Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect 24 Hours in Berlin! Berlin is one of the most culturally fascinating cities in Europe. I hope you like museums because we’re going to start with a whole island of them.
Then we’ll continue our 24 hours in Berlin by exploring the city by boat. Finally, we’ll have a cozy dinner of pig knuckle. If that doesn’t appeal to you, I’m not sure you’re ever going to like Germany!
24 Hours in Berlin
Where to Stay?
Berlin is the kind of city that has a hotel at every price range. I was on a strict budget when I spent 24 hours in Berlin, so I stayed at a hostel called Excellent Apartments Kreuzberg.
It was conveniently located next to the subway station, and even though it was a hostel, I got a private room to myself. Plus I loved staying in the funky Kreuzberg neighborhood. It reminded me of what the East Village back in New York City used to be like.
24 Hours in Berlin
What to Pack?
- A cell charger so you’ll still have plenty of battery on your cell phone by the time we get to the Spree River.
- My favorite guide book to Berlin.
- I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by some evil Steiff teddy bears on your 24 hours in Berlin.
24 Hours in Berlin
Morning: Pergamon Museum
The Pergamon Museum is the most visited art museum in Germany, so no 24 hours in Berlin is complete without it. The PM is mainly famous for its giant Turkish Pergamon Altar, as well as the stunning blue Babylonian Ishtar Gate and the ancient Turkish/Roman Market Gate of Miletus.
These are all Can’t-miss sights if you like things that are Middle Eastern and Very Large. If MEVL things aren’t enough for you, the museum also has impressive collections of antiquities and Islamic art.
Sometimes parts of The Pergamon Museum are closed for renovations. Since the objects are both Very Popular and Very Old, it seems they need to be cleaned from time to time. But even if everything isn’t available for viewing at once, I’m sure enough will be on display for your enjoyment.
Here are some of my favorites:
approximately top 5: the pergamon museum
1) The Gate of Miletus
This thing is big, old, and Roman, which I suspect is the opening line to a lot of Italian mother-in-law jokes! You can wander around here and try to figure out how it was that the ancient Romans knew so much about architecture and so little about pants.
2) Lionses! ROAR!
Then we have these two lions who either want to protect you from angry gods or eat you themselves. It’s hard to tell with ancient lions.
3) Bow to the gate of Ishtar, mortal!!!
The staggeringly huge and shockingly blue Ishtar Gate was the highlight of the museum for me, and possibly the highlight of all 24 hours in Berlin. It was built around 575 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II because he wanted to honor the Babylonian goddess Ishtar/show off his wealth and power/put a few more lions into this world.
The Ishtar gate used to be considered one of the Seven Wonders in the World, which is not too shabby when you consider how many wonders are in Berlin alone. In fact, the gate was too big for me to squeeze into one picture, but you can get an idea of its size here. Look how small that perfectly normal-sized person at the bottom looks!
Naturally, I spent a lot of time parading around under this gate, imagining that I was Ishtar and whispering “Perish, foolish mortal” at my fellow museum-goers while picturing myself zapping them to death with lightning.
When most women say they want to be treated like a goddess, they mean they want to be fed grapes by a beautiful, shirtless man. But I go in a little more for all-powerful destruction and mayhem.
4) The Islamic Art Collection
The highlight here is the Aleppo room, which is a room built by a Christian Syrian merchant in Aleppo, who was obviously raking in the Benjamins to be able to afford a sweet pad like this.
Fun Fact! Islamic art is noteworthy for its geometric and floral patterns. Just wander around and see how many you can find. There’s even some nice patterns on this door including calligraphy, which is another element often present in Islamic art.
24 Hour Tip
I suggest buying a Museumsinsel (Museum Island) regular ticket online here. Be sure to buy your ticket at least a day ahead of time. This way you can save money and still see both the Pergamon and Neues Museum in one day. Also, you can avoid hideous lines for buying same-day tickets outside.
Or if you just can’t deal with lines at all, you can book a Skip the Line tour to the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum right here. You’ll have plenty of time to do both on our 24 hours in Berlin.
24 Hours in Berlin
Afternoon: Neues Museum
The Neues Museum is another museum on Museum Island. It’s not as popular as the Pergamon Museum, but then what is? You should still visit during your 24 hours in Berlin, even though the Pergamon is the Regina George of German museums.
The Neues Museum houses a Prehistory collection and some other ancient artifacts, but almost everyone comes here hoping to see the Egyptian goods.
Keep in mind that many parts of the Neues Museum were destroyed during WWII bombings and had to be rebuilt. It is sad, but one thing that it’s very hard to do is feel sorry for Germany for getting bombed during World War II.
Ordinarily, I do not recommend seeing two museums in one day. However, here I make an exception because you can see the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum for one combined lowish price, their collections are similar enough that it almost feels like you’re visiting one large museum, and I find collections of ancient artifacts are a little easier on the brain than fine art museums.
Just switch your brain from Pergamon mode to Neues mode and you’ll be ready for…
Approximately top 5: busts in the neues museum
The most famous bust in the entire collection is the gloriously elegant painted bust of Nefertiti. Sadly, her room was so crowded that it was impossible for me to get a good photo of her without committing a most heinous murder. So I decided instead to take you on a hunt of some other fabulous busts in the museum.
