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When planning a trip to Munich, there are the obvious famous spots, like the Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall, Marienplatz, or the vast English Garden. But if you’re looking for something more off the beaten path, there are plenty of hidden gems in Munich!

I have lived in Munich for four years, and have grown to love it. The city checks a lot of boxes: lots of nature, charming neighborhoods, and a great selection of cultural events year-round. Discover what makes Munich so great with this list of my favorite places in Munich off the beaten path.

The Seehaus Biergarten

The Seehaus Biergarten in the Englischer Garten

The Seehaus Biergarten, my favorite Biergarten hidden gem in Munich!

Munich is well known for its Biergarten culture, and you’ll find them scattered throughout the city. But my favorite Biergarten is in the middle of the English Garden next to the Seehaus. From the Biergarten tables, you have a beautiful view over a small lake and into the dense green that makes the English Garden an oasis in the middle of the city. 

Not only is the scenery unbeatable, but they serve a variety of classic Biergarten food, including Hax’n and Steckerlfisch. And of course, you can pick up a fresh beer right from the tap. Or, if you’ve had your fill of beer, they have an area where you can enjoy cocktails and wine under the Linden trees.

Gärtnerplatz

Hang out at Gärtnerplatz while exploring Munich off the beaten path in the alternative Glockenbachviertel

Hang out at Gärtnerplatz while exploring Munich off the beaten path in the alternative Glockenbachviertel

Nestled between the Viktualienmarkt and the Isar River is the neighborhood known as Glockenbachviertel. While Munich has a reputation for being conservative, Glockenbach is a welcoming and lively neighborhood full of hidden gems in Munich.

Here you can find swanky cocktail bars, grungy dive bars, and hip boutiques. The center of Glockenbachviertel is the circular Gärtnerplatz – grab a drink at a nearby kiosk and hang out with the locals.

Gans Woanders

Even from the funky exterior, it’s clear that Gans Woanders is one of the best hidden gems in Munich. Its name is a play on words from the phrase ‘Ganz woanders’ (somewhere else) but with a twist of using the German word ‘Gans’ which means goose.

A whimsical building houses a unique space that serves as a café during the day and a bar at night. It’s a great place if you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Munich and are looking for something different from the typical beer halls and Bavarian food.

Rosengarten

Just a small fraction of the many roses you'll see at the stunning Rose Garden

Just a small fraction of the many roses you’ll see at the stunning Rose Garden

I lived in this city for 3 years before discovering the beautiful rose garden. In fact, my first visit there prompted me to write this article about the best hidden gems in Munich!

Located near the Isar river, this manicured garden offers a great place to take a stroll and relax. There are plenty of lounge chairs and hundreds of blooming plants. After enjoying the Rosengarten, you can walk along the banks of the Isar river, where the locals love to take a dip in summer.

Neues Schloss Schleissheim

Venture to the north of Munich to explore Neues Schloss Schleissheim

Venture to the north of Munich to explore Neues Schloss Schleissheim

Inspired by Versailles, and serving as a summer residence to the Wittelsbacher royals, the Neues Schloss Schleissheim castle is well worth a visit! It’s a little outside the center of Munich, well off the beaten path. The castle features Baroque architecture at its finest and is surrounded by spectacular gardens. I’m surprised this place isn’t more famous – it took 3 years of living here before I even heard about it! 

View of the Glockenspiel from Galeria Kaufhof

While the Marienplatz Glockenspiel is arguably the #1 tourist attraction of Munich, there is a viewpoint over the famous square that is a true hidden gem. The café in Galeria Kaufhof overlooks the square and gives you a perfect view of the famous Glockenspiel.

Grab a front-row seat to Munich’s most famous attraction without dealing with the crowds. Side note – if you happen to be in Munich during a heatwave, the Galeria Kaufhof is one of the few places in the city that has coveted air conditioning!

Alte Utting

The Alte Utting boat sits atop a bridge and functions as a restaurant and bar

The Alte Utting boat sits atop a bridge and functions as a restaurant and bar

A scene that looks like it belongs in the more edgy Berlin, Alte Utting is one of the best hidden gems in Munich and my favorite place to take out-of-town guests. It’s an old ship that has been elevated onto an old set of railway tracks, a cool place to grab a drink with friends.

