Berlin has for a long time represented the paradox of the colossus with feet of clay. All powerful in Europe, where nothing in politics or economics is decided without its approval, it leads the country which has managed to get to the top of the podium of great world powers due to its rigour and economic vision. At the same time, it remains so fragile: plagued by the war, deprived of a part of itself for decades.
The phoenix of Berlin arose from its ashes, drew the conclusions of all the torments and turned them to its own advantage. Not surprisingly, so much suffering of a single city became a fertile breeding ground for all art forms and institutions.
Which season to choose and which to avoid?
High season in Berlin lasts from May to the end of October. August and October are usually the busiest months.
Winter is the low season (except for the Christmas holiday period). January sees the lowest number of visitors throughout the year: it’s the best moment for a crowd-less experience and cheapest hotel rates.
March, April and November are also a great option: while it’s not that cold, the crowds are moderate and queues are not common.
Try to avoid coming during the school holiday periods: you can check them here. That’s the time when museums and major city attractions will have long queues.
Credits to Alexander Whillas via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The entrance to the Reichstag is allowed only with prior booking. You can book just the Dome visit or for the guided tour of the building with the Dome, in the language of your choice, on Reichstag’s official website. You’ll want to do this at least a week before your arrival during low season and as soon as you know your travel dates, if they are in high season.
Tip: If you haven’t booked your ticket in advance, register to do so at the service centre, run by the Visitors’ Service, near the Reichstag Building, next to the Berlin Pavilion. If any free places are still available, you will be issued a booking confirmation entitling you to visit the dome (you won’t be able to enter immediately, count at least two hours between the booking and time of your visit). You can also register at this service center to visit the dome over the following two days. If you plan to book your place in the Visitors’ Service centre - consider coming early, it opens at 8 am, your chances of getting into the Reichstag will be higher.
Tip 2: During high season you can find that there are no more tickets available on the website and desperately long queues to the Visitors Service centre. There’s still a way to see the Dome: the German Bundestag houses a public restaurant. It’s mandatory to book your table before (just send them an email with the time you’d like to come, your full name and your date of birth). Breakfast is highly recommended, and if the weather is good - you can sit on the terrace enjoying the panoramic view. Check the restaurant’s website for more details. If you decide to follow this tip - go upon your arrival to the entrance below and to the right of the West Portal (West C) and don’t forget your ID! You can grab a headset and audio tour for the dome and visit it freely after the restaurant.
Here again, the best way to visit without losing time is to book your ticket online.
If there are no tickets available or you don’t want to buy tickets online - you can buy them on site (it will even be cheaper), BUT you’ll have to queue for it from 20 minutes (average waiting time in low season) up to an hour or more. When you finally buy it, it won’t allow you to enter the Tower immediately, since the visitors number is limited, and you’re supposed to spend an hour or two hanging around and waiting for your turn to use the lifts. Even if you’re not obliged to spend that time at the entrance and are free to go and explore the surroundings (with the TV Tower SMS service informing you 30 minutes before, of your individually calculated time of access to the tower) that could be really disappointing, especially if your plan was to get to the observation deck at some precise time (like sunset).
Tip: We advise going to the TV Tower first thing in the morning and booking your ticket online a couple of days before (this early bird online ticket costs 17,50 € in high season and 15,50 € in low season, and lets you skip the queue), just don’t be late as your entry time will be the opening hour. Not only will you be there when it’s the least crowded, but you’ll also skip the usual queue for the lifts to get down. Another option is to go before the closing time by booking the late night ticket (same prices as the Early Bird ticket), with the entrance after 21:30.
Tip 2: We suggest you take the weather into consideration: when it’s cloudy or rainy - you won’t be able to see far, and there isn’t much sense in going, you’ll be fairly disappointed. On the other hand, a sunny day is perfect for pictures. Of course, good weather attracts bigger crowds, same way as the bad weather reduces your waiting time significantly.
Tip 3: Sunset is the busiest time, but with all the waiting issues you’ll need to arrive well in advance in order to be at the observation deck on time.
Tip 4: Avoid scheduling the visit on public holidays, weekends (especially Saturday), school holidays (Christmas Eve and New Years eve tickets are booked way in advance). Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually the calmest days.
If the queue at the TV Tower doesn’t inspire you, and you don’t have the opportunity to visit it during the quiet hours, you can prefer to replace it with the observation deck at the Kollhoff-Hochaus Tower (located at the Potsdamer Platz): the queue is times shorter, and above all you’ll be able to admire the TV Tower as well from the top!