2) A BEVY OF LOVELY AND ELEGANT LADIES
Why is there such an amazing collection of sculptures of African women in Germany of all places? I’m going to guess that colonialism has something to do with it. That’s generally a safe bet when it comes to museums.
3) LEOPOLD VON LEDEBUR (EEEEEEE!!!!!!)
Here we have a bust of German silent film star Leopold von Ledebur. I could find no reasonable explanation for his presence in the museum. Maybe the museum’s founder was just a really big Ledebur fan? But then, aren’t we all?
4) THE SCARIEST BUST IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD
There’s this guy, who I’m pretty sure is the ancient equivalent of an evil clown.
5) THE INCREDIBLE HULK, MINUS ONE NOSE
This fine fellow was labeled only as the “Berlin Green Head”. I hope that’s not the name his parents gave him, or I have to feel really sorry for this guy. It must be hard to go through life with a ridiculous name and no nose. Plus, I hear it’s not easy being green.
Going on a hunt for all the coolest busts in the Neues Museum should take you until the late afternoon. Now it’s time to get on the water!
24 Hours in Berlin
Late Afternoon: Boat Tour of the Spree
I would venture a guess that, unless you are German, you were unaware that the river in Berlin is called the Spree. Until my trip to Berlin, I would not have been able to name the major river in Berlin for one million Deutschmarks. I wonder why the Thames and the Seine have become so famous and yet the Spree does not loom so large in the global imagination.
Anyway, there’s no time like our 24 hours in Berlin to get to know the Spree’s charms. All you have to do is leave Museum Island and walk to the river. In the summer, there will be many operators offering tours of the River Spree that last about an hour.
You’ll be able to get an audioguide in several different languages, and obviously English is one of the most popular choices.
You will see many lovely sights on the boat tour, from the charming Tiergarten Park…
to the Reichstag building, where the German Parliament (the Bundestag) meets.
As you will also learn on the boat tour, the Reichstag building is the building shown in this picture, taken by the Soviets during their victory in the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II.
As the tour continues, you will see some older structures, such as the Weidendammer Bridge with its iron Imperial Eagle smack on top. Admit it, this is exactly what you picture when I say “German bridge”, isn’t it?
You will also see some newer structures, like the Ultra Modern Berlin Train Station, aka the Hauptbahnhof. This looks like the spot for some giant modern art installation/late night secret rave spot instead of a train station. I imagine everyone inside looking just like Dieter from Saturday Night Live.
24 HOUR TREASURE
For me, the most memorable sight were these white crosses left up in memorial for the people killed at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. It’s easy to forget all the sadness in Berlin’s history when you are strolling through the cosmopolitan, wealthy place that Berlin has become.
But then every once in a while something like these crosses appears and you are suddenly haunted by the memories of Berlin’s tragic past.
I’m sorry for making you feel sad when you were just trying to enjoy a harmless blog post. Let me make it up to you. It’s time to shake off the ghosts of history and grab some grub. Jawohl, Hamburgermeister!
24 Hours in Berlin
Dinner: Zur Letzen Instantz
Zur Letzen Instanz is the oldest restaurant in Berlin, dating to 1621. I had no idea that restaurants existed that long ago! Did they have amuse bouches and cocktails back then too? Actually come to think of it, amuse bouche doesn’t sound very German at all, does it?
According to the restaurant’s website, many famous people from Napoleon to Charlie Chaplin to a whole bunch of Germans I’ve never heard of have dined here. Good enough for us!
24 HOUR TIP
You must have a reservation to dine here. If you don’t, you will absolutely be turned away. I was here on a Tuesday evening, and it was still jam packed. I kind of felt like the waiter was rolling his eyes at all the folks who thought they could just walk in off the street. Don’t let this happen to you; make a reservation here.
24 HOUR TREASURE
You’re not coming here for molecular gastronomy; you’re coming here for hearty German fare. I suggest nomming the delectably fatty pork knuckle with sides of sweet and sour red cabbage and warm and fluffy potato dumplings.
It’s not beautiful to look at, but it tastes as German as Richard Wagner sitting on top of the Brandenburg Gate reading some Goethe.
An English language menu is available if you want more options to look at. I don’t suggest getting an appetizer because your main course is going to be more food than you can eat. I do suggest pairing your meal with a nice German beer. Any other choice would be vaguely insulting. And that’s no way to end your 24 hours in Berlin.
24 Hours in Berlin
How To Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest Haribo Color-Rado. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Berlin.
But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Berlin, and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Berlin at the best time of day. (Actually, I was already in Rome, so I flew from Rome to Berlin, which is even faster.)
You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your 24 hours in Berlin ASAP.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Berlin!
What would you do with 24 hours in Berlin? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Berlin now? And are you more the “being fed grapes by beautiful men” type of goddess or the “zapping strangers with mind lightning” goddess? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Berlin. Don’t miss my other 24 Hours in Berlin Itinerary with the Berlin Wall.