Alexanderplatz is at the heart of Berlin and is a must-see spot for first-time visitors to the city. Here are the top things to do, see, and eat at Alexanderplatz!
The main attraction at Alexanderplatz is undoubtedly the TV Tower (Fernsehturm), which is one of the best-known sites in the entire city after the Brandenburg Gate. However, there’s more to do at Alexanderplatz than ascend the Soviet-era TV tower.
This guide will walk you through the top things to do in and around Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. All of the nearby attractions mentioned in this post are no more than a 15-minute walk away.
In terms of aesthetics, I’ll be brutally honest — Alexanderplatz isn’t much to look at. During the Cold War it served as the center of East Berlin, and the low-cost, no-nonsense architecture of the Communist government has had a lasting impression on the square.
However, Alexanderplatz is historically one of the most important places in Berlin and is absolutely worth visiting. So even if Alexanderplatz itself isn’t your favorite, remember that it’s the beating heart of the city and there’s lots more to do in the area!
Table of Contents
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Getting to Alexanderplatz
Getting to Alexanderplatz is very simple! Many bus, train, subway, and tram lines stop at Alexanderplatz. Use the following lines to reach Alexanderplatz:
- U-Bahn: U2, U5, U8
- S-Bahn: S3, S5, S7, S9
- Tram: M4, M5, M6
- Bus: 100, 142, 200, 248 plus many more!
A Brief History of Alexanderplatz
Until the 1850s Alexanderplatz served as a military parade and training ground. In the 1880s, it was transformed into a transportation hub.
Until WWII Alexanderplatz also served as the site of Berlin’s main shopping center, but during the war the area was largely destroyed.
After WWII ended and Germany was divided, Alexanderplatz became the center of East Berlin (part of the German Democratic Republic, or GDR). In the 1960s, it was transformed into a pedestrian zone (which it remains to this day) and it was also during the GDR era that the iconic TV tower was built.
On November 4, 1989, an estimated 1 million East Germans converged on Alexanderplatz to protest the GDR government. (Note that the Berlin Wall fell just five days later!)
Today Alexanderplatz is a major transportation hub in the center of the city. Many tram, subway, bus, and train lines converge here, so there are always crowds of people bustling to and fro.
The East German / Soviet influence is still felt in and around Alexanderplatz – it’s not the prettiest place, but historically it’s one of the most important in the city and therefore one of the most fascinating to visit.
Things to Do at Alexanderplatz
In this section, you’ll find the top things to do at Alexanderplatz. If you go up the TV tower, you could spend around 2 hours at Alexanderplatz, but otherwise you need maybe an hour to walk around and see everything. It’s not a huge place!
Fernsehturm (TV Tower)
No matter where you are in Berlin, you’re almost guaranteed to see the TV Tower soaring above the buildings. It’s the most prominent feature of the city’s skyline and is the thing to see at Alexanderplatz.
The TV tower (Fernsehturm) is a relic left over from the Soviet occupation of East Berlin.
The construction of the TV tower served a few purposes:
- To broadcast Soviet-approved TV programs across East Berlin.
- To show the world how technologically advanced the German Democratic Republic / Soviets were.
- To showcase socialism on a larger scale.
Look carefully at the TV tower when you’re in Alexanderplatz. The ball on top of the TV tower was meant to resemble the Soviet space shuttle, Sputnik, and it used to light up red at night (the color of socialism).
You can pay to go up the tower for a stunning view of Berlin. There’s also a rotating restaurant at the top, although I’ve also listed some places to eat near Alexanderplatz at the end of this post.
Weltzeituhr (World Clock)
The World Clock at Alexanderplatz was paid for and installed under the East German government in the ‘60s.
The 24 time zones of the world are represented on the clock, although after it was restored following the fall of the Berlin Wall some of the cities had to be removed or rearranged because they’d been listed under the improper time zones!
Look for the model of the solar system atop the World Clock.
And although you can’t see it, know that the motor that runs the hour chime is an old Trabant engine (the Trabant, or Trabi, was the main car that East Germans had access to; they were essentially pieces of crap on wheels).
Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft (Fountain of Friendship Between Nations)
Not much to say about this fountain in the center of Alexanderplatz except that it officially opened in 1970. You’ll notice lots of people sitting around the fountain reading, chatting with friends, or waiting for a guided tour to begin.
Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall)
The Rotes Rathaus is a stunning red brick building that still serves as Berlin’s city hall. It’s here that the mayor and Berlin senate conduct business.