The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend is a café and event space in the middle of the student district. It serves great coffee and snacks, and will occasionally have a book reading or poetry slam. Check the schedule of events to see if something sparks your interest.

The Jaded Monkey

With a prominent beer culture, it’s no wonder that great cocktail bars in Munich are few and far between. But there are some great hidden gems, like the Jaded Monkey. Serving up inventive cocktails in a swanky setting reminiscent of a New York bar, you’ll love getting a little more off the beaten path while visiting Munich.

Café im Vorhoelzer Forum

Munich's favorite student hang out

Café im Vorhoelzer Forum – Munich’s best rooftop hang out

As a university town, Munich is full of great restaurants and bars that cater to the student crowd. This rooftop bar is a true hidden gem in Munich because it’s hard to find!

Located atop one of the University buildings, you’ll need to find your way to a back elevator. Once you emerge on the top floor, you’ll find one of the best views in Munich. On a clear day, you’ll even catch a view of the Alps!

Note: Café in Vorhoelzer Forum closed during the pandemic and re-opening is TBD. In the meantime, you can still access the rooftop and BYOB to enjoy a drink with one of the best views in Munich.

Hidden Gems in Munich, Germany

Pin Hidden Gems in Munich, Germany

The Black Forest is an expansive area of lush green mountains in the state of Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. The Black Forest is known for its dense forests of dark fir trees, picturesque villages and traditional spa towns. It’s one of the most scenic regions in Germany, giving inspiration to many of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.  

Setting off on foot is the best way to experience the Black Forest and there are many hiking trails to explore. Whether you’re a novice hiker or prefer challenging multi-day hikes, the Black Forest has plenty of beautiful places for everyone to enjoy.  

Before you set foot on the hiking trails, here are a few things to know before you go to help you plan your trip to Germany’s beautiful Black Forest. 

Where is the best place to stay in the Black Forest?

There are many beautiful locations within the Black Forest that make great places to base yourself to explore the area. 

Baden-Baden in the north of the region is one of the most popular areas to stay in the Black Forest. Here you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants, spas and high-end hotels. Another popular place to stay in the Black Forest is the city of Freiburg im Breisgau. Freiburg is a vibrant university town in the south of the Black Forest, with lots of accommodation options to suit all budgets. 

If you’re looking for a more peaceful visit to the Black Forest, there are many smaller towns and villages throughout the region. Popular choices are Wolfach, Triberg, Rottweil and Calw, where you can find traditional German guesthouses and plenty of holiday apartments and cottages to rent. 

A top tip for choosing where to stay in the Black Forest is to plan which hiking trails and activities you want to do first. Then you can choose an area to base yourself, which is close by to the sights on your itinerary. While traveling in Germany, the best way to find accommodation is with booking.com, which has different types of accommodation ranging from guest houses, to private apartments, to hostels. The site has filters for budget, guest rating, and amenities so that you can find something that fits your specific preferences.

Getting to and around the Black Forest

By plane – If you’re arriving into Germany by plane, the closest airports are Karlsruhe, Stuttgart or Frankfurt. From there, you can rent a car and drive to the Black Forest. Use Skyscanner to compare flights and find the best deal.

By bus /train – The cities of Baden-Baden in the north and Freiburg im Breisgau in the south can be reached by train or bus from elsewhere in Germany, however once you arrive, it is best to rent a car to explore the Black Forest. When traveling by train or long-distance bus, you can use Omio to compare different options and find the best one for you.

By car – Having your own car is by far the best way to explore the Black Forest. Public transport is extremely limited, especially when reaching some of the hiking trails and having your own car will give you flexibility to explore at your own pace. Plus, the roads in the Black Forest are really scenic, making for a beautiful drive. 

