As the fifth-largest city in Europe, it can be very hard to decide how to spend only 48 hours in Berlin. There are dozens of activities to choose from, each one better than the last. Some are seasonal, some are weather-dependent, some are strenuous, and some might make you fat.
When to Visit Berlin
Visiting Berlin in the summer has two huge advantages – it’s warmer and you will have more daylight hours. In December, sunrise is around 8 a.m. and sunset is around 4 p.m., giving you only about 8 hours of daylight. On the other hand, in June the sun is up before 5 a.m. and sets after 9 p.m. This will give you over 16 hours of daylight for exploring! Granted, not all of the attractions will be open all 16 hours, but at least you can get more done in a day.
The disadvantage of visiting Berlin in the summer is the crowds. They are massive and there’s a good chance most of the accommodations (especially Couchsurfing) will be fully booked. Many tours will also be fully booked and attractions will be crowded. Only at the parks is this good, as more people means more music, more barbecues and more camaraderie.
Spring and autumn are great choices. The weather is moderate and it’s not too busy. You could also visit in the winter, but it can be very cold, rainy and even snowy (not necessarily a bad thing). In December, there are several Christmas markets around the city to visit. The biggest disadvantage of visiting in winter is that many of the tours aren’t running, and you only have about 8-10 hours of daylight.
The beginning of your 48 hours in Berlin will obviously depend on when your flight or bus arrives. I’ve arranged the days starting first thing in the morning, but you could always shift the Day One morning activities to the third day if you arrive late. This itinerary is not for the faint of heart and will keep you running from one attraction to another, but that’s the best way to maximize your time if you only have two days.
Watch the Kitesurfers Tempelhofer Feld
Personally, one of my favorite spots in Berlin is Tempelhofer. It’s a great location to start your morning off with some exercise. Tempelhofer Feld, named after the Knights Templar land it sits on, is the site of the Templehof airport which served Berlin until 2008. It was originally built in 1923 and was used by Hitler in World War II. You can walk down the 1.3-mile runway or around the extensive park and gardens. The barbecues mostly come out at night, but there will be plenty of other locals out for a jog or possibly even kiteskating down the runway. There are also tours of the airport, but those are only at 1:30 p.m. which throws a wrench into the other activities.
Indulge on the Secret Food Tour
I always say that the best way to start exploring a city is on a walking tour. I also say a great way to learn about a culture is through its cuisine. Thus, taking a food tour couldn’t be a better option. I took the Secret Food Tour of Berlin on which I got to devour delicious schnitzel, currywurst, kebab, flammekueche, and beer. There’s also a vegan version of the tour, which might be even better considering Berlin is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world! The tour starts at 11:30 a.m. by the Warschauer Straße metro station. The tour lasts about 3 to 3.5 hours. Believe me, you won’t want to eat breakfast before the tour, nor will you need to eat again until dinner.
Spend the Afternoon at the Berlin Zoo
Next, I have to recommend visiting the Berlin Zoo. Established in 1844, it’s the 8th-oldest zoo, the world, second in the world for number of animals, and has the most species of any zoo. It’s not easy to squeeze a zoo into half an afternoon, especially when it’s this big (so you might want to consider spending a full day there after your 48 hours in Berlin). The zoo opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6:30 p.m. in the summer (4:30 p.m. in the winter). That gives you about three hours after the food tour to see the animals.
(Alternative) Take an Excursion to the Olympic Village
If zoos aren’t your thing, consider a tour out to the Berlin Olympic Park. This is where Hitler held the 1938 Olympic Games and where Jesse Owens made track history. Unfortunately, the guided tours are only at 11:30 a.m. which conflicts with the other tours on this list, but you can still give yourself a self-guided tour.
Jam at Treptower Park (or Maybe Mauerpark)
The number of parks around Berlin is staggering, and it’s no wonder that they fill up with many of the city’s 3.5 million residents in the evening, especially during the summer months. Two of my favorite parks (other than Tempelhofer) are Treptower along the banks of the Spree River, and Mauerpark about a mile north of the city center. Both parks are filled with street performers and activities throughout the evening. On Sunday night, Mauerpark has a giant free-to-enter karaoke set up in the song pit, and a flea market on the southern side of the park. Treptower similarly has dozens of musicians performing, ball games you can join in on, and dozens of barbecues to tantalize you.
