Berlin’s Museum Island on Spree River with the golden Alexanderplatz TV tower in the background

Berlin: A Guide to Unexpected Attractions

Berlin’s Museum Island on Spree River with the golden Alexanderplatz TV tower in the background

Berlin: A Guide to Unexpected Attractions

Berlin may be home to the German government, but it is also rich in art, counterculture and unique attractions that are worth adding to your trip itinerary.

Berlin is a city of contradictions. On the one hand, it’s a hot spot for street art, music, and counterculture movements, but it’s also a major financial power and home to the German federal government. The city is undoubtedly modern, yet history looms around every corner. If you’re visiting on business and you’ve already seen the Brandenburg Gate, eaten currywurst, and walked along the Wall, what’s next? The German capital offers plenty of lesser known sites to explore in your free time. Add a few of these off-the-beaten-path Berlin attractions to your itinerary.

Tempelhofer Feld

When Berlin was reunified, the city also consolidated its airports. Officials decommissioned Tempelhof, the most trafficked airfield in post-war Berlin, in 2008 and turned the runways into public park space for Berliners to enjoy year-round. The former runways offer the perfect platform for skating, biking, and kiteboarding, and public green spaces are available for grilling and gardening. The former airport building now houses office space and refugee housing, and planned renovations will bring the Allied Museum to the Tempelhof site in the southern district of Neukölln.

Colorful abstract graffiti art brightens the historic Berlin Wall in Germany
Source: Shutteretsock

Thaipark

Every Saturday and Sunday, Preussen Park in the western district of Wilmersdorf turns into Thaipark, a food bazaar where dozens of families have cooked up delicacies for decades. Fresh noodle dishes, fruit desserts, whole fried fish, and more are available at reasonable prices. Camp out with friends and a picnic blanket to make sure you have plenty of time to try out all the offerings. Some vendors sell iced teas, coffees, and even cocktails, or you’re free to bring your own.

Weissensee Jewish Cemetery

Paying respects at concentration camps is on the itineraries of most tourists in Germany, but visiting Weissensee Jewish Cemetery is another moving option. The largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, Weissensee is located in the eastern part of the city and is the final resting place of more than 100,000 Berliners since 1880. It was mostly unharmed during World War II, and a number of Jews actually survived by hiding in the mausoleums.

The lush, green grounds are open to visitors every day, except Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Men are asked to cover their heads and may borrow yarmulkes at the entrance.

Tropical Islands

Berliners are very inventive when it comes to repurposing outdated architecture. The former Soviet airplane hangar that now houses the indoor resort known as Tropical Islands is a prime example. Located about 40 miles south of Berlin, the indoor retreat maintains a balmy 77 degrees year-round and features everything you could want from a tropical resort: balloon rides, water slides, a spa, miniature golf, and massive beaches.

The dome is large enough to house all the skyscrapers in Potsdamer Platz, and although it’s watertight, natural light still shines through to the interior. Enjoy the resort for just a day, or stay overnight in accommodations that range from safari tents in an artificial rainforest to luxury villas nestled high among the waterfalls.

Teufelsberg

When Berlin was divided into four districts – with the Americans, French, and British controlling the parts in the west and the Russians controlling the east – Teufelsberg served as an American and British spy station on the western edge of the city. Today, the massive radomes and buildings have become a major magnet for graffiti artists, and the land is open to the public daily for a modest entrance fee. If you want to see inside the buildings and enjoy the best view of the Berlin skyline, book a tour.

A view of the historic Tempelhof Airport building that now houses office space in Berlin, Germany
Source: Shutterstock

Public Pools

For anyone who loves water, the public baths of Berlin are a wonderful resource, especially in the cold winter months. Specifically, the public baths at Neukölln and Charlottenburg, which are historic beauties. Both buildings were built more than a century ago and boast mosaics, marble, and Art Nouveau details. Spend the day swimming, soaking, or sweating at various delightful public swimming pools for a small entry fee.

For a more high-end experience, try Liquidrom, which offers otherworldly saltwater soaking pools and saunas with a soundtrack. If you’d prefer to swim in the open air, visit Badeschiff, a pool set in a moored ship on the Spree River.

Lunch at the Berlin Philharmonic

If you love classical music, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy lunch with a symphony. The Berlin Philharmonic puts on a free 45-minute program every Tuesday from September to June at its home near Potsdamer Platz. Stop in just for the music, or enjoy a catered lunch with all your music loving friends. You have to pay for lunch, and in lieu of charging for the concert, the organization asks attendees for donations to UNICEF. Plan to get there well before the doors open to make sure you get a spot. Attendance is limited to 1,500 people.

Berlin is a city that goes beyond the famous to offer some interesting attractions to travelers that have already visited the hot tourists spots, or are in search of something a little different. Find more ideas for your next trip on the Hertz Facebook page.

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