There’s so much more to Berlin than the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery! Here are 26 truly unique things to do in Germany’s capital city.
This post was originally published July 2021 and was updated August 2022.
Many visitors to Berlin come to experience the city’s techno scene or visit famous sites from WWII and the Cold War. While both are great reasons to come to Germany’s capital city, there’s so much more to do and see in Berlin than that.
Indeed, beyond the popular tourist attractions and hipster hotspots, a whole world of unique places to visit in Berlin beckons! In this post, you’ll find some truly unique things to do in Berlin. We’re going to go way off the beaten path to discover some quirky, fun, and sometimes downright weird experiences in Berlin.
This list of unusual things to do in Berlin have been vetted by me personally — I never recommend anything I haven’t experienced for myself. Whether you’re a tourist who’s in town for a few days or a local who’s looking for something new and exciting to do, you’re sure to discover something new with this list of non-touristy things to do in Berlin!
1. See the Brandenburg Gate Without Tourists
During the pandemic, I really got to know Berlin. And I think this is when I truly fell in love with the city. It was a (perhaps painful) reminder that I lived in a place that people flock to from all around the world.
On Christmas Day, I took the S-Bahn at 7am and went to see monuments like the Brandenburg Gate. It was awe-inspiring to see this Berlin icon without people! As a lover of photography, I was also able to get some great shots.
Now that things are — fortunately — opening up again, you can recreate this experience by waking up early and making your way to Pariser Platz. If you get there early enough, you can even catch the sunrise piercing through the gates. While the Brandenburg Gate itself isn’t a unique place in Berlin, seeing it at sunrise certainly is a unique experience!
2. Step Inside Berlin’s Courtyards
Berlin has many beautiful courtyards tucked away off major avenues. If you don’t know where to look, chances are you’ll miss them as you pass by. That’s what makes them so special!
In fact, a number of these Berlin courtyards have been silent witnesses to major historical events. For example, Sophienstr 18 (shown above) is where communist leader Karl Liebknecht called for a peaceful revolution in 1918. And Rosenthaler Str. 51 was used as a Soviet film set. The stories go on, waiting for passersby to discover them.
If you’re looking to go off the beaten path in Berlin, definitely take the time to research and find these hidden courtyards.
3. Uncover Berlin’s Forgotten History
While everyone knows when and where the Berlin Wall came down, some other major historical events seem to have fallen off the radar. Even the guidebooks don’t tend to mention that Berlin’s oldest airport now stands entirely abandoned. Or that the former KGB headquarters is located inside a Catholic university a few S-Bahn stops from Warschauer Str.
If you’re a history buff, you should definitely take the S3 to Karlshorst, just 20 minutes from Mitte. You’ll be able to discover the above-mentioned sights, as well as the spot where World War II came to an end in Europe.
Tip: The somber-looking villa where the Allies partied all night after Germany’s unconditional surrender is now a museum. (Admission is free.)
4. Visit Schloss Charlottenburg’s Sheep
Every summer, a herd of sheep take over the lawn-mowing in the sizable gardens around Charlottenburg’s castle.This is the same breed of sheep that grazed these pastures back in 1695, when the wife of Friedrich I, Sophie Charlotte, called the palace home.
Make an adventure out of trying to find where the sheep are located. They’re moved around every few days during the warmer months so that all of the meadows are mowed equally, in the most sustainable fashion that exists.
Tip: You have to pay to enter Schloss Charlottenburg, but the gardens and park behind the castle are free.
5. Meet the Horses and Ponies
Berlin may be a major metropolis, but you’ll find plenty of spots to reconnect with rural living. You might even think you’ve accidentally stumbled into the countryside.
If you wander to the back of the modern Carlsgarten development in Karlshorst, you’ll find yourself facing a dozen stables. The resident horses usually spend their days outside, so you aren’t likely to miss them. Locals sometimes bring a picnic and sit down for a while to observe their four-legged neighbors.
Tip: For an added dose of cuteness, head over to the other side of the stables where the ponies are kept.
6. Pay Homage to the First Berlin Wall
People in Germany — and indeed around the world — are familiar with the Berlin wall. However, even longtime locals sometimes don’t know that Berlin has a much older wall. Berlin’s original city wall, dating back to the 13th century, has now been mostly removed, but you’ll still be able to see a section of it just steps from Alexanderplatz.
If you’re interested in Berlin’s distant past, you’ll enjoy a stroll alongside the city’s original fortifications, which happen to be set next to Berlin’s oldest pub, Zur Letzten Instanz (operational since 1621).