Like many of the city’s famous landmarks, the Rotes Rathaus you see today was largely reconstructed following WWII.
Although it’s a functioning city hall, you’re welcome to visit it (for free!) Monday to Friday between 9am and 6pm. There are 247 rooms in total, but only a few are open to the public.
Tip: You might want to call the city hall ahead of time to see if it’s open for visitors. Because it’s a functioning government building it’s prone to last-minute closures due to state events.
Neptunbrunnen (Neptune Fountain)
The prettier of the two fountains at Alexanderplatz, the Neptunbrunnen sits in the middle of an open square between the Rotes Rathaus and the St. Marienkirche.
Believe it or not, this was not the original location of the Neptunbrunnen. It was moved to its current location in 1969, but it was originally the fountain in front of the Berlin Palace (which no longer stands; the Humboldt Forum now sits on that site).
During Advent, there’s a small but picturesque ice rink that wraps around the base of the fountain. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Alexanderplatz during Christmas market season!
St. Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church)
On the same square as the Neptunbrunnen and the Rotes Rathaus is St. Mary’s Church. It’s one of the oldest churches in Berlin and is believed to have been built around the 1250’s.
This red brick Gothic-style church is best known for its 22-meter long fresco titled the “Dance of Death.” The fresco is sadly now in fragments, but it’s unsurprising considering it dates back to the 1480’s!
Note that I upped the saturation a bit on the photo of the fresco (above right). It was hard to photograph since it’s behind glass and, you know, it’s old and very faded. But for photography purposes I wanted to highlight the colors!
Alexanderplatz Fall Activity: Festival of Lights
Each fall — usually around end of September / early October — Berlin’s most iconic landmarks are spectacularly lit up. I’m not talking about regular spotlights, though; oh no, I’m talking about light art.
The Festival of Lights runs for just one week, and roughly 70 monuments, buildings, and attractions around Berlin — including the TV tower at Alexanderplatz! — are lit up between 8pm to midnight.
Alexanderplatz Winter Activity: Christmas Markets
There are two Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz during Advent, one is the Alexanderplatz Christmas Market and the other is the Berliner Weihnachtszeit in front of the Rotes Rathaus.
Both Christmas markets open during the last week of November and typically run until after Christmas. The Alexanderplatz Christmas Market is more touristy and isn’t one of my favorites — but if you’re here during Advent you might as well walk around.
However, the Christmas market at the Rotes Rathaus is one of my all-time faves in Berlin!
Things to Do Near Alexanderplatz
Once you’ve done all the things to do in Alexanderplatz, it’s time to go exploring! The following attractions near Alexanderplatz are 15 minutes or less away by foot, so they’re very easy to reach.
Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter)
Despite being less than 10 minutes from Alexanderplatz, the Nikolaiviertel doesn’t seem to be on many people’s itineraries.
This area is the oldest residential quarter of the city. Although it looks very old, it was actually rebuilt following WWII to celebrate Berlin’s 750th birthday in 1987!
In the center of the Nikolaiviertel stands the Nikolai Church. You can go inside to see an exhibit on the history of the quarter.
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
Everyone who visits me in Berlin gets taken to the Cathedral because it’s incredibly beautiful inside and offers a birds-eye view of Berlin from the roof (with an unparalleled view of the TV tower, might I add!).
A visit to the Baroque-style Cathedral includes entrance to the nave, the Hohenzollern crypt beneath the church, a small exhibit on the first floor detailing the architectural plans of the church, and a view of Berlin from the top of the church.
If the weather is bad, you might be tempted to skip the view from the top of the cathedral, but I encourage you to brave the elements for a few minutes because the view is spectacular!
Museumsinsel (Museum Island)
Berlin’s Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to five world-renowned museums. If you’re unsure what to do near Alexanderplatz, spend the afternoon at Museum Island!
You can purchase a combined ticket that lets you into all the museums, which is a good option if you’re traveling on a budget. However, there’s no way you can visit all five museums in a day.
If you want to make a day of it, I recommend getting to the Alte Nationalgalerie right when it opens since a long line forms later in the day. From there, take things at your own pace — all the museums are nestled right next to each other and are easy to walk to.
Even if you don’t have the time or budget to go into the museums, you should still visit Museum Island to enjoy the architecture. While you’re there, find a spot to lay out on the grass in front of the Cathedral (called the Lustgarten). It’s the perfect place to relax after visiting Alexanderplatz!
