15 Unusual Things to Do in Berlin
One of the world's most creative cities, Berlin has so much to offer from major landmarks to cool nightlife. Germany's capital also has plenty of quirky and unusual things to do so let's introduce you to 15 recommendations.
1. STREET ART WORKSHOP AND TOUR
You probably already know that the city has some incredible street art. On this tour you get to discover the back streets with an expert on the local and international artists. You'll hear about the street art culture in Berlin before heading to an abandoned factory to have a go at creating a similar contemporary masterpiece. If you have ever wanted to see what you could produce with a spray can, you need to book this workshop. It's on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and the tour and workshop last around 4.5 hours.
2. BASE FLYING
From a rooftop on Alexanderplatz you can pretend you have wings. This is base flying where you are connected to a winch on a 125-metre metal rope. You step off the edge and then 'fly' at near free fall speed for 50 metres. This winch ensures you brake slowly and the experience gives you the same adrenaline rush as bungee jumping. You are guaranteed to scream! Base flying is available from May to 20 October 2019 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. You can choose to include a video of your 'flight' and night flying is available until 11 pm on Fridays too.
3. 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE WALL
While every visitor to Berlin knows about the Wall, 9 November 2019 marks 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. From 4 to 10 November 2019, Berlin will celebrate with a major festival. For seven days, the city will be transformed into a unique open-air exhibition and event space in seven locations along the route of the Peaceful Revolution (Alexanderplatz, Gethsemanekirche, Brandenburger Tor, Schlossplatz, Kurfürstendamm, East-Side-Gallery and Stasi headquarters in Lichtenberg) with large projections of historical pictures, films and sound installations.
The highlight of the week-long celebration is a city-wide music festival on the evening of 9 November 2019 featuring renowned musicians, orchestras and bands whose music and history are connected with the events of 1989/90.
As well as the many exhibitions and activities throughout the year, it's worth visiting Nineties Berlin for a 270° multimedia experience that allows you to dive into Berlin life, politics and its past before, during and after reunification. Or why not celebrate 'The Hoff' at the David Hasselhoff Museum?
4. BAUHAUS 100
Bauhaus is being celebrated in 2019 with the Bauhaus 100 centenary anniversary. Many Bauhaus architects had close relations with Berlin. Walter Gropius was born here and Mies van der Rohe came to Berlin in 1905 and remained in the city until his emigration in 1938. Berlin was the headquarters of Bauhaus from October 1932 until its closure in 1933 – but even afterwards many former Bauhaus architects remained.
Berlin Bauhaus Week is a one-week festival between the Long Night of Museums on 31 August 2019 and the Open Heritage Day on 8 September 2019. Shop windows will present the history of Bauhaus, its influence, life at the school and the products it exported around the world. A glass festival centre will be opened on Ernst-Reuter-Platz plus lecture and film programmes, exhibition openings, guided tours and performances.
5. MONSTER KABINETT BERLIN
Monster Kabinett Berlin (the monster cabinet) is an interesting collection of massive robotic creatures, metal sculptures and insect-like creations all contained within a warehouse. It's weird and spooky but compelling too.
This rundown amusement park comes to life with automaton sculptures and costumed actors for evening performances from Wednesday to Saturday. Part art gallery, part haunted house, you'll squeal at the leering arachnoid robots and jump back from the enthusiastic actors.
Open from May to September, Badeschiff Berlin is a floating swimming pool. In the tradition of old riverside open-air baths, Badeschiff is a converted 30-metre barge on the River Spree by the East Harbour in the city centre. The pool is connected to the river bank by a footbridge where there is a 'beach area' with a bar and restaurant with evening DJs. Badeschiff is open daily from 8 am to 10 pm and you could easily spend a full day here.
When it closes for the season, look out for the winter opening dates when there are saunas available too.
From 13 July 2019, the James-Simon-Galerie will be the visitor centre for Museum Island. The building will sell tickets for all the museums as well as having information desks, a café, a lecture auditorium, the central museum gift shop and special exhibition spaces. The terrace on Kupfergraben will be accessible both during and outside museum hours.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will officially inaugurate the new James Simon Gallery on 12 July 2019 for the 13 July action day of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
8. TEMPELHOF AIRPORT TOUR
This abandoned airport closed in 2008. Built between 1936 and 1941, there was no other building of this magnitude in Europe in the 1930s. The construction work wasn't completed due to the Second World War. Even today, thirteen stair towers, which were intended as stairways to the planned rooftop gallery for more than 80,000 spectators, are in their shell form.