7. Visit Berlin’s Old Towns: Spandau and Köpenick
Berlin is not Germany, people always say. And this is true for the most part. However, you will find half-timbered houses and picturesque village scenery if you know where to look.
In the westernmost borough of Spandau, you’ll find a network of cobblestone streets and fairytale homes that will plunge you back three centuries in time. Spandau’s Altstadt is quite compact but definitely still has its village flair.
In East Berlin, Köpenick awaits, with its beautiful old town lining the waterfront (see photo above). As you amble along those charming streets, it won’t be hard to imagine what life was like in the 18th century. Köpenick also has a palace turned art museum if you’d like to add some culture to your excursion.
Exploring the city’s Old Towns is one of my personal favorite unique Berlin experiences!
8. Take the Regional Train to the Edge of Town
Perhaps one of the most underrated things to do in Berlin is to hop on a regional train and see where it takes you, making sure to get off at the last stop in the greater Berlin region (known as Zone C).
One day, I had time to kill and was feeling restless, so I jumped on a train at Zoologischer Garten and got off in Erkner. This is how I discovered the canals of Neu Venedig (or New Venice), had excellent Vietnamese food, and went for a nice long walk through a forest.
The double decker regional trains (called Regio Bahn) are much more comfortable than the S-Bahn, with bigger seats, some even supporting laptop trays and plugs. Once you hop aboard, you’ll get that vacation feeling in no time!
Tip: Please note that you need to purchase a Berlin ABC ticket before boarding, which costs roughly 40 cents more than the normal Berlin AB transit ticket.
9. Discover Kleingarten Culture
Kleingartenanlage are everywhere, some more extensive than others. Every Berlin district has them — colonies of small gardens where German families come to relax on weekends (or work hard to take care of their plants!).
I love getting lost in the intricate paths of Kleingartenanlage, some of which have trails no wider than a meter between tall hedges. In the summer, makeshift bars pop up at times, where you can drink wine and enjoy the sun with the locals.
There are no specific addresses to these hidden bars. You’ll just have to wander through your local Kleingartenanlage and see what’s going on for yourself!
10. Take Bus Line 100
If you’d like a non-touristy recap of Berlin’s top sights, you can simply go for a ride on Bus 100. The public bus line begins at the Zoologischer Garten station and ends at Alexanderplatz.
Along the way, you’ll see Berlin icons such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Victory Column in the Tiergarten (shown above), Bellevue Palace, the Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, the Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower.
Do not expect guided commentary as you ride through the city, but aside from that you can sit on the upper level of a double decker bus and take in Berlin’s most famous sights for a fraction of a tour bus fee.
11. Visit Berlin’s Pink Palace
Berlin’s Schloss Biesdorf is an Italian Renaissance-style palace that is indeed very pink. This is the perfect location for photoshoots away from the crowds, set in lovely gardens.
Built in 1868, the small palace was soon sold by its aristocratic owners to the Siemens family to pay off gambling debts. It was heavily bombed during World War II, but has since been fully restored and now serves as a museum.
12. Kayak in “Little Venice”
Explore Venice … without leaving Berlin! Tucked away in the sleepy Spandau neighborhood you’ll find Klein-Venedig, or Little Venice. Klein-Venedig is a collection of winding canals that snake their way past garden plots and family homes.
Because the homes and gardens are all privately owned, you can only appreciate the full beauty of the area via the canal system. My suggestion? Rent a kayak and get paddling!
There are a few different boat and kayak rental companies in the area, all with fair prices of around 30 Euros per two-person kayak per day. It takes about 30 minutes to paddle around Klein-Venedig, and from there you can take to the open water and paddle in the direction of Wannsee.
There are lots of little beaches scattered along the river banks, so keep an eye out for a prime picnic and swimming spot. This is Berlin off the beaten path at its finest!
13. Stock Up at the Largest Turkish Market in Berlin
The weekly Turkish market along the Maybachufer is the largest in the entire city. Open only on Tuesdays and Fridays, the market sells everything from fresh fruit and veggies to prepared foods to Turkish-style coffee to fresh pressed juices.
There are also a number of stalls selling handmade goods as well as bolts of cloth.
If you actually want to load up on groceries, get to the market as close to opening time (11am) as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds. If you’ll just be casually browsing or maybe want to get a hot lunch to-go, your timing won’t really matter.
Tip: The closest U-Bahn station to the market is U-Schönleinstraße. You can also get to the market via U-Kottbusser Tor.