Top tips for hiking in the Black Forest

  • Take a map and plan your route! This sounds obvious, but not all trails are clearly sign-posted, so make sure that you have a good map and decide on your route before setting off 
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots – the ground on many of the trails can be uneven in places and may be slippery close to waterfalls, or after rain
  • Wear layers! Even on a sunny day, the temperature in the Black Forest can often feel cool, as the thick forest of tall trees blocks out the sun’s rays
  • Take plenty of water and snacks –  there are not many places to buy drinks or snacks out on the hiking trails, so be prepared and bring your own – just remember to leave no trace

5 Great hikes in the Northern Black Forest

There are so many beautiful places in the Black Forest and plenty of scenic hiking trails to discover. This post will focus on 5 great hikes in the northern Black Forest, however if you are heading to the south of the region on your trip too, make sure that you visit the Triberg waterfalls – the tallest waterfalls in the Black Forest, and take a trip to Lake Titisee, where you can try out windsurfing or sailing. 

1. Mummelsee to Hornigsrinde hike

Looking down to Mummselsee from the Mummselseeblick viewpoint

Looking down to Mummselsee from the Mummselseeblick viewpoint

The views on the hike from Mummelsee to Hornigsrinde are some of the best in the Black Forest, making it a popular route. You won’t be the only ones hiking this trail, but the scenery is really beautiful and this hike is worth adding to your Black Forest itinerary. 

  • Distance: 4km 
  • Duration: 1-2 hours (depending on how many stops you take along the way) 
  • Type: Loop trail
  • Difficulty: Easy

Mummselsee is a small lake, conveniently located off the Black Forest high road in the north of the region. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the Black Forest and whilst there are several hiking trails around the lake, one of the best routes is from Mummelsee to Hornigsrinde. The Hornigsrinde is the tallest mountain in the Black Forest. There are several trails which incorporate both Mummelsee and the Hornigsrinde, but one of the easiest is the 4km loop trail, starting from Mummelsee car park. 

The route: 

From the car park at Mummelsee, take the trail past the Berghotel behind the lake towards Mummelseeblick – a viewpoint with gorgeous views down to the lake. From this viewpoint, the trail continues to Hornisgrindeturm, an observation tower sitting next to a small cafe where you can enjoy lunch or a drink with panoramic views. Leaving the cafe behind, continue on the path through the moorland towards the ridge of the Hornigsrinde.

Spanning for 2km, the ridge of the Hornigsrinde creates a plateau of pretty meadowland on top of the mountain. Climb the small Birmarck observation tower in the centre of the plateau for beautiful 360 degree views over the surrounding landscapes. From here, you can return the same way you came, or to complete the full 4km loop, follow the trail along a wooden boardwalk through the forest to Dreifurstenstein – a historic triangular border stone. Continue to follow the path through the woodland until you eventually emerge back at the Black Forest high road and alongside the lake. 

2. All Saints (Allerheiligen) waterfall to All Saints Abbey hike

Allerheiligen Waterfall in the Black Forest

Allerheiligen Waterfall

The All Saints waterfalls are one of the best things to see in the northern Black Forest and it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours. This is a great hike for families too, just be careful as some of the boardwalks can be slippery. 

  • Distance: 3km (total)
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Type: Out and back trail
  • Difficulty: Easy – moderate (due to the number of steep steps)

With a drop of 90m, the All Saints waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in the state of Baden-Württemberg and a must-visit when in the northern Black Forest. On your hike here, you will pass the 7 cascades of the waterfall and follow the stream to the ruins of an old monastery. 

This is a short hike and is a great way to spend the morning or afternoon and combine it with a visit to another area of the Black Forest.

The route: 

The walk starts from the main entrance car park of the All Saints waterfall and parking here is free. Opposite the parking lot, you will see a large wooden gate with the sign ‘Allerheiligen Wasserfälle’ – this is where the trail begins. 

You will only have to walk about 400m before you get your first glimpses of the waterfall. The path through the forest is paved and there are several sections of steep wooden stairs to climb up as you ascend alongside the waterfall. 

Once you arrive at the top of the waterfall, you will leave the forest behind you and find yourself walking towards the small landscaped garden of the All Saints monastery. On the opposite side of the path is a war memorial, dedicated to all those who gave their lives to the first and second world war. 

Just a short distance ahead, you will arrive at the ruins of the old All Saints monastery. The monastery was built in the early 13th century and was lived in by monks up until it was destroyed in 1804 when it was struck by lightning. Now, only ruined sections of the monastery walls and tower remain. 