The Humboldt Forum is part museum, part cultural center, part exhibition space and it also has a viewing terrace on the very top of the building. Best of all, it’s free to enter!
You can explore the Humboldt Forum at your own pace, or you can sign up to take a guided tour, attend a lecture, or attend a live demonstration (such as a Japanese tea ceremony).
The top two floors house exhibitions on the history of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas, explained through the lens of colonialism and its lasting impact on each region.
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden is the city’s best-known boulevard, and many of the city’s top attractions can be found along it since it runs from the Cathedral (Dom) all the way to the Brandenburg Gate.
Unter den Linden derives its name from the linden trees that line the boulevard. In the spring when the trees are in bloom, the street is spectacular!
You can easily walk all the way from Alexanderplatz, along Unter den Linden, to the Brandenburg Gate. From the Cathedral, the boulevard is roughly 1.5 kilometers long and you’ll need about 30 minutes to reach the gate.
Along the way, keep an eye out for: the Staatsoper (Royal Opera House), Humboldt University, the Neue Wache (it looks like a church, but it’s a memorial to the victims of war and dictatorship), the German History Museum (housed in the former arsenal building), and more!
A short walk from Alexanderplatz is Hackescher Markt, one of the city’s most popular shopping areas.
There’s a market held just outside of the S-Hackescher Markt station every Thursday and Saturday. It’s a good place to buy locally-made products and handicrafts as well as get a cheap bite to eat.
Be sure to check out the Hackesche Höfe (above right) as well. They’re a series of eight courtyards that all house local designers and shops.
Generally speaking, Hackescher Markt is a fun, quirky area to hang out near the city center with lots of shopping and food options!
Once the site of an opulent rococo palace called Monbijou Palace, Monbijoupark is a popular hangout spot on the banks of the River Spree. It’s situated between Hackescher Markt and Museum Island.
Many locals gather here to read, picnic, drink a beer with friends, or sunbathe in the summer. It’s also one of my favorite spots to see cherry blossoms in the spring!
Berlin’s Baylon Theater was built in 1929 as a silent movie cinema. Today, it’s the oldest movie theater in the world that still houses its own orchestra!
The Babylon no longer shows exclusively silent films, but that’s what it’s best known for. Be sure to catch a performance of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis if it’s scheduled. It’s one of the best known German films and continues to influence movie production to this day!
Shopping Options at Alexanderplatz
You have a few large shopping centers and stores around Alexanderplatz. The main shopping options to know about include:
- Galeria — A popular department store chain that sells pretty much any clothing item or homeware you need.
- TK Maxx — Known as TJ Maxx in the States.
- Humana — A popular second-hand clothing chain. The location at Alexanderplatz is quite large.
- Alexa Berlin — A shopping mall with lots of budget to mid-range chain stores.
Where to Eat Near Alexanderplatz
If you want to eat food that’s actually tasty and not overpriced, you’ll need to walk a few minutes away from Alexanderplatz. You can find some chain food options right on the square, but here are my recommendations for restaurants near Alexanderplatz:
- Einstein Kaffee (Alexanderplatz 3) — A chain coffee shop with drinks at a decent price and light snacks.
- Hofbräu Wirtshaus Berlin (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 30) — A popular Bavarian beer hall chain that started in Munich. It’s a good place to come for a typical German meal. Think: bratwurst, potato dumplings, and schnitzel.
- What Do You Fancy Love? (Linienstraße 41) — A local Berlin cafe that does a cracking chai tea latte. Their sandwiches are also good!
- Banh Mi Stable (Alte Schönhauser Str. 50) — €5.50 will get you the best banh mi Vietnamese sandwich EVER. There are meat and veggie options, and you can get the sandwich to go if desired.
- Zeit für Brot (Alte Schönhauser Str. 4) — A popular Berlin bakery chain with mouth watering cinnamon buns, various breads and rolls, and pre-made sandwiches. Sit down or grab and go.
- Pho Co (Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 20) — A no-frills Vietnamese place with good food at reasonable prices.
- Nikolaiviertel area — This quarter does have a few overpriced places but it’s the closest option to Alexanderplatz on this list of restaurants if you need food ASAP. There are some cute cafes here as well as sit-down restaurants.
Viel Spaß am Alexanderplatz!
Now that you know what to do at Alexanderplatz, I hope you make the most of your visit! If you have any questions about things to do in the area, feel free to leave me a comment below.
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