14. Get Lost in the Stacks of “Another Country”
There are many wonderful English language bookstores in Berlin, but a hidden gem is Another Country in Kreuzberg. This second hand bookstore is overflowing with books — literally. The last time I visited I knocked over not one, but two stacks of books (oops!).
If you prefer bookstores with neatly ordered shelves with clear labels on them … don’t come here. This bookstore is hectic, but that’s what makes it so fun to visit!
The books are very broadly grouped into genres, but otherwise it’s nigh impossible to find just what you’re looking for. The staff is incredibly friendly though and whoever’s manning the front desk is always down to chat all things books with you.
What sets Another Country apart from other second-hand bookstores in Berlin (besides its beautifully chaotic setup) is that it operates as a bookstore and library. Now, there’s no checkout system that regulates your book “loans,” but it’s recommended that you return books at some point in the future so they can find a loving home with someone new. You’ll get a few Euros back whenever you return Another Country’s books.
15. Swap Books at a Phone Booth Library
Can you tell I’m an avid reader? If you keep an eye out during the summer and fall, you’re likely to find more than a few phone-booths-turned-little-libraries scattered around the city.
There’s no official map of these phone booth libraries, so I can’t tell you where exactly to find them. I know for sure there’s one at Mierendorffplatz in Charlottenburg, as well as one at Leon-Jessel-Platz in Wilmersdorf. Beyond those two, you’re on your own!
I did, however, find this article with 12 little libraries listed. If you find any more near where you live, PLEASE leave me a comment on this post so I can track it down myself! I love quirky things like this.
Tip: Phone booth libraries are totally free, but it’d be mighty kind of you to put one or more of your own books into the library if you plan on taking one out.
16. Attend a Free Philharmonic Concert
One of my favorite free things to do in Berlin (as well as a non-touristy activity!) is attending the lunchtime concerts at the Philharmonic. Every Wednesday at 1pm between September and June, the Berlin Philharmonic performs a free lunchtime concert.
The concerts last a little less than an hour and feature performers from the Philharmonic, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester and the Staatskapelle Berlin. As the name suggests, you’re welcome to bring your lunch with you to the concert!
17. Travel to the Future at the Futurium
How best to describe this unusual Berlin activity? The Futurium is marketed as a “House of Futures.”
Upon checking into the exhibit, you’re given a wristband. This wristband assigns you a person in the future, and you then learn more about who “you” are and how future developments will affect you.
Basically, the Futurium is one big thought experiment that’s intended to make you question your actions today so you can help create the future you want. This is an especially fun place to visit with friends since the various exhibits really get you thinking!
Tip: Be sure to go to the very top of the Futurium’s building. The view from the rooftop is incredible!
18. Eat Your Way Through Arminiusmarkthalle
Many Berliners are familiar with the food hall Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg, but did you know there’s a nearly identical food hall in Moabit? Arminiusmarkthalle was first opened in December 1891 and was the city’s tenth ever food hall.
Like Berlin’s other food halls, Arminiusmarkthalle boasts an array of eateries, cafes, fresh produce stands, and other specialty food stalls. There’s a gorgeous bar area on one end of the food hall, plus a nice American-style bbq place that really hits the spot whenever I’m missing home.
19. Get Inspired to Declutter at the “Museum of Things”
The Museum der Dinge is as off the beaten path as it comes in Berlin. In this small museum, everyday objects from the past and present are cross examined to better illustrate Germany’s product culture.
What I just wrote sounded very scientific and impressive, but in reality the museum feels more like a hoarder’s backroom. There’s so much stuff to look at! Nothing is labeled in detail, but there are years on most objects and it’s really interesting to see how normal things like tea cups and phones have evolved over the last century(ish).
There’s even a fully rebuilt Frankfurt kitchen from the 1920’s! (Consider it the ‘20s version of today’s DIY Ikea kitchens.)
20. Have a Pink Floyd Night at the Planetarium
While leaning flat on your back in the stargazing chairs, soothing projections are cast onto the domed ceiling while the entire Pink Floyd album plays on surround sound. Yes, it’s as odd as it sounds but it’s also incredibly relaxing. And the music is great!
21. Enjoy the Epic View From Atop the Humboldt Forum
The Humboldt Forum is part museum, part cultural center, part exhibition space and it also has a restaurant and viewing terrace on the very top of the building.
From the rooftop of the Humboldt Forum, you can see the Berlin Cathedral, the TV tower, and so much more! I visited the roof terrace near sunset and was treated to a very romantic view of the city.
