Berlin hop-on hop-off Guide

Exploring Germany's cosmopolitan capital city in a day or two... 

Berlin hop-on hop-off bus tour

You’re visiting a city that has seen so much sadness and pain, and yet has emerged finally united and at peace. As such, Germany’s capital, Berlin, is a fascinating place to explore. Much of its past has been lost to bombing during the Second World War. And what has been rebuilt is a reminder of how evil can be overcome, and how peace can bring with it a tranquility and beauty that had been long forgotten.

 

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, much has changed in the city, but historic areas like Potsdamer Platz and Pariser Platz have been restored to their former beauty. Today, Berlin is a lively, dynamic city, full of hope for the future and joy at its freedom. There is an emerging wealth of talent in art, design and culture, proudly displayed in new buildings, shopping malls and squares around the city. Of course, there is still a reminder of the horror, which you will see when you visit the Jewish Museum and the Berlin Wall. But there’s also a willingness to survive, and rebuild, which is so positive and forceful, so full of hope for the future.

 

Our short city-guide will show you how to discover many of Berlin’s fascinating sights from a Hop On Hop Off double decker bus.  Best of all, you can decide exactly what you want to see and then hop off the bus to explore each destination. Once you’ve seen what you wanted to, just hop back on the bus again and continue on the tour. If you like, you can take the full 2-hour tour first to familiarise yourself with Berlin, then hop off the bus and start exploring those sights you want to focus on.  

 

How much does it cost?

At the time of writing, each of the basic tours (namely: the "Berlin Traditional Tour", or the "Berlin Wall and Lifestyle Tour") costs US$ 19.5 for and adult and US$ 6.5 for a child (6-14), but you can also buy a "combined ticket" that includes 2 Day of unlimited travel on both routes and costs US$ 29 for an adult / US$ 13 for a child.

 

The ticket is valid for 24 hours and includes as many hop on, hop off stops as you wish to make (unless you buy the combined ticket which includes 2 days) .

To orientate yourself in the city, simply take the entire 120-minute tour first, and then you can hop on and off as you please, once you’ve chosen the places you really want to visit.

 

Departure times 

First bus departs from Kurfürstendamm 14  at 9.41am, and every 15 minutes thereafter (during summer) or 20-30 minutes (winter). Last bus leaves at 5.54pm.

 

Places to see and things to do along the route

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A) The "Berlin Traditional Tour" (Red route): From Kurfürstendamm

 

1. The tour starts off from busy Kurfürstendamm, a boulevard in the city centre that dates back to the 16th Century. You’ll find a number of shops and cafes along this wide, tree-lined avenue, as well as a few beautiful old villas that date from the late 19th Century. The street is a shopper’s paradise and is often called “The Fifth Avenue of Berlin”.

 

Click here for a shopping-guide to the Kurfürstendamm.

 

2. Your first hop off point is outside Ka-De-We or Kaufhaus des Westens, the largest department store in Europe – the store is so famous that one can even take a sightseeing tour inside! It’s a treasure trove full of delightful goods, and its gourmet food hall, on the sixth floor, is legendary. Of course, there’s more than retail shopping on offer here. This was the first department store to offer a number of facilities, including beauty salons, lounges, hairdressing salons, a taxi service, hotel and even a bureau de change.

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3. Hop off at your next stop to explore Potsdamer Platz, once the largest square in Europe. Underneath it is a labyrinth of passageways and rooms including Hitler’s bunker, where he apparently committed suicide. Since the Berlin Wall was destroyed, the square has been refurbished and rebuilt. Nowadays there are a lot of shops, restaurants and movie theatres here, as well as an IMAX theatre, residential properties and an underground train station.

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4. Hop off at the next stop to visit the beautiful Martin-Gropius-Bau (Mauerreste), a neo-Renaissance style building that was erected between 1877 and 1881 by the architects Martin Gropius (a great uncle of the famous Bauhaus movement architect, Walter Gropius) and Heino Schmieden, and is considered one of Berlin’s most magnificent buildings.  The building, which is located right next to a stretch of the famous Berlin Wall, is an international exhibition and event venue with over 20 art, cultural and photography exhibitions on at any given time. Also here is the Topography of Terror, an extremely impressive open-air museum that documents the site where the headquarters of the Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Head Offices were located.

 

Checkpoint Charlie, towards the end of the 80s, Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie - One of the "symbols" of the cold war.

5. Next hop off point is at Checkpoint Charlie, the stretch of land between the Berlin Wall and the West. This is one of the ultimate symbols of the Cold War, one of three checkpoints ordered by President John F Kennedy of the United States so that the diplomatic corps and allied forces could enter West Berlin. Here you will see a line of bricks that trace the path where the Berlin Wall used to stand, and a replica of the original Checkpoint Charlie Booth. There’s a museum you can visit here, too, called Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, which tells the story of the border between East and West Germany and documents all those successful escape attempts.

