Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect one day in Berlin itinerary! Get ready to take a walk on the alternative side when we visit East Berlin, aka the artist formerly known as Communist Berlin.
Remember that East Berlin was the poorer half of the city, so its citizens needed to get creative when it came to having fun. East Berlin still has a strong alternative tradition of street art, music, and outsider communities. But any perfect one day in Berlin itinerary here has to start with its main attraction The East Side Gallery, which is all that is left of the Berlin Wall.
Let’s not waste any time! The Berlin Wall isn’t going to get watched by itself! Our one day in Berlin itinerary begins now!
One Day in Berlin Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Since we’ve established that East Berlin is more on the edgy side of town, why not try hosteling in style for your one day in Berlin itinerary at the Excellent Apartments Kreuzberg? Kreuzberg is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Berlin, so you’ll meet a ton of fun people in the shared spaces at this hostel. But it’s also totally possible to get a private room to yourself here, like I did.
If you want to join me at these apartments with tons of cool people and good times, click here. And if you hate cool people and good times and would rather explore other great deals for a hotel on your one day in Berlin itinerary, click here.
One Day in Berlin Itinerary
What to Pack?
- Sandals that are cute enough for adventuring around such a cool neighborhood, but sturdy enough to keep you comfy on your one day in Berlin itinerary.
- Waterproof boots that will keep you looking stylish even if it rains on your one day in Berlin itinerary.
- A cell charger so your phone won’t run out of power while you take as many pictures of the East Side Gallery as you can.
- A rain jacket with a hood because you don’t want the rain to stop you from enjoying the alternative side of Berlin.
- An umbrella because ditto! No German rain clouds will slow down your one day in Berlin itinerary.
- My favorite guide book to Berlin.
- Goodbye Lenin!, an outstanding German comedy about the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Yes, it’s actually funny.)
- Bridge of Spies, a thrilling true story about Cold War-era Berlin. Yes, Tom Hanks made an Oscar-winning film based on this book, in case you are too lazy to read, Internet Stranger!
One Day in Berlin Itinerary
Morning: East Side Gallery
Our one day in Berlin itinerary starts here! The East Side Gallery is all that remains of the Berlin Wall that used to separate Communist East Berlin from Democratic West Berlin. It has since been covered with murals celebrating the struggle for freedom.
I would say that the East Side Gallery is the number one thing you must be sure to see in Berlin. It is a powerful symbol of the power of hope, art, and love to fight oppression and terror. Regular readers of this blog will know that I tend to sarcasm, but the East Side Gallery knocked all that out of me, at least momentarily.
But don’t worry! The sarcasm doesn’t stay away for long. Let’s have a dash of irony with our main course of “triumph of the human spirit” as we explore the…
approximately top five: the east side gallery
1) “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love”
This is a painting by Dmitri Vrubel based on a real photograph of a fraternal kiss between Leonid Brezhnev, then leader of the USSR, and Erich Honecker, then leader of the GDP (Communist East Germany).
Apparently this was a fairly common way for socialist leaders to greet each other, but to those of us who are not socialist leaders, the image is surprising. I suppose the image and title are meant to underline the oppressive effects of the close relationship between the USSR and East Germany on the ordinary people of East Germany.
I must say that I do get an icky feeling when I look at the picture because a giant closeup of two old people kissing is flattering to no one. In the movie I think Ben Affleck and Matt Damon should play Brezhnev and Honecker, and then this would be much dreamier.
2) Vaterland by Gunther Schafer
As a Jewish girl, I found it touching to see the German and Israeli flags combined in this way. It’s remarkable to think of what the sight of a Jewish star would have meant in Berlin just 75 years ago. Every time I get depressed thinking about how horrible people can be to each other, a sight like this can give me faith that we’re capable of making some progress as a species.
I am curious about the choice to write “Free Palestine” on this mural specifically.
3) “International Walls” by Alexej Taranin
I liked this one mostly because of that cute rabbit in a rocking chair. He seems so happy! Can’t we all just love each other and make the big bunny smile?
4) “All Open” by Rosemarie Schinzler
The doves are lovely, but I’ve never seen doves that could lift up the Brandenburg Gate before. Those must be some pretty strong doves!
5) “Amour, Paix” by Herve Morlay
If you’d asked me who the last person whose image I would expect to see on the Berlin Wall was, I might have answered, “French film actor Jean Reno”. And yet here he is in glorious red and purple. Life is just full of lovely surprises.
Full disclosure: I actually know Jean Reno’s wife and kids. No, I will not tell you why. Get used to disappointment, Internet Stranger!
6) Klingenstein’s “Detour to the Japanese Sector”
The idea of a Japanese Sector is certainly intriguing. After WWII, Berlin was divided into different sectors, each controlled by a different country. The main sectors were the British, American, French, and Soviet sectors. Of course, there was no Japanese sector as Japan had also lost WWII and wasn’t likely to be given a piece of Germany.