Next to the monastery is a small cafe, as well as toilets. Break up your walk with a refreshment stop in beautiful surroundings. To get back to the car park, simply retrace your steps back down past the waterfall. 

3. The Baden-Baden Panorama trail  (Panoramaweg)

Views over Baden-Baden from the Weisser Stein viewpoint on the edge of the town

Views over Baden-Baden from the Weisser Stein viewpoint on the edge of the town

Hiking the Panorama trail is one of the best things to do if you are staying in the area of Baden-Baden or in the north of the Black Forest. The great thing about this hike is that you can tailor it to suit you. Either complete all 4 sections, or take just 1 or 2. Children will love exploring the ruins of Hohenbaden castle and the Battert nature reserve, making the stage 1 of the Panorama trail great for families too. 

  • Distance: 45km (split over 4 stages)
  • Duration: 12 hours
  • Type: Loop trail
  • Difficulty: Moderate (depending on how many stages you complete)

The Panorama trail is a long distance hike around the town of Baden-Baden in the north of the Black Forest. It’s one of the most beautiful long distance hiking trails in Germany with stunning landscape views along the way. 

If a 45 km hike sounds like a bit too much, simply complete any of the 4 stages as individual point to point trails instead:

The route:

Stage 1 – Baden-Baden Kurhaus – Merkur cable car station (9km / 3 hours)

Stage 2 – Merkur cable car station – Forellenhof (9.1km / 3 hours)

Stage 3 – Forellenhof – Geroldsauer Mühle (14km / 4 hours)

Stage 4 – Geroldsauer Mühle – Trinkhalle (13km / 4 hours)

One of the most popular sections of the Panorama trail is stage 1, which begins in the town of Baden-Baden. This is a great section of the trail, with stunning views over Baden Baden town and the chance to explore the ruins of Hohenbaden Castle, with origins that go back to the 12th century. 

The ruins of Hohenbaden Castle on the Panorama trail

The ruins of Hohenbaden Castle on the Panorama trail

To start stage 1 of the Panorama trail, set off from the Kurhaus on the edge of Baden-Baden town and head towards the large park opposite. Walk to the Weisser Stein viewpoint on the top of the hill for lovely views over Baden-Baden town. From here, follow a track through a small forest leading up to Hohenbaden Castle. Take some time here to enjoy a drink at the cafe and explore the castle ruins, climbing the tower for gorgeous views of the surrounding area.

At Hohenbaden Castle, you have the option to head back down into Baden-Baden town for a shorter hike, or to complete the full 9km of stage 1, follow the trail through the dense forest of Battert nature reserve. Stop at Ritterplatte and Felsenbrücke observation decks in the nature reserve for beautiful views over the Baden-Baden landscape. Leaving the forest behind, you will pass Wolfsschulucht, where you can stop for lunch in one of the restaurants, before arriving at Merkur cable car station and the end of stage 1 of the Panorama trail. After you have finished your walk, you can take the funicular from Merkur station to the peak of Merkur mountain to get one of the best views in the region. 

4. Ruhestein to Wildersee hike

The thick forest of the Wildersee - Hornigsrinde nature reserve, near Ruhestein

The thick forest of the Wildersee – Hornigsrinde nature reserve, near Ruhestein

The Ruhestein to Wildersee hike is best enjoyed in the spring and summer months, when the ground is drier. The descent down to the lake is quite steep and narrow, so caution and good walking shoes are recommended. 

  • Distance: 8km 
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Type: Loop trail
  • Difficulty: Easy

The area between Ruhestein and Wildersee sits in the centre of the Wildersee – Hornigsrinde nature reserve and is a very popular area within the Black Forest for hiking. This hike starts at Ruhestein and will take you through the protected forest of the nature reserve before arriving at Wildersee – one of the most beautiful cirque lakes in the north of the Black Forest. 