Other advantages include the fastest elevator in Europe: it will only take 20 seconds to arrive at the top of the Tower. Prices are also cheaper and you can book your ticket on Panoramapunkt’s official website.
During the current stage of renovation, the hall containing the Pergamon Altar is due to remain closed to the public until 2019. The north wing and the gallery of Hellenistic art are also affected by the closure.
Photo credits to Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Tip: We suggest you visit Pergamon Museum at the opening time. Even in high season the queue is about 5 minutes long or even inexistent at this time. In the worst case it will take about 30 minutes (which is still much shorter than the full hour wait a few hours later). Another bonus of being an early bird is that the museum doesn’t start filling up until 10.30-11.00 : you’ll have at least an hour of peace and quiet to explore the museum’s highlights.
Tip 2: Book your ticket online. That’s the best way to guarantee yourself a wait-free entrance. Try to book it for an off-peak time slot.
If you plan to visit at least two museums on Museum Island - think about buying the Museum Island Card to save money. Since this card doesn’t always give you priority entrance or the possibility of skipping the queue, consider other ways to optimize your day: if you think of buying the Museum Island Card on site - go to the ticket office of a less popular museum on the list, and book the time slot for the Pergamon Museum there, when purchasing the card.
Or you can also start your day at the Pergamon Museum by arriving at the opening (when there’s little or no waiting) and heading to the other museums in the afternoon. You can also buy tickets at the booth on the street which is behind the Altes Museum before arriving at the Pergamon Museum.
Tip 3: Try to save the larger, less crowded museums for peak hours: you won’t lose a lot of time, because their peak hours are nothing compared to Pergamon or Neues Museum.
Tip 4: Come during extended hours. While the peak hours fall mostly within 11 - 2pm, there are usually less people later in the afternoon. The Pergamon Museum has a late closing time on Thursdays, which could be a great option for visiting without the usual crowds.
Tip 5: Saturday is always the busiest day, avoid it if possible.
The Neues Museum is the second most popular sight of Berlin’s Museum Island (right after the Pergamon Museum). It can generate big queues for the ticket booth, especially during high season. You can avoid wasting time by pre-booking your ticket online and will be able to skip the whole queue and go straight in at the chosen time.
Tip: The best time slot for a quiet visit is right at the opening time, at 10:00am. You’ll have about 1,5 hours before the museum fills up, and that’s the average visit duration (1,5-2 hours). Otherwise you can try coming on Thursday evening, when the museum stays open until 20:00.
Tip 2: The Nefertiti room is the most popular and therefore always the most crowded part of the museum, so do it first thing in the morning if you arrive at the opening time or last thing at night if you visit before the closing time.
Tip 3: If you visit the Neues museum in the morning - start from Level 2 of the Museum (with Nefertiti) and then go down level by level. Most people will be handling their visit in inverse order, you’ll probably even find yourself alone in the rooms, if you’re lucky!
Crowds are very moderate here. Prefer visiting on weekday afternoons, mornings are more crowded. Avoid weekends.
Tip: You can book a ticket to guarantee yourself a queue-free entry.
Tip 2: Thursday late openings (open until 8 pm) is the calmest time.
Zero waiting needed for strolling around the city, discovering some of Berlin’s outdoor “must see”s:
A good option to visit the city is to take bus 100: it tours through many major city attractions, like the tourist buses, but the rate is that of the normal bus ticket. That has been the first line to circulate between East and West Berlin after the reunification.
There are plenty of options to choose from in Berlin! Check the prices, whether the places you want to visit are included and which of the cards would be worth it. Unfortunately, none of these passes will give you priority entry. They let you skip the line to the ticket office, but if there’s a line at the entrance - you’ll have to queue with others.
The Museum Island Ticket: free admission to all museums on the Museumsinsel Berlin on the same day. Price: 18.00 € full, 9 € reduced.
Museum Pass Berlin: free admission to 50 museums and exhibitions, valid for 3 consecutive days. Price: 29.00 € full, 14,50 € reduced.
Berlin WelcomeCard: free public transport and reductions for museums and attractions tickets are included. Price: 19.90 € for 48 hours, 27,90 € for 72 hours.
Berlin WelcomeCard Museum Island: same as the previous, but including the free entrance to all museums on the Museumsinsel. Price: 44 € for 72 hours.
Berlin Pass: this pass grants you free access to over 60 Berlin museums and attractions during a span of 2 or 3 days. It also includes hop-on-hop-off bus tours and public transport. Price with travel included: 115.00 € for 48 hours, 145.00 € for 72 hours.
We’re waiting for your postcards, and gute Reise! (have a great trip! )