But this image represents Klingenstein’s childhood desire to escape from East Berlin and explore the outside world. Apparently Klingenstein did get to live his dream and travel in Asia, so yay for stories with happy endings.
7) Gabriel Heimler’s “The Wall Jumper”
I love the striking look of the jumper’s elongated legs and prominent facial features. Perhaps he’s the most vivid person in the picture because he’s the one taking the risk to jump for freedom. The people staying behind look like indistinguishable blobs.
8) “It Happened in November” by Kani Alavi
Here we have an opposite effect, where all the people streaming through the Berlin Wall come together in a sea of colorful humanity. This mural makes one reflect on the connectedness of all mankind. As the song says, “One of us are chained, none of us are free, some of us have blue faces”.
9) “Tolerance” by Mary Mackey
Finally, a mural by an American. USA, USA, USA! Also I wish I could get my lips to hang off my face like that.
24 Hour Tip
Keep an eye out for any interesting buskers along the Berlin Wall. For example, I met a guy aptly named The Neighkid Horse. Please remember that if you are going to take a busker’s picture, you should give him/her some money. That’s just polite.
He was cool, but I want to point out that he’s wearing little pants behind his guitar, so he should really be called the Semi Neighkid Horse.
10) Lunch at YAAM
YAAM has nothing to do with a misspelled sweet potato. YAAM stands for the Young African Art Market. As you would expect from the name, there are often art shows or music performances going on here. Check their events schedule for more details. YAAM also has its own “BEACH” pictured above that makes for a lovely spot to sit and relax.
But we are not here for the beach at the moment! We are here to eat! As soon as you enter YAAM, you will see plenty of shacks selling different kinds of food, from Jamaican to West African.
I chose a West African stand and ordered an amazing plate of deliciousness called the Sweet Mama. The trilingual chef (German, English, and French) chatted me up by asking me questions about my trip before presenting me with this beauty.
This fabulous melange consisted of spicy chicken wings over plantains covered with a fragrant peanut sauce. It was one of the best things I ate on my trip through Europe and it only cost about 7 Euros. Just be sure to get water with it! The flavor has a bit of kick so you’ll need some liquid.
24 Hour Tip
YAAM is a fun place to hang out and you may want to return here later on your one day in Berlin itinerary. But keep in mind that you’ll have to finish your lunch rather early. Our next stop begins at 12:30 on the dot. Let’s go!
One Day in Berlin Itinerary
Afternoon: Alternative Berlin Walking Tour
Berlin, like Melbourne, is known for amazing street art and a strong alternative culture. I didn’t think that I, as an American tourist, would be able to find many of these underground spots by myself, especially on only a one day in Berlin itinerary, so I decided to join an alternative tour and I was not disappointed. It’s pay what you wish, but the guides work for tips, so don’t forget to bring cash!
Also please note that on some days the tour leaves in the morning, so check ahead. In that case, you could just do the tour in the morning and see the East Side Gallery in the afternoon. Either day, your one day in Berlin itinerary should work fine.
Our guide was an Irishman living in Berlin. I will call him Sean because that might actually have been his name. I’ve forgotten. Also on the tour were a Scotsman, an Englishman, a Swiss man, and an Australian young woman. That sounds like the opening for a joke that perhaps a Welshman or New Zealander might tell. But it was no joke; it was a very real tour group.
Now, I can’t divulge all the tour secrets, but I can start with…
approximately top 5: Street Art Tour Berlin
1) Backjump, by Blu
Blu is a famous Italian street artist–I had seen a different piece by him in Buenos Aires. What is your interpretation of this piece? Perhaps it represents an evil collective (like Nazism or an oppressive Communist regime) swallowing up the rights of the individual. If you’ve got something better, bring it on, Internet Stranger!
2) Squat life
But street art wasn’t the only focus of the tour. We also learned about some other important elements of Berlin’s underground culture.
This field pictured above used to be a squat, which means a place where homeless people could live and form a community without paying rent. It became a popular “tent city” and the wall on the back was even covered with a large-scale mural by Blu.
Sadly the squat was shut down so that condos could be built instead. In protest Blu had his mural painted over so that the people selling the condos wouldn’t be able to get a higher price by advertising that the building had views of a Blu mural. DAMN THE MAN!
3) Gemini’s twin!
Our tour continued with this mural by a pair of Brazilian artists named Os Gemeos, which means the twins in Portuguese, who are famous for painting yellow faced people. I think the scarf is pretty cute, but I don’t know how well it goes with that skirt. But maybe Os Gemeos aren’t known for their fashion sense.
4) cheap beer
Did you know that you can get a decent beer in Berlin for about 90 cents? I learned this when we all stopped at a convenience store for a bit of refreshment. But what is even better is that Berlin has open carry laws, so we could all just walk down the street sucking on our beers without any fear of the 5-0 stopping us.
When we were done, we placed the glass bottles by the side of the street. That seems like littering to me, but Sean said that they would get picked up for recycling. And who are we to argue with an Irishman living in Germany who may or may not be named Sean?