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6. The Gendarmenmarkt is your next hop off point. This beautiful square was built at the end of the 17th Century and is where the military stables used to be located. Today it offers a tranquil respite from the busy city. On the square you’ll find the Concert Hall, or Konzerthaus, built in 1821 on the ruins of the National Theatre, destroyed by fire a few years earlier. This building, as well as many on the square were destroyed during the Second World War, but it was reconstructed in 1984 and is now the home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

 

The Gendarmenmarkt is part of the Berlin hop-on hop-off tour

Gendarmenmarkt is a beautiful 17th Century square

 

You can also explore two churches in the square, the Franzosischer Dom, or French Cathedral, and the Deutscher Dom, or German Cathedral, both opposite each other. The French Cathedral contains a Huguenot museum and a viewing platform, and the German Cathedral boasts a museum with displays of historical German artifacts (Information on the German Bundestag's historical exhibition can be found here).

 

7. Hop off at the next point along the route at the site of Mühlendamm (Mill Dam), a relic of Berlin that no longer exists. This site is where Berlin’s original settlers first built a road and a bridge so that they could cross the Spree River. The dam was built out of large tree trunks, stones and layers of bundles of brushwood. The water used to flow out of the dam through the gaps under the bridges. A water mill was also built here, one of three in the city when it was first established. The concrete bridge at the site was built in 1968 and it links the road to Berlin’s city centre.

 

8. There’s a lot to see in Alexanderplatz, at your next hop off point. This busy square has been the centre of trade in the city since the Middle Ages. The huge TV tower in the centre is one of the largest structures in Europe. Climb to the Berlin 360°, at the top of the tower, for a panoramic view of the city and a snack in the revolving restaurant. The square also boasts the World Time Clock, which shows the times of a number of cities around the world, and the Fountain of International Friendship, which was renovated in 2002.

 

9. Hop off at the next stop to visit Berlin’s City Hall, the Rotes Rathaus, which translates to Red Town Hall, so named because of its red brick façade. Take a look at this 19th Century building, located at the southeastern side of Alexanderplatz, which has a long frieze on the façade with 36 terracotta panels showing scenes of Berlin’s history. In front of it you can see the Neptunbrunnen, a large baroque fountain decorated with bronze statues, built towards the end of the 19th Century. At the centre of the fountain there is a statue of Neptune, overlooking a large basin with four female figures – these symbolize Prussia’s important rivers, the Rhine, the Elbe, the Oder and the Vistula.

 

10. The bus stops once again so that passengers can hop off at the Lustgarten ("Pleasure Garden"), on Museumsinsel. This is the famous Museum Island, home to the Altes Museum, or Old Museum, the first dedicated museum building in the city. The museum was built in the 1820s to house many of Germany’s treasures that were recovered from France after the French Revolution. After it was destroyed in the Second World War, the museum was renovated and reopened in 1966. Today it’s home to the Antikensammlung (antique collection) of the Berlin State Museums, where you can marvel a huge collection of Ancient Greek and Roman decorative art, including vases and statues.

 

The Altes Museum is one of five museums that have been restored on Berlin’s Museum Island, which is actually a real island on the Spree. The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) owns one of the largest collections of 19th Century sculpture and paintings in the country, including works by French Impressionists. The Bode Museum is worth visiting to see its excellent collection of sculptures and paintings. The Neues Museum ("New Museum") houses a collection of prehistoric items and Egyptian works of art. And in the monumental Pergamon Museum, you’ll see a display of Greek and Babylonian antiquities, including Babylon’s impressive Ishtar Gate and the enormous Pergamon Altar.

 

Other buildings on the island include the Dom, Berlin’s protestant Cathedral and the Marstall, the royal stables, now used as a library and archive.

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the Siegessäule or "Victory Column", is the last stop along the Berlin hop-on, hop-off tour

11. Hop off at the next stop to take a look at the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), a monumental gate built in the 18th Century as a symbol of peace. During the Cold War, the gate was located near the border between East and West Germany, and so it became a symbol of the divided city. Since the Berlin Wall was destroyed, the gate has become the symbol of a re-unified city. It has since been renovated and has regained its 19th Century glory. The gate is also all that remains of the former city wall.

 

12. Hauptbahnhof, located on Washingtonplatz, is your next hop off point. This is Berlin’s striking new glass and steel train station, built after the fall of the Berlin Wall and opened in 2006 to provide transportation around the city.