The route: 

Start at the National Park centre at Ruhestein, here you will find several large car parks, toilets and cafes. (In the winter, there is also a ski slope which runs here). To start the hike, you will need to walk up and over the ski slope (if you’re in luck, and the chair lift is running, you can save your energy and take the chair lift to the top!) Once you’re at the top, you will have pretty views down over the valley, continue to follow the gravel path round to the right and get your first glimpse of Wildersee through the trees. The path then forks and turns steeply right again, guiding you through the thick, protected forest, down towards the lake. Stop here for a rest by the edge of the lake and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Leaving the lake, you can either continue following the path round the edge of the lake and up to Falzhütte and Bannwald before completing the full 8km loop back at Ruhestein. Or, if you prefer, you can retrace your steps and go back the way you came. Whichever route back you choose, you can detour to the Darmstädter Hütte – a rustic hotel which has a restaurant and bar open to visitors. 

5. Sankenbachsee and Sankenbach Waterfall hike

Sankenbachfall - photo by Stefan Kuhn

Sankenbachfall – photo by Stefan Kuhn

This interesting and easy trail is one of the best family hikes in the Black Forest. Combined with the facilities around the lake at Sankenbachsee, it makes for a great day out for families and those looking for a more laid back walking trail.

  • Distance: 7.5km (total)
  • Duration: 2 hours (allow for longer to enjoy time around the lake)
  • Type: Out and back
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Sankenbachsee is a beautiful cirque lake in the Black Forest. Unlike other cirque lakes in the area, swimming is permitted in Sankenbachsee and surrounding the lake is a playground, barbeque area, a deer park and also the Sankenbach waterfalls, making it a popular place for a family day out in the Black Forest. 

Sankenbachsee - photo by Stefan Kuhn

Sankenbachsee – photo by Stefan Kuhn

You can walk to Sankenbachsee from either Baiersbronn or Freudenstadt. This route follows the more straightforward trail from Baiersbronn. 

The route: 

Starting at the Sankenbachtal parking lot, near the ski lift in Baiersbronn, follow the signs for Sankenbachtal. A few minutes after starting, the gravel path will fork – keep left here and follow signs for Sankenbachsee. The path will guide you alongside a small stream and after about 1km, you will arrive at the Wildghedge car park for the deer park and nature reserve. (You can of course park here to shorten the walk if you wish). 

Continue following the path straight ahead through the nature reserve and after 1.8km you will arrive at the edge of Sankenbachsee. To reach the Sankenbach waterfall, follow the edge of the lake for about 15 minutes. At the base of the waterfall, you will find a barbeque area – the perfect setting for a picnic lunch! To get back to the start of your walk, simply retrace your steps and go back the same way.

5 Great short hikes in the Northern Black Forest, Germany

Pin 5 Great short hikes in the Northern Black Forest, Germany

Are you planning your first European backpacking travel adventure? Packing for a trip can be exciting but stressful, especially if you don’t know what to bring. Whether you’re going for a week or for an entire summer, there are a few backpacking Europe essentials for your packing list. To help you get started, take a look at our backpacking Europe checklist, which will ensure you have everything you need for your trip. 

1. The Right Backpack

The right backpacking can make or break your trip. A backpack that’s too big can make traveling uncomfortable, while a backpack that’s too small won’t allow you to fit all your belongings in it. 

When backpacking Europe, you won’t want to bring a large, rolling suitcase. European cities were built before the age of elevators, which means that you’ll be walking lots of stairs. When navigating the metro, the old buildings, and the hotels, you’ll be happy to be able to take the stairs instead of lugging around an unwieldy backpack.

When it comes to essentials for your backpacking Europe packing list, it’s best to bring a carry-on sized backpack to avoid baggage fees on budget airlines.

Backpacking backpacks come in sizes based on the liter volume that they can carry. A 30-40 liter bag is comparable to a carry-on size suitcase, while a bag that’s 50-65 liters will be too big to take with you as a carry on.

Make sure you choose a bag that fits comfortably on your body. If you’re visiting a store, the employees will be more than happy to help you select a few bags that are suited to your body size. 

If you’re looking for the best backpack for backpacking Europe, the Osprey brand has some great all-rounder backpacks. Osprey is the go-to essential Europe backpacking option and fits most people comfortably. 

2. Day bag

When you’re taking a day trip or going on a hike, you won’t want to bring your huge backpack with you. Leave most of your items locked safely at your accommodation and take along a day bag. Your best bet would be to purchase a foldable daypack that can fit into your bigger backpack.