5) Street Art Yogis
We next learned about an artist named Josef who places these tiny little figurines called Street Art Yogis on street signs around Berlin. Josef does this instead of painting because it doesn’t deface property.
They’re super cute and they promote peace, love, and understanding! What more could you want from a little metal doohickey? Can you find the two Yogis in this picture? If you can, email me at [email protected]
24 Hour Treasure
This girl was my favorite piece of street art because she is pretty. I can’t always be full of deep thoughts! I love the look on her face and the colors in her hair.
Sadly, the work wasn’t done by a major artist, so I can guarantee that she will be gone by the time I go back to Berlin. But part of the fun of street art is that it’s ephemeral. Plus I captured her forever with the magic of film.
6) hatin’ on the Buddy bear
This is the probably the least alternative thing we saw on the tour. He is a Buddy Bear, a fiberglass bear sculpture that is supposed to be the symbol of Berlin. According to Sean, lots of Berliners make fun of him.
I feel like it should have a plaque underneath that says Berlin: Absolutely No National Socialists Here because that’s clearly the message this cartoonishly cheerful bear is trying to send.
After mocking the Buddy Bear, the tour ended with all of us stopping at an empty park and going down a swing just for laughs. That is the ideal ending to any alternative walking tour. Take note, other cities!
24 Hour Tip
You won’t find a lot of toilets on the tour, so make sure to bring some loose change. Your guide will direct you to a restaurant and most of them will let you use the bathroom for about 50 cents-1 Euro.
Late Afternoon: Karl Marx Allee
This intimidatingly broad boulevard is the most prominent street in former East Berlin. But I guess if you’re going to name a street after Karl Marx, go big or go home. It is interesting from an architectural standpoint to stroll along and check out the monumental examples of communist architecture.
Why did the communists like building everything so big and ugly? I assume their reasons were philosophical, but what were they? I refuse to subscribe to any philosophy that involves deliberately creating ugly things.
24 Hour Tip
You can always tell if you are in former East Berlin or former West Berlin by looking at the streetlights. The streetlights in West Berlin are ordinary, but the ones in East Berlin have a funny looking plump little man wearing a fedora on them.
This figure also goes by the name Ampelmann, and he’s so popular in Berlin that there are even stores dedicated to Ampelmann merchandise. I’m not making this up.
Naturally, I bought some Ampelmann earrings here. You can also get some decent gummy candies. Fun Fact! Germans make the best gummy candies.
24 Hour Treasure
If you need to rest your feet at this point on our one day in Berlin itinerary, why not stop at Cafe Sybille on 72 Karl Marx Allee? This is the only cafe/museum I’ve ever been to. I don’t mean that the cafe is in a museum; I mean that the cafe is a museum. Cafe Sybille was founded during the Communist period of German history, so the museum is dedicated to the history of the cafe and Karl Marx Allee.
You can stop and get a sweet and then look at some artifacts from the GDR. I recommend the sweet-tart fruit tart and coffee.
Then you should go see the exhibition in the back of the museum on the history of East Berlin. Here are some old cups and candlesticks from the cafe during the 1960s.
I had no idea that you could find a cute little cafe with candlesticks and adorable white cups in Communist East Berlin. It just goes to show that you can find some beauty and charm in any place if you look hard enough.
One Day in Berlin Itinerary
Schneeweisse is an excellent place to go for upscale German/Austrian food at the end of your one day in Berlin itinerary. If you want to try some schnitzel, but you don’t want it too bready or fattening, this is the place to go.
I began with a lovely carrot soup. Whereas traditional German carrot soup would be chunky, this was light and pureed with a delicate garnish on top. It was a refreshing start to the meal. I always suggest going with a lighter appetizer if you want a heavier main course, and vice versa.
24 Hour Treat: Putting on the Schnitz
My main course was just about the most Austrian thing I could think of: Wiener Schnitzel. This is a breaded and fried veal cutlet, and it was served over a rich potato salad and with a side of light cucumber and dill salad.
The schnitzel was perfect because it was not breaded too heavily, so you could really taste the veal. The slice of lemon was the perfect refreshing accompaniment. And everyone knows that Germans make amazing potato salad. It’s so rich and creamy. Potatoes may well be nature’s perfect food.
After dinner, you can walk around and see any fun sights that may strike your fancy. You can see anything from a glorious sunset behind TV Tower:
to a croissant that someone has abandoned on a bridge.
It all depends on you! What wonders will you find on your one day in Berlin itinerary?
That’s a Perfect One Day in Berlin Itinerary!
What wonders will you find on your one day in Berlin itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Berlin right now? And seriously, what is that croissant doing there? 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 have a one day in Berlin itinerary. Don’t miss my other one day in Berlin itinerary with Museum Island.This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase something using one of the links on this post, I may earn a small commission. But I would never recommend anything unless I loved it, dahlink!