Museums packed with relics, Neo-Classical monuments, happening bars – this backpacker’s guide to Berlin takes care of the lot in the German capital.
Big, boisterous and brilliantly fun, Berlin magnetizes backpackers to the heart of central-north Europe. It might have had a rough ride in the 20th century, with WWII and the coming and going of Communism, but things are firmly looking up here. Creative kitchens and urban spas, bohemian neighborhoods to rival New York’s Village, and totemic history sites all combine to make it somewhere you’re certain not to forget in a hurry.
This ultimate backpacker’s guide to Berlin distills the top draws, foods, and – of course – hostels into one hit. Directing you straight to the culture and cuisine that matters, it should free up more time for you to get excited about all those pretzels and frothy German beers…
Berlin Travel Tips: The bucket list
A list of things to do in Berlin will inevitably fuse history with gritty urban districts. Cue this selection, which hops from whole islands laced with priceless ancient treasures to off-the-hook bar areas that swing with jazz and techno.
The Brandenburg Gate
Up there with the Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. It’s now a symbol of unity in Europe, having weathered two world wars and partition throughout the 20th century. Snap your selfies by its grand colonnades and chariot statue and then turn your attention to the surrounding area. That’s the heart of central Berlin, with the glimmering glass dome of the Reichstag and the lively drag of Unter den Linden to explore.
Calling all history buffs – Museum Island is the epicenter of Berlin’s cultural scene. You could spend days here navigating the various collections, so it’s a good idea to pick the one that takes your fancy before hopping in. Will it be the Neues Museum with its haunting bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti? Maybe the Pergamon Museum, home of the great blue gates of Babylon? Will it be the Bode, where Byzantine treasures sit next to sculptures of the Italian Gothic?
Kreuzberg & Friedrichshain
The duo of districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are often coupled together for being Berlin’s most hip and happening areas. The former was once a slum of West Berlin, but volt-faced into an artsy commune with clubs and multicultural Turkic eateries throughout the 90s. The tenements of Friedrichshain, meanwhile, were once in East Berlin. They’re now host to rollicking punk dives, photography exhibits, and the famous East Side Gallery – a section of the old Berlin Wall that’s been converted into a graffiti mural.
Guide to Berlin: The best things to eat
German cuisine often gets a bad rap. But we won’t be hearing any of that when it comes to Berlin. This city is a hub for creative Vegan cooking, pop-up kitchens, and intriguing street food. So, prep the taste buds and let’s dive right in…
Who’s up for soft dough, wrought into a strange sort of 8-shape, and crusted with crunchy salt? Thought so. Berlin lays claim to being one of the world’s pretzel meccas. Search out spots like the 100-year-old chain of Ditsch, where on-the-go locals stop for their coffee and pretzel each morning.
Doing everything that German snacks should, the kartoffelpuffer is a stomach-filling medley of grated potato that’s fried lightly in oil. Similar to a Swiss rosti or a British hash brown, they’re bound together with egg, and then delivered with a sweet or sour dipping sauce. The traditional Kartoffelkeller specializes in serving these in an authentic Berliner tavern close to the River Spree.
Sweet-toothed travelers can’t go wrong with the Pfannkuche. Although it literally translates to ‘pancake’, you’d be hard pushed to see the similarities. These are more doughnut that flat, usually sprinkled with sugar and filled with a juicy fruit conserve.
Our Hand-Picked Hostels in Berlin
There are thousands of hostels in Berlin. Lucky for you, HostelPass has done the dirty work and whittled down the best options. We only offer the crème-de-la-crème of stays in the German capital, no matter if you want a wild party hostel or a chic boutique pad in a hipster district! Join our Europe Pass waitlist to be the first to know when its on sale.
Any additions you might have to this backpacker’s guide to Berlin are more than welcome. Drop them in the comments below to help other travelers just like yourself!