If you have time after visiting the rooftop, poke your nose around the rest of the Humboldt Forum! It opened summer 2021 and as such is still one of the underrated things to do in Berlin.
22. Travel to France at Neukölln’s Körnerpark
A short walk from S + U Neukölln is a stunning Parisian-esque park called Körnerpark. The park was completed in 1916 and was built on the site of a former gravel pit of all things, so you have to walk down some steps and past a bubbling tiered fountain to reach the lawn.
There’s an orangery on site that has been turned into a free art gallery as well as plenty of lawn space to stretch out and read a good book!
23. Visit the Ruins of Anhalter Bahnhof
Anhalter Bahnhof used to be one of Germany’s most important railway stations. Building on the station began in 1839. It wasn’t large at first, but as train travel became more popular the station had to be renovated to accommodate the increasing demand.
By 1872, Anhalter Bahnhof was not only the largest railway station in Germany, but also the largest in continental Europe! It soon became known as Germany’s “Gateway to the South,” owing to the fact that it had lines stretching to Prague, Vienna, Rome, and Athens.
Years later, the station was the site of mass deportations during WWII, and it’s thought that one-third of Berlin’s Jewish population was deported via Anhalter Bahnhof.
So…what happened to the largest railway station in Germany? It was bombed during WWII and was eventually shut down entirely when the Soviets took control of Berlin.
What you see today is merely the center portion of the station’s facade. It was saved solely because Berliners wanted to retain some part of this historic building when it was demolished in 1960.
Tip: There’s a modern day subway station of the same name. If you pop up aboveground, you’ll find the ruins of the old station next to a sporting arena. Definitely one of the more unusual places to visit in Berlin!
24 – 26. Unique Day Trips From Berlin
Two of the best-known and most popular day trips from Berlin are Leipzig and Hamburg. But this is a list of unique things to do in Berlin, so might I suggest some unusual day trip options from the city?
Here are some underrated day trips from Berlin that are a little more off the beaten path!
Day Trip to Potsdam … for Hot Chocolate!
I realize that Potsdam is probably the best known day trip from Berlin owing to the fact that you can travel there via Berlin’s public transportation. But most people who visit Potsdam go to see Sanssouci Palace and the surrounding park.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret — Potsdam is home to the best hot chocolate in the world! La Maison du Chocolat in Potsdam’s Dutch Quarter serves up the richest, thickest, creamiest hot chocolate known to man.
The entire experience feels so luxurious, and their quaint cafe feels like the set of a black and white film. Enjoy your hot chocolate plain, with whipped cream, or stir your favorite liqueur into it.
Tip: You can order the regular hot chocolate year-round, but they also offer an Eisschokolade in the summer!
Day Trip to Brandenburg an der Havel
Known for its Gothic, red brick buildings and its idyllic location along the banks of the river Havel, Brandenburg an der Havel is a charming town just one hour away from Berlin.
There’s not much to see and do here in the way of tourist attractions — because this isn’t really a tourist destination! — but the town center is nice to walk around and there are plenty of cute side streets to explore. Check out my full guide to Brandenburg an der Havel for a complete list of things to do and see!
Day Trip to Ludwigslust
Ludwigslust is a hidden gem just one hour outside of Berlin via the ICE train. The main draw of a day trip to Ludwigslust is Schloss Ludwigslust (Ludwigslust Castle). Known as the “Versailles of the North,” the castle was originally built as a hunting lodge by the same family who lived in Schwerin Castle.
The castle’s grounds and the Stadtkirche (church) are the two other attractions in Ludwigslust. The church is actually very impressive because instead of the usual painted altarpiece, it has a massive altar made out of papier-mâché!
Ludwigslust is teeny tiny, so one day is perfect for visiting.
Has Your Curiosity Been Piqued?
Berlin is a city of endless secrets, and what is off the beaten path to one person may be the ultimate attraction to another. Still, I hope that these underrated things to do in Berlin will help you discover new and different facets of the German capital.
I have no doubt that there are MANY more unique things to do in Berlin, so please leave me a comment below letting me know what activities you think I should add to this list. I’m always looking for recommendations from readers!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to keep up with my daily adventures in Berlin and beyond!
Even More Fun Things to Do in Berlin:
- 20+ Free Things to Do in Berlin, Germany
- The Top 10 Things to Do in Berlin
- My Favorite Summer Activities in Berlin
- …all of my Germany posts!
This was originally a guest post written by Marguerite of Berlin & Around. It has since been updated with new information and photos by me.