 

13. Hop off at the last point along the "Berlin Traditional Tour" (Red route), the Siegessäule or "Victory Column", located in Tiergarten, a lush park in the centre of the city. In the middle of the Tiergarten you’ll find a large roundabout, known as the Grosser Stern, or "Great Star". Right next to it is the Siegessäule, a triumphal column built to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Prusso-Danish war of 1864. The 25-foot gilded statue at the top was added after further Prussian victories. The statue is called the Goldelse, and it represents the Goddess of Victory. It weighs in at an immense 35 tons! At the top of the column is an observatory, offering magnificent views of the city below.

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B) The "Wall & Lifestyle Tour" (Green route): From Rotes Rathaus

 

1. Your tour starts at the Rotes Rathaus, Berlin’s 19th Century City Hall, which is located at the southeastern side of Alexanderplatz.  To read more about the Rotes Rathaus, simply see point No. 9 of the "Red Tour" (above).

 

2. Hop off at Oranienburger Straße in the centre of the city, once the heart of Berlin’s Jewish area. The restored New Synagogue is located here as well as the innovative Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles), located in the ruins of a department store that was built in 1907. Today the arthouse is used by artists from all over the world who display their different creations here. Also in the area are a number of memorials to the Jews who used to live here, including sites of former Jewish schools, orphanages and cemeteries. At night there’s a vibrant nightlife here; the street boasts many popular restaurants, bars, theatres and nightclubs.  Just off Oranienburger Straße you’ll find the Ramones' Museum, dedicated to the American punk rock legends The Ramones. It was opened by a Berlin resident, Florian Hayler, who collected hundreds of items belonging to the band.

 

3. Hop off at the next stop, at Hauptbahnhof, Berlin’s new train station, which is located on Washingtonplatz. It opened after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2006.

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4. Your next stop is on Gartenstraße, where you can visit the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, or Berlin Wall Memorial: The central memorial site of German division, which extends along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip and contains the last piece of the Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it.  This is probably the only place where you can see how the border fortifications developed until the end of the 1980s, and get an idea about the events that took place here.

 

5. At the next stop on this fascinating route you will be able to visit an original bunker built in 1977 during the Cold War. Called Berliner Unterwelten, it’s a nuclear attack bunker that was built into Pankstraße underground station. In an emergency it could shelter over 3,330 people for up to two weeks. It is still completely intact, and a very sobering sight to visit.

 

6. Next stop along the route is at Mauerpark, at the Hotel4Youth, a modern youth hostel that was built here on what used to be the border of the Berlin Wall. Mauerpark itself is a public park, built after the closure of the Northern Railway Station that used to be located here, a station used for the Prussian Northern Railway that connected Berlin to the Baltic Sea in the late 19th Century. Today the site is used for a Flea Market.

 

7. The next hop off point along the route is at Schönhauser Allee, one of Berlin’s busiest shopping streets. The main attraction here is the Schönhauser Allee Arcaden, a shopping mall that is situated directly next to the Schonhauser Allee U-bahn station.

 

8. For some light relief, why not visit the Computerspielemuseum, in Karl-Marx-Allee, a museum that is devoted to digital interactive entertainment and culture. The museum, which first opened in 1997, now boasts a new permanent exhibition called Computer Games: Evolution of a Medium, with over 300 interactive exhibits that convey the cultural history of computer and video games.

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Explore Berlin's best kept secrets! We offer a range of exciting guided-walks and unique activities throughout Berlin! Click here to see them all...

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The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) is part of the Berlin hop-on, hop-off tour

The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery)

 

9. Creativity awaits at your next stop, the famous East Side Gallery, where over 100 massive, colourful murals decorate a section of the Berlin Wall, creating what is the largest open-air art exhibition on earth. The murals were painted by artists from all over the world, offering their individual ideas on socialism and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

10. At your next stop you can hop off the bus to visit the Berlin Ostbahnhof, Berlin’s East Railway Station, one of the city’s two main train stations. Sadly, the station has lost its importance since the Hauptbahnhof was opened in 2006. But it’s still very much in use today. It dates back to 1882 and is used for trains running to and from West Germany.

 

11. Your last stop on the route is at Alexanderplatz, Berlin’s busy square that has been the centre of trade since the Middle Ages, and is home to the colossal TV tower, one of the largest structures on the continent. You can climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city below and enjoy a snack in the revolving restaurant. In the square itself you’ll find the World Time Clock, which tells the time of cities around the world, as well as the Fountain of International Friendship.

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And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...). We have dozens of free "Hop on hop off guides" that cover quite a few cities across the world, including SingaporeHong KongSydney,  MelbourneShanghaiAthensIstanbulAmsterdam and lots of other city-destinations..... All you have to do is to click here to see them in a webpage format (with embeded videos), or here, to view and download them as eBooks (PDF format).

 

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