It will need to fit essentials such as money, a snack, water, and maybe a change of clothes, so it shouldn’t be too big or bulky.

3. Padlocks

Padlocks are a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to secure your bags and hostel lockers. When assembling your backpacking Europe essentials for your packing list, a small item like this can be a lifesaver! You can also use your luggage lock on your backpack during travel days, ensuring all your belongings are safe, including your passport.

4. Universal travel adapter

Your Europe backpacking packing list should include a universal travel adapter, which will work for your phone charger or any other electronic devices. 

The outlets in continental Europe use the same 2-pronged plug, but if you’re traveling in the UK and Ireland, you’ll need a different 3-pronged system. Rather than taking multiple chargers with you, a multifunctional adapter will do. 

5. Camera

The best travel camera for backpacking europe

Your phone camera is sufficient for everyday life, but backpacking around the world is an incredible experience that you will never want to forget!

Your travel photos will prove invaluable once you return from your epic journey, so be sure to capture all the incredible things you encounter along the way. Bring a camera that not only takes great pictures but also fits easily into your backpack.

These days, the majority of cameras are equipped with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capabilities, so they can be transmitted easily to your laptop or phone to post them online.

You may wish to bring a high-tech DSLR camera to take stunning photographs. For some, a more compact point-and-shoot camera will suffice, and will fit in a day pack without taking up much space.

If you want to take your backpacking adventures to the next level, then consider bringing along a GoPro, which will accompany you everywhere from underwater adventures to skydiving during your European backpacking adventures.

6. Travel towel

Your essential backpacking Europe packing list should include a quick-drying travel towel, since you will be moving from hostel to hostel as you backpack between cities. My favorite travel towel is a Turkish towel which is quick to dry and easy to fit in your backpack. You can also use the towel as a privacy screen if you secure a bottom bunk in a hostel.

7. Power Bank

A power bank is one of the essentials on my backpacking Europe packing list, for multiple reasons. While traveling, you’ll be using your phone much more than normal – for navigation, taking photos, videos, or researching travel tips. On days like this, you’ll want to have a backup battery for your phone. 

I’ve also relied on my power bank during long travel journeys when I use my phone and want to make sure I have enough juice to find my way to the next destination.

8. Change purse

Reliance on physical money is surprisingly still pretty high throughout Europe. Plus, having lots of €1 and €2 Euro coins is a good idea if you want to leave behind tips or donate to street musicians that you’ll see on your trip. 

9. The right shoes

For your backpacking Europe packing list, don’t forget to throw in a pair of rubber sandals for the hostel showers. You should also bring a pair of comfortable but stylish walking shoes. Some nightlife spots will require a certain dress code, but you can get away with leather-style sneakers. And women can get away with stylish looking flats that are secretly super comfortable.

10. Hostel survival kit

If you’ll be staying in hostels, don’t forget these 4 backpacking Europe essentials. We call it the hostel survival kit:

11. The Best Apps for Backpacking Europe

The Best Apps for Backpacking Europe

And lastly, before heading off for your European backpacking adventure, you should load up your phone with a few essential apps that will make backpacking Europe a breeze.

Apps to book transportation from place to place

Given the relatively compact size of Europe, you can travel between major cities by train or bus. There are a few useful apps for European transportation that can help make sure you find the best deal while sticking to your schedule.

  • Omio – compare trains, buses, and flight options in Europe and travel using mobile tickets
  • Trainline – a popular app in the UK to find train and bus tickets 
  • Flixbus – a long-distance bus company that is a favorite mode of travel for budget backpackers
  • Kiwi – a flight search comparison site that helps you find the lowest prices
  • Skyscanner – another classic flight search website that has powerful flexible search options

Apps for Finding Accommodation in Europe

Apps to book discounted activities and Skip the Line tickets

Apps to stay in touch with friends and family back home

If you don’t want to change to an international mobile plan, you can use these apps over free public WiFi to stay in touch with people back home.