Pick up a Burger at Burgermeister Schlesisches Tor
For dinner, I’d recommend heading to one of the four Burgermeister locations in town, preferably the one under the bridge by the Schlesisches Tor train station. The line is incredibly long for good reason. It’s definitely not hyperbole when I say they serve one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had anywhere in the world, and for only $5! Plan for a takeaway as there’s slim chance you’ll find a place to sit or stand.
Congratulations! Hopefully, you survived the first day. Now you just have most of the key landmarks left to see. Let’s get the day started with some more tours.
Cruise on the River Spree
Perhaps the best tour in town, after the food tour, is a boat tour on the Spree River. There are quite a few different options to choose from, leaving from different piers in the city. Most departures are in the 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock hours and last from 90 minutes to 4 hours. While longer is better, it would be hard to squeeze in the longest cruise and still get everything else on this list done. I’d recommend a 90-minute tour to Charlottenburg Castle (leaving from Pier Jannowitzbrücke near Alexanderplatz), or perhaps the 90-minute tour of the city center (leaving from Treptower Park).
Learn the History on the Sandemans Walking Tour
If you catch a 90-minute boat tour at 10 a.m., you’ll be in time to take the Sandemans Walking Tour at noon. Otherwise, you could take a longer cruise and make the 2 p.m. walking tour. This tour is nearly three hours long and covers the city center. Highlights include Brandenburg Gate (where the tour starts), Checkpoint Charlie, the site of Hitler’s bunker, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Again, there are several different walking tours to choose from, but I’ve always found Sandemans to be one of the best.
Explore the Rest of the City Center
Now that you’ve covered the important tours, there are just the remaining several dozen attractions to see. You could wander around Museum Island (there are five museums to visit, but they should be done over a full day or two), see the East Side Gallery (Berlin’s largest remanent of the Berlin Wall – covered in street art), take a stroll through Tiergarten Park, or simply relax with a beer or third-wave coffee.
Enjoy Sunset from the TV Tower
For the final activity of the night (before or after dinner – depending on when the sunset is), head to Alexanderplatz and ride up the Berliner Fernsehturm TV Tower. From the top, you get the best aerial views of Berlin. There’s a restaurant where you can eat dinner, but it’s wickedly expensive (at least out of my budget).
Go Vietnamese for Dinner
Allow me to suggest something a little different for the last meal of your 48 hours in Berlin, even if you’ve already decided to stay longer. As Berlin is a particularly international city, there are dozens of cuisines available. As you learn on the food tour, Turkish and Middle Eastern food play a big part in the Berlin food scene. SE Asian food is also huge throughout the city, primarily Thai and Vietnamese (not to mention dozens of Chinese and Japanese restaurants). The one I tried was called Cô Chu. Having completely fallen in love with Vietnamese food on my Hanoi Food Tour, I can say that Berlin’s phở certainly qualifies. While the prices might not be on par with Vietnam, they’re cheaper than many other places around Europe.
Using the Berlin WelcomeCard
The best way to get around and explore Berlin is with the Berlin WelcomeCard. This gets you free transportation and discount tickets to 200 attractions. There’s also a premium, all-inclusive card which gives you free access to 31 attractions in town, including the hop-on, hop-off bus tour and a boat tour. Both cards are available for 2 to 6 days. The regular card starts at $26 for 48 hours, and the all-inclusive card starts at $99 for 48 hours. If you’re on a budget, stick to the regular card. If you’re planning to use public transportation a lot and visit at least one or two attractions, the card is worth it.
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Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Here are some of my other articles for Germany’s capital.
- Daring to Explore the Abandoned Spreepark from Hanna
- Learning About German Cuisine on the Secret Food Tour in Berlin
- Budget Travel Guide: How Expensive is Berlin on a Budget?
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.