Berlin is one of those few European towns that nobody should miss, especially if someone’s visiting Germany. There is art, history, culture, nightlife, an old town charm, fancy pubs — in short, something for everyone. In fact, there is so much to travel for in Berlin that you at least need a few days to explore it all.
During my recent blogging trip with Germany Tourism, I ended up having less than 6 hours in the town, before I had to catch a flight to New Delhi. The good thing was, I had a Germany Tourism official (and I’d thank Mr Jens Becker again for this) travelling with me, who, before leaving, not only helped me locate the lockers in the central train station in Berlin, and buy a day pass for the public transport to save me time, but also created a personalised travel guide to cover the highlights of Berlin on a fast track.
In less than 6 hours, I covered most of the highlights that Berlin had to offer. Though of course I still only skimmed through its skin, and didn’t see any of the landmarks from inside, but only from outside, I can at least say that I now know Berlin, even though not so thoroughly. So if you too are bounded with time and are going to be in Berlin for only a few hours, here’s your quick Berlin travel guide to know Berlin better!
How To See Berlin In Less Than 6 Hours
Visit The Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof): Unless you’ve already deposited your luggage at the airport, or are visiting the town during a flight layover and have nothing to carry, you’ve every reason to visit the central station in Berlin. And even if you don’t have to use the locker, there are a couple of reasons to visit it anyway. One, it is at the central train station where your airport shuttle service drops/picks you up, from the town; and two, because Berlin central train station is an attraction in itself.
Its huge and thundering building is one of Europe’s mightiest, and perhaps the most elegant too. With several levels of tracks serving over a thousand trains a day, a vast shopping mall of commercial activity, and a creative architectural marvel, a quick stroll on its different levels — particularly the second floor, from where you get decent panoramic views over the city — is a must. And last but not the least, you will need to visit the station to take a train to your next destination, which is The East Side Gallery
Visit the East Side Gallery: From the central train station, take any train going towards Ostreuz (a popular intersection) and get off at Ostbahnhof. From Ostbahnhof, walk towards the East Side Gallery, alongside the Spree river, and back. The 1.2 km stretch of East Side gallery will take you to the most popular highlight in Berlin — The Berlin Wall. It is on this stretch, where among the other graffiti art murals, you will also find the popular painting from the 90’s called “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” — the socialist fraternal kiss.
Slowly walk all the way to the The Wall Museum and back, understanding how things would have looked in the past, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall — with two identical looking parts of the city (having no difference in culture and people either) being hopelessly separated from each other.
Walking along this one mile stretch of the East Side Gallery, moreover let you explore the new-age “industrial” look of Berlin, with massive tech and IT buildings slowly taking over the city.
Walk back to Ostbahnof and take any train going towards the central station.
Exploring Historic Monuments Across The River Spree: Once you’re back at the central station, take the exit towards Washingtonplatz (the opposite exit from where the airport shuttle leaves) and cross the river Spree.
Now, first in the list is the Parliament Building, or Reichstag.
You will definitely have no enough time to take a guided tour inside the parliament, however, if you think you can spare an extra 30-45 minutes, visit the Reichstag dome for great views of the city. It is free to access but you need to book your place in advance. You can register at the Bundestag website, where you can choose a date and time.
Next in the list is Brandenburg Gate for a quick photo op. A symbol of Berlin and German division during the Cold War, Brandenburg Gate is now a national symbol of peace and unity and a mandatory stop for anyone visiting Berlin.
Click a few good pictures of yourself with Brandenburg Gate in the background, or perhaps add a royal horse-drawn carriage as an additional subject and make your picture exciting to another level.
I concluded my trip visiting only the above-mentioned places in nearly five hours, before making it to the central station, collecting my luggage, and catching the airport shuttle, which takes nearly 15 to 20 minutes to get to the airport, depending upon the time of the day. If it’s busy on the roads, keep another 10-15 minutes of buffer time to avoid any disaster.
And a bonus: If you think you’ve another half-an-hour or so in hand, five minutes walk from Brandenburg Gate is the powerful Jewish Memorial, which definitely is worth a visit. Try to enter the underground museum here (also free entry), it is well worth your while.
And last but not the least, Berlin is Germany’s capital and the largest city in the country with one of the most turbulent histories of any European capitals. There is a lot of history and art to uncover here. Where the new-age “industrial” look of the city is slowly taking over the historic part of it, Berlin, at least for now, has maintained its old town charm. And among all the other big towns I’ve explored in Germany so far, including Stuttgart and Frankfurt, Berlin remains one of the most fun, coolest and diverse towns. There’s a constant sense of motion here!