Regardless of your travel style, Berlin is a must when backpacking around Europe. This city has something for everyone: history buffs, night owls, foodies. But between the history and the infamous modern Berlin vibe, how can possibly decide what to do in Berlin in 3 days?

After living here for 5 years, I have put together a list of things to do if you only have 3 days in Berlin, to make sure you get an authentic impression of the city. I share it with my friends who come to visit! Berlin’s storied past is one of the reasons I love this city, but I’ll also provide some ways for you to get off the tourist trail and see a glimpse of the real Berlin.

1. Get an Introduction to Berlin with a Free Walking Tour

If you have 3 days in Berlin, it’s definitely worth spending at least half a day soaking in the history. There’s no better way to get an introduction to Berlin’s important history than with a free walking tour. Sandemans is the most popular, and for good reason. In about 3 hours you’ll learn about Berlin’s role during WWII and how the Berlin Wall later divided the city in two. The historical center of Berlin is compact, and this walking tour will hit all the major highlights. It’s one of the first things you should do while backpacking in Berlin in order to get your bearings. During your tour, you’ll see the major highlights of central Berlin including the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie.

Don't miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

Don’t miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

2. Explore the Reichstag and Tiergarten (by Bike!)

During your 3 days in Berlin, you should rent a bike to explore the areas around the Reichstag and the Tiergarten. You can walk the symbolic glass dome of the Reichstag, but you’ll need to make reservations in advance. Continue deep into the Tiergarten, don’t miss the Victory Column (Siegessäule). End your bike tour with beers and snacks at the Cafe am Neuen See Biergarten, where you can rent a rowboat for one of the kitschy fun things to do in Berlin.

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

3. Spend an Evening at a Local Watering Hole

Whether you want a swanky cocktail bar, a grungy dive bar, or an outdoor Biergarten, Berlin has tons of options. Over the years I’ve selected a few favorites that I always recommend to my friends.

I love Monkey Bar on the rooftop of the 25 hours hotel. The bar gets its name from its view over the monkey habitats at the Berlin Zoo. This place has artisan cocktails, upscale bar snacks, and an unbeatable view over Berlin’s skyline. It’s one of my favorite viewpoints in the city and should definitely be on your list for your 3 days in Berlin.

If you’re looking for a locals-style bar, you have endless choices. You can find a large concentration of great bars on Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg or the area around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain. Some of my favorites are Mano Cafe, Das Hotel, Mein Haus am See. Keep in mind that most bars in Berlin still allow smoking inside, but if you do your research ahead of time, you can find some smoke-free options.

For an outdoor drink spot, my favorite place in Berlin is James Simon Park with its stunning view of the River Spree, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island. You can relax in a Biergarten chair and try a Berliner Weiße (a beer mixed with fruit flavor). While in the area, wander over to Mombijou park to watch the locals dancing Salsa.

While Berlin isn’t particularly known for Biergartens (it’s more of a Bavarian thing), you still have some great options. Schleussen Krug in the Tiergarten boasts organic Biergarten fare, Prater Garten in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg was the first and still-largest Biergarten in Berlin, and BRLO Brewery is a modern interpretation of a Biergarten serving craft brews and modern food pairings.

4. Eat a Delicious Brunch

Take advantage of each day you’re in Berlin to check out some great brunch spots around the city. You’ll wish you had a full week in Berlin to try them all! I love Napoljonska in Prenzlauer Berg, Distrikt Coffee in Mitte, or Restaurant Bastard in Kreuzberg. Some of our other favorites are Hallesches Haus or House of Small Wonder (make a reservation).

5. Mauerpark Flea Market

If you happen to be in Berlin on a Sunday, be sure to visit the Mauerpark Flea Market in the afternoon. More than a market, it’s like a music festival every weekend with buskers, the popular karaoke amphitheater, and people from all over the world picnicking in the park. An afternoon in Mauerpark is one of the quintessential things to do in Berlin, and it’s not to be missed.

6. Take Your Pick of UNESCO Museums on Museum Island

If you have 3 days in Berlin, you should spend at least some time exploring Museum Island, which is home to 5 (yes 5!) UNESCO World Heritage Museums. The Pergamon is the most visited art museum in Germany and features Babylonian and Islamic exhibits. The DDR Museum is a living-history time capsule displaying typical East Berlin life. Both Museums are along the river where you can later take a Spree River Cruise to see East and West Berlin from the water.

