, it’s reflection appears on it in the form of the cross, earning the TV Tower the nickname, ‘The Pope’s Revenge’! It’s quite expensive to go up in the tower, but you’re guaranteed a pretty sweet view at that height!

Address: Panoramastraße 1A, 10178 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

Checkpoint Charlie

Walking back in the direction of Potsdamer Platz, you’ll come across Checkpoint Charlie on Friedrichstraße. This was once the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, but is now a bit of a tourist trap. Two very unenthusiastic guys stand outside the famous border crossing dressed in uniform and holding flags, and for a couple euros, you can have an awkward picture taken with them. Right. We’d had fair warning before we visited that this wasn’t a place we’d want to linger, so we simply snapped a picture and moved on. There is, however, a museum here dedicated to the history of the Berlin Wall that we heard was pretty good, but I can’t personally attest to whether it’s worth the entrance fee.

Address: Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10117 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

Original Pieces of the Berlin Wall

As you make your way to Potsdamer Platz, make sure you stop at the small memorial in front of the Bahnhof station where pieces of the Berlin Wall have been preserved in their original location. The pieces of the wall have been covered by just a few pieces of bubble gum, making it look pretty tacky, but if you don’t have time on your visit to make it over to the Berlin Wall Memorial, this smaller memorial will still give you a ton of information about the wall and the war. A longer stretch of the wall has been preserved over at the former SS headquarters nearby, so if you have time, you might want to check that out, too.

Address: Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz, 10785 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

The Sony Center

Only a few steps away from the pieces of the wall at Potsdamer Platz is the Sony Center. By now on your walking tour, it’s probably getting close to evening which happens to be the best time to see this great work of architecture. Brightly colored lights illuminate the dome overhead, as well as the fountain in the center, and the reflection from those play off of the many mirrored windows surrounding the complex. There’s a huge theater here, as well as a number of shops, restaurants, and bars. Besides popping in to take a few pictures, we didn’t stick around because everything here was a bit out of our price range. If you come in the daytime, it’ll look like an entirely different place, but still an interesting sight to see.

Address: Potsdamer Platz, 10785 Berlin

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

The Victory Column

The final stop on our walking tour of Berlin – the Victory Column, located in the Tiergarten. During the day it’s possible to climb to the top for a small fee, but I think it’s worth a visit at evening, too, to see it all lit up. Built in 1873 to commemorate the German victories over Denmark, Austria, and France, the Victory Column was originally in another location closer to the Reichstag, but the Nazis moved it after they occupied Berlin, sparing it from being destroyed during air raids in 1945. Even after the war, this monument risked destruction by the French until a British-American vote vetoed it. My favorite part is the statue at the top, known as Goldelse, or Golden Lizzie.

Address: Großer Stern, 10557 Berlin

A final tip – if you follow the same route we did, you’ll end in the Tiergarten, most likely very, very hungry after all the walking. I highly recommend eating at the restaurant/biergarten located here, Cafe Am Neuen See. The view from the biergarten is lovely, and the ambiance inside the restaurant, especially on a cold winter’s day, is hard to beat!

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A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of Berlin's Famous Sights

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  • Connie Weiss
    January 18, 2015 at 8:34 PM

    Thanks for the tour!

  • Frankie |
    January 16, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    Your photos are beautiful! I loved Berlin, I found it a really great city to walk around. Not too big, and by walking I felt I got to see so much more than if I’d been on a train or in a taxi everywhere. Everything seemed to be reasonably priced there, too.

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 17, 2015 at 5:21 PM

      That was our experience as well – I think we only took public transport two times. Everywhere else was within easy walking distance. I love it when we can see practically everything on foot!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe
    January 16, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    I absolutely loved the Check Point Charlie museum! It is fascinating to walk through and see the various escape attempts. It might not be to some people’s liking, but I liked it so much I did it twice! You make me want to go back!!

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      Oh, good – I’m glad I wasn’t mistaken about that museum being worth a visit! We didn’t get to see it this time around. We did the Topography of Terror and the Jewish Museum instead. Both of those were really good, too!

  • Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    January 15, 2015 at 8:36 PM

    I am definitely going to do this walk when I get the chance to go to Berlin! x

  • Alexandra @ Team Starnes
    January 15, 2015 at 2:32 PM

    WOW! You have some amazing photographs here! And I love the design! Isn’t Maira just a doll?! :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      Did she design your site as well?! She was wonderful to work with. This was my first time paying someone to customize my blog and I was so nervous, but she did a really good job!

  • Katrin
    January 15, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    I really want to go back to Berlin at some point. The Pergamon museum is so fascinating. And I still have a piece of the Berlin Wall somewhere.

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2015 at 10:29 AM

      We took home a piece of the Berlin wall, too! Of all the museums on Museum Island, the Pergamon was the one I really wanted to visit. There just wasn’t enough time. :(

  • Jo
    January 15, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    WOW I never realized that there was that much to see in Berlin

  • Stacey @ One Trip at a Time
    January 15, 2015 at 1:39 AM

    What a great tour you’ve taken us on. I have booked marked this post for sure as I’m most likely (fingers really really crossed) going on a business trip to Hamburg this summer and Berlin is top on my list for a weekend before I come home. I’d heard of Museum Island but your pictures have convinced me that is a must see!

  • rorybore
    January 15, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    a great walk via photos! I’d like to know what the artist had in mind too with those concrete slab memorials, but the rain certainly makes it very poignant.

    I think I would find this place very emotional. I remember an elderly Jewish couple in my church growing up — they had the tattoos on their arms, but rarely spoke much of what they had seen. and survived. And I remember when the Wall came down. Would be amazing to stand in those places now and feel the history.

  • Natalie
    January 14, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    I have actually been to Berlin! :) Not to most of these places…but I have been where they kept some of the original pieces. It was in high school though!

  • Emmymom
    January 14, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    Holy cow there is a lot to see there! That was a lot of things to see in one day. And I am so behind, love the new look of your site, looks so professional. Did you switch to wordpress or is this still blogger?

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      There are a lot more sights in Berlin – these were just the ones that were easy to pop over to see and then move on. I’ve got quite a few more posts coming about this trip. :)

      Oh, no. No WordPress for me. I’d only consider moving over to that platform if I actually wanted to make blogging my career. I’m perfectly happy staying on Blogger!

  • Jenn
    January 14, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    Berlin has never been high on my list of places to go but I would like to see the Brandenburg Gate and the pieces of the Berlin wall.

  • Jamie [Writes]
    January 14, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    Wow, your photos are phenomenal! I went there in 2007 and had only a basic point and shoot at the time, so this makes me realize I really need to go back. And it’s terrible, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the memorial photos was that there’s a Dunkin Donuts on the other side of it…

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    January 14, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    Great, great post! This has given me a good run down on what I can expect to see while I am there. Weeeeeeee so excited. I love Golden Lizzie, what a babe!

  • Diana Bockus
    January 14, 2015 at 3:33 PM

    The Berliner Dome is beautiful! Honestly, I’m not sure if Berlin would be on my top 3 to visit in Europe but it’s definitely interesting to see what there is to see. Looks like y’all cover your ground pretty well when traveling and seeing all of these sights!

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 16, 2015 at 10:19 AM

      Berlin wasn’t at the top of our list, either, but after visiting, it’s become one of my favorite European cities!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    January 14, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    Oh no regarding the DZ Bank – that’s not fair!!
    Beautiful pictures of a fascinating city!

  • Mandy Southgate
    January 14, 2015 at 12:45 PM

    What a fantastic photo walk. I’m more determined than ever to visit!