The heritage-protected building of Tempelhof Airport reflects the eventful history of Berlin. On the one hand, it is an expression of Nazi ideology and was used for arms production in the Second World War using forced labour. However, Tempelhof is also a symbol of freedom; the airlift of 1948/49 made the airport world-famous.
You can take a 2-hour tour of the most interesting parts of the huge building. English tours are at 1.30 pm on Wednesdays to Sundays.
9. FREE LUNCHTIME CONCERTS
The Berliner Philharmonie concert hall puts on world-class chamber music performances for free in the main foyer of the Kammermusiksaal. The 45-minute lunchtime concert season is from September to June with concerts at 1 pm on Tuesdays. The number of visitors to the lunch concerts is limited to 1,500 and you will be surprised how quickly it fills up. While you are there, do consider taking a guided tour too.
10. DAY OF OPEN MOSQUES
Every year on 3 October, on the same day as the Day of German Unity, Berlin's mosques offer an open day. You can take guided tours, listen to lectures and see exhibitions as well as enjoy invitations for food.
11. GERMAN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OPEN DAY
Another open day to be aware of is the German Federal Government Open Day on 17 and 18 August 2019. For this summer weekend, major political institutions in Berlin's government quarter open their doors to the public including the German Ministry of Finance.
Built in the 1930s by the same architect who designed Tempelhof Airport, this building was planned as a representative building for the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, the Aviation Ministry of the Third Reich. It was finished within two years, just in time for the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. Incredibly, considering its size, it was not destroyed by allied bombing. It is still the biggest office building in Europe with 1,600 offices.
The open days are popular was over 100,000 people visiting each year. They give an insight into everyday political life and you can talk to Federal Ministers and State Secretaries. A shuttle bus service provides transport between the participating buildings.
12. THE FUTURIUM
Opening on 5 September 2019, The Futurium – Berlin's centre for shaping the future – is open to all who are interested in the future and want to take an active role. The unique building hosts interactive exhibitions with a hands-on laboratory of the future. It offers space for discussions, debate, exploration, creative workshops and visionary ideas.
This derelict amusement park is now overgrown with nature. Spreepark in southeastern Berlin has been closed since 2002 so is a photographer's paradise with a rusting Ferris wheel and collapsed dinosaurs.
The park was constructed by the communist government in East Germany in 1969 as the VEB Kulturpark Plänterwald. A private operator ran the park from 1991 but it only lasted another 10 years. Since 2016 it has been owned by the City of Berlin and there are regular weekend tours that run from the end of March to the start of November. Tickets are already sold out until the end of August 2019. On 1 August 2019 the presale starts for the tours in September and October. English tours are available every other weekend.
14. SUBTERRANEAN BERLIN
Berliner Unterwelten (Subterranean Berlin) was founded in 1997 to explore, document and preserve the city's subterranean architecture. It's a museum that offers a unique perspective on Berlin's history from its base in a former air raid bunker at the Gesundbrunnen train station. Across four floors below Berlin are dozens of bunkers, tunnels, walkways, canals, the route of a pneumatic postal system, bomb and ammunition storage plus abandoned subway stations.
You can take a selection of themed guided tours through the network of secret tunnels used to smuggle people out of East Germany.
On Sundays between April and October, Berlin's Preußen Park (Prussian Park) in Wilmersdorf becomes Thaipark. If you like southeast Asian meals, you will delight in the freshly-cooked streetfood on offer here. Under a canopy of colourful umbrellas, you will find stalls selling Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino and Laotian dishes. Enjoy papaya salad, spicy noodle soups and banana fritters as well as fried insects and Asian sweet treats.
And a bonus extra…
BLACK LIGHT MINI GOLF
Did you know you can play blacklight mini golf in Görlitzer Park (known as ‘Görli’ to the locals)? Five rooms in the basement of the park café have an 18-hole, blacklight golf course, complete with neon renderings of the city's most famous landmarks.
Written by Laura Porter – Travel writer for Frasers Hospitality