Berlin Cathedral Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island

7. Stroll Around an Iconic Berliner Kiez

Berlin is famous for its Kiez-culture (Kiez = neighborhood). During your 3 days in Berlin, you can window shop, people watch, and mingle with the locals for an afternoon in one of the bustling neighborhoods in Berlin. My favorite areas are:

  • Bergmannkiez in Kreuzberg
  • The area around Kastanienallee, Eberswalderstrasse, & Oderbergerstrasse in Prenzlauerberg
  • Wrangelkiez in Kreuzberg.

8. Sample Berlin’s Best Restaurants

Berlin is home to a growing foodie scene, and there is something for everyone from takeaway Döner Kebab to Michelin Star cuisine. During your 3 days in Berlin, be sure to explore the restaurant scene. Great options are The Bird (Burgers), Zula (Israeli), but seriously… don’t leave Berlin without a Döner Kebab– they were invented here!

9. Walk the East Side Gallery

Nowadays, most of the Berlin Wall itself is gone, but the border is still marked throughout the city by a line of bricks. You’ll likely cross between former East and West sides of the city multiple times during your 3 days in Berlin! If you want to see the longest stretch of the Wall still standing, you should visit the East Side Gallery, which is basically an outdoor museum using the Berlin Wall as an ever-changing canvas for artists. After walking 1.3 km/.8 mile stretch of mural-covered wall, cross the red Oberbaumbrücke bridge into the heart of Kreuzberg. Meander along Skalitzer Strasse toward Oranienburgerstrasse, and you’ll encounter more famous Berlin street art and get a taste of Kreuzberg. End your afternoon at Markthalle 9, a culinary smorgasbord.

Berlin Wall Street Art Mural Graffiti with Trabi Car. A quintessential thing to do in Berlin

Mural of the classic East German Trabi on the East Side Gallery

10. Go Clubbing

Clubbing in Berlin may require recovery time the next day– you won’t be home before sunrise if you want to do it right. If you only have 3 days in Berlin keep in mind that one full day will be spent recovering.

To start your evening in Berlin, head to an outdoor bar near the Spree River. Badeschiff is a beach bar named after its swimming pool, which floats in the river and is actually a repurposed boat.

If clubbing is at the top of your list of things to do while backpacking in Berlin, keep in mind that the door policies differ from club to club. Be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time. People start to trickle in around midnight, but the real action gets started around 2 or 3. Most of the famous clubs are near the Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn stop. You can try your luck at the notorious Berghain or head to other favorites Club Zur Wilde Renate or Ritter Butzke. Just don’t get too dressed up because the vibe is decidedly black T-Shirt

Berlin also has a steady rotation of themed dance parties around the city (Dirty Dancing 80s, Balkan Beats, Electro Swing, etc.). If techno isn’t your thing and you just want to let loose and dance, you can probably find all sorts of theme parties happening all around the city. You’ll see posters for parties like this all over the city, or you can check out Facebook events to see what’s happening.

And More…

If you’ve already hit the highlights during your 3 days in Berlin, and you’re looking for something further afield, spend some time checking out these awesome parks and day trips.

Tempelhofer Feld

The site of the supply airdrops and airlifts for West Berlin, this huge expanse is now an open park where Residents have created ‘installations’ such as community gardens and pop-up mini-golf courses. Best explored with a bike because it’s HUGE, on a weekend you can spot kite-surfing skateboarders, or families having barbecues. The old airport building at Tempelhoferfeld is currently home to many refugees and the park is the site of a regular ‘Schön, dass ihr da seid’ (Good to have you here) welcome barbecue.

Teufelsberg

Translated as ‘Devil’s Hill’ Teufelsberg is the site of Soviet-era spy tower station where the Americans listened in on East Berlin. The hill itself is man made – it’s built from the rubble of the city after WWII. The buildings still standing at Teufelsberg are covered with street art, and you can get lost meandering through the rooms which lead to the roof. A popular room is the echo room at the top of the towers.

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A 3 day itinerary for